Anchorage is unique. The largest city in Alaska combines the modern world with the rugged, natural environment. You can see whales and wild moose in the morning and then top-quality shows in the evening.
This bustling city is home to nearly half of the entire population of Alaska. While it is famed for its great shopping, Anchorage is renowned as a great base for you to enjoy an adventure holiday in Alaska.
So if you are considering going on a cruise to Alaska, then you can explore this magnificent city for a few days.
There is so much to do here that it is tough to choose the activities you want to do in just a couple of days. For a starting place, you can follow our recommendations about how to spend 48 hours in Anchorage.
Our suggested itinerary
Morning – Wildlife viewing
Afternoon – Go snowmobiling or dog sledding
Evening – Watch the Northern Lights
Morning – Take a morning hike
Afternoon – Discover a glacier
Evening – Enjoy Alaska’s famed nightlife
Morning: Wildlife viewing
Alaska is renowned for its natural splendour. For a fantastic start to your time in Anchorage you should go on a wildlife viewing tour.
Alaska is home to 98% of North America’s brown bears and its seas are also home to pods of orcas, humpbacks and beluga whales. A tour is a great way to get up close to these incredible animals.
One of the wild animals you are most likely to see near the city are moose. To see these for yourself, you can spot them near parks and reserves or wandering across the highway. If you’re lucky you could also get a glimpse of iconic bald eagles circling overhead.
Recommended ways to see the animals
Wildlife watching tours: There are a variety of Alaska wildlife viewing tours available. Alaska Tours offer a bear viewing trip that allows you to see these intriguing animals in their natural habitats as well as informing you about their hunting and mating habits. One such bear viewing trip departs from Anchorage by plane for a scenic flight southwest over Cook Inlet and towards the Chigmit Mountains. With our Alaskan cruises you can see whales from the boat or you can look at whale watching tours from Alaska Tours. Belugas can be found outside of Anchorage in Turnagain Arm and you can start trips from the city, Seward or Juneau.
Denali Grizzly Bear Resort: The Denali Grizzly Bear Resort boasts rustic log cabins and campsites so you can get closer to nature and the local animals.
Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center: The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is a 200 acre sanctuary aiming to preserve Alaska’s wildlife. If you visit here you will be able to see animals like caribou, bison, musk oxen, elk, deer, moose, wolves, bears and eagles.
Afternoon: Go snowmobiling or dog sledding
A great way to see the Alaskan landscape is by dogsled. Connect with the environment on closer quarters and take part in an activity that has long been associated with Alaska.
Dog sledding is an Alaskan obsession and this is an excursion you can do from Anchorage. Dog sledding tours from Salmon Berry are run year-round. In winter you’ll ride on the sled behind the huskies across the snow, while in summer you will board a helicopter before landing atop a glacier. Here, the sound of dogs that are ready to run will greet you.
If you’re not sure about hurtling across the landscape behind a pack of sled dogs, then snowmobiling might be more up your street.
Skimming across the snow on a snowmobile is a favourite winter pastime in the region and the season in Southcentral Alaska is typically from November through to early May.
Visit Anchorage says there are a number of great trails you can explore around the city with lakes frozen over and lots of wooded trails on offer.
Places near Anchorage to go snowmobiling
– Bird Creek Trail
– Eagle River
– Eklutna Lake Valley
– Ptarmigan Valley & Peters Creek Valley
– South Fork of Campbell Creek
Evening: Watch the incredible Northern Lights
Alaska is one of the best places on earth to see the Northern Lights. As it lacks light pollution, the night sky is incredibly clear. If you are lucky enough to catch a glimpse of Aurora Borealis, it is a once in a lifetime experience.
Although the Northern Lights exist year-round, it is virtually impossible to see them in the summer due to the near-constant daylight up in the far North. This is why, during the Alaskan winter, people from all over the world head here seeking perfect conditions in the clear, dark skies.
Best places to see the northern lights
Alaska.org recommend some of the best places to go to see the Northern Lights in Alaska:
– Anchorage – From the city you can hop on an overnight tour to Talkeetna or Fairbanks to see the Northern Lights. What’s more, the tour operators will take care of all transportation so you can just focus on how to take the best photograph of the aurora.
– Fairbanks – The second largest city in Alaska is regarded as the most reliable spot in Alaska to see the Northern Lights as it is located right under the aurora oval.
Morning: Take a lovely morning hike
Hiking is a great way to discover the Alaskan wilderness as you can walk through forests at Griffin Park and trek up mountains like Flattop Mountain and Ptarmigan Peak.
You can go hiking on your own, but there are lots of guided groups you can join and these will help you learn more about the environment around you. The guides can take you on the best trails in the area and to the most beautiful spots.
Best places to hike near Anchorage
Fortunately, Anchorage is close to a whole host of fantastic hikes and here are some great places you can walk in:
– With Chugach Guides Alaska you can walk through Chugach State Park, which is just outside Anchorage. The park is America’s third largest state park, with around half a million acres ready to be explored.
– Just 40 minutes from downtown Anchorage is the Eagle River Nature Center. This glacial river valley is as wild and dramatic as anywhere in Alaska. The Albert Loop is a 3-mile nature walk, but there is also a 5-mile trek you can do to see huge waterfalls and 3,000-foot cliffs.
– Roots Rated, a media platform that connects users with outdoor experiences, recommends Portage Pass as a great hike to do near Anchorage. Lisa Maloney says, “Hands down, this is the most spectacular short trail anywhere near Anchorage. Less than a mile on a rocky old Jeep trail gets you up to the top of 800-foot Portage Pass, with the tiny seaside town of Whittier gleaming behind you and Portage Glacier in the distance, on the far side of Portage Lake.”
Afternoon: Discover a Glacier
Despite staying in the middle of a city, within a few hours you can easily head into the Alaskan wilds to see a glacier. The most accessible one is the Portage Glacier as it is just 50 miles south of Anchorage.
There are lots of different ways you can see Alaska’s glaciers, from day cruises and flightseeing trips to dog sledding on a glacier and railroad day trips. The best way is via one of our Alaska cruises and below are some of our holidays that visit different glaciers.
Recommended holidays to see glaciers
– Alaska Cruise & Pacific City Getaway – this trip includes a 7-night full board Alaska cruise and will take you up close to expansive glaciers as well as the local marine wildlife.
– Alaska Cruise & The Majestic Rockies Holiday – This 17-day holiday combines the Alaskan cruise with the Canadian Rockies. The cruise takes you to Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska as well as Glacier Bay where you will take in enormous cliff-flanked fjords and hear the sound of glaciers calving.
Evening: Enjoy Alaska’s famed nightlife
Anchorage’s nightlife and entertainment is as varied as the surrounding landscape with lots of bars, restaurants, theatres and other attractions to enjoy.
There are plenty of places you can wine and dine in homely style. Jack Sprat Restaurant is a great choice which accommodates both vegans and meat-eaters side-by-side. Its menu serves locally raised meats like Misty Isle Farms ribeye steak, locally caught seafood like fish and crab and vegetarian dishes such as vegetable yakisoba.
If you’ve read our Brewery tour of Alaska article, you’ll already known that Anchorage is famed for its delicious craft beer. They say the key is in the water, and Alaska has some of the purest around. Some of the best places to head to for this craft beer and a meal are the 49th State Brewing Company and Moose’s Tooth Pub & Pizzeria.
If you want to round off your trip to Anchorage with a show, then you should head to Cyrano’s Theatre Company, the award-winning local live theatre. Shows vary and include comedy, musicals and great drama.
Image credit: Matt Hage.