Anchorage is a busy city, home to nearly half of the entire Alaskan population. It offers a holiday with all the attractions of a modern metropolis yet the state’s wild, beautiful landscapes are just a short drive away. It is a lively place with many festivals and celebrations and its friendly locals are always happy to help.
Downtown Anchorage is a great blend of shopping centres and mainstream shops, with local craft boutiques and galleries. The weekend market is popular with locals and visitors alike, boasting hundreds of stalls selling everything from fresh local produce to handmade clothes and jewellery, alongside free entertainment and delicious street food. Dining in town is of course dominated by delicious fresh seafood, including the Alaska King Crab, but there is a wide range of eateries on offer. Choose from fine restaurants to cosy cafés and fast food, as well as drive-through espresso shacks on every street corner.
Anchorage weather can be cold, but it thrives in winter. There are several ski resorts nearby, the largest being Alyeska Resort, which has some excellent terrain as well as beautiful views over the mountains and ocean and a gourmet slopeside restaurant. During the winter the city holds ice carving and snow sculpting competitions as well as the hotly anticipated Fur Rendezous festival. Its lakes are transformed into ice rinks, many complete with atmospheric lights and warming hot drinks. Activities such as snowmobiling, dog sledding and ice climbing are plentiful, as well as cosy horse-drawn sleigh rides and of course the natural phenomenon of the Northern Lights.
In the warm summer months there are endless trails close by to hike or bike, from gentle strolls along the Coastal Trail overlooking the inlet, to more strenuous mountain hikes with spectacular 360 degree vistas over the city and beyond. Just a short trip from town brings you to Kincaid Park where you can be wandering through deep forest, relaxing on the beach or jumping in the huge sand dunes in no time. Summer also brings popular festivals and live events including many free concerts in the local parks.
Alaska’s number one attraction is often thought to be its impressive glaciers and there are many within easy reach of Anchorage. View these remarkable natural features throughout the year from a flightseeing tour or cruise boat. Many are so accessible you can walk right up to them for some fantastic photo opportunities, and with the right equipment and instruction, you can even hike their frosty slopes.
Alaska is home to 98% of North America’s brown bears and there are many ways to see some of these remarkable creatures, from the excellent Alaska Zoo in Anchorage, to organised tours into the wilderness either on foot or by plane. Anchorage is also a great place to see whales of many kinds. Take a boat trip out to sea in search of graceful orca pods and acrobatic humpbacks, or spot pearly belugas from the coastal trail. One of the city’s most common wild animals is the moose and you won’t need to book a tour to see these. They can be seen in many of the nearby parks and reserves. You may even spot one on the roadside or have to stop as it leisurely crosses the highway.
Anchorage is a fascinating place to stay on holiday whether you are here for its city comforts, to explore its amazing landscapes, enjoy the snow, or relax in its long summer days. There aren’t many holiday spots where you can walk on a glacier by day and watch the ballet by night.
Things to do
Top tips for visiting Anchorage
Top Tip 1
• Anchorage has a good selection of restaurants from pubs and fast food to upscale bistros and fine dining. For an Alaskan classic, don’t miss a tasty reindeer hotdog from one of the many street vendors.
Top Tip 2
• For the most humbling view of the impressive glaciers, head to Prince William Sound and take a boat cruise through the towering icy cliffs as huge icebergs calve and crash into the sea.
Top Tip 3
• Wildlife is everywhere, from moose on the streets to majestic bald eagles swooping overhead. Visit the Zoo or the wildlife reserve for a closer look at the local species, or for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, book a bear-viewing tour and fly into a prime spot to watch the beautiful creatures fishing, playing and dozing in their natural habitats.
Top Tip 4
• Anchorage does winter well and to cheer up the short dark days it celebrates with many lively events, including spectacularly intricate ice carving, snow sculptures, live music and beer festivals. The highlight is the annual Fur Rendezvous – or Fur Rondy – which leads up to the world-renowned Iditarod dog race. A great fun festival, there are many crazy events such as outhouse races and Anchorage’s answer to a Spanish bull run, the Running of the Reindeer!
Top Tip 5
• It is said that Alaska doesn’t do ‘snowmobiles’. It has, rather, ‘snowmachines’. And there is no greater thrill than flying through the backcountry to ice caves and glacier faces on the back of one of these.
Top Tip 6
• There are a great many beautiful hiking trails near the city, from the short trail up Flattop Mountain just outside town, to the gentle winding coastal trail from downtown to Kincaid Park. For a taste of real Alaska head north of Anchorage to stunning Eklutna Lake where you can walk to the base of the glacier.