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    What to see in Anchorage? Tips for a visit to the largest city in Alaska

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    Lluis Enric Mayans

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    40% of Alaska's population lives in Anchorage and its metropolitan area. With less than 300.000 inhabitants, it looks like a village compared to the large US metropolises, but it is the largest city in a sparsely populated state made up mostly of small towns. If you have already read our article on the climate of Alaska, you will easily understand why the majority of the population is concentrated in this area: Anchorage Bay is the place with the least severe climate of the whole country.

    Anchorage isn't the prettiest place in the state, in fact the locals are used to saying "Anchorage is only 20 minutes from Alaska", to underline how the big city has very little of those wild features that make the northern state unique. It can be said that a tourist who has already visited some North American metropolises does not miss anything in particular by avoiding this city, but there are at least two good reasons to go there during a trip to Alaska.

    The first is that, almost always constituting the first leg of the journey if you arrive by plane, it is the ideal place to acclimatize. Being catapulted into the wilds might be disorienting, but Anchorage - a city with all the amenities, but where it's easy to spot a moose outside the hotel entrance - is just the middle ground for spending the first couple of days. The second reason is that some of the main attractions of the country can be reached within a day from here, so being based in the city and moving to a different destination every day may be an idea to consider.


    • How to get to Anchorage?
    • Climate and temperatures: when to go?
    • Getting around
    • Attractions in the city
      • A tour in the historic center
      • Museums and art galleries
      • Walks in the green
    • Day trips from Anchorage
      • Anchorage tour and departing from the city
    • Where to eat in Anchorage
    • Where to sleep in Anchorage

    How to get to Anchorage?

    Anchorage is served by two airports: the Merrill Field Airport, located practically in the city center and offering short distance connections, and the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, which is Alaska's main airport.

    • If you land at Merrill Field, perhaps because you are coming from another Alaskan city, to reach the center it is sufficient to take the bus n.30, which leads from the airport to the central district of Downtown.
    • If, as is more likely, you land at Ted Stevens, to get to the center you need to take the bus n.40. However, this airport is also adjacent to the city and the bus takes less than half an hour.

    The alternative is to arrive in Anchorage by ship. From the port to the center there are no good bus connections, but the distance is minimal. In 20 minutes on foot you can reach Downtown from the port and alternatively, given the short distance, the price of a taxi or a shuttle is not high. To book your flight, I would like to point out our tips on how to book a flight to the USA.

    Climate and temperatures: when to go?

    If you have already read my article on when to go to Alaska, you will already have an idea about the climate of this country. The Anchorage Advantage is that it is located in the mildest area in all of Alaska. It is no coincidence, of course, that the only large city in the state developed here. In this bay, well sheltered from disturbances, only 425 mm of precipitation per year falls (between rain and snow), much less than in other areas.

    Furthermore, temperatures are never extreme. In summer, the daily maximums are around 18/20 ° and the minimums are around 10/12 °. In winter, however, there are on average highs around -2 / -5 ° and lows around -10 / -13 °. We cannot say that we are in the tropics, but we are talking about temperatures much higher than the Alaskan average. The same goes for the sea, which never has temperatures so low as to freeze, as happens along the coast in other areas of the state. The spring and summer days are very long and in the months of May, June and July the particular phenomenon of sleepless nights.

    Getting around

    Despite being the largest city in the state, Anchorage is quite small in absolute terms. To visit the center, feet are the best means to use. However, if you have to carry luggage, move from one end of the city to the other or perhaps move during the cold season when the temperatures are below freezing, it may not be pleasant to walk on the street. In all these cases, a great bus service, Called People Mover.

    The price of each ride is $ 2, but if you plan to use the bus several times during the day, it is definitely worth buying the day ticket for the price of $ 5. On this page you can consult the map of the bus lines and follow the movements of the buses of each line in real time. The AnchorRIDES service, on the other hand, offers the possibility of tailor-made movement for people with disabilities.

    Attractions in the city

    It is a metropolis but it does not have the skyscrapers of Chicago, it overlooks a bay but it does not have the romantic charm of San Francisco. Then we ask ourselves: What is there to see in Anchorage? A small but lively center, museums and art galleries, cycle and pedestrian paths in the green are some examples, but above all: in which other city in the world is it possible to spot whales from the mainland?

    Spending a couple of days here will allow you to better understand the lifestyle of the Alaskans and to easily get to know someone in the numerous clubs that animate the center, asking for advice and indications on the best excursions to do in the surroundings, or taking advantage of the city's museum offer. to learn more about local history.

    A tour in the historic center

    The Downtown district, the most historic one, is very small and turns comfortably on foot. Getting lost is really impossible: the rectangular structure is divided into streets numbered progressively from north to south and with letters from east to west. The street in front of the train station is W 1st Avenue and each parallel street is progressively called W 2nd Avenue, W 3rd Avenue, and so on. The perpendicular streets are called in order A street, B street, etc. moving west from the large, easily identifiable viaduct that leads to the industrial area of ​​the port.

    The ideal starting point for a walk in the center is thetourist information office, located at the intersection of W 4th Avenue and F street. The structure, a log house with a grass-covered roof, is clearly identifiable in the midst of the large buildings that surround it. Here you can grab a map of the city, if you don't have one, and get detailed information on the available tours. I suggest you a very simple tour to take a fairly complete walk of the neighborhood.

    Eisenhower Statehood Monument
    Wendler Building
    Delaney park
    Nulbay Park
    Oscar Anderson House
    Resolution Park
    • The first stop I recommend is theEisenhower Statehood Monument: the monument that celebrates the admission of Alaska to the USA, which is just a 5-minute walk away. Leaving the tourist office behind, walk down F Street two blocks, turning right onto W 2nd Avenue. In addition to the monument, which in itself is significant for the story it tells, from here you can enjoy a beautiful view of the north side of the city and the bay.
    • From here take E street to return to W 4th Avenue and turn left here. At the intersection with D street, in front of the iconic Wendler Building, is located the statue of Balto, the most famous dog in Alaska, which in 1925 brought to Nome the antitoxin necessary to eradicate the diphtheria epidemic.
    • A few meters further on, on the opposite side of the road, you will find the 4th Avenue Market Place: one of the ideal places to buy something to eat on the fly.
    • Take D Street and then turn right onto W 5th Avenue, you'll be in the heart of the city in two minutes: Town Square Park, the main square of Anchorage.
    • Resuming the walk on W 5th Avenue, just walk another block to the intersection with G Street to find the beginning of the Planet Walk. This installation represents the solar system starting from a yellow hemisphere emerging from the road surface and indicating the Sun. The various planets are placed at the proportional distance from the star and can therefore be found in various areas of the city.
    • G Street in 6-7 minutes will take you to the center of the Delaney park: one of the main parks in the city, which cuts across the center of Anchorage for several blocks. In summer it is animated by numerous outdoor activities. If you arrive, as suggested, from G Street, turn left first until you reach the old Alaska Railways steam locomotive. From here, go back and walk through the park in the opposite direction, towards the bay. You will meet the monument to the soldiers of the Second World War, that a Martin Luther King and that to Pope John Paul II. A little further on, an interesting small rose garden, very beautiful during the summer months.
    • After walking through the park you will be almost at the coast. After the last block, you can turn right onto Stolt Lane and follow the road to the small one Nulbay Park and its curious monument to the whales.
    • Staying along the coast it is easy to reach, in a few minutes, theEldberry Park, from which you have a great view of Anchorage Bay and the mountains in the distance. Here is also the Oscar Anderson House: the oldest house in the city, dating back to 1915 (today a house-museum) which exhibits personal objects of the family who lived there.
    • Take W 5th Avenue towards the center and turn left onto L Street to reach in a few minutes another interesting viewpoint, the Resolution Park, where is the Captain Cook statue.
    • Continuing on W 3rd Avenue, when you reach the neighborhood enclosed between Christensen street and F Street, you can see other historic wooden houses well preserved.

    Museums and art galleries

    If you decide to spend at least a couple of days in the city, it may be worth it visit some museum to delve into local history or learn more about the art Alaska has to offer. Here are the main museums and galleries in Anchorage.

    • Anchorage Museum: second state museum after the official one in Juneau, it is one of the best places in alaska to learn about the art and history of the country. Since 2009 it has also been expanded with a planetarium, an arctic study center and the interesting Imaginarium: an old attraction that was once in the city center and which offers interactive science attractions for children. Northern lights, volcanoes and other natural features of the Alaskan ecosystem are crucial points in the museum. (Address: 1625, C street).
    • Alaska Heritage Museum al Wells Fargo: it is a huge collection of indigenous artifacts and works of local masters. (Address: 301 W Northern lights Boulevard).
    • Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum: a collection of 27 airplanes, some of which are very rare. From an observation deck in the museum, the seaplane base on Lake Hood can be seen from above. (Address: 4721 Aircraft Dr).
    • Stephan Fine Arts Gallery: it is a museum that mainly collects paintings of Alaskan subjects and photographs, as well as Thomas Mangelsen's portraits of bears. (Address: 939, W 5th Avenue).
    • Aurora Fine Art Gallery: a particular gallery, which mixes traditional and contemporary art. Particularly the totemic design of the works of Marilyn Kaminsky Miller. (Address: 737, W 5th Avenue).

    Each first Friday of the month you can participate in the so-called First Friday Art Walk: from 17.30 to 19.30 pm dozens of galleries, shops and restaurants offer food, drinks and live music, as well as presentations of new works and artists. If you happen to be on one of these days, look around, you might find some nice surprises!

    Walks in the green

    Even a large city like Anchorage, being in Alaska, has no shortage of green areas in which to walk or ride a bicycle to enjoy nature within walking distance of the city's services. One of the most interesting places in this sense is theAlaska Botanical Garden, a botanical garden that offers a large number of endemic species. From here there are also paths that run along streams where salmon come to lay their eggs in summer.

    At the western end of the city, south of the airport, opens the Kincaid Park. Despite being attached to the metropolis, it is a place where it is possible to see moose and other wild animals without difficulty. From the coast, it is not impossible to spot whales that come to feed in the bay.

    Kincaid Park can be reached from the historic center along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. This 17 km cycle / pedestrian path runs along the entire promontory south-west of the city, offering wonderful views of the sea.

    Day trips from Anchorage

    Anchorage is not a city close to the wilderness, but a city 'in the wild'. For this, it can be used as a base for various day trips. Here are some examples of trips a stone's throw from the city center.

    Eklutna Historical Park
    • Alaska Native Heritage Center ed Eklutna Historical Park. On the northern outskirts of the city is the Alaska Native Heritage Center, the perfect place to understand the history of native peoples. If you have a car, driving another half hour along the Glenn Highway will take you to the village of Eklutna, alongside which stands the Eklutna Historical Park: a place where native culture mixes with Russian Orthodox. The most particular are 80 houses for spirits, all colored. Just before Eklutna, easily reachable from the road, there are the suggestive waterfalls Thunder Bird Falls.
    • Chugach State Park. Being in the outskirts of the city, an interesting trip can be made in Chugach State Park, adjacent to the eastern suburbs of Anchorage. It can be reached easily and offers numerous outdoor activities, depending on the season: from skiing to fishing, from biking to picking blueberries. The mountainous area of ​​the park offers wild and unexplored paths, while the area closest to the city is a destination for family activities. Despite being at the gates of the city, it is the habitat of moose and bears, wolves and lynxes, stoats and beavers: in short, any animal that can be found in these lands. An easy spot to reach (just over a half hour drive from Anchorage) is there Artic Valley. Drive north on Glenn Highway until you reach the interchange for Artic Valley Road. This road will lead you in winter to ski resorts, in summer to a valley full of blueberries and ideal paths for trekking lovers. An alternative a little further away, but definitely worthy of interest, is theEagle River Nature Center. Located in the valley of the homonymous river, in the north of the park, it is an educational center where you can learn a lot about the Alaskan territory and from which numerous hiking trails depart.
    • Baia di Turnagain. The large territory of Chugach State Park faces south on Turnagain Bay: the name means just what it says and was given to this place because Captain James Cook, who arrived here with the illusion of finding a passage, had to turn around. Traveling along the Seward Highway, you skirt the moorland where moose graze and you can reach some of the best places to spot flocks of waterfowl. The most famous is the Potter Marsh, and is only a 20-minute drive from downtown Anchorage.
    Chugach State Park
    Baia di Turnagain

    Those who want to go further, and use Anchorage as a base for a more in-depth tour of the area, can read our tips on how to organize a multi-day itinerary in Alaska.

    Anchorage tour and departing from the city

    Those who want to explore the city not independently but relying on an organized tour, can consider the following options:

    • Anchorage tour with visit to the Alaska Native Heritage Center: guided tour of about 3 hours that will take you to explore some popular areas of the city such as those of the port, Bootleggers Cove and Lake Hood, with a visit to the famous theme park where you can also decide whether to stay longer and return to the center thanks to the Heritage Center shuttle.
    • Anchorage Private Tour: If you want a tailor-made tour tailored to your schedules and needs, this package may be for you given the wide range of customization it offers.
    • Beer Tour and Tasting: Anchorage is also renowned for hosting some very popular breweries. Thanks to this tour you will have the opportunity to undertake a tasting in the three best in the city.

    Given its importance and, as we have seen, the presence of numerous natural attractions nearby, Anchorage also offers organized tours to explore the surrounding areas. Here are the main ones:

    • Denali National Park Airplane Tour: This tour offers a pickup service from major hotels in the city, after which you will be taken to the town of Talkeetna where you will take the plane to fly over Denali for about an hour and if the weather conditions allow it, to land on the glacier.
    • Turnagain Bay Super Scenic Tour from Anchorage: Eight hour tour with cruise on the famous Turnagain Bay. Recommended solution for those who want to closely observe a glacier.

    Where to eat in Anchorage

    Alaskan cuisine is certainly not famous worldwide, but not to end up in fast-food restaurants, it is also possible to taste special dishes here. One of the local delicacies is salmon, it can be found in all sauces and is worth eating in what is one of its world homelands. The most convenient solution is to buy it fresh at the market and the New Sagaya's City Market and Midtown Market there are two markets where it is possible to take away salmon and other types of fish.

    To eat good fish in a unique location, you can try the Bridge Seafood, a restaurant on a stilted pier. If, on the other hand, you are looking for a rustic and welcoming location, the Glacier Brewhouse has an extensive menu for all tastes.

    If you dare to eat pizza in Alaska, a curious compromise between pizza and local cuisine is offered by Moose’s Tooth Pub & Pizzeria. Here the pizza flavors start from the Alaskan tradition and there is no shortage of salmon and halibut.

    Where to sleep in Anchorage

    Anchorage is not that big and it is very likely that you will only be passing through and then go in search of the real attractions of Alaska, so it can be said that one neighborhood is as good as another. However, it is important to consider if you have a rental car or if you travel by public transport. In the second case, I recommend that you look for the hotel in Downtown neighborhood, or in any case in all that sector of the city enclosed between the station and W 15th Avenue. Here the bus network is widespread, you will have the station close at hand to travel by train to other locations, and easy access to and from the airport.

    If you are looking for a high standard hotel, the first suggestion is the Captain Cook Hotel (939 West 5th Avenue), an old city stronghold, large enough to take up an entire block. The homage to the famous navigator is not only in the name: the rooms are decorated with a nautical theme.

    Another particular hotel is theHistoric Anchorage Hotel (330 E Street, Anchorage), where Alaska's most famous painter, Sydney Laurence, lived for two years and also produced many of his masterpieces here. Aviation pioneer Wiley Post and comedian Will Rogers spent the last two nights of their lives in this same hotel (before an indicative plane).

    For nature lovers, but outside the center, there is the Copper Whale Inn (440 L Street, Anchorage). The name is not accidental: placed on a hill, it has binoculars on the windowsill to be able to observe the whales in the sea in front.

    For a general overview of all the hotels available in the city you can click on the link below.

    Look for accommodation in Anchorage

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