Although Alaska is vast and varied, many people automatically think of the state’s biggest city – Anchorage – when Alaska is mentioned. This makes sense; almost everyone who visits Alaska passes through Anchorage at some point.
The state’s main airport is in Anchorage. Cruise ships stop in Seward, not far from Anchorage, and most people who visit Alaska by cruise ship either arrive or depart through this city or visit it on an excursion.
Without a doubt, Anchorage is the gateway to Alaska, and anyone visiting this northernmost state will likely visit Anchorage as some part of their trip.
But Anchorage is much more than just a gateway. It’s home to nearly 300,000 residents, dwarfing the state’s capital and second-most populous city, Juneau, which has just over 32,000.
The state’s largest university, The University of Alaska Anchorage, is here. It serves approximately 15,000 students at any given time. Although Alaska has no professional sports teams, you can watch competitive baseball, hockey, basketball, and rugby in Anchorage. You may have trouble finding enough people to play any sports elsewhere in the state.
Things are happening in Anchorage – and it’s worth visiting. If you’re going to go to Alaska, Anchorage is a fantastic place to start, and many people do exactly that. However, even if you spend your entire vacation in Anchorage and the surrounding areas, you’ll go home feeling quite pleased!
There’s plenty to do in this great American city for people with various interests. Whether you’re a nature lover, an avid hiker, an outdoor activity enthusiast, a xenophile, a history buff, or a fan of unusual attractions, Anchorage has something for you. And on top of all that, the people are friendly and the food and beer are great too.
Fly over the majestic Chugach Range and Knik Glacier. Get a bird's-eye view of glacial crevasses, glacial rivers, and waterfalls. Spot moose, bears, and other local wildlife from above. Fly down the Great Gorge or the Knik River Valley with your guide in a helicopter. Land on the massive Knik Glacier with your guide and fill your water bottle with pure glacier water.
The Anchorage Trolley is the only mobile tour of its kind in Alaska and one of the few in the US. It allows you to take a look at Anchorage’s waterfront, downtown, historic neighborhoods, parks and heritage sites. You can go on a 1- or 2-hour tour of Anchorage and get a free coupon book with coupons for many local shops and restaurants.
Anchorage is the heart of Alaska and the place to begin your Alaskan adventure. From its diverse population, rich history, and iconic attractions to its luxury shopping, fine dining, and local art scene, Anchorage offers a wealth of experiences for every visitor. Take a trip down Ship Creek and view wildlife before seeing the city skyline from Point Woronzof Park.
So, if you’re looking for things to do in Anchorage, this post will greatly help you. This list will give you ideas of things to see and do in several categories. Pick a few from each, or choose a category and try to hit them all.
TL;DR: Things to do in Anchorage, AK
- Best Hotel in Anchorage – The Historic Anchorage Hotel
- Best Outdoor Activity in Anchorage – Hiking in Chugach State Park
- Best Family-Friendly Attraction in Anchorage – The Imaginarium Discovery Center at the Alaska Museum
- Most Well-Known Attraction in Anchorage – The Anchorage Museum
- Best Kept Secret – The Alaska Heritage Museum at Wells Fargo
- Best Cultural Experience in Anchorage – Alaska Native Heritage Center
- Best Trail in Anchorage – Tony Knowles Coastal Trail
- Best Attraction for Animal Lovers – Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
- Best Place to See Animals – Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge
- Best Fine Dining – Kincaid Grill
- Best Casual Dining – Rustic Goat
- Best Breakfast – Snow City Cafe
Best Attractions in Anchorage for Nature Lovers
Alaska is a paradise for nature lovers. The natural beauty of Alaska is the main reason most people visit this northernmost state. You could fill your entire visit to Anchorage with visits to view the breathtaking scenery in and around this town.
Check out this list of nature-based attractions you should check out while in Anchorage.
1. Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
Alaska is known for wide-open spaces and incredible vistas. The small ratio of people to land in this state makes it not surprising at all that there is so much wildlife in this part of the country. In Alaska, it’s the animals that rule – humans are secondary residents and are almost an afterthought.
If you’re first wondering what to do in Anchorage, the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is a great place to start your visit to Alaska. Although it’s not in downtown Anchorage, it’s just an hour’s drive away from downtown in Girdwood.
This sanctuary is dedicated to preserving Alaska’s wildlife through education, conservation, and animal care. It is a home for orphaned, injured, or sick animals that are native to this state.
Most cannot ever be released back into the wild, and they will therefore live the rest of their lives at the sanctuary. You can see creatures like coyotes, foxes, moose, bison, bears, wolves, elk, caribou, and more on over 200 acres on a 1.5-mile loop that can be traveled on foot, by bike, or by car.
The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is a great place to see so many of the animals that people come to Alaska to see, all while supporting a fantastic organization that really cares about these animals and their habitats.
See Related: How Much Does an Alaska Trip Cost?
2. Portage Glacier/Begich Boggs Visitor Center
About twenty minutes past the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is Portage Glacier just outside of Whittier. These two attractions combine well into a single-day trip if you stay in the city center of Anchorage.
Besides seeing animals and spectacular views, seeing a glacier up close is another very popular reason why people visit Alaska, and this is a very easily accessible one.
The Begich Boggs Visitor Center was built in 1986 and is also worth a visit; you can learn a great deal about glaciers through its exhibits.
However, the glacier is receding at such a rapid rate due to climate change that it can no longer be viewed from the visitor’s center. To see it, you can hike to various viewpoints, or, in the summer months, you can take a one-hour narrated boat tour to view it.
If guided tours are your thing, you might like this trip from Get Your Guide: From Anchorage: Portage Glacier and Wildlife Full-Day Tour. It includes both Portage Glacier and the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center and someone else will do all the driving for you.
See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Wasilla, Alaska
3. Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge & Potter Marsh Bird Sanctuary
Even though the Anchorage metropolitan area is the most populated area in Alaska, you can see lots of wildlife in and around this city too. You don’t have to go deep into the wilderness to enjoy it. The Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge is quite large but almost all of it is immediately adjacent to the city.
It runs along the coastline for sixteen miles and is open to the public all year for hiking, fishing, hunting, trapping, camping, and birdwatching, and people enjoy cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and ice skating there in during the winter months.
Over 130 bird species have been seen in this refuge! Consequently, the Potter Marsh Bird Sanctuary section is very popular with people who want to view a variety of birds in one place. Bears, moose, and other mammals are also often seen in this wildlife refuge as well.
4. Chugach State Park
There are more than 150 state parks in Alaska but Chugach State Park is one of the most frequently visited by residents and visitors alike due to its close proximity to Anchorage.
Also, it certainly doesn’t hurt that this state park is absolutely gigantic – it covers 495,204 acres just east of the city. The park was signed into law in 1970 by then-Governor Keith Miller.
The park’s main features include the Chugach Mountains, Eklutna Lake, Eklutna Glacier, and several other glaciers, Eagle River access, a length of the Seward Highway National Scenic Byway along Turnagain Arm, and lots of bears.
There are miles of hiking trails, campgrounds, ATV and snowmobile trails, historical sites, visitor centers, and more. Wildlife viewing is a popular activity in the park; in addition to bears, there are moose, Dall sheep, wolves, deer, lynx, ptarmigan, foxes, porcupines, and many more critters living in the wild at Chugach State Park.
This is a great place to spend a day and see some of the best natural beauty that Alaska has to offer.
5. Eagle River Nature Center in Chugach State Park
Eagle River Nature Center is about thirty minutes from downtown Anchorage in the middle of Chugach State Park. If you’re not sure where to begin when visiting and exploring this large park, this nature center is a great place to start.
Formerly a popular bar and steakhouse, the nature center building is now staffed by enthusiastic folks who want you to get the most out of the surrounding natural area; they are on hand to answer any questions that you may have most days of the week.
The Eagle River Nature Center area is surrounded by hiking trails and incredible vistas that are open 24/7. You can even tent camp on the property as long as you are at least one mile from the center and are off the trail.
However, perhaps the best way to enjoy the Eagle River Nature Center is by joining a public program – the staff offers a program on most days, and in many cases, no pre-registration is needed.
See Related: Anchorage or Juneau: What is Better to Visit?
6. McHugh Creek Day Use Area in Chugach State Park
One particularly wonderful section of Chugach State Park is the McHugh Creek Day Use Area. It’s a great place for a picnic and a short walk from parking will take you to a twenty-foot waterfall.
It’s only about twenty-five minutes away from downtown and it’s easy to find the parking area just off Seward Highway at milepost 111. This day-use area is ADA-accessible which allows everyone to enjoy this beautiful spot!
If you want to go deeper, you can try the 6.4-mile, out-and-back McHugh Trail and enjoy views of the Chugach Mountains and several alpine lakes.
7. Eklutna Lake in Chugach State Park
Another popular attraction inside Chugach State Park is Eklutna Lake. This lake is seven miles long, one mile wide, and has fifteen miles of shoreline; it’s fed by the rapidly melting Eklutna Glacier at one end.
It’s the main source of drinking water for Anchorage and is also a main source of electricity thanks to its hydroelectric dam.
Non-motorized and electric boats are allowed on the lake, and many people visit Eklutna Lake for kayaking and canoeing, which it is an absolutely incredible setting.
See Related: Best Things to Do in Talkeetna, Alaska
8. Kincaid Park
Kincaid Park is one of the best city parks in the entire nation and once you go there it’s easy to see why. This park is just south of the airport, so you will hear planes landing and taking off, but you will hardly notice because everything around you is so darn beautiful!
The park is located on a point, so if you stand on that point, you’ll have a Knik Arm to your right, and Turnagain Arm on your left. These Cook Inlet inlets are vast and awe-inspiring and you’ll often be able to see one or the other while you explore this park’s 1,516 acres.
This is a multi-use park that is frequented by runners, bikers, hikers, disc golf enthusiasts, soccer teams, and rollerblades during the summer months and by snowshoers, ice-fishers, and cross country skiers during the winter.
You could relax here for an entire morning, afternoon, or evening surrounded by birch, cottonwood, and spruce trees. Don’t be surprised if you see some local wildlife during your visit, too.
9. Earthquake Park
In 1964, the most powerful earthquake ever to hit North America (and the second most powerful ever recorded on Earth) shook Anchorage and the surrounding area. It was measured at 9.2 on the Richter Scale and lasted four minutes and thirty-eight seconds.
It caused a huge landslide and an entire neighborhood was destroyed; 131 people were killed in Alaska and elsewhere due to this earthquake and its after-effects.
It changed the landscape of this area forever, and the land was altered as far as 200 miles away. Tsunamis caused further damage as far away as Japan and Hawaii.
Earthquake Park commemorates this tragic event. This park covers 134 acres and is just north of the airport. It’s wooded and has trails including an interpretive trail that tells about the earthquake.
There is no playground, but it’s a great place for relaxing and looking out on Knik Arm and the Chugach Mountains or at the Anchorage skyline. It also offers access to the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail which can lead you to a number of other interesting places.
See Related: Best Family Vacation Spots in Alaska
10. Point Woronzof Park
Between Earthquake Park and Kincaid Park, you’ll find the 192-acre Point Woronzof Park. Although this park is directly in the path of the runways of the Ted Stevens International Airport, you won’t mind seeing and hearing the planes overhead while you look out at Cook Inlet, Fire Island, the mountains, and hopefully even some whales.
This is a great spot to watch the sunset at whatever hour it happens during your visit, and you may spot some bald eagles over the water, too.
11. Alaska Botanical Garden
Summer is short in Alaska but the days are long. Although you might not expect to find a botanical garden in Anchorage, this one bursts with blooms and color during the summer months and is worth exploring in other seasons as well.
Trails in this 110-acre garden on the outskirts of downtown lead through forests and too many beautiful, cultivated gardens full of native plants including wildflowers and alpine plants. The garden is run by an independent non-profit and opened in 1993.
The Lowenfels Family Nature Trail is 1.1 miles long and is great for families with children. The garden is open all year and offers numerous public programs that are worth checking out.
See Related: Tips & Things to Know Before Going to Alaska
12. Westchester Lagoon
Westchester Lagoon is just a fifteen-minute walk from downtown Anchorage. Although the two lakes that make up the lagoon are man-made, this area is full of wildlife.
In the warmer months, birds of all kinds flock here to swim, eat, and care for their young. In the winter, it’s a great ice rink that’s operated by the city. There are two islands and the lagoon is surrounded by trails. This is a great place to walk at sunset or any time of the day.
13. Ship Creek
If you love fishing, and you are planning a trip to Alaska, then chances are that you already know about Ship Creek. Although this is called Ship Creek, it’s really a river and it’s full of Coho and Chinook salmon; people come from all over the world to try their hand at catching some here.
This river begins in the Chugach Mountains and flows for twenty-five miles, passing through the city of Anchorage, before emptying into Knik Arm at the Port of Anchorage.
It’s a great river for fishing and photographs, but you likely won’t want to go swimming in it – the warmest it gets all year is 59 degrees Fahrenheit in July.
If the mention of salmon fishing got you excited, then you might consider signing up for a private fishing excursion through Viator. This Alaskan Salmon 8-Hour Fishing Experience includes hotel pickup and transportation and all the equipment you’ll need.
See Related: Best Things to Do in Icy Strait Point, Alaska
14. Resolution Park
This small park on the north side of town includes a statue of Captain James Cook. In 1776, Captain Cook and his men set out on his third voyage on a ship called HMS Resolution.
During his journey, he surveyed the coast of Alaska in search of a passage to the Atlantic. Unable to find such a passage, he and his men sailed southward to the Sandwich Islands. He later died in Hawaii in 1779.
Captain Cook was one of the world’s most famous explorers and this statue and park are a great tribute to him. You’ll see great views of Knik Arm and you can learn more about his place in history through the interpretive signs here.
Great Hiking Trails in and Around Anchorage
If you don’t feel like doing activities in Anchorage proper during your stay, there are miles and miles of hiking trails in the area surrounding the city, and you won’t have to go far to enjoy them – many are within a half-hour away or less, but you’ll feel like you’re deep in the wilderness.
You’ll find something for every type and level of hiker in this region and the views and vistas you’ll see on your journey will stay with you forever. Here are a few of the most popular trails around Anchorage.
15. Tony Knowles Coastal Trail
Named for former Alaska governor Tony Knowles, this easy trail is eleven miles long and is paved the entire way so it’s great for walking, running, biking, and rollerblading in the summer and for cross-country skiing or snowshoeing in the winter.
It begins downtown and you can follow its windy path all the way to Kincaid Park. It passes through woods and marshes and leads to the coast where you may be able to spot a Beluga whale. You can also see great views of Denali from certain points. You’ll love this trail.
If you’d rather bike it and walk it but didn’t bring your bike on the plane with you, you might enjoy this Tony Knowles Coast Trail Scenic Bike Tour with Viator. The ride is about three hours and a guide will be on hand to share information and points of interest.
See Related: Most Beautiful & Best Running Trails in America
16. Flattop Mountain Trail
Flattop Mountain is a popular loop hiking trail that many people who visit Anchorage visit. Because of its popularity, you may have trouble finding a parking spot where the Glen Alps Trailhead begins (about fifteen miles southeast of downtown), so go early.
The 3.3-mile trail itself is moderately challenging but the views from the top are well worth the effort. The loop takes about 2.5 hours to complete.
If you’re with someone who doesn’t wish to hike, he or she may go along for the ride anyway as the drive to the start is also quite impressive; the trailhead is at 2,200 feet and most places in Anchorage are at 100 feet of elevation or less.
17. North Fork Trail
This trail is about thirty minutes from downtown Anchorage and is an easy one with a lot to see. It’s a 2.3-mile out-and-back route with only about 200 feet of elevation gain, so it’s great for kids.
It’s in Chugach State Park so you’ll have to pay the day-use fee for the park – even though it’s on the park’s outer edge. However, it leads to the Eagle River and you’ll see so many great views along the way.
People who love to hike but like a comfortable bed and warm shower afterward might enjoy the well-rated Alaska Chalet Bed & Breakfast nearby. This is a great option if you want to stay near Anchorage, but not in the downtown or even suburban area.
See Related: Best Things to Do in Fairbanks, Alaska
18. Barbara Falls (South Fork Falls) Trail
If you love waterfalls and want to view an impressive one with little effort on your part, then Barbara Falls, also known as South Fork Falls, might be a good choice for you.
On the northern edge of Chugach State Park, this 1.3-mile, the out-and-back trail is rated easy and has only 190 feet of elevation gain. At the end of the trail, you’ll see the falls which are quite lovely.
This trail is well-maintained but it can be muddy and mosquito-heavy in the summer and icy in the winter so be careful. But, for the most part, this trail is both dog and kid-friendly and it will be a big hit with everyone in your group.
See Related: Essential Tips for Hiking with Kids
19. Thunderbird Falls Trail
Another easy trail in Chugach State Park that leads to a very special waterfall is the Thunderbird Falls Trail.
This is another great one to do with kids and dogs because it’s under two miles each way and the waterfall at the end is a magnificent sight that you’ll never forget. This trail is very popular so expect some crowds, but the 200-foot Thunderbird Falls makes it worth it.
See Related: Best Restaurants in Fairbanks, Alaska
20. Byron Glacier Trail
The Byron Glacier Trail is in Chugach State Park and the trailhead is not far from Portage Glacier and the Begich Boggs Visitor Center. This is a 3.2-mile out-and-back trail that is fairly easy although it does include 787 feet of elevation gain along the way.
You’ll pass through a number of ecosystems on this trail and at the end, you’ll be rewarded with a great view of Byron Glacier. At dusk, you may be able to view ice worms in the wild; this is known as one of the easiest spots in the world to do so.
21. Eagle & Symphony Lakes Trail
If you want to see something else you’ve likely never seen before, this will be a great hike for you, and it’s also in Chugach State Park.
This is a long hike, though, so keep that in mind; it’s an out-and-back trail that is 12 miles each way and there’s quite a bit of elevation gain as well. But, if you are a strong hiker, at the end of this trail you’ll be able to see two lakes next to each other that are completely different colors.
This is due to the way the different sediments in the water are reflected in sunlight, and it’s quite a sight to see.
Eagle Lake is fed by Flute Glacier and Symphony Lake gets its water from snow and precipitation, so these different water sources result in two entirely different blues that are striking and memorable.
Don’t forget your camera!
See Related: Best Breweries in Fairbanks, Alaska
22. Virgin Creek Falls Trail
The Virgin Creek Falls Trail is a quick and easy trail near Girdwood. At just half a mile each way, you can complete this trail in less than a half-hour, but you’ll feel like you’re very deep in the wilderness.
You can expect to see lots and hear lots of birds along the way and be sure to take a very deep breath and smell the pine. The falls are small, but worthwhile, and are quite photogenic, too.
Attractions in Anchorage for History Buffs
The human history of Alaska is long and intriguing and you can learn a great deal about the people of this state while you visit Anchorage as well, thanks to the wide variety of museums and historical sites in this area.
Anchorage was officially founded in 1914, but people have been living in this area for thousands of years. Learn about the native people and the settlers who came to this area and the challenges they have faced over the years in this harsh environment by visiting these Anchorage attractions.
23. Anchorage Museum
No visit to Anchorage is complete without a visit to the Anchorage Museum. This 40,000-square-foot museum opened in 1968 and anyone who stops in to check it out will leave with a much greater understanding of the people, ecology, history, and art of this unique place.
Inside, you’ll find exhibits about life in Alaska, native people, settlers, animals, Art of the North, and so much more. Over 180,000 visitors pass through its halls each year and educational programs for children and adults further expand its impact.
This museum is in the center of the city; you can’t miss it, and you shouldn’t! You can learn so much about the region here. It may be hard to tear yourself away from the great outdoors during your Alaskan vacation, but a visit to this museum will be worth it.
See Related: Best Hotels in Fairbanks, Alaska | Places to Stay
24. Alaska Native Heritage Center
Another museum that visitors to Anchorage should not miss is the Alaska Native Heritage Center. Although the Anchorage Museum has much information and many exhibits about the native people of Alaska, you’ll learn much more about these people by visiting this incredible outdoor museum.
The Alaska Native Heritage Center was founded in 1999.
This museum on 26 acres shares the heritage and culture of the state’s eleven major cultural groups: the Athabaskan people, the Eyak people, the Tlingit people, the Haida people, the Tsimshian people, the Unagax people, the Alutiiq people, and the Yup’ik, Cup’ik, Siberian Yupik, and Inupiaq peoples.
As you might imagine, in an area as large as Alaska, there are many different native groups. Although their lifestyles were and are similar in many ways, they were and are quite different as well, and these differences are not only interesting but should be recognized and celebrated.
Visitors to the Alaska Native Heritage Center will be able to visit replicas of the traditional homes of some of these groups and can experience demonstrations of native games, native dancing, and traditional storytelling.
The Hall of Cultures features rotating exhibits about the people and features art, crafts, and artifacts as well. The whole family will enjoy visiting the Alaska Native Heritage Center and all will leave with a much deeper and richer understanding of the native people of the north.
25. Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum
Due to the massive size of Alaska and the limited number of roads, air travel is a major part of the culture and lifestyle in the state. It’s no surprise, then, that there’s a museum dedicated to airplanes and other flying machines in Anchorage.
This museum has been teaching visitors about air travel since 1988 and today has over 30 aircraft on display. You can also view aviation artifacts and memorabilia from the early years of flight.
The focus of this museum is not just flight but flight in Alaska in particular, so you can learn about Bush flying, seaplanes, small plane air tourism, and military planes that flew in Alaska during WWII. The museum’s own Hall of Fame celebrates Alaskan pilots and awards three new awards each year.
This museum is located at the Lake Hood Seaplane Base which is the largest and busiest seaplane base in the world.
When you’re finished at the museum, you might want to check out the rest of the property as well. This walking tour will tell you more about what you’re looking at while you’re there. You can pass some time watching float planes take off and land, too.
See Related: Best & Fun Things to do in Juneau, Alaska
26. St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church at Eklutna Historical Park
The United States bought Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million in 1867. Until that point, Alaska had been a Russian colony, and about 1,000 Russians lived there. Due to its remoteness, most were probably fine with moving back to mainland Russia once the sale was complete – but many stayed.
The Russian people did leave their mark on Alaska as the 1,000 who lived there – including numerous missionaries – spread the Russian Orthodox religion to the native people.
Today, there are nearly 90 Russian Orthodox parishes in the state with a membership of over 20,000. Most of the members are indigenous people.
There are thirty historic Russian Orthodox churches in Alaska and St. Nicholas is one of them. It was first built in 1894 but it was moved and rebuilt in its current spot in 1900. If you like old and unique churches, this one is certainly worth a visit.
27. Alaska Heritage Museum at Wells Fargo
This museum is small but it is well worth a visit. You might not think much of a museum owned by a bank, but you’ll be missing out if you skip this hidden gem.
This museum was begun by the Rasmussen family in 1976 who, at the time, were the owners of the First National Bank of Alaska. They sold the bank to Wells Fargo in 2000 and that banking organization has kept it going with few changes since.
The Rasmussens began this museum to celebrate the wonders of Alaska. In particular, they wanted a space to display high-quality artifacts from Alaska’s native tribes like the Athabascans, Aleuts, Yupiks, and Inupiaq.
They collected many artifacts during their ownership of the museum and today it has in its collection over 6,000 artifacts and works of art. Around 900 items are on display here including clothing, a traditional kayak, paintings, hand-woven baskets, and more.
You’ll be amazed at all you see here, and the museum curator, Tom Bennett, is happy to answer any questions that you may have about any of it.
See Related: Best Places to Visit in Alaska | Top Attractions
28. Alaska Public Lands Information Center
There are four Public Lands Information Centers in Alaska and they are all worth visiting. There is one in Ketchikan, one in Fairbanks, one in Tok, and this one in Anchorage.
The Anchorage location is inside the historic Federal Building in downtown Anchorage and it’s a great place to go to learn more about the many public lands in Alaska and the ways that you can access them. With that in mind, this listing may be most fitting under the Nature Lovers heading above.
However, this facility and office also is a small museum, and you can learn a great deal not only about the natural features of Alaska but about the historical and cultural history of this region as well through the center’s many exhibits.
This center, as well as the other three, is staffed by National Park Rangers who are eager to answer your questions and offer guidance about how to get the most out of visiting Anchorage and Alaska in general.
Load up on information and brochures here, and if you are a teacher, the staff would love to give you materials to take back to your classroom as well.
29. Historic Anchorage Hotel
The historic Anchorage Hotel was established in 1916 and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was the city’s first two-story building when it was completed!
Over the past century, it has hosted thousands of visitors including famous folks like Will Rogers and President Herbert Hoover. It is still an excellent accommodation to consider today.
Inside, you’ll find twenty-six elegant rooms and suites decorated in Queen Anne style. Plus, the starting line for the Iditarod is right out front. Although this hotel may very well be haunted, it’s worth checking out.
Since it’s in the center of everything downtown, it’s also a great place to stay for Anchorage sightseeing, but be sure to make your reservations far in advance of your trip as it fills up quite fast.
See Related: Most Haunted Hotels in Salem, Massachusetts
30. Oscar Anderson House Museum
If you like visiting historic homes, then you should swing by Oscar Anderson’s house. This home was built in 1915 and was occupied by Oscar himself from the time he built it until his death in 1974.
It was the first wood-frame home in the city. For his entire life, Mr. Anderson claimed to be the eighteenth person to set foot in what would become the city of Anchorage, and whether that is true or not, he is known to be one of the city’s very first permanent residents.
This small home was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. Between 1978 and 1982, it was restored, inside and out, to what it would have looked like back in 1915 when it was new.
Take a step back in time when you step inside this house and see what the early days in Anchorage must have been like.
If you want to stay near downtown Anchorage near the action and not far from the Oscar Anderson House Museum, then you might like this Downtown Anchorage Home vacation rental. It has three bedrooms and three beds and sleeps six. It’s just one block from the Tony Knowles Coast Trail, too.
Things to Do in Anchorage with Kids
Kids love Alaska!
There’s plenty for them to see and do in this great state. They’ll love viewing wildlife, learning about indigenous history and culture, and running along wooded trails. However, even with all that, it’s always good to have some specifically for-kids activities up your sleeve.
If you’re looking for kid activities in Anchorage, here are some things your little ones might really enjoy during your trip to Anchorage.
31. Crow Creek Gold Mine
The Crow Creek Gold Mine is a fun attraction for the whole family and it’s educational, too. This gold mine was established in 1896 and it still produces gold today! Visitors are welcome to come to learn about the gold mining process and to try their hand at panning for gold on site.
Sign up in advance for a Prospector Tour and discover what life was like for the people who traveled to Alaska in search of gold long ago. Even without a reservation, you can check out the historical buildings and beautifully landscaped gardens and take a hike on the trails.
Crow Creek Gold Mine is a great place to spend an afternoon. You might consider returning after dinner to enjoy a performance in the mine’s summer concert series.
See Related: Best Museums in the US You Need to Visit
32. Indian Valley Mine Historic Site
This mine is similar yet different from Crow Creek Gold Mine; you’ll probably want to visit one or the other, but it’s probably not necessary to go to both.
This mine mined quartz rather than gold and was founded in 1910 by a man named Peter Strong who came to Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush in 1898.
Although he did find some gold, he did much better with quartz, and he built and lived in the cabin that you can visit here while he continued to mine for it. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.
Only 20 minutes south of downtown Anchorage on Seward Highway at milepost 104, this is a fun way to spend an hour or so with your family. Views of Turnagain Arm are beautiful, you can try your hand at gold panning, and you’ll love the small family-owned and operated gift shop as well.
If you’re looking for someplace interesting and unique to stay nearby, then you might like the affordable and quaint Brown Bear Saloon & Motel; it’s just a mile or so away.
33. The Iditarod Headquarters
Dog sledding is a sport that interests and excites almost everyone and there’s no greater celebration of it than the Iditarod.
Although The Iditarod happens in March each year, you can visit the Iditarod Headquarters near Anchorage year-round to learn more about this race and the people and dogs participating in it.
Check out the museum, watch race footage, view trophies, and browse the gift shop for a souvenir for yourself or your doggo at home.
34. Girdwood Playground & Skate Park
If you’ve been spending a lot of time in the car on vacation then it’s likely that your little ones will need to blow off a little steam – especially if they’re rad.
The Girdwood Playground & Skate Park at Girdwood Park in Girdwood, 40 miles southwest of downtown Anchorage, is a great place to let them get their rad on while you relax on a bench and pretend you know what’s happening.
The Skate Park is open from 6 am to 11 pm daily. The children’s playground is large and there’s a separate section with smaller equipment for the littlest ones in your crew.
You and your family might also enjoy playing a round of frisbee golf in a beautiful setting; the Girdwood Frisbee Golf Course has 18 holes.
35. Imaginarium Discovery Center at the Anchorage Museum
The Imaginarium Discovery Center is part of the Anchorage Museum that is designed especially for young folks. In this part of the museum, you and your kids will find eighty hands-on exhibits that allow them to climb, build, touch, and explore.
Earth, life, and physical science activities are presented in a way that ties into the Alaskan context so there’s a good chance that you’ll also learn something new about your vacation destination, too!
See Related: Best Museums in Duluth, Minnesota
36. Anchorage Light Speed Planet Walk
High school student Eli Menaker teamed up with the Anchorage Rotary Club in 2003 for this project-turned-tourist attraction for anyone interested in our solar system.
Using his knowledge of mathematics and understanding of spatial distance in relation to light speed, Menaker created an easy-to-follow trail downtown that allows participants to tour our planets on foot.
This is a great option for anyone looking for things to do in downtown Anchorage.
Start at The Sun at 5th & G and start walking; the first few planets you pass – Mercury, Venus, and Earth are within eight minutes from The Sun, but if you want to make it all the way to Pluto, you’ll be walking for five and a half hours, all the way to the Chalet in Kincaid Park!
If you’d like to stay in a very nice hotel near the start of the Light Speed Planet Walk, check out The Hotel Captain Cook. It’s well-rated, popular, has four restaurants and fifteen retail stores, and is in the middle of the city close to everything.
Unusual Things to do in Anchorage
Alaska is a little strange and unusual and that’s another reason that many people are drawn to it.
Face it – between the long days or endless nights, the rural and remote nature of the state, and the unique animals you’ll encounter here, it’s no wonder people find the Land of the Midnight Sun to be one of the weirdest states in the union!
As you might imagine, a weird place like this will have some intriguing, amazing, and unusual attractions; here are a few worth checking out.
37. Burial Spirit Houses
St. Nicholas Orthodox Church was mentioned above as a worthwhile example of a historic Alaskan church. However, if you’re into unusual attractions related to death, then you’ll also love the “burial spirit houses” in the adjacent graveyard.
In a combination of Russian Orthodox tradition with Native American burial practices, many of the graves here are covered by colorful spirit boxes that look like miniature homes. The local native people traditionally cremated their dead, but once their religion merged with Russian Orthodoxy, they began to bury them instead.
In this still-active cemetery, the graves of the recently buried are covered by blankets for the first forty days to help warm and comfort the soul for its transition to the afterlife, then a spirit box is built and painted in colors that represent the family.
In time, these spirit boxes break down, crumble and disappear. They are a beautiful sight to see and are quite a special tribute to the deceased.
38. World’s Largest Chocolate Waterfall
If you love chocolate – and who doesn’t – then you should check out the World’s Largest Chocolate Waterfall during your visit to Anchorage!
This waterfall is not recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records, but it’s hard to imagine a larger chocolate waterfall than this one; it pumps 3,000 pounds of molten chocolate down a twenty-foot cascade and has been doing so since 1994.
You can see it at the Alaska Wild Berry Park Store and as weird as it is, it’s likely something that you will never forget.
39. Turnagain Arm Bore Tide
Due to the location of Alaska and gravitational pull from the poles, the water up this way does some unusual things. This is interesting for those of us who are amazed by science and is super fun for people who enjoy surfing.
During the summer months and during a full moon, the Turnagain Arm inlet empties into the bay at a much higher rate than usual. The result is a tidal bore wave that can create waves up to ten feet tall.
You can see the wave from the shore, but daring surfers head out across the mud flats to take a ride – it’s one of few places in the world where one can surf while looking at snow-capped mountain peaks.
40. Cange Street
If you want to see a very unusual and unconventional neighborhood during your visit to Anchorage, swing by Cange Street on the outskirts of town. This street doubles as a runway, and every house has an airplane hangar attached!
As mentioned above when describing the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum, small planes are a big part of the culture of Alaska, as there are few roads in the state and things are very far apart.
This neighborhood, built in the 1980s, considers that fact by not just allowing but encouraging its residents to own planes to fly them right out of their driveways!
The road is called Cange Street, but it’s also known as the Sky Harbor airport, as well; although it’s a residential neighborhood, the residents actually live at an airport!
41. Alaska Resources Library
This library is part of the University of Alaska Anchorage. In some ways, it’s much like any other university library, but in other ways, it is very different. This library has 250,000 books and hundreds of print journals, and it offers access to numerous databases for scientific research.
However, in addition to those resources, this library also offers many taxidermied animals that patrons can check out and take home with them for study for periods of two weeks. You can also borrow furs and skulls if you’d like.
All are from animals that are native to Alaska and are fantastic resources for students who want to get up-close-and-personal with these creatures in a safe and non-invasive way.
If you’d like to stay near the university, the SpringHill Suites Anchorage is a good choice. It offers an airport shuttle, great views, and an indoor swimming pool and hot tub.
42. Atlas Statue
Atlas is known in Greek mythology as the man who holds the world on his shoulders. For some reason, a fur store in downtown Anchorage thought a statue of this fellow would be fitting for the roof of its showroom from 1974 to 2016.
Today, he stands instead in the parking lot of a local gym – Alaska Functional Fitness – where you can visit him, and the world he carries on his shoulders, today.
More Fun Things to Do in Anchorage
Because Alaska and the Anchorage area are so diverse, there are several fun things to do in Anchorage that didn’t fit into any of the above categories. Here are a few more things that might interest you and your companions during your time in this city.
43. The Seward Highway
If you like driving, you should consider following the great Seward Highway from beginning to end and back again. This National Scenic Byway is 125 miles in length; it begins in Anchorage and ends in Seward. It was completed in 1951.
It’s a beautiful drive the entire way. En route, you’ll cross the Kenai Peninsula and see impressive views of the Kenai Mountains, the Chugach National Forest, Turnagain Arm, and more. In 2012, Life magazine called it one of the Most Scenic Drives in the World. Don’t miss it!
If you’d like to stay in a vacation home with incredible views and easy access to everything just off the Seward Highway, then you’ll love Turnagain View Lodge.
This property has three bathrooms and three bedrooms with eight beds and can accommodate twelve people. It’s a log home that blends in with the surrounding area and the mountain views will take your breath away.
See Related: Best Denali Cabin Rentals: Where to Stay in Denali
44. Alaska Railroad
The Alaska Railroad is not just an attraction but it is also a function and useful mode of transportation in this state. Begun in 1903, this railroad today has about 656 miles of track.
The mainline runs between Seward near Anchorage and Fairbanks; most passengers ride it to reach Denali National Park on the way. You can ride this train every day of the year, and a great many goods are transported using the Alaska Railroad as well.
Alaska Railroad’s train to Denali National Park is called the Denali Star, but the McKinley Explorer, owned by Holland America and Princess Cruise Lines uses the same track but on a different schedule.
The Denali Star features standard railway cars; the McKinley Explorer has a glass-domed roof. You’ll see great views with either company, so basing your decision on timing rather than the train is wise.
See Related: Alaska Railroad Review: GoldStar or Adventure Class?
45. Alyeska Ski Area
Alyeska Ski Area is Alaska’s largest ski area and only destination ski resort; it’s about an hour southeast of downtown Anchorage. It has the longest double black diamond run in North America, 1,610 skiable acres, seventy-six trails, and gets nearly 700 inches of snow annually. As you might imagine, the ski season in Alaska is quite long.
There’s a resort here that opened in 1994 and that looks like a Swiss chalet. The Alyeska Arial Tram departs from the resort and offers passengers a three to seven-minute ride to the top of Mount Alyeska where you can enjoy panoramic views from the Roundhouse Museum at Alyeska at the top.
This octagonal museum is the state’s only mountaintop museum; it celebrates skiing in Alaska and the grassroots, community-driven mission that created this ski area for all to enjoy.
The resort also offers flightseeing trips, dogsledding experiences, fat tire biking, and northern lights viewing in winter, and mountain biking and hiking in the summer. There’s something for everyone at Alyeska.
See Related: Best Denali Hiking Tours
46. Anchorage Market
If you visit Anchorage during the summer months, you and your companions will enjoy a visit to the Anchorage Market.
This farmers market is the state’s largest open-air market and it features over one hundred vendors every weekend from mid-May through mid-September.
There is a plethora of Alaskan goods here but imported goods are welcome as well. There is no admission fee and it’s fun for the whole family since 1992.
See Related: Best Things to Do in Homer, Alaska
47. The Ulu Factory
The Alaskan ulu knife is a versatile cutting tool invented by the indigenous people of Alaska. It’s sort of like a cooler mezzaluna. The oldest one found so far is estimated to be at least 3,000 years old.
Today, these knives symbolize the innovative people of Alaska and they are still created, sold, and used daily throughout the state.
The Ulu Factory has been selling these knives alongside other Alaskan souvenirs for over forty-five years. The Ulu Factory store is a 12,000-square-foot facility where you can shop and watch ulu knives being made. If you love to cook, you’re probably going to go home with one of these knives after you see what they can do!
Eat & Drink in Anchorage
One of the best parts of travel for many of us is the opportunity to eat and drink in bars and restaurants that differ from the places we have at home.
Alaska is home to numerous breweries and a vast number of restaurants that specialize in Alaskan cuisine. However, you can also get any kind of food you crave in this metropolitan area. When you get hungry and thirsty, you might want to check out some of the spots on this list.
Snow City Café
You can’t conquer a full day of exploring Anchorage if you don’t start your day off with a good breakfast. If you want the best breakfast in town, Snow City Café is the place to go.
It’s a great place to eat in or take out, although you may have to wait for a table. The sticky buns are to die for, but everything on the menu is great.
This welcoming spot makes you feel right at home. The diverse menu feels like comfort food and comes from a variety of cultures and food genres; this place caters to visitors from all over the world with dishes like Thai chicken, Korean tofu tacos, prosciutto fig pizza, and jambalaya to name just a few.
If you like bacon, you’re in luck – the chefs here seem to also, so expect to enjoy some of that smoky flavor in many f the many options here. This place is a good choice for brunch, too.
If you’re someone who likes to try local pizza anywhere you go, then chances are that the recommendations of Anchorage locals will lead you to Fat Ptarmigan at some point.
This pizzeria uses farm-fresh ingredients that make their pizza rise above the rest at any time of year. There are gluten-free and dairy-free options available too, and it all comes out of a wood fire oven. Save room for dessert! The cannoli and gelato here are also quite scrumptious.
To try some very local food while you’re in Anchorage, stop by Orso. This fine dining restaurant offers very fine plates of seafood such as salmon, halibut, and king crab that were only just recently pulled out of the Pacific Ocean nearby.
In the summer months, the vegetables are grown locally, too. Every dish here is not only tasty but beautiful, and the portions are exactly the right size.
If you’d rather enjoy authentic Alaskan cuisine in a pub-like atmosphere, then you’ll love Orso’s sister restaurant, the Glacier BrewHouse.
You can enjoy wings, steak, seafood, sandwiches, and burgers at this brewery in front of a roaring fire while sipping some of the brewery’s fine brews. Glacier’s IPA, Oatmeal Stout, and Bavarian Hefeweizen are three especially tasty options.
The Rustic Goat is rustic indeed; this building was constructed out of wood reclaimed from a historic local cannery! The food here is excellent and the mountain views will enhance your dining experience here even further. It seems the Rustic Goat is always busy no matter what time of day you go, but the liveliness is a benefit, not an annoyance.
This is the perfect place to go after a long day out on the trail; you’ll love filling yourself with the mac & cheese, hot sandwiches, and plenty of wine from their extensive wine list. Don’t skip dessert; the s’mores are absolutely delicious.
You don’t expect to find colorful, perfect plates in a strip mall in Anchorage, but Kincaid Grill will challenge that expectation with its excellent food and delightful menu. Again, this is another great place to try Alaskan cuisine at its finest, but every place does it differently, and this one stands out among the rest.
The award-winning chefs are always coming up with new and innovative ways to prepare and present their food, and even if you return to this place several times during your stay in Anchorage, you’ll enjoy a different but fantastic and memorable meal each time.
If you met someone new on your travels or if you want to wow your companion, this is the perfect place to take someone on a date.
Even if you loved the pizza at Fat Ptarmigan, it never hurts to try even more pizza from another pizza place during your vacation, so stop by Moose’s Tooth and try theirs as well.
Some of the pizzas here are a bit unconventional and may not sound like something you’d put together yourself, but try them and be amazed. Further, some of the pizzas include some unique Alaskan twist like reindeer sausage but don’t let that sway you – they’re perfect.
Moose’s Tooth also has a large menu of soups, salads, and sandwiches as well, and they also brew their own beer as well – try the Chugach Session brew in particular.
Almost everyone loves fried chicken and anyone who loves fried chicken will absolutely adore the fried chicken at Lucky Wishbone.
This is perfect southern cuisine all the way up in the north, and you’ll feel like you are at a table in Alabama or Mississippi instead of Alaska until you notice no one has accents and there are snow-covered peaks outside.
Get the chicken, eat the chicken, and love the chicken, and maybe get some corn muffins, mashed potatoes, and coleslaw to wash it all down.
Ginger feels classy but laid-back at the same time which makes it an excellent place for travelers to eat while on vacation, but you’ll also find a lot of locals here too.
The décor is modern yet retro and every seat in the house is comfortable and is just far enough out of the way from the action that you can have a great conversation with whomever you brought along.
This is a great place for a cocktail even if you don’t plan to eat, but you should eat, too, as the food is very good. Most of the dishes are Asian inspired as you might imagine, but you can also get a slow-roasted lamb shank or a perfectly seared filet mignon if you prefer.
Ginger is only open for dinner and you’d be wise to make a reservation in advance.
Midnight Sun Brewing Company
There’s no better name for a brewery in Alaska than Midnight Sun Brewing and that’s why this is Anchorage’s oldest brewery; it opened back in 1995 and has been going strong ever since.
It has won many awards for its beers over the years and it is known worldwide for its barrel-aged stouts and barley wines, beverages that are perfect for brewing in Alaska’s climate including its very long nights.
The taproom is large and welcoming and is a great place to spend an evening any day f the week. Try their Sockeye Red IPA; it’s Alaska in a pint glass.
Travel Tips for Visiting Anchorage
Vacations in Anchorage or in Alaska, in general, can be rather expensive. But, there are so many cool things to do in Alaska that it is, without a doubt, a trip worth saving up for.
Still, it doesn’t hurt to save money where you can.
Using Skyscanner to search for and book flights can save you money before you’ve even left home. This metasearch engine will find you the cheapest rates on Anchorage, Alaska trips, or trips wherever you want to go. Just set an alert or two and wait; you’ll get an idea of prices and how they fluctuate and you can book when you see a price that you like.
Considering the size of the Anchorage area, you’re probably going to want to rent a car to get around – especially if you plan to drive along the Seward Highway or if you want to do some exploring up in the mountains. Rental cars can be expensive in Alaska too, so it’s wise to book far ahead of your trip. Rentalcars.com and Kayak are great resources for finding affordable deals on cars.
Finally, it’s always wise to purchase travel insurance. Some people only get travel insurance for international trips, but even though you’ll be staying in the United States this time, you never know when it will come in handy. It can cover you for things like trip cancellation, delays, lost luggage, emergency medical care, and so much more.
You may not think that you need it, and most of the time you won’t – but if you ever do end up needing it, you’ll be glad that you have it. SafetyWing offers simple and flexible travel insurance, but if you’d like to see a number of different policy offers from several companies all in one place, check out TravelInsurance.com.