The big city in the heart of the Last Frontier—that’s Anchorage, Alaska. It’s not the capital (that’s Juneau) and it’s not really that big (about 300,000 people), but it is the largest center of commerce in the great state of Alaska. Visitors stop in before boarding cruise ships out of Seward or Whittier, or prior to hopping a flight to the state’s interior in search of some big wilderness. Anchorage is worth exploring, though—so don’t just pass through. There are excellent restaurants, compelling cultural attractions, and terrific day trips that place you right on the edge of Alaska’s wild nature.


Practical Considerations

You can spend your entire time in Anchorage downtown—there’s plenty of shopping and restaurants in the city core—but you’ll get more out of your visit if you rent a car. There are rental car offices downtown, so if you didn’t pick up a car at the airport, don’t worry; you can do so once you’re in the city.

As for weather, Anchorage is more temperate than you might expect. Yes, if you’re visiting in winter, you will need warm, waterproof shoes and an insulated parka, but Anchorage has a marine climate and it doesn’t reach the severe low temperatures that affect the interior of the state. Mosquitoes are no joke in Alaska; if you’re planning to play outside, pack bug repellant. As for general attire, Anchorage doesn’t expect you to be fancy. Dress up if you feel like it, but in most cases, there’s no need.




What to See in and Around Anchorage

The Anchorage Museum has changing exhibits that focus on life in Alaska—fine arts, natural history and more—but the real draw is the Smithsonian exhibit on the top floor or the museum. This spectacular collection of Alaska Native arts and artifacts is paired with interactive video monitors that explain how the objects are used. The exhibit also has a strong storytelling component that includes video and audio featuring Alaska Natives from all around the state. The collection is a real treasure and a cultural must-see in Anchorage.

At the Alaska Native Heritage Center, you can experience Alaskan Native life—not just historical, but present day, too. The center has movies, storytelling events, art exhibits and replicas of Native dwellings, which are staffed by cultural representatives who share the history of their communities with visitors, sometimes through hands-on activities.

Head an hour down the Seward Highway—it’s a glorious drive—to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center to get a close look at the creatures that make the Alaska wilderness their home. You never want to see a grizzly this close in the wild, but here, you can take a good safe look at these majestic enormous bears. There are also moose, wood bison, musk oxen and a porcupine named Snickers.




Eating Alaska

With such a short growing season, it can be tough to create and define an Alaskan cuisine, but Alaskans don’t shy from a challenge. The standbys are seafood; salmon, halibut and crab play an important role in Alaskan food. There are also seasonal berries that show up in jams, muffins and other baked goods, and when they’re paired with the long tradition of sourdough, you get an unbeatable sourdough blueberry pancake. There’s caribou (reindeer) sausage and other wild game, and Alaskans have learned to make the most of the produce that thrives during the long days of summer. If you’re in town for State Fair season, go see the giant cabbages, kohlrabi and more that the extensive daylight helps create.

Anchorage is developing an increasingly sophisticated restaurant scene, though you’ll have to look hard to find fussy—that’s just not the Alaskan way. The food scene takes the best of what’s available locally, combines it with a resourcefulness that you’d expect from Alaskans, and serves up generous plates and welcoming hospitality. You won’t go hungry here; no Alaskan will let you.

A few miles from downtown in an unassuming neighborhood, you’ll find the Rustic Goat, serving tasty, unfussy food made from as many local ingredients as possible. The building is cool, too; recycled materials were used to create a gorgeous, lofty, light-filled space.

If you go to the Anchorage Museum, eat at Muse, the on-site restaurant.  This bright, modern space is a very popular lunch spot for people who work in downtown Anchorage. The plates are generous, gorgeously presented, and delicious.

South, about ten miles south of downtown Anchorage, is a brand new space with an impressive bar, including a curated selection of gin and tonics. They serve pub-style meals, but don’t be fooled; even basics like grilled chicken include house-made aioli.

Local institution The Moose’s Tooth is absolutely the place to go for pizza—yes, you can get it topped with local salmon—and beer. Order a beer flight to try their excellent microbrews. The people behind the Moose’s Tooth also run the Bear Tooth Theaterpub, a movie and concert theater with great bar food instead of standard theater concessions.  




Anchorage Bed and Breakfasts

Take advantage of the free bikes at Anchorage Walkabout Town Bed & Breakfast, close to Anchorage’s excellent bike trail network, including the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. This small inn has only three rooms, so you’ll get a very personalized experience.  The generous homemade breakfast is served in a greenhouse-style dining room with plenty of natural light.  

Camai Bed And Breakfast  has been in operation since 1981, and is one of the oldest operating small inns in Anchorage. There are three suites, including one that’s handicapped accessible. Summer breakfasts are full affairs, while winter breakfasts are a bit more casual, served continental style. The inn is close to the both the University of Alaska and Alaska Pacific University. The gardens are a nice place to take a break from your travels. If you’d like a kitchenette for your stay, book the Fireweed Suite.