12 Best Things to Do in Anchorage, Alaska

Anchorage at night in winter

RobsonAbbott/ Getty Images

Anchorage, Alaska's largest city, offers a variety of exciting things to see and do throughout the year, from seeing Alaskan wildlife to visiting a glacier. In addition to outdoor recreation and scenic touring, you can enjoy marvelous museums, a botanical garden, and the Alaska Zoo. In the summer, with extended hours of sunlight, you'll be able to fit in two or three attractions in a day. You're sure to get a good sense of Alaska's natural beauty and culture during your stay, long or short. Here are the 12 best things to do in Anchorage.

01 of 12

Peruse the Anchorage Museum

An exhibition hall in the Anchorage Museum

TripSavvy / Alisha McDarris

625 C St, Anchorage, AK 99501, USA
Phone +1 907-929-9200

The Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center offers exhibits covering the state's art, history, and science. Visitors can view contemporary and traditional art, learn about the state's history and Native peoples, and participate in avarioushands-on, interactive exhibits. The Anchorage Museum's Chugach Gallery offers a place where t and enjoy fabulous mountain views. Museum amenities include a cafe, gift shop, and guided tours. The famous Imaginarium Science Discovery Center is also part of the Anchorage Museum.

02 of 12

Visit the Alaska Native Heritage Center

Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage Alaska © Angela M. Brown (2010)
Alaska Native Heritage Center
8800 Heritage Center Dr, Anchorage, AK 99504, USA
Phone +1 907-330-8000

The Alaska Native Heritage Center is where to learn about Alaska's indigenous people. Exhibits feature traditional art and artifacts, the impact of Alaska statehood, and contemporary art and issues. Outdoor exhibits recreate the traditional structures of native Alaskans, including the Tlingit, Athabascans, Inupiaq, and Yup'ik. Take in one or more of the presentations and Native drumming or dance programs offered at The Gathering Place, the Center's indoor amphitheater. The Alaska Native Heritage Center also offers classes, workshops, and special events.

03 of 12

Ride the Mountain Tram

Alyeska Resort, Alaska.

suraark/ Getty Images 

1000 Arlberg Ave, Girdwood, AK 99587, USA
Phone +1 800-880-3880

Located south of Anchorage in Girdwood, the Alyeska Ski Resort provides year-round outdoor recreation and activities. The Alyeska Aerial Tram will take you to the top of the mountain, where you can enjoy fantastic views, hiking, paragliding, or snow skiing, depending on the time of year. Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, and dog-sledding are other winter recreation opportunities available at Alyeska Resort. Whether an overnight guest of the resort or a day visitor, you can enjoy Alyeska's full-service spa, gift and gear shops, and fine or casual dining.

04 of 12

Learn About Alaska's Public Lands

Juneau, Alaska

sorincolac/ Getty Images

605 W 4th Ave, Anchorage, AK 99501, USA
Phone +1 907-644-3661

Most people visiting Alaska are interested in spending time outdoors in state parks, national parks, or other public lands. The Anchorage Alaska Public Lands Information Center is a great place to start your adventure. Representatives from the various agencies are all on hand to answer your questions about where to go, what to do, how to get there, and special permits, licenses, or gear requirements.

You can pick up free maps and brochures or purchase recreation passes and guidebooks. The Anchorage Alaska Public Lands Information Center is also a museum of sorts, offering exhibits on Alaska's natural history and culture.

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05 of 12

Take a Hike in Anchorage

A moose crosses the trail along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail

TripSavvy / Taylor McIntyre

2365 E 48th Ave, Anchorage, AK 99507, USA
Phone +1 907-343-4355

Anchorage has four greenbelt trails, but the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, an 11-mile in-and-out trail from downtown Anchorage to a chalet in Kincaid Park, is the most popular. This trail earns its popularity from how scenic it can be—you'll catch views of the Chugach Mountains along the shoreline and, on clear days, even Denali. Around halfway, the trail opens up into an earthquake park, an area that was once a neighborhood but was hit by the second-biggest earthquake ever recorded. While the hills are now popular with mountain bikers, the trail through the park has educational plaques showing the effects of the earthquake. The Tony Knowles Trail is also a great place to spot wildlife inside Anchorage—moose, bears, and smaller critters are very common in the area. The trail is excellent for walking or biking, with several bike rental shops downtown near the starting point.

Other major trails in the Anchorage system include the 5.7-mile Campbell Creek Trail, the 3.9-mile urban Lanie Fleischer Chester Creek Trail, and the 2.6-mile Ship Creek Trail in downtown Anchorage.

06 of 12

Take a Sightseeing Tour or Cruise

View of snow capped mountains in the background of the sea

TripSavvy / Alisha McDarris

Many Alaska tours and cruises are available out of Anchorage, focusing on everything from wildlife viewing and fishing adventures to whale watching or glacier sightseeing. Some of the more popular and established tour companies include:

  • Alaska Railroad Scenic Rail Tours: On this site, you can book online reservations for the Alaska Railroad, private dome cars, and the Park Connection Motorcoach. The Alaska Railroad provides summer service to Denali National Park and other locations from Anchorage.
  • Gray Line of Alaska: Gray Line offers rail and bus tours. While in Anchorage, you can take one of the many Anchorage day tours that hit several of the city’s highlights or head out to one of the excellent family destinations.
  • Kenai Fjords Tours: This company has tours that focus on sailing in the fjords but also offer a glacier dinner cruise and a gray whale watching tour.
  • Major Marine Tours: This tour company offers wildlife and glacier cruises in Kenai Fjords National Park and departs from Seward. On full or half-day cruises, visitors will see tidewater glaciers, whales, and other Alaskan wildlife. Most cruises feature onboard National Park Ranger narration. 
  • Phillips Cruises and Tours: Phillips provides Prince William Sound glacier cruises departing from Whittier, Alaska, the Gateway to Prince William Sound. The company offers rail and coach transportation options to Whittier and other tour activities in Alaska.
07 of 12

Visit the Animals at the Wildlife Conservation Center

A brown bear in the Wildlife Conservation Center

TripSavvy / Alisha McDarris

Mile 79, Seward Hwy, Girdwood, AK 99587, USA
Phone +1 907-783-0058

You'll see lots of wildlife during your Alaska adventure, but if you want to ensure you get an up-close view, visit the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, not far from Anchorage. The facility takes in injured and orphaned animals, and those that can't return to the wild become permanent residents at the center. Moose, grizzly bears, musk ox, wood bison, black bears, and a bald eagle are just some of the creatures you'll have to opportunity to see and learn about. Located an hour's drive southeast of Anchorage off Highway 1, the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center also offers a lovely gift shop.

08 of 12

Check Out the Views at the Eagle River Nature Center

Eagle River Nature Center

907shots / Getty Images

32750 Eagle River Rd, Eagle River, AK 99577-9751, USA
Phone +1 907-694-2108

The non-profit Eagle River Nature Center is located within Chugach State Park. Start with a visit to their log-cabin visitor center before heading out on their network of nature trails and boardwalks. Whether you choose the short and easy trails or the more challenging ones, you'll enjoy fabulous water and mountain views. There's a good chance you'll see some Alaskan wildlife as well.

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09 of 12

Tour the Alaska Zoo

4731 O'Malley Rd, Anchorage, AK 99507, USA
Phone +1 907-346-3242

The Alaska Zoo in Anchorage was established "to promote the conservation of Arctic, Sub-Arctic and like-climate species through education, research and community enrichment." They have critters from the region and from around the world. Animals on exhibit at The Alaska Zoo include polar bears, moose, lynxes, otters, bears, musk ox, tigers, wolverines, and caribou.

10 of 12

Wander the Alaska Botanical Garden

Herb Garden

Alaska Botanical Garden

4601 Campbell Airstrip Road, Anchorage, AK 99507, USA
Phone +1 907-770-3692

You can wander over a mile of nature trails within the Alaska Botanical Garden, enjoying the local scenery and wildlife along with the well-designed gardens. Themed gardens include herbs, perennials, and wildflowers. While the gardens are open year-round, the best time to visit is June through August, as the flowers are brilliant.

11 of 12

See Portage Glacier up Close

View of Portage Glacier from the sea

TripSavvy / Alisha McDarris

One of Alaska’s most accessible glaciers and most popular attractions, Portage Glacier, is located in a valley studded with alpine glaciers. Glaciers shaped the Portage Valley. Bus tours from Anchorage take visitors to the lakeside dock, where they board a boat carrying them up close to the glacier and drifting through small icebergs.

The mv Ptarmigan cruises Portage Lake multiple times daily throughout summer on one-hour tours with a Forest Service Ranger who narrates the story of Portage Valley’s geology, wildlife, and history as a connection point between Prince William Sound and Turnagain Arm.

12 of 12

Try the Local Brews

A group from Big Swig Tours in learning about the process at Turnagain Brewing

TripSavvy / Taylor McIntyre

Anchorage has a growing and impressive craft beer scene—so much so that if you ask the locals what the best local beer is, they’ll all give you a different answer, from Turnagain Brewing’s seasonal sours to the more titillating Panty Peeler Belgian beer by Midnight Sun Brewing. Big Swig Tours offers many ways to explore several breweries in an afternoon, from their bus tour to their bikes and brews tour. You’ll experience a variety of uniquely Alaskan beers while chatting with the people who create them and love the craft. 

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12 Best Things to Do in Anchorage, Alaska