Anchorage, Alaska's largest city, offers a variety of exciting things to see and do throughout the year ranging from seeing Alaskan wildlife to visiting a glacier. In addition to outdoor recreation and scenic touring, you can enjoy great museums, a botanical garden, and the Alaska Zoo.
In the summer, with long hours of sunlight, you'll be able to fit in two or three attractions in a day. You're certain to get a good sense of the natural beauty and culture of Alaska during your stay, long or short.
The amazing 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 a variety of hands-on, interactive exhibits.
The Anchorage Museum's Chugach Gallery offers a place where you to rest and enjoy fabulous mountain views. Museum amenities include a cafe, gift shop, and guided tours. The popular Imaginarium Science Discovery Center is part of the Anchorage Museum.
The Alaska Native Heritage Center is the place 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.
Located just 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 great 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 you're 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.
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 permit, license, or gear requirements.
You can pick up free maps and brochures or purchase recreation passes and guide books. The Anchorage Alaska Public Lands Information Center is also a museum of sorts, offering exhibits on the natural history and culture of Alaska.
Anchorage, recognized as a "top trail town," offers a wide selection of trails, allowing visitors the chance to enjoy time in the scenic outdoors without the need to travel far from town.
Major trails in the Anchorage system include the 5.7-mile Campbell Creek Trail, the 11-mile long Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, and the 3.9-mile urban Lanie Fleischer Chester Creek Trail, and the 2.6-mile Ship Creek Trail in downtown Anchorage.
Take a Sightseeing Tour or Cruise
There are many Alaska tours and cruises 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: You can book online reservations for the Alaska Railroad, private dome cars, and the Park Connection Motorcoach on this site. 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.
You'll see lots of wildlife during your Alaska adventure, but if you want to make sure you get an up-close view, visit the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, not far from Anchorage. The facility takes in injured and orphaned animals. 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 of Highway 1, the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center also offers a very nice gift shop.
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 all around. There's a good chance you'll see some Alaskan wildlife as well.
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, lynx, otters, bears, musk ox, tigers, wolverine, and caribou.
Learn about company and state history by viewing Wells Fargo's private collection of Alaskan artifacts. The exhibits are free to the public at the Wells Fargo branch at 301 West Northern Lights Boulevard. The museum and library are open Monday through Friday from Noon to 4:00 p.m.
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.
One of Alaska’s most accessible glaciers and most popular attractions, Portage Glacier is located in a valley studded with alpine glaciers. The Portage Valley was literally shaped by glaciers. Bus tours from Anchorage take visitors to the lakeside dock where they board a boat taking 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.