Traveler’s Guide to Anchorage, Alaska

Anchorage is the bustling heart of south-central Alaska and is home to nearly half the state’s population.  Use Anchorage as your base camp for your Alaskan adventure, but be sure to spend a few days in town.  With an international airport and an array of first-rate hotels, museums and restaurants, Anchorage is as comfortable as any American city, but is situated in the shadow of the Chugach Mountains and is surround by the arms of the shining Cook Inlet. 

Anchorage start of Iditarod dog sled race
The Last Great Race, the Iditarod, has a ceremonial - read big Party - in Downtown Anchorage. It's agreat way to see the action and still get over to Snow City Cafe for lunch!


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A note on staying safe in Anchorage
One of the reasons Anchorage is such an amazing city is the balance it shares with the surrounding wilderness.  It is imperative that visitors remember that the animals that come into the city are wild and dangerous.  Moose are common, and brown bears live in the foothills of the Chugach in the east of part of town.  The following tips will help ensure you have a fun and enjoyable visit to a great American city.
Moose injure and kill more people in Alaska than any other wild animal does, and it is not unusual to see moose walking the streets.  If you see one while in your car, wait for the moose to clear the road.  If you are walking and see a moose on the sidewalk, do not use that street; snap your photos from a safe distance than go around the block. If you find yourself surprised by a moose on a street or trail simply put a tree or telephone pole between you and the animal.  Because of their size and gait moose have a poor turning radius.
Bear are less common in town, but are often seen in the eastern parks. Several creeks and streams, some of which serve as salmon runs, cut across Anchorage.  When walking and biking near these streams, be aware of your surrounds and keep making noise.   Sing, hum, recite your favorite stand-up, whatever you can do to ensure you don’t catch a bear by surprise.
Stay alert: 
Just remember that wildlife is wild and unpredictable.  Even though bear are supposed to only be found in the east part of town and moose are supposed to only be found in wooded areas of town doesn’t mean they will stick to that script.  The author of this article saw something no one is ever supposed to see in town one day while biking the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail.  After resting a picnic table overlooking the Cook Inlet, he got up and turned to mount his bike, then froze.  Eying and sniffing him from the tree line sat a rotund wolverine, who eventually lost interest and slinked back into the woods.
Anchorage Lightspeed Plant Walk
Anchorage is a large city, large enough to house a model of our solar system scaled so that a steady walking pace represents the speed of light.  A 6,000 lb. model of the sun sits at 5th and G and planets dot downtown and the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail.  Pluto sits in Kincaid Park, a 5 ½ hours walk away (but you can defy the laws of physics and travel faster than light on bicycle).
Fifth Avenue Mall
The Fifth Avenue Mall of downtown Anchorage offers 5 levels of comfortable shopping at your favorite national stores.  You’ll feel like you’re back in the lower 48.
Diamond Center Mall
The gem of south Anchorage, the Diamond Center Mall boasts a bowling alley, a movie theater, and an ice rink on top of first-rate shopping.
Anchorage Market and Festival
Open every Saturday and Sunday from early May to early September, the Anchorage Market and Festival is more than a farmer’s market.  An entire village of white tents blooms on downtown Rail Road Hill.  Inside them you’ll find craftsman, souvenirs, and remarkable produce.  A fun an flavorful way to start a weekend day in town.
Midnight Sun Marathon
Like many proud cities Anchorage holds an annual marathon.  Qualifying runners can use their results to enter the prestigious Boston Marathon.  The marathon, a coordination between the Municipality of Anchorage and the University of Alaska at Anchorage, winds through the city and Bicentennial Park each June.
Fur Rondy
In January, Anchorage receives less than 6 hours of sunlight a day.  Taking place in late February, Fur Rondy is a week-long celebration of the end of winter and the return of light to the Last Frontier, and is the biggest party in the state.  The festival is always well attended and centered around sled dog competitions, music, Alaskan culture, community, and, of course, the running of the reindeer.  Fur Rondy generally coincides with the opening festivities for the Iditarod Sled Dog Race as well.

Salmon fishing prince william sound

Anchorites love to Rondy-Even way back in 1959. This photo is taken looking east (towards to the Chugach mountains) on 4th Avenue. Photo:Tandemracer@Flickr
Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race
They call it the Last Great Race on Earth.  The Iditarod pits teams of sled dogs and their mushers against 1150 miles of open wilderness.  Alaskans revere this race for the way it embodies the fervor, the boldness, and the tenacity that founded the state.  More than that, the race lays bare the prowess and the promise of the world’s most profound inter-species collaboration.
Oomingmak, Musk Ox Products
Oomingmak in downtown Anchorage is a co-op that sells uniquely Alaskan garments crafted from qiviut, the sheered wool of the musk ox (harvesting qiviut does not harm the animal in anyway, it’s combed off of them).  The end product is as light as silk and warmer than wool and provides much appreciated revenue to remote Alaska Native villages.
Public Lands Information Center
An overture of everything the state can offer, the Public Lands Information Center in downtown Anchorage is a great place for visitors to begin their Alaskan holiday.  By wondering the exhibits, visitors can get new ideas or just more information on existing plans.
Anchorage Symphony Orchestra
Round out an evening on the town with the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra.  Throughout the season, the ASO puts on a variety of world-class classical performances.



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