Bright Lights, Strong Traditions
Most of Anchorage’s 272,000 residents live on a jutting peninsula.
The city is hemmed in by the mountains, ocean,
military bases, and a state park.
Because space is tight, many workers live in Wasilla or other bedroom communities.
Anchorage is not the
state capital, but most businesses in Alaska have an office here, including state agencies based in Juneau.
You can find the log cabin
Visitor Information Center at 4th Avenue. This photograph shows events at the Native Heritage Center, also located downtown.
+ Click here for a map of downtown Anchorage.
+ Explore Alaska's native heritage through the arts and in the towns
of Nenana and the Copper River Region.
Basics About Driving
Click here to get the Anchorage road map.
1. International Airport Road takes you to and from the Ted Stevens Anchorage International airport. The best way to get to it is on Minnesota
2. When you’re leaving the airport, take the first exit on Minnesota to go to south Anchorage
and the Kenai. Take the second exit to go to downtown Anchorage and north to the Glenn Highway.
3. The Seward Highway runs north-south through Anchorage. Take this highway to go south to the Kenai
4. You're ready to go driving in Anchorage! (Photo, deeptea)
Flavor of Downtown Anchorage
4th & 5th Avenues are the heart of the downtown district, popular with visitors and Alaskans alike.
You can drop
in at shops, eat a reindeer hot dog, enjoy the flowers, go to the visitor center, and walk around.
+ Want stranger Alaskan foods? Check out the entry on Moose Nose Soup at the bottom of the Copper River Country section.
Anchorage has doubled its size in 20 years. Its population is rapidly changing.
And the steady need for land for housing
and businesses has led to something you won’t see in other parts of Alaska.
You won’t find many historic buildings left in Anchorage.
The town’s only “house museum” is the Anderson House at 420 M Street in Elderberry Park.
There is an historic walking tour
of Anchorage. Check at the visitor center.
+ Click here for a map of downtown Anchorage.
+ Download the map of Alaska history museums.
Captain James Cook traveled around the world. He explored Cook Inlet in Alaska in 1778. That same year, he reached
Hawaii - where he annoyed the locals so much that they killed him.
The famed captain is honored worldwide by 429 statues and monuments.
You can see him near Elderberry Park in Anchorage, gazing out to sea.
It's not surprising, given how many monuments there are to him,
that there are identical Cook statues elsewhere. You can see this very same statue in Kaui, Hawaii, where Cook came ashore. And, you'll
also find this monument in Whitby, an English city where Cook worked for a shipping firm.
+ Nearby Turnagain Arm was named by Captain Bligh of the HMS Bounty, who served for a time as Captain Cook's sailing master. Read more here.
Winter is Time to
Alaskans spend their winters catching up on social and community events.
There’s ice-skating at Westchester lagoon,
with firewood in burn barrels to warm your hands.
In the still-wintry but bright days of spring, everyone gets out and does things. By mid-February,
the days are getting significantly longer. That’s when the “Fur Rondy” is held. It had its beginnings when miners and trappers
came to town to trade their furs, get supplies, and swap stories.
The Fur Rondy has a 3-day race for small, fast sprint dogs. The Iditarod,
a 1,000 mile dog sled race to Nome, starts on 4th Avenue in Anchorage on the first Saturday in March.
Iditarod dogs are heavier, bigger
dogs trained for the longer haul. Of course none of the dogs are as big as the ones the miners used.
The photo above shows the very popular snow-carving
contest. 4th Avenue is filled with snow for the dog races.
+ Read more about the Iditarod Sled Dog Race in the Wasilla section.
An Hour from the Baggage Claim
to Getting Your Line in the Water
Anchorage is one of the few cities in the world where salmon swim right through town. There are 3 good places to catch
salmon within the municipality.
1. Ship Creek: Shown in the photo, Ship creek runs right behind the Ulu Factory and the Comfort Inn
at the bottom of the hill from the center of town toward the railroad yard. Be sure to get your license and a king salmon stamp before you
head down there. (Photo: deeptea)
2. Bird Creek: Just a half hour – 26 miles – south of town on the Seward Highway. There’s
a new parking lot for fishermen on the mountain side of the highway, right before you get to the creek. Both of these streams are slippery
and muddy, so stay on the bank.
3. Eklutna: Eklutna is 26 miles north of Anchorage. It has salmon. Don’t trespass on private
+ The fishing's also great in Cooper Landing, a town just south of Anchorage.
+ Head north for more great Alaska fishing along the Parks Highway.
+ The Copper River, to the northeast, is also full of delicious Alaska salmon.
Outdoors in Anchorage
Here are some easy places to get outdoors in Anchorage.
Tony Knowles Coastal Trail: Access it from downtown, from Earthquake Park or from Westchester Lagoon.
Botanical Gardens: Off Tudor Road, in 4500 Block of Campbell Airstrip Road.
Eagle River Nature Center: Turn at Eagle River.
Thunderbird Falls: Glenn Highway Exit, mile 25.
+ Click here for a map of Anchorage bike and walking trails.
+ Valdez, Alaska is another great biking town.
+ For Alaska hiking, don't miss Denali State Park, a trail-filled park just north of Anchorage.
The official city of Anchorage covers 1,698 square miles. It has a large amount of parkland and trail corridors.
As a result, there are a surprising number of wild animals roaming the city. The Alaska Zoo and the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
in Portage are also good places to see Alaskan animals.
Moose: Moose are easier to view in Anchorage than in Denali National Park. In the summer, walk or
bike the coastal trail between Point Woronzof and Kincaid Park. Moose are dense here because the airport has a fence to keep them off the runway,
and they tend to gather when they hit the fence. In the fall, you can see bull moose fight in Upper Campbell Creek at the Glenn Alps viewing platform.
Bears: Fish & Game says that about 80 black bears spend part of the summer near residential areas
in the Anchorage Bowl. About 4 or 5 brown bears are seen in residential neighborhoods. In Greater Anchorage there are about 60 brown bears
and 250 black bears. You have a good chance of spotting bear scat on the Eklutna Lake Trail.
Wolves: There are 5 wolf packs in Greater Anchorage. Two are in the Anchorage Bowl. The 5 packs are: Ship
Creek pack, Elmendorf/Fort Richardson pack; Eklutna pack; Girdwood pack, and Portage (or “Twenty Mile”) pack.
Beavers: See beavers at the Eagle River Nature Center, Westchester Lagoon and Campbell Creek.
Dall Sheep: Dall sheep come down to the Seward Highway near Beluga and Windy Points (Mile 108). Watch for
Birds: You can go birdwatching at Potter Marsh, Westchester Lagoon, and along the Tony Knowles
Coastal Trail. Ravens play in the north wind at Point Woronzof and owls can be seen at Kincaid Park.
+ Visit Fish & Game’s website, www.wildlife.alaska.gov.
+ Read more about Alaska Wildlife in the Alaska Wildlife section.
+ Read about Alaska's Marine life in the Marine Life section.
+ Read about Big Animals of Denali Park in the Denali wildlife section.
+ Read about little animals you might encounter in the Denali region.
+ Find out what different animal tracks look like in the Denali wildlife tracks section.
(Moose photo: Gary Lackie, Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center)
Only in Anchorage:
A Thousand Moose on the Loose
At least 1,000 moose live within the Anchorage city limits. These massive creatures can be seen crossing busy highways,
browsing off ornamental trees in people’s yards, and hanging out in parking lots.
In the fall, aggressive bulls will frequently stop
bicycle traffic on city trails. You should also be careful if you run across a cow with a calf.
Although the local newspaper makes a popular humorous yearly calendar featuring photos of urban moose in funny predicaments,
the animals are at least as dangerous as a large domesticated bull.
+ Read more about Alaska Wildlife in the Alaska Wildlife section.
(Photo, Buck Shreck, Buck's Wildlife Photography)
In Alaska, Russian and Indian traditions can be seen in the church yards.
Eklutna Historical Park, 26 miles north of
Anchorage on the Glenn Highway, has a cemetery that shows the blending of both traditions in a uniquely Alaskan style.
Eklutna dates back
to 1650, and is still home to members of the Dena’ina Indian tribe. There are tours of the church and the village.
+ More about Russian Influence and History in the Kenai section.
Places To View Native Culture
Here are some places you can see Native culture in your travels around Alaska:
Anchorage: Alaska Native Heritage Center, the Alaska Native Hospital, the Alaska Museum, and Wells
Fargo Bank on C Street.
Cooper Landing: Two K’Beq Heritage sites.
Nenana: Cultural Center.
Fairbanks: Wells Fargo Bank on University Avenue, UA Museum, and World Eskimo-Indian Olympics,
held on July 19th-22nd. Athabascan Fiddle Festival, November 9th-12th.
Farther Afield: Two museums in Valdez. Tours of Nome, Barrow and smaller villages are available.
The Silver Hand Logo
The Silver Hand logo was designed to authenticate arts and crafts made by Native artisans.
You have to be an Alaska
Native to use the logo – but not all Native artists attach it to their work.
All roads lead to Anchorage.
Anchorage is the hub of the entire state of Alaska. All major highways - north, south, and east - branch out
from Anchorage. Alaskans nicknamed it "Los Anchorage" because this is a sprawling west-coast town.
But Anchorage provides the rural parts of the state with everything they need, from wood stoves to water tanks.
Click here for a map of the Anchorage area.
Anchorage: The Tent City
In 1915, Anchorage was a tent city. The town got its start down by muddy Ship Creek. Like any crowded tent community,
it was soon plagued by water problems, so a federal townsite auction was held to move it onto higher ground, away from the creek.
A total of 655 town lots were sold off in only 2 days, bringing in $148,000. Anchorage was off and running – on higher ground.
Meanwhile, the Interior Department took over the chaotic little “city” and built a full railroad yard and dock terminal,
with an eye to bringing in coal from the Matanuska Valley. The Alaska Railroad is still centered on the Ship Creek area.
The Great Alaska Earthquake Strikes Anchorage
On March 27th, 1964, a 9.2 quake - the largest ever recorded in the northern hemisphere - shook Alaska. The quake
lasted four minutes, and launched a major tsunami that hit Alaska's coast and Canada, California, and even Hawaii. People as far
away as Washington State felt the quake. It actually lifted part of the ground as much as 9 meters, and dropped it in other places
as much as 3 meters. The downtown area of Anchorage was heavily damaged. And fancy homes along the ocean where the coastal trail
now runs were destroyed when unstable ground slumped off into the inlet.
When you arrive in Anchorage, you'll be greeted by flower beds full of fully mature plants. There are hundreds
of varieties, and they are carefully tended all summer long. Every single flower you see in a city flower bed has been grown
in a hothouse, then transplanted just before tourist season, usually in full bloom. The sub arctic spring temperatures are
just too variable for a random sprinkling of seeds.
(Photo, Alaska Botanical Garden)
As you drive around Anchorage's busy commercial streets, it's hard to believe that the city has 250 miles of fully maintained bike
and walking trails. They follow Cook Inlet and connect the city's parks, many of which are located in small ravines or valleys at
lower levels than the town's highways. A bike ride or walk on one of these trails takes you beside creeks, through the woods, along
Cook Inlet, and out into the fresh air. You may even see a moose!
Download the trail map here.
CHUGACH STATE PARK TRAILS
Anchorage is beside a huge state park. Call the park at 345-5014 for trail information in the hills above Anchorage.
Download a state park map here.
Head up the Parks Highway to Talkeetna, Denali
Park, Fairbanks, and the fabled North Country.
The four lane Glenn Highway goes north out of Anchorage and turns into the Parks Highway just before Palmer.
It’s 360 miles to Fairbanks, and there’s plenty to see and do along the way. You should plan on taking at least four
days, and, if you stop for adventures along the way, a week’s time is just about right.
SEWARD HIGHWAY (Between Anchorage & Seward): The Seward Highway is spectacular. Just south
of Anchorage, Turnagain Arm offers breathtaking views of mountains, wildlife and the ocean.
Then the road threads through mountain valleys on its way to Seward and the Kenai
Fjords. During much of this trip, you’ll be in Chugach National Forest.
STERLING HIGHWAY (Between Tern Lake & Homer): 90 miles south of Anchorage, at mile 37 Seward
Highway, you’ll come across Tern Lake Junction. This is the begining of the Sterling Highway, which follows the Kenai River
west to Soldotna, and then down the coast to Homer.
Head for East Alaska!
Head into the wild and wooly country where pristine Wrangell-St. Elias and Prince William Sound lie. Pick up
a copy of the East Alaska Bearfoot Guide on your way.
There's a lot to see. It's a long day's drive to scenic Valdez. Take 5 hours to get to Glennallen,
then allow another 3 hours to Valdez. Once in Valdez, you can put your car on the ferry, and go
to Whittier, Cordova, or both.
When You've Got A Day
If you’re in Anchorage for a few days and you’d like to use it as a base to explore nearby Alaska,
here are some good places to visit within an easy day’s drive.
Hatcher Pass: High alpine country with hiking, berries
Musk Ox Farm: This ancient animal of the north has survived for the past 600,000 years. Musk
oxen are found near Nome and are raised on a farm near Palmer.
Iditarod Kennels: Several dog mushers maintain their kennels in the Big
Lake-Willow area, where they give tours.
Flightseeing: Talkeetna air services offer flight tours
of the Alaska Range. You can get to Talkeetna and back in a day.
Matanuska Glacier: If high mountain scenery and glaciers are on your list, head 100 miles east
on the Glenn Highway to where you can walk on a glacier, eat at nice lodges, and return in the
Rafting & Fishing: Several streams along the Parks Highway offer good salmon fishing. An
Alaskan understatement, these streams are called “creeks” – Willow Creek, Montana
Creek, Sheep Creek. There are outfitters in Talkeetna.
Mat-Su Visitor Center: Take the trunk road exit from the Glenn Highway 35 miles north of Anchorage,
and turn towards the hospital. The visitor center here can help you plan your day. They have copies of all three Bearfoot guides.
Anchorage Convention and Visitors Bureau
Events calendar, information on anchorage businesses, and historical information.
Anchorage Chamber of Commerce
Another good place to find information on Anchorage businesses.
Fur Rendezvous Website
This winter carnival, held in February, features dog sled racing, dancing, snow sculpting, ice bowling, pancake feeds, and a staggering number of other
distinctively Alaskan events.
More on the Fur Rondy
Photographs of the Fur Rendezvous, with spirited commentary.
Anchorage Daily News
Website for Alaska's largest newspaper. This is a good place to get a feel for the sort of news specific to Alaska.
Anchorage Museum of History and Art
Features a wide variety of historical and ethnographic material.