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Bright Lights, Big City

Most of this city’s 272,000 residents live on a jutting peninsula. Anchorage 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. This photograph shows the Visitor Information Center at 4th Avenue downtown.

Basics About Driving in Anchorage

Click here to get the Anchorage road map.

1. International Airport Road takes you to and from the 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.

4. You're ready to go driving in Anchorage! (Photo:

The 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.

Anchorage's Historical Legacy

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.

Cloning Captain Cook

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.

Winter is Time to Play

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 shows the very popular snow-carving contest. 4th Avenue is filled with snow for the dog races.

Fishing: 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:

2. Bird Creek: Just a half hour – 26 miles – south of town. 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 property.

Get 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.
Eagle River Visitor Center: Turn at Eagle River.
Thunderbird Falls: Glenn Highway Exit, mile 25.

Click here for a map of Anchorage bike and walking trails.

Anchorage Wildlife

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 bulls fight in Upper Campbell Creek at the Glenn Alps viewing platform. (Photo: Gary Lackie, Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center)

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 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 them at the Eagle River Nature Center, Westchester Lagoon and Campbell Creek.

Dall Sheep: They come down to the Seward Highway near Beluga and Windy Points (Mile 108). Watch for traffic jams.

Birds: You can go birdwatching at Potter Marsh, Westchester Lagoon, and along the coastal trail. Ravens play in the north wind at Point Woronzof and owls can be seen at Kincaid Park. Go to Fish & Game’s website, for more information.

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. (Photo, Buck Shreck, Buck's Wildlife Photography,

Eklutna Cemetery

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.

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.

Getting Around
+ Cook Inlet Hotel
+ Turnagain Inn

+ Downtown Salmon Bake
+ Grizzly Steakhouse

+ Northwater Glacier Cruises

+ Anchorage Business Listings

+ Map of Downtown Anchorage
+ Map of Anchorage Airport
+ Map of Walking/Biking Trails in Anchorage
+ Map of Anchorage Trailheads
+ Map of Gold Towns Near Anchorage
+ Map of Anchorage / Wasilla Region
+ Wildlife in Anchorage

+ Map of Anchorage / Kenai Peninsula Campgrounds
+ Map of Turnagain Arm
+ Map of Alaska Museums

When you arrive...
At the airport, you'll find most hotels offer shuttle service. (Get the airport map here.) You can take a taxi or city bus. Free kiosks near the baggage claim let you call a hotel. Some car rentals are at the airport, others use a shuttle. The visitor center is at the bottom of the escalator. The railroad terminal is only for cruise ship passengers.

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.

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.


As of the U.S. Census of 2000, Anchorage had a population of 260,300 and in all the Municipality of Anchorage is home to almost two-fifths of Alaska's population. The population density is 60/ km (150/ mi). There are 100,400 housing units at an average density of 23/ km (60/ mi). The racial makeup of the municipality is 72% White Caucasian, 6% are Asian Americans, 6% are African Americans, 7% are American Indians or Alaska Natives, 1% are Pacific Islanders, 6% are Hispanic Americans or Latinos of any race, 6% are from two or more races, and 2% are from other non-white backgrounds.

There are 94,800 households out of which 39% have children under the age 18 living with them, 51% are married couples living together, 12% have a female householder with no husband present, and 32% are non-families. 23% of all households are made up of individuals and 4% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.7 and the average family size is 3.2.

In the city the population is spread out with 29% under the age of 18, 10% from 18 to 24, 34% from 25 to 44, 22% from 45 to 64, and 6% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 32 years. For every 100 females there are 102 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 102 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $55,500, and the median income for a family is $63,700. Males have a median income of $41,300 versus $63,700 for females. The per capita income for the city is $25,300. 7% of the population and 5% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 9% of those under the age of 18 and 6% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.

Demographics provided by Wikipedia.

Head North!

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.

Go South!

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 and history.

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 evening.

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.

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