Unique Things To Do In Anchorage, Alaska – Indoor, And Outdoor
Here I am, Anchorage, Alaska! The starting point of my dream trip to the last frontier! It took four years, from the first thought, that I could go to Alaska and the first researches until I finally made it. For such a long time, I had dreamt about traveling to the “last frontier,” and now I´m here for real! And it didn´t disappoint. Already, my first stop of this journey provided me with “awes” and “ohs.” And why? Continue Reading, and you´ll learn about the unique things to do in Anchorage!
Resources & Recommendations
- Momondo* – Find the best prices on flights
- Booking.com*/ Airbnb – Find the best accommodations. You´ll get a discount on your first booking through Airbnb of 25€/ 30$ if you use this code: pbecker105
- GetYourGuide*– Find exclusive and unique sightseeing tours in Anchorage and other Alaskan areas
- The Alaska App – The best app for your Alaska trip. It´s GPS based and offers loads of recommendations, things to do and see, tips and tricks for the best views and activities. And the best is that it works offline for the essential functions!
- Other helpful Travel Apps – Find more useful travel apps in my article about the Best Free Travel Apps For Your Trip To Alaska
- Anchorage.net – For more online inspiration and information!
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Welcome In Anchorage
They say Anchorage is the gateway to adventure. And in a lot of ways, this is the full truth. Not only, this is the city where the most flights from everywhere in the world land fly in; it is also a perfect starting point for exploring Alaska.
You can do almost everything from here. Do you want to see Denali? No problem, book yourself a flightseeing tour! Do you want to fish Alaskan Salmon? No worries, get yourself some fishing gear, and do it like the pros at Ship Creek! Even hiking or watching calving glaciers is not an issue at all! Plan a day tour to Seward and tour the Kenai Fjords by boat.
And for those of you, who are interested in the rich history of Alaska, from Natives to the Gold Rush and more, you´ll find museums and heritage centers within city limits.
By the way, Anchorage airport will welcome you with this view, which is already worth the long flight!
Parking In Downtown Anchorage
First things first! The chances that you´ll go around by car or, at least, into downtown Anchorage, you´ll need a proper parking possibility.
If you need to park anywhere in the downtown of Anchorage, be aware that there are not many free opportunities.
At least, on Sundays, parking on the streets by the meters is free. Otherwise, you pay by the hour and have a time limit of two hours.
Other options are the Easy Park garages, which are all over the place and have a quite reasonable price (1,25$ per hour) and secure handling.
The other and my least favorite, as quite expensive, are the public parking lots (10$ per two hours and more costly if you miss your parking time frame). Make sure to put the receipt on your dashboard, or you might get into trouble with authorities. (Happened to me! Although I paid for it using the license plate of the car, they gave me a parking notice, and I needed to contact them, proving that I paid for it. Small but stupid mistake, which causes a bit of trouble. But in the end, they voided the notice, and I hopefully won´t have any further issues)
Unique Things To Do In Anchorage (On A Rainy Day)
Well, the first day and what happened? It was raining! All-day long! Of course, the only thing I forgot to pack was my raincoat. Although it was the last thing I had in my mind when I left my apartment, I forgot it.
Therefore, I start my little virtual tour through Anchorage with unique things to do in Anchorage, which you can do no matter if it´s raining or not.
Shop at 5th Ave Mall
The shops at the Mall opens at 11 a.m. on Sunday. Starbucks is open earlier, fortunately. I got myself a coffee first because I was a bit early for all the shops. But then I strolled through the shops, floor after floor and found a cute dress which I had to buy. (No, no rain jacket at all) I tried hard to find a cute one, but all the nice-looking once were too expensive, in my opinion, or weren´t even a rain jacket. That´s why I ended up with a cute new dress but still not prepared for the rain. However, if you´re a shopping fan, the mall is an excellent start for you!
Tour Anchorage By Trolley
Another possibility to stay out of the rain, at least, for a good hour or so, and learning about the city and its history at the same time, is going around with the Anchorage Trolley Company*. They offer a one-hour narrated tour to points of interest in Anchorage, including Earthquake Park, Lake Hood, Railroad Depot, etc. and when they spot a moose, they might stop for a moment, so that you can take some photos.
Indeed, on this tour, I saw my very first moose ever. It was standing near the street and was about giving birth to its baby moose. Too bad that we couldn´t stay longer to watch it. But that was my highlight of the day.
The tour begins and ends at the visitor center, which gives a chance to get more information about other things to do or where you should go to have the best mountain views, etc.
Shop Around 4th And 5th Ave, and Ulu Factory
Rain or not, taking a look into the many gift shops on 4th and 5th Ave is a must. Find the Polar Bear Gift Shops (yes, the Polar Bear Company, known from the TV Show “Ice road Truckers!” How crazy is that!!!), Big Ray´s, or Luna´s Chocolates, and many more. From the visitor center, you also can catch a free shuttle to the Ulu Factory, where you not only can by handmade knives but also can watch how they are made. Of course, they also have a lot of other cool souvenirs you can buy.
Pro Tip: If you did the Trolley Tour already, you got a voucher booklet, which is included in the tour. There you´ll find some very nice deals and discounts for restaurants, gift shops, and other sightseeing tours.
Visit Anchorage Museum And Alaska Native Heritage Center
If you want to visit both, make sure to buy a combi ticket, which gives you a discount on both. From the Anchorage Museum is also a free shuttle available, which brings you over to the heritage center. At the museum, you´ll find art, native artifacts, and paintings of Sydney Laurence. And for the little ones? Kids will love the Imaginarium.
Do you need to fuel your body for the rest of the day? Stop at the Muse and have some delicious seafood directly at the museum before you continue your history tour at the heritage center.
The Alaska Native Heritage Center provides knowledge about the history and cultures of Inuits, Indians, and Aleuts. You can watch traditional dances, meet carvers, tour dwellings, and listen to their stories.
Taste Beer At 49th State Brewing Company
One more unique thing to do in Anchorage, and any other Alaskan regions like Denali and Fairbanks, is a brewery tour. The 49th State Brewing Company offers a guided tour through the brewery and finishes with a beer tasting. And when you found your favorite flavor, you can order some more glasses and dinner at their brewpub.
Have Lunch, Dinner, Snack At Restaurants
Of course, the brewery is not the only possibility to get some food. Eat at one of the many restaurants around whenever you want. Get familiar with Alaska Salmon, Elk Meatballs, Caribou Burgers, and much more typical Alaskan food.
Unique Things To Do In Anchorage On All Weather Conditions
Stroll Anchorage Market
Each weekend vendors set up their stands at the Anchorage Market. There you can shop for local goods and eat local food while listening to live music. A fun and exciting way to get to know with all the different products, from hand made knives, to knitted clothes, to hand-made soaps, and lotions. And not to forget the food trucks and stands with local dishes!
Hike Flat Top Mountain
A relatively easy and short but beautiful hike is the Flat Top Mountain trail, which is a 3-miles easy-moderate difficult round trip. Jump in a shuttle in Downtown and go to the Anchorage Overlook. The rest of the path to the top of the mountain is pretty steep and rocky, but it pays off with panoramic views of Denali and the Aleutian Islands. Other and longer hikes to Lake Williwaw and Wolverine Peak are also accessible from here.
A few more hikes within the city range are the Chester Creek Trail, Kincaid Park, and Far North Bicentennial Park.
Walk or Bike The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail
The coastal trail is Anchorage´s most popular hiking, biking, jogging, and walking trail. I guess the best idea to explore this 11-miles long coastal trail is to rent a bike. There are a few bicycle rentals at L St/ W 5th Ave near Resolution Park, where you can begin your coastal adventure. The trail will lead you to Kincaid Park. Meanwhile, enjoy incredible views of downtown Anchorage, Chugach Mountains, Mt. Denali, Mt. Susitna, and Fire Island. Also, you can watch the tides coming in and out, and probably there will be the one or the other moose who crosses your way!
View Or Fish Salmon At Ship Creek
Somehow, I haven´t seen any salmon. I don´t know if I came at the wrong time, or maybe the image in my head was more spectacular than the reality or I just missed them. But there were quite a few anglers, so there had to be some fish in there. Try your luck; they say, best times to watch salmon is when the tide comes in. Therefore, check the Alaska App for tide times. Hopefully, you´ll be luckier than I was.
Learn About “Bad Friday” At Earthquake Park
Good Friday in 1964, Alaska experienced its most devastating earthquake. It lasted for about four minutes and was measured at a 9.2 on the Richter scale. The impact was so massive that not only other areas in Alaska, like Valdez or Kodiac, were almost destroyed, but also other parts in the world reported that they noticed the effects days after. For instance, the guide of the trolley tour told us a story from one of her tour guests said to her that three days later, the waves of this earthquake rang the bells of the church. And he lived in South Africa at that time.
Here in Anchorage, an entire neighborhood slid into the ocean and was lost forever. In Earthquake Park, you can still see how deep the earth fell apart. Besides, this is a great place to relax, have a picnic, and find more breathtaking views of the Chugach Mountains, the Knik Arm, and Anchorage.
Watch Planes At Lake Hood
Lake Hood is the place to be when you´re interested in small air- and seaplanes. It´s the most significant and busiest seaplane base in the world. About 200 flights daily take place here at Lake Hood, depending on weather conditions. Do a walking tour and visit the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum and stop at the Takeoff Lane.
Unique Things To Do For A Daytrip
More incredible and unique things to do outside of Anchorage and right for, at least, a day trip are driving the scenic Seward Highway halfway or until you arrive in Seward, where you can explore the city or do a Kenai Fjords and Glacier Tour*.
Hike the Matanuska Glacier* or kayaking the Matanuska River is also a popular daytrip from Anchorage. I stopped there and went the 20-minutes self-guided trail on my way back to Anchorage at the end of my road trip. Closer look-ups, hiking the glacier itself, are only available with a tour guide.
Drive north to Talkeetna and spend a day in this lovely town, which was one of my favorites of the places I visited in Alaska. From here, you can already see it; Mount Denali. Or, if you´d like to extend your stay and want to have a spectacular experience with Denali, you can book a seat on a plane and do a little flightseeing trip to the Denali National Park*; maybe with a glacier landing? What do you think?
Well, that´s a bunch of things you can do in Anchorage but there a plenty of other possibilities. I spent three days in this city and haven´t done half of it. What about you? Have you been to Anchorage or Alaska at all? What are your recommendations? Leave me a comment with your ideas, thoughts, or suggestions!
P.S. Also, a must-read is my article about the Chena River Walk In Fairbanks!