Anchorage, Alaska's largest city, offers a variety of fun things to see and do throughout the year. In addition to outdoor recreation and scenic touring, you can enjoy great museums, a botanical garden, and the Alaska Zoo.
Here are my recommendations for fun things to do in Anchorage.
The amazing Anchorage Museum at Rasmussen 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 allows you to rest and enjoy fabulous mountain views. Museum amenities include a cafe, gift shop, and guided tours. The Imaginarium Science Discovery Center moved into the Anchorage Museum in 2010. Highly recommended.
Alaska Native Heritage Center
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. Be sure to take in one or more of the presentations offered at The Gathering Place, the Center's indoor amphitheater. The Alaska Native Heritage Center also offers classes, workshops, and special events.
View from Alyeska Aerial Tram
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 their facility at 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 a just a day visitor, you can also 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 Campbell Creek Trail, the Torrey Knowles Coastal Trail, and the Lanie Fleischer Chester Creek Trail, and the Ship Creek Trail.
Sightseeing Tours and Cruises from Anchorage
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
- Gray Line of Alaska
- Kenai Fjords Tours
- Major Marine Tours
- Phillips Cruises and Tours
Elk and Musk Ox at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
No doubt you'll see lots of wildlife during your Alaska adventure, but if you want to make sure you get an up close view, be sure to visit the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. 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 mission of The Alaska Zoo in Anchorage is "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.
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.