Welcome to a world where the sun shines for months on end, and the darkness brings fat snowflakes the size of a abby’s fist. Welcome to Anchorage, Alaska – the last frontier’s largest city with a small town vibe. More often than not Anchorage is overlooked as destination for travelers and thought of as just a stopping point before getting into the ‘real’ Alaska. But it’s a shame for those who hop on a train and head to Denali National Park before even exploring Alaska’s largest city, because it’s truly a remarkable place all on its own.
When planning to travel to Anchorage, timing is everything. Do you want to enjoy over eighteen hours of daylight and head out for nice breezy hikes that feel as if they’ll never have to come to an end? Or would you prefer to catch Anchorage’s famous Fur Rendezvous Winter Festival, which starts the last week of February and goes into March and celebrates the start of the Iditarod?
Summer in Anchorage
If your travel plans fall anytime between May to September, your first day should start with stretching your legs by hiking up to one of the city’s best viewpoints: Flattop Mountain. This hike is suitable for most age ranges and skill levels and has well built steps that take you a good portion of the way up. Or, if you’d like to bypass the more well known(and often crowded) Flattop Mountain hike, opt instead for theBear Valley Hike. This is more challenging than the former, but with a parking lot that can only hold five cars it offers a lot more isolation. Bear Valley has a fairly quick incline and you’ll feel the strain on your airplane fatigued legs, however at only 3 miles it can be taken nice and slow.
Winter in Anchorage
If winter is more your season and you’re opting to visit Alaska between November to March, you’ll want to download an Aurora Borealis forecaster on your phone or join an ‘Aurora Hunters’ Facebook group. Make sure you keep an eye on the predictions of the solar storms, and then as soon as you see a promising night head to the same parking are that you would use to hike Flattop mountain. Bring your camera, some cocoa, and a book, because waiting on the Northern Lights to dance across the sky can be a tedious process. But waiting on those first few green ribbons to swirl over the sky is all part of the fun. Don’t forget to turn your lights off once you park – the darker they sky, the better the viewing will be.
When you’re ready to warm up after a night of chasing the Northern Lights, spend the next day exploring Anchorage’s Museum at Rasmuson Center where you’ll enjoy everything from breathtaking art, to a science center.
What do you like best about your city?
There’s something special about living in a world where a moose will walk across your yard and you can still grab a Starbucks down the road. Anchorage provides plenty of reasons to fall in love, but my favorite is having easy access to both the outdoors and amazing restaurants. There’s nothing like going for a morning hike, then grabbing a beer at Midnight Sun Brewery afterward.
If you’re in the mood for a leisurely stroll, Tony Knowles Coastal Trail is the place to be. This trail starts in downtown Anchorage and follows the shore to Kincaid Park. On a clear day you’ll get spectacular views of Denali, and if you happen to travel to Anchorage in the autumn your path will be filled with colorful leaves.
Best Restaurants in Anchorage
With travel, comes amazing food. Or at least with travel should come amazing food. For the wine and beer lovers (plus really killer food) Rustic Goat is a great option. If you feel like splurging a bit and want to experience remarkable Italian food, head to Fiori D’Italia. They also have a full bar and make cocktails that will have you hanging out all night long. Looking to stretch your dollar a bit? The Gumbo House offers delicious Cajun cuisine without breaking the bank. And of course there’s the famous Moose’s Tooth pizza. You’ll pay a fairly steep price for a large pie, but you won’t regret even a single dime after your first bite.
If you had to guess the name of the most popular music festival in Alaka, what would you guess? Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably not too far off. Every summer thousands of people travel to Alaska for the Salmon Festival! It’s an amazing festival a few hour south of Anchorage that has everything from food carts to late night DJs.
If part of your travel plans include a night out on the town, Bernie’s Bungalow offers outdoor seating as well as indoor dancing. But don’t get stuck there all night, because Darwin’s Theory is right down the road and is the quintessential dive bar we all know and love. And since you’ve traveled all this way, you’ll want to drop by Chilkoot Charlie’s – a bar with seven other bars inside of it.
Best Day Trip Out of the City
For a trip that doesn’t involve a car, hop on the Alaska Railway and take the train to travel down to Seward, Alaska. Seward is tucked onto the ocean and surrounded by glaciers, and more often than not you’ll get lucky and spot a sea otter swimming along the docks.
If you’ve hooked yourself a rental car, hop in and head to Girdwood, which is about forty five minutes south of Anchorage and the location of Alyeska Ski Resort. You can take the tram up to the top of the mountain and enjoy a few drinks or a classy dinner at Seven Glaciers, but most impressive is the view you’ll get of the ocean and glaciers below.
Something that not many travellers would know about Anchorage
Most people that travel to Alaska know they’re in for the experience of a lifetime, and we don’t often keep our secrets a secret for long. But we still have a few places that aren’t traversed often, and one of my favorite’s is Point Woronzof.
You’ll come across the name over and over, so I suppose it’s not even a secret, but people never seem to make the trip there. Located right next to the airport, Point Woronzof is an easy few hundred feet walk down to the beach. If you pay attention to the tide schedule and venture down at low tide, you’ll have miles of sand to explore. My favorite sunny day activity is packing a bag with snacks, a bottle of wine, and spending an evening watching the planes while my pup chases ocean waves.
Safe travels, and I hope you enjoy all that Anchorage has to offer!