Visiting Alaska? It’s likely you’ll begin or end your journey in Anchorage, the state’s largest city. With a population of 300,000, Anchorage is known as the hub for Alaska’s commerce, tourism, transportation, and culture. It’s a city flush with both information and opportunity, so visitors should take advantage of the many activities related to all corners of the state.
Anchorage’s south-central location on the map means access to points north or south thanks to the only major highway network in the state. This access also provides visitors plenty of ways to explore, either independently or as part of a guided tour.
An excellent first stop is along downtown Anchorage’s 4th Avenue corridor. The famous “Log Cabin Visitor Center” is a nod to the sod-roofed homestead cabins of the past and is an authentic way to begin your day. Pick up brochures, chat with helpful volunteers, and set your itinerary for a day of adventuring Anchorage’s bustling streets, roads, and trails.
It’s worth noting that Alaska doesn’t possess the typical county structure of most Lower 48 states. Anchorage is part of a municipality system of planning and government, with boroughs acting in place of counties. Thus, the Municipality of Anchorage stretches across nearly 2,000 square miles of real estate and includes unincorporated communities like Chugiak and Eagle River to the north, and Girdwood to the south. While a day is not enough to see all that Anchorage has to offer, there are several opportunities to capture a sense of Anchorage residents’ daily life, past and present.
Anchorage has many museums and cultural centers through which to ease into the understanding of Alaska living, the most popular of which is a cooperative effort between the Alaska Native Heritage Center and Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center. Purchase a Culture Pass and receive a discount on admission to both, plus a shuttle ride from one to the other (located about 4 miles apart).
Looking for a stroll or bike ride to stretch travel-weary legs? Hit a section of Anchorage’s 200-mile series of trail systems between downtown and Chugach State Park, located in the mountain range directly east.
Dog Sledding Fun
Curious about Alaska’s state sport of dog mushing? The community of Girdwood is the place for dog sledding adventures. Take a whirlwind trip, literally, as you board a helicopter and are whisked to the top of Glacier Valley’s Punchbowl Glacier, where sled dog “summer camp” commences during the warmer months. Perfect for visitors short on time, the Girdwood Punchbowl Glacier Tour is a 1.5-hour excursion that combines flightseeing, dog sledding, and glaciers all in one amazing trip. Plus, you’ll also have time to pet the dogs and meet any puppies that might be on site.
After your sled dog experience, stop by Girdwood’s famous Bake Shop for a cup of coffee and a hearty sandwich or bowl of soup before continuing to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in Portage, just 10 minutes south along the scenic Seward Highway. The center is committed to the animals it rescues and rehabilitates, and visitors are able to view natural enclosures that mimic habitats of these far-northern critters. Look for bears, moose, musk oxen, and wolves as you walk around the property.
If continuing toward the city of Seward, be sure to stop by the Seavey’s Ididaride kennel just outside of town for more options related to sled dogs, Alaska, and our wild lives.