Alaska - Things to Do!
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Top 10 things to do when you visit Alaska....
#10 – See the Sights
#9 – View the Wildlife
#8 – Go Stargazing
#7 – Ride the Train
#6 – Soak up the Sun
#4 – Go Out on the Town
#2 – Fish On!!
And, The Number One Reason to Visit Alaska:
#1 -- Come Visit a Lodge!!
Below are a few suggested self-guided sightseeing options:
- Portage Glacier - located about an hour south of Anchorage on the Seward Highway. The glacier has receded quite significantly in recent years, but Portage and several other glaciers are still visible from the comfortable visitor center.
- Seward, Alaska - a quaint fishing town set at the head of Resurrection Bay. Known as the 'Gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park', Seward is a picturesque town located 126 miles south of Anchorage. If you visit Seward, a must see is the Alaska Sea Life Center. Also, there are numerous wildlife cruises and fishing charters available, but many operators may be closed or operating under limited winter hours. Check ahead for availability.
- Seward is about 126 miles south of Anchorage on the Seward Highway, a National Scenic Byway. The drive from Anchorage to Seward is full of fantastic scenery including snowy mountain passes, towering mountain ranges, glaciers, wildlife, and more. Portions of the road are dangerous, so please drive with caution.
- North of Anchorage are the Parks and Glenn Highways. The Parks Highway terminates in Fairbanks and passes through Talkeetna and Denali National Park. The Alaska Railroad parallels the Parks Highway.
- The Glenn Highway begins in Anchorage and terminates in Glenallen and follows a path separating the Talkeetna and the Chugach Mountains. The section of highway between Anchorage and Eureka Summit is a National Scenic Byway with fantastic views of mountains, rivers, lakes, and glaciers. Eureka Summit is about 130 miles from Anchorage. Portions of the road are dangerous, so please drive with caution.
- The Alaska Marine Highway -- if you want to see Alaska, take the ferry! The only National Scenic Byway of its kind, Alaska's Marine Highway lets you leave the driving to someone else as you travel along scenic coastal routes totaling over 8,000 miles. See whales, active volcanoes, glaciers, fjords, and sea lions from the deck!
- Be sure to check out the National Park Service’s web site for National Parks in Alaska .
When seeing the sights above, you stand good chances of viewing Alaska’s wildlife. Remember not to feed the wildlife or get too close.
The following are some suggestions:
- The Alaska Zoo sits on 25 wooded acres located in the beautiful hillside area of South Anchorage. It’s home to just under 100 birds and mammals mostly found in Alaska. It’s one of the most visited attractions in the state with an annual attendance of close to 200,000 visitors.
- The Big Game Alaska Wildlife Center, located near Portage Glacier on the Seward Highway on 140 acres of natural Alaska wilderness. They opened to the public in 1993 with the mission to provide care for injured and orphaned wildlife and to provide continued wildlife awareness and education to the public. Last year Big Game Alaska Wildlife Center received moose, deer, black and grizzly bears, owls, bison musk ox, and a variety of game birds to care for. Big Game Alaska is entirely self-supported and relies on customer support to continue its mission of wildlife rehabilitation. All purchases contribute to the animal care and rescue program.
- The Eagle River Nature Center is located in Eagle River (about 20 minutes north of Anchorage) and offers many winter activities including winter trails, animal track identification, star gazing, Alaska crafts, and medicinal uses for local plants.
- The Musk Ox Farm is located in scenic Palmer (about 45 minutes north of Anchorage) and is a private non-profit organization dedicated to the development and domestication of the musk ox.
- The Reindeer Farm is also located in Palmer. The reindeer farm offers a variety of enjoyable Alaskan activities, including reindeer tours, a gift shop, horse rides, and nearby hiking trails. Feed and pet these majestic northern animals, and you may even see elk, moose, and blacktail deer.
- The Alaska Sea Life Center is a must see if you go to Seward.
- Moose can be observed in Anchorage throughout the city. Places to visit include the Six-Mile Lake area on Elmendorf and Eagle River Flats area on Fort Richardson. West Northern Lights from Earthquake Park to the end of the road is also good, as is the Kincaid Park area starting from West Jewel Lake Road.
Looking at the vivid stars and the aurora is at it's best in the winter; there's usually too much light in the summer to see stars and the aurora.
- Click here for up-to-date stargazing tips.
- The aurora is most active late at night or early in the morning, when the sky is clear and the air chilly. The best time to watch is in spring and fall, especially February, March, September, and October. One of the best times to look for the Northern Lights will be when it is dark because of a new moon. Aurora viewing is best north of Anchorage away from the city lights.
- The University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute has a great on line aurora forecasting model. It shows where the aurora might be expected to be viewed and its relative activity - check it out!
The Alaska Railroad offers train excursions to Talkeetna (full day), Seward, and Fairbanks (overnight). You’ll see fantastic sights including Mt. McKinley, the outskirts of Denali National Park, and scenic mountain passes.
Yep - the rumors are true - we get tons of sun in the spring, summer, and fall! Check the National Weather Services’ interactive land map for Alaska weather forecasts.
No need to explain – winter alpine and nordic ski areas double as summer hiking areas including:
- Alpine Skiing is a popular winter activity in the Anchorage area. The three local resorts (listed in descending order of difficulty), Alyeska Resort, Arctic Valley, and Hill Top Ski Area offer excellent skiing on groomed and challenging terrain.
- Nordic skiing is also popular in Alaska. Popular Anchorage trails include the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, Kincaid Park, and Prospect Heights. Popular trails outside of Anchorage include Eklutna Lake and Hatcher Pass. Cross Country Alaska is a good resource for current trail conditions.
- Snow mobile tours are a great way to experience Alaska close up, and with 10 hours of daylight there’s plenty of time to do it right. Tours can be booked with several vendors.
- Snowshoeing tours in Girdwood are offered by Backcountry Safaris. Anchorage.net has a few suggestions for guided and unguided hikes.
- Iditarod Dogsledding Adventures -- drive 130 miles from ANchorage to the home of 2004 Iditarod Champion Mitch Seavey for a 5-mile wilderness dog sled ride, a race kennel tour plus other choices.
Anchorage has world-class museums, great restaurants, and other things. Below are a few suggestions:
Museums and Culture
- Anchorage Museum of History and Art, located in downtown Anchorage. Their permanent collection numbers 17,500 objects, an education collection of roughly 2,000 artifacts, and more than 350,000 historical photographs.
- The Alaska Native Heritage Center, located in East Anchorage, is an exciting place where all people can come to expand their understanding of Alaska's first people. The facility shares the rich heritage of Alaska's eleven cultural groups - drawing upon the lifeways of long ago, the wisdom of our elders, and the traditions that endure. The encounter is designed to enhance self-esteem among Native people and to encourage cross-cultural exchanges among all people. The facility is very nicely done and is a must see for those on the museum/culture circuit.
- Anchorage Aviation Heritage Museum located on the south shore of Lake Hood near the Anchorage International Airport North Terminal. The Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum's mission is to "preserve, display, and honor Alaska's aviation heritage”.
- The Imaginarium, 737 West 5th Ave. #G, Anchorage, 907.276.3179 - The Imaginarium, Alaska's only hands-on Science Discovery Center, is designed as a place where people can have fun learning about science by actually doing science. Great for kids.
- The Southcentral Alaska Museum of Natural History, 201 N. Bragaw Street, Anchorage, 907.274.2400, hours Tuesday - Saturday: 9 am to 5 pm Sunday: 12 to 5 pm.
- Alaska Experience Theatre -- located within a short walk of the Hilton, this theatre features movies on their 180° wraparound screen. Currently showing is a movie highlighting Alaska's majestic wildlife and scenery. Also showing is a movie about the Great Alaska Earthquake of 1964.
- Anchorage.net lists other local area activities.
- Anchorage Chamber of Commerce - check it out.
List below are some dining options to consider in Anchorage. Click here for a more complete list of dining options.
- Simon and Seaforts, 420 L Street, 907.274.3502 - upscale with great meats and seafood. Lunch or dinner.
- Elevation 92, 1007 West 3rd Ave., 907.274.3502 - upscale, known for their fresh seafood selections. Lunch or dinner.
- Club Paris, 417 West 5th Avenue, 907.277.6332. - a local favorite with great steaks and immaculate seafood. Lunch or dinner.
- Glacier Brewhouse, 737 West 5th Ave., 907.274.BREW - upscale, warm, and rustic. Great locally-brewed ales, and fresh Alaska seafood, and wood-fired rotisserie grilled meats. Lunch or dinner.
- Orso, 5th Avenue & G Street (next to the Glacier Brewhouse), 907.222.3232 - fine Italian dining. Lunch or dinner.
- Snow Goose Restaurant and Sleeping Lady Brewery, 717 West 3rd Ave., 907.277.7727 - another outstanding micro-brewery with great views of Western Cook Inlet. Better known for great ales and fresh Alaska seafoods. Lunch or dinner.
- Sullivan’s Steak House, corner of 5th Avenue and C Street in the 5th Avenue Mall, 907.258.2882 - offers great steaks and side dishes.
- Humpy’s Great Alaska Alehouse, 610 West 6th Avenue, 907.276.BEER - a popular microbrewery with the younger set offers great lunches and dinners. Note - “Humpy” is local slang for a male pink salmon since they grow a large hump in the dorsal area when spawning.
- Marx Brothers Cafe, 627 West 3rd Ave., 907.278.2133 - "innovative contemporary cuisine", featuring fresh Alaskan seafood, game meats and unique ingredients in imaginative preparations from a menu that is revised daily.
- The Double Musky Inn, Mile 0.3 Crow Creek Rd, Girdwood, 907.783.2822 - excellent Cajun cookin'. Located about 45 minutes south of Anchorage on the Seward Highway in Girdwood, a visit there would be an excellent way to wrap up a day's adventure when visiting attractions in the area such as Seward, Portage Glacier, or Girdwood. Their hours are Tuesday-Thursday 5pm-10pm, Friday, Saturday & Sunday 4:30pm-10pm, Closed Monday. They don't take reservations so show up early to get a seat (they fill up fast)!
#3 – Anchorage Fur Rendezvous - February - March Annually
Anchorage's annual wacky winter festival complete with its own policing system (the Keystone Cops) - you risk getting locked up in their mock up jail if you're caught not wearing a 2007 Booster Button! (available for purchase in most shops). Events include a kickoff parade and the following:
- Fireworks Extravaganza - fireworks kickoff our festival and are not-to-be missed as the colors show well against the crisp winter sky.
- World Championship Sled Dog Races - a Fur Rondy classic which began in 1935 and continues today with Junior, Women’s and World Championship sled dog races. The 25-mile event meanders through Anchorage and can be viewed at numerous locations.
- Multi Tribal Gathering - sponsored by the Alaska Native Heritage Center. This educational event features over 24 traditional dance, music, art, and story telling groups, spanning Alaska and the Pacific Islands.
- Sno Cross - intense snow machine racing action over double moguls and jumps in – also in downtown Anchorage.
- The Frostbite Footrace - costumed, 2.5k, & 5k runs starting in downtown Anchorage
- Native Arts and Crafts - over 170 Native Artisans showing and demonstrating fantastic hand crafted art including basket weaving, beading, and carving.
- Snow Sculpture Contest - contemporary snow sculpture, viewing daily at the Alaska Railroad Depot, downtown Anchorage.
Watch the Last Great Race -- The Iditarod. Ceremonial Start in Downtown Anchorage, in late February to early March annually
From Anchorage to Nome (on the western Bering Sea coast), each team of 12 to 16 dogs and their musher cover over 1,150 miles in 10 to 17 days. Teams endure the most extreme and beautiful terrain known to man: across mountain ranges, frozen rivers, dense forests, desolate tundra and windswept coastline. Add sub-zero temperatures and blinding winds, and you’ve got the makings of a legendary adventure. That’s the Iditarod.
The ceremonial race start is in Anchorage. The official start is in Willow, Alaska (approximately 50 miles north of Anchorage) the next day.
Alaska has world-class salmon, trout, and halibut fishing, right in our backyard.
Alaska Department of Fish & Game, Sport Fishing Page - check with these guys first on licensing, bag limits, areas where you can fish, and other useful information about catching those sometimes elusive fish.
Other Helpful Links
- Alaska.com, a useful site created and maintained by the local Anchorage newspaper, The Anchorage Daily News.
- Alaska.org is another informative site for planning an Alaska trip.
- The Anchorage Press lists many local attractions and events, including live music, visual arts, shows, and more.
- Lonely Planet has some good information about visiting Alaska.