For visitors to Anchorage, most of the action is concentrated in the very compact and very accessible downtown core (W. First to W. Ninth avenues), but there are also plenty of attractions beyond the city center. Included here are things to do and great places to shop and eat in downtown, midtown, south, east and west Anchorage.
Pick up maps, ask questions and follow the free advice of the friendly staff at the Log Cabin Visitor Information Center on Fourth Avenue or at the modern walk-in visitor center directly behind it. Both centers are open daily, year-round, except for major holidays. Anchorage City Trolley Tours departs from here on its popular 15-mile narrated sightseeing ride ($10 for kids, $20 for 13 years and older).
Bike the 11-mile Tony Knowles Coastal Trail—from downtown to Kincaid Park in west Anchorage—and enjoy spectacular views of Cook Inlet (also keep an eye out for moose). Downtown Bicycle Rental, Fourth Avenue between C and D streets, rents bikes.
The Anchorage Alaska Public Lands Information Center, located in the historic Old Federal Building on Fourth Avenue at F Street, offers a variety of guest-speaker programs, natural history films and exhibits, interactive GIS stations and trip-planning assistance for outdoor enthusiasts. Guided downtown walking tours leave from here during the summer.
Grab your spot on the lawn at Peratrovich Park, corner of Fourth Avenue and E Street, at noon on Mondays and Wednesdays, for Music in the Park. These hour-long lunchtime concerts begin in June and continue through mid-August.
Live After Five, a weekly evening concert series featuring local bands plus a beer garden, takes place at Town Square, between Fifth and Seventh avenues, adjacent the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts. Showtime is 5:30–7:30 pm Thursdays from June through July. (The summer flower displays at Town Square are a visual feast for visitors and residents alike.)
Anchorage Market & Festival, Alaska’s largest open-air market, is held in the parking lot at Third Ave. and E St., every week- end from May 7 to Sept. 4. There are food booths, live entertainment and hundreds of vendors selling a variety of Alaskan-made and Alaska-grown products, imported and novelty items.
Your shopping list should include an ulu. These classic interpretations of the traditional Eskimo cutting tool make a great souvenir or gift (pack it in your checked luggage, not in your carry-on!). Stop by the Ulu Factory at 211 W. Ship Creek Ave. to see the largest selection. Free shuttle from the Log Cabin Visitor Center.
Explore 10,000 years of history at Anchorage Museum, located on the corner of Seventh Avenue and C Street. Guided 45-minute tours are offered daily, or enjoy the art galleries, Thomas Planetarium and the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center on your own.
Anchorage has many fine restaurants. Some downtown spots include Williwaw, Fat Ptarmigan, Tequila 61, Haute Quarter Grill, Orso (Mediterranean variations), Crow’s Nest (fantastic view), Jens’ (features Danish specialties), Snow City Café and Sacks Café (both Anchorage favorites), Club Paris (perfect steaks and seafood), Ginger (fusion) and Glacier Brewhouse (known for its salmon, rotisserie meats and hand-crafted ales).
A great place to spend a rainy day is at the Bear Tooth Theatrepub, at 1230 West 27th Ave. Buy a $4 movie ticket then head to the counter to order freshly prepared food (try the Turnagain tofu burrito, Avalanche pizza or seared AK salmon tacos—three of our favorites), take the day-glow-orange numbered cone you are handed, find a seat inside the theatre, and wait for your meal to arrive and the movie to start. Order a root beer with your meal, or head to the draft beer and wine bar inside. Also in this building is the Bear Tooth Grill, a restaurant that routinely appears on Best Places to Eat in Anchorage lists.
Just a block south of Beartooth, in the “heart of Spenard” on Northern Lights Blvd., is a strip mall with worthy stops (not unusual in Anchorage). There’s the Anchorage REI, with its great selection of outdoor gear and rentals for the visiting outdoor adventurer. In the same mall, visit the 30,000-square-foot Title Wave Books, largest bookstore in Alaska and one of the biggest used bookstores in the country. Browse a fabulous selection of used and new books, used DVDs, music CDs and LPs. Have lunch next door at the Middle Way Café, advertising “Organic coffee, healthy eats & local art”; open daily until 6 pm, lunch served all day every day.
One of the city's most popular eateries is located in Midtown: Moose’s Tooth, at 3300 Old Seward Hwy. Innovative pizzas, great salads and craft beer are served daily; open until midnight Fridays and Saturdays.
Learn about Alaska’s aviation history at the Aviation Heritage Museum, located near the airport on the south shore of the busiest seaplane base in the world, Lake Hood.
Kinkaid Park is a great place for bicyclists in summer and cross-country skiers in winter. The 11-mile-long Tony Knowles Coastal Trail from the end of West Second Avenue in downtown Anchorage ends (or begins, depending on where you start) at Kincaid Chalet.
Kincaid Grill, on Jewel Lake Road on the west end of town, is known for its innovative menu featuring fresh Alaska seafood. Serving dinner only, Tu–S, 5–10 pm.
The Alaska Zoo is a fun family destination with gravel paths winding through the woods past a variety of resident mammals—bears, moose, Dall sheep, musk oxen and more—in addition to exotic species like Bactrian camels and snow leopards. During the winter, enjoy the whimsical lighted animal displays of Zoo Lights (usually Thanksgiving through Fur Rondy; check website for schedule). Located on O’Malley Road; exit east off New Seward Highway.
Shopping for Alaska clothing? The distinctively branded and extra-soft tees and hoodies at AK Starfish Co. come in many colors and are a favorite with locals. In South Anchorage on Dimond Boulevard, adjacent its sister store, Mermaid Co. Boutique, in a strip mall with a Starbucks. AK Starfish Co. is also downtown at 737 West Fifth Ave.
When you get hungry, stop in at South restaurant and coffeehouse, at 11124 Old Seward Hwy. Try the crab frittata for brunch or dinner entrees like pork picatta or sopa de mar.
The most popular hiking trail in Alaska is located in south Anchorage. Flattop Mountain (elev. 3,510 feet) is accessed from the Glen Alps trailhead; ask for directions at the downtown visitor center or Anchorage Alaska Public Lands Information Center—both on 4th Avenue. You also can take the Flattop Mountain Shuttle, an easy and reasonably priced way to get from downtown to the trailhead in south Anchorage.
You’ll find Himalayan blue poppies and outstanding peonies at the Alaska Botanical Garden on Campbell Airstrip Road, east of the New Seward Highway off Tudor Road. This delightful walk in the woods provides the opportunity to see native Alaskan plants and perennials. The half-mile main loop visits seven display gardens; pick up a self-guiding trail map at the entrance or call ahead for a guided tour.
At the Alaska Native Heritage Center, a 10-minute drive east of downtown, experience all of Alaska’s Native cultures in one place. This 26-acre wooded site includes the Welcome House, with a 95-seat theater and a Gathering Place to enjoy traditional storytelling, Native song and dance. Outside, take a walk around Tiulana Lake to six traditional village sites representing Athabascan, Yupik/Cupik, Inupiaq, Unangax, Alutiiq and Tlingit/Haida/Eyak/ Tsimshian cultures. See this great attraction and the Anchorage Museum downtown for one great price ($29.95, includes shuttle) with the Alaska Culture Pass.
For lunch or dinner, visit a classic Anchorage spot: Lucky Wishbone at 1033 E. Fifth Avenue (907.272.3454) has been serving fried chicken and French fries since 1955, winning top reviews for its food and service.