Anchorage, Alaska, was my hometown for 26 years. Well, I actually grew up in a small “suburb” 13 miles away called Eagle River, but I know this city like the back of my hand. Alaska’s largest city has a charming downtown full of local art galleries, restaurants serving fresh local food, fascinating history, and access to some of the world’s best nature. Resting at the foot of mountains and snuggled against an inlet, Anchorage is the perfect city to connect with nature and immerse yourself in a local culture not found in many other places. Unfortunately, most people just pass through while on a quick cruise stop over and aren’t able to take advantage of all the incredible things to do in Anchorage – or they all end up at the same tourist traps. As a former Alaskan tour guide, my guests always loved the local insider tips I gave them to make their time in Anchorage memorable, and I can’t wait to pass them along to you as well.
Considering the land area, Anchorage is one of the largest cities in the U.S., so these suggestions cover everything from Girdwood to downtown Anchorage to Knik River. Without further ado, here are my top 75 things to do in Alaska for every season and every type of traveler recommended by a born and raised local.
Land Acknowledgment: Anchorage is in Denaʼina Ełnena – or Dena’ina Athabascan country. The Athabascan People are Indigenous to interior Alaska. Learn more about the Dena’ina and Athabascan People to add important context to your Anchorage exploration.
Top 12 Things to Do in Anchorage Not to Miss
If you have only a limited time in Anchorage, these are my top 12 recommendations to ensure you get a taste of my home city.
1. Learn About Anchorage from Indigenous Alaskans
One of the most important things to remember when visiting Anchorage is that you are on Indigenous land. Please support a Native-owned business, purchase only authentic Native art (it will say), or learn about the city from its original inhabitants’ perspective when you can.
If you want to take a walking tour of Anchorage, book with AK Finest. You will be guided by a Native who sits on a Tribal Council, learning about Native culture and history and how it relates to the Anchorage area – all while seeing the city’s highlights. You’ll even be invited to see one of Alaska’s finest Native art collections at the Alaska Native Hospital.
And if you are looking for a tour operator to help you plan an authentic Alaskan experience, book with a Native-owned Downtown Tour Group. Don’t miss Russ’ sunrise or sunset Anchorage Wildlife Tour!
I’ve got loads more recommendations for learning about Native culture in the culture section – so don’t miss those ideas for more options.
2. Hike Flat Top for Amazing Views (Or just enjoy the accessible viewpoint)
Flat Top is one of the most famous hikes in Anchorage, maybe even Alaska, but it’s renowned for a reason. Flat Top offers the best bird’s eye view of Anchorage. From the peak, you can spot numerous mountain ranges, the sparkling inlet, the Anchorage skyline, and even my hometown of Eagle River! If you are lucky, you can see Denali on a clear day. If you are an avid hiker, you can head up the trail to the peak for a view that stretches as far as the eye can see.
Flat Top is hard to access, but the drive is worth it. If you have a rental car, drive to the Glen Alps Trailhead and be prepared to pay $5 in cash. If not, you can take the Flat Top Shuttle that will get you from downtown Anchorage and back. If you plan on hiking to the top, save a few hours to give yourself time to hike and take in the view. There is some rock scrambling toward the very top, and it might not be the best option for non-hikers.
If you prefer not to hike: from the parking lot, you can walk an accessible flat boardwalk while still getting incredible views.
If this is your second time visiting Anchorage and you’ve “been there, done that,” then check out O’Malley Peak, The Powerline Trail, or Williwaw Lakes, some of my favorite hikes with trailheads in the same location.
3. Ride or Walk the Coastal Trail
The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail is a shared bike and walking trail that runs from the heart of downtown and winds along the coast. There are chances to see wildlife, including moose and sea birds. As you progress along the path, the view looking back on Anchorage gets better and better. Rent some bikes from Pablo’s Bike Store near Elderberry Park at the start of the trail, or go it alone on your own two feet. If you’re walking, I suggest going from Elderberry Park to West Chester Lagoon. If you’re on a bike, then I recommend going all the way to Kincaid Park.
If you prefer to do things in a group or with a local expert, book a group bike tour of the Coastal Trail with all the equipment you’ll need, included. This tour comes with a local guide, so you’ll learn about the history of the earthquake and be in the know about all our mountains and nature.
If you’re the type that likes to ride and then cool off with a beer, then this all-day bike and beer tour is for you. The tour starts the day with a bike ride along the coastal trail and ends with a behind-the-scenes tour of some of Anchorage’s breweries with 12 samples. Honestly, beer and scenic outdoor adventures make my top list of best things to do in Anchorage, so this is like a dream combination!
4. Drink Craft Beer
Did someone say beer? If you know me, you know by now that even though I live in Munich, the thing that I miss the most about Alaska is the craft beer. Did you know we have over 50 breweries, including one of the world’s northernmost breweries? Pretty cool, huh? You’ll find dozens of those breweries in our largest city, Anchorage. Stay downtown and check out 49th State Brewing to avoid drinking and driving. If you have a designated driver or want to invest in Lyft, head to the Industrial District, visiting the tap rooms of Midnight Sun, King Street, and Double Shovel. Broken Tooth Brewing, found at Moose’s Tooth, is also tasty – you can buy a growler to keep on hand in your hotel room.
If your whole group wants to sit back and relax and not pay for Uber or be DD, then book yourself a guided tour. The Anchorage Craft Brewery Tour includes 12 samples, three brewery stops, including Anchorage’s oldest brewery, and guided commentary on the history of Anchorage’s thriving beer culture.
Or, for more information on the general craft brewery scene in Alaska, check out my 3-page feature in Seabourn Club Herald, pp 46-48.
5. Ride the Alaska Railroad
The Alaska Railroad is hands down one of my favorite things to do in the Anchorage area. It is a great way to get out of Anchorage for the day and ride one of the most scenic railways in the U.S. – and maybe even the world, if I am honest. My suggested route is to take the train from Anchorage to Girdwood and spend the day exploring my favorite town in the extended Anchorage area. You can take the Girdwood Tram, drink craft beer, go hiking, or go to the Nordic Spa at the Alyeska Hotel before returning to Anchorage the same day. I highly recommend the Glacier Discovery whistle-stop train for a customizable day trip to see wildlife and glaciers and explore the off-the-beaten paths.
You can also book several train combination tours with guided excursions, including this Glacier and Rail Cruise combo pack.
6. Grab the Museum Pass
Anchorage has a few top-notch museums, with two, in particular, rising to the top, the Anchorage Museum and the Alaska Native Heritage Center. Take advantage of seeing both with the Alaska Culture Pass, which is only $32 and includes a shuttle service that will take you between these two museums.
The Anchorage Museum takes you back in time through Alaska’s Indigenous, Russian, and U.S. history. You’ll find exhibits featuring culture, local art, geology, natural history, and even rotating Smithsonian exhibits.
The Alaska Native Heritage Center offers a responsible and immersive way to learn about Alaska’s different indigenous tribes and their culture through history, dance, theater, art, and architecture.
You don’t need to use the pass on the same day, so it is the perfect thing to have in your back pocket as you explore Anchorage.
7. Try the Local Foods
One of the best things about Alaskans is that we catch or sustainably hunt most of our food, and many rely on subsistence hunting and gathering to survive our long winters. So, one of the best ways to experience Anchorage like a local is to eat some of our fresh seafood or try some of the different local meats served in Alaska.
Some of our best seafood can be found downtown at the famous Simon and Seaforts or Orso. If you want to skip the crowds, go where locals eat, and check out Kincaid Grill, which features fresh Alaskan oysters, cod, halibut, salmon, and scallops. Haute Quarter Grill also has King Crab legs and other seafood delights.
If you want to try some smoked Salmon or reindeer sausage, I suggest heading to Alaska’s Sausage and Seafood or 10th and M Seafood. You can even have some of these delicacies shipped to your friends and family – or your own house.
If you’re feeling adventurous, head to 49th State Brewery and Restaurant on the 4th and order their local Alaskan yak burger.
For my fellow vegetarians or visitors trying to reduce their meat consumption for ethical and environmental reasons – go you! Be warned that eating in Alaska can be frustrating, but rewarding when you find spots catering to vegetarian diets. My favorite veg-friendly spots are Ginger for Asian Alaskan Fusion, El Green Go’s Mexican food truck, and Middleway Cafe.
8. See Bears with Rust’s Flightseeing
Flightseeing is one of the best things you can do in Anchorage. It might be expensive, but it is an excellent value for everything you get. During your stay in Alaska, you’ll have lots of opportunities to go on a flightseeing tour, which can be overwhelming. If you want my local opinion, then book with Rust’s Flying Service out of Anchorage to see bears in Lake Clark National Park or Katmai National Park. Other tours offer incredible scenic views of Denali, but with a bear viewing tour with Rust’s, you get a scenic tour combined with bear viewing. So, if you’re saving up for a flightseeing tour in Alaska and want an intimate look into the life of bears, this is the option for you.
Rust’s also offers plenty of scenic tours or longer trips to stay in cabins. I’ve personally used them, and they are a local favorite in the Anchorage area.
9. Enjoy the Midnight Sun
The great thing about visiting Alaska in the Summer is our 20+ hours of daylight. That means you can start a hike at 10 pm or go out for a rooftop drink at 9 pm. You can pack many things into your schedule, so book all the tours, eat all the things, and explore downtown Anchorage until the sun never goes down. I took this photo at 1 am on the summer solstice from Flat Top Mountain.
10. See the Northern Lights
If you are visiting in the winter and seeing the Northern Lights is on your bucket list, then make sure you book a Northern Light Tour. If you book your tour with an expert like Alaska Photo Treks, they will give you some photography tips and check the forecast. You’ll even stop in my hometown of Eagle River to try and see the lights! Booking with an expert is hands down the best way to ensure you have a memorable experience and the best chance to see the aurora.
Greatland Adventures, a local Alaskan company, also offers Nothern Lights Tours, basic photography tips, and Aurora forecasting to determine the best location for viewing. You can book a private or small group tour with them.
Remember, seeing the Northern Lights is never guaranteed, so it is helpful to have a backup plan and not get your hopes up too much.
11. Shop and Support Local Businesses
Alaska doesn’t have many chain restaurants or stores around. We pride ourselves on the creative genius of locals for everything from the hottest fashion trends to beauty products, artisanal food, and more. One of the best things you can do in Anchorage is purchase a truly one-of-a-kind souvenir that is Alaskan-made. Head to any of our markets, such as the Saturday market – now located in Dimond :( and shop the stalls for something unique. Many shops downtown, such as Cabin Fever, Sevigne Studio, and more, have locally made in Alaska sections with author bios, so you know exactly who you’re supporting.
READ MORE: Discover my comprehensive guide to the best art, fashion, cafes, and tour companies owned and operated by local Alaskan women to support real Alaskan entrepreneurs.
12. Stop and Smell the Flowers
Downtown Anchorage is full of historic charm and blooming flowers in the summer. If you stick to the area from Ship Creek to the Delaney Park Strip, particularly 4-6th Ave., you’ll be rewarded with a quirky historic aesthetic and hanging flower baskets and gardens. The baskets downtown were inspired by our state flag, with “stars of blue on a field of gold.” The town square has a lovely flower garden worth stopping by to see. Even as far as 15th Ave, flower baskets hang from giant fishing poles.
Check out the town square for ice skating and twinkle lights if you are around in winter. Our winters are so dark, and Anchorage explodes with twinkle lights to entertain you while walking downtown.
Things to do in Anchorage for Foodies
When people think of Anchorage, they think of seafood. As a tour guide, I often picked up guests who came off the cruise ship stuffed to the brim with crab and salmon and wanted something different. So, if that is you, and you’re stuffed with crab and salmon, check out these alternative eats.
13. Eat Street Food
Anchorage has a thriving street food and food truck scene. In the summer, you’ll find plenty of food carts on 4th Avenue serving reindeer hot dogs, but that just scratches the surface. Though, if you are looking for dogs, Tia’s Gourmet Sausages and Tiki Pete’s are the best. If you’re in town in the Summer on Saturday, head to the Anchorage Saturday Market for salmon quesadillas and dozens of vendors. If you are around on Thursday, don’t miss Anchorage’s Food Truck Carnival in Spenard for the best street eats in the city. My friend Darrin runs this Carnival in the summer months, so be sure to say hello if you see someone that looks like they are in charge! There are veg-friendly options as well.
While sampling beer at Anchorage’s fantastic craft breweries, head outside for a snack. Most of our breweries have a tasty food cart outside, ready to serve up something local when you get the beer munchies.
14. Enjoy Fine Dining
Anchorage has some top-notch restaurants where you can get amazing food without a lot of fuss. Anchoragites are known for dressing casually while we enjoy fine dining. Some of the best local seafood and wine pairings is at Marx Brothers – an intimate, quality establishment. If you want touristy but quality dining, Orso right downtown on 5th Ave is worth it; for a local favorite, hit up Haute Quarter Grill. Ginger has the best Asian fusion with a fantastic cocktail menu if you want a fusion twist on Alaskan favorites. My sister works at Ginger, so make sure you ask to sit in Cat’s section and tell her hello from her annoying little sister.
In the town of Girdwood, you must try Double Musky, the best restaurant in the state. They blend NOLA food with Alaskan cuisine. It’s insanely popular, though, so arrive early and expect a wait.
Most fine dining establishments will accommodate vegetarians, but I suggest calling ahead or asking your server. I find it frustrating most vegetarian options aren’t listed on fine dining menus, but call and ask how they can accommodate you before making reservations.
15. Grab Quality Casual Eats
To avoid the over-hyped touristy traps like Glacier Brewhouse, delve deeper into Anchorage’s local culinary scene with quality casual dining. Spenard Roadhouse is a local favorite serving Alaskan comfort food. Bear’s Tooth is a local fav with scratch margaritas and, my sister’s top recommendation – their shrimp and grits. F Street has excellent pub food, like their crab sandwich in a cozy downtown pub! Snow City Cafe is a popular and tasty spot for brunch. Rustic Goat has a lovely patio with modern food in a hipster setting. For an iconic restaurant in the community since the 1950s, grilling up some of the best burgers, then head to my dad’s favorite Lucky Wishbone.
16. Eat Fusion Food
I mentioned that Anchorage is a diverse city with some fantastic fusion cuisines. For Vietnamese food, eat at Pho Lena, for awesome Mexican tacos, stop by Serano’s Grill, and don’t miss Hula Hands for Hawai’ian.
17. Eat Baked Alaska and Other Sweets
Alaskans eat more ice cream per capita than any other state. I just went to get an ice cream milkshake with my dad in -30 degree weather – no joke. Whatever makes people in cold climates crave ice cream, Alaskans do dessert right. Check out Wild Scoops downtown for the most popular ice cream in Anchorage. Be warned that the line is around the block in the summer. I think their locally sourced ingredients and unique mixes are worth the wait, but others disagree. If you have access to a car, then head to WooHoo!, where locals like to escape the crowds.
Don’t miss Baked Alaska featured on the menu at Ginger. Sweet Chalet has the best artisanal chocolate with hand-painted aurora-inspired chocolates. Sweet Caribou makes the best macarons. My favorite way to eat them is blended in Wild Scoops ice cream. To find all the best local sweets and culinary delights, head to Alaska Wild Berry Products to bring souvenirs home and see the world’s largest chocolate fountain. If you are looking for a tasty bakery, your local favorite, Fire Island, is a must.
18. Take a Food Tour
To sample all the best Anchorage offers, don’t miss this foodie tour of Anchorage. Sourdough Dan is a character and will take you to all his favorite spots with local insider knowledge. All of his stops support locally owned and operated small businesses. During this unique walking tour of Anchorage, you’ll learn about hidden gems and little-known facts while eating your heart out!
Fellow vegetarians/vegans, beware: This tour is not veg-friendly :(
19. Forage For Your Food
If there is one skill many Alaskans share, it is foraging for our food. My mom lived off the grid in a remote cabin and spent her days harvesting and roasting fiddlehead ferns. As kids, we used to fill the freezer with seasonal blueberries – sharing the bountiful harvest with the roaming brown bears fattening before winter. There are plenty of places great for foraging around Anchorage, like Arctic Valley, but unless you know exactly what you are doing and what food is poisonous, you should book a foraging trip with a local expert. The best part is you learn a new skill and prepare your harvest to enjoy on the spot!
20. Sip Coffee in Anchorage
Alaska has more coffee shops than any other state per capita. That’s right – take that Starbucks-filled Washington! Kaladi Brother is Alaska’s most famous local coffee roaster with quality coffee and shops all over the state, including a cozy downtown spot. Steam Dot downtown is a newer addition, but they are easily among the best. Order a flat white and a Brown Bag sandwich for a midday pick-me-up. Writer’s Cafe is my favorite coffee shop with the best employees; ask for Dave, and tell him Susanna says hello. This space is cozy and optimized for reading and working. They have special nights featuring live music and poetry slams.
One thing unique to Alaska’s coffee scene is our drive-through coffee huts. You can’t miss them as they are on every corner – so drive up to one and check them out. If you happen to see Perk Up, they are a local favorite.
Things to do for the Party Monsters
21. Drink Cocktails Inspired by Alaska
Anchorage has a fun little cocktail scene hidden among the dive bars. Don’t miss The Speakeasy at Williwaw Social for Anchorage’s coolest bar. Both Ginger and Tequila 61 have creative cocktail menus to shake things up.
The locals tend to drink spirits as quickly as they are produced, but keep an eye on the local menus for cocktails made with local liquor, or head to the Anchorage Distillery for a tour or buy spirits from Goldrush liquor for some hotel cocktails.
22. Visit a World Famous Bar
Chilkoot Charlies is weird, to say the least. This complex of microbars has been featured on MTV, hosted world-renowned DJs like Paul Oakenfold, and is a local favorite, especially for those celebrating their 21st birthday. Inside is an ice bar, a swing bar, the main room, a dance floor, and the birdhouse with underwear stapled to the walls. If you want to go people-watching or drink in a weird environment only found in Alaska, then Koots is your spot.
23. Dance to Live Music
Anchorage has a tight-knit community of music lovers. My friend Rain, an Alaskan Native DJ, sometimes plays around Anchorage. If you miss her playing, then check out her music! The Avenue Bar, Williwaw Social, Humpy’s, Bernie’s Bungalow, and The Raven Bar also host rotating DJs and live bands.
24. Attend a Drag Show
If you’re part of or an ally of the LBGTQ+ community, head down to Mad Myrna’s for one of the best drag shows in the country! The bartenders are great, and it is always a welcoming atmosphere. Myrna’s has three areas, the main bar room with games, a room for the drag shows and other events, and a dance floor with local DJs playing dance and pop music.
Things to do for View Seekers
Other than Flat Top, which I already mentioned, there are plenty of things to do to get some fantastic views of Anchorage and the nature surrounding our beautiful city.
25. Get the Best Skyline View
For the best views of Anchorage, head to the ‘Downtown Anchorage Viewpoint’ and ‘Pt. Woronzoff’ at the end of Northern Lights Blvd. Along these viewpoints, you’ll see postcard-perfect images of the Anchorage skyline, the inlet, the Chugach Mountains, Denali, and Mt. Susitna.
Local Tip: At Pt. Woronzoff you can see airplanes taking off and landing as they fly right over your head and out into the inlet, making it a wonderful spot for photographs and airplane lovers.
26. Get Drinks with a View
If you prefer to take your view with a drink in hand, head to the Crow’s Nest at the top of the Captain Cook Hotel for cocktails overlooking the entire downtown region. If you enjoy beer, then head to the deck of 49th State Brewery for views overlooking the inlet.
27. Take a Scenic Road Trip and Alyeska Tram!
Just outside of Anchorage is the sleepy town of Girdwood. If you have a rental car, then you should make this drive. The drive to Girdwood from Anchorage is full of scenic pullouts along the Turnagain Arm, offering views of mountains, waterfalls, wildlife, and a rugged coastline. Once in Girdwood, ride the Tram and walk around for views of several glaciers and the inlet below.
If you haven’t rented a car, the best way to ride the tram and see Turnagain Arm is by booking a shuttle from Anchorage to Girdwood. Another option is to book with the same shuttle service to visit Turnagain Arm, stopping at the Wildlife Conservation Center and the Alyeska Tram. Again, this is not a guided tour and only includes transportation to and from these places – which are difficult to get to without a car. This Native-owned shuttle service is a great way to save money on gas or renting a car.
If you prefer a more pampered and guided experience, there are some great options for guided tours through the Turnagain Arm. PicTours will take you into the Chugach National Forest and the Conservation Center for an intimate look at one of Alaska’s iconic forest views. You’ll get some photo tips as a bonus. If you prefer to cruise Portage Glacier for epic views of the glacier at the end of Turnagain Arm, then 907 Tours has you covered.
28. Take A Scenic Flight
Getting a bird’s eye view of a glacier is truly magical. Often you need an expert mountain or hiking skills to see amazing glacier views. A helicopter tour is the best way to see the sprawling ice fields near Anchorage. The short and sweet version offers 30 minutes scenic flight with a 30-minute landing on Kink glacier.
A longer tour by the same company offers three remote landings to see the pristine-blue glaciers and their melt pools, including a fly over Lake George – something most locals rarely see!
Things to do for Adventure Seekers
If you are an adrenaline junky, Anchorage is a great city, with dozens – if not hundreds – of options to live life to the fullest. These adventure-filled things to do will get your heart pumping with unique Alaskan experiences.
29. Hike Arctic Valley
Arctic Valley is one of my favorite spots for views in Anchorage. Very few tourists visit, making it a bit of a local secret. Pack your tennis shoes for a medium hike with views overlooking the Anchorage Bowl. On a clear day, you can even spot Denali. This is also a great spot in winter for Northern Lights viewing and tubing. In the autumn, you can join the locals and go blueberry picking. My family used to go berry picking every year and freeze the berries for pancakes, jams, and all sorts of things to get us through the winter.
30. Go on A Glacier Hike
Get up close and personal with the best glacier hikes near Anchorage, created by yours truly. This list includes all my favorite hikes, from easy walking trails to more strenuous ones. But, all the options get you up close and personal with glaciers or stunning birds-eye views of all the glaciers near Anchorage. My post will help you plan and navigate these hikes as part of a self-guided or independent tour.
If you prefer to hike the glaciers with the experts, then 907 Tours will take you on a full-day strenuous hike of Matanuska Glacier in the summer. In the winter you can ride a snowmachine on the glacier!
31. Summit Peaks in Chugach State Park
Or you can book a guided hike with an expert to take you along one of Chugach State Park’s iconic ridgelines. Booking one of these hikes is a great way to learn about local flora and fauna while hiking some of the more intense routes with the safety of a guide.
32. Go ATVing
Knik is where my friends and I used to go in high school to drive 4-wheelers recklessly. Knik is known for its glacial mud flats, dunes, and epic off-roading. Sadly Kyle from my 11th-grade biology can’t throw you in the back of his pickup truck and take you out for an off-roading adventure, but 49th State Motor Tours can take you ATVing through Knik.
33. Experience 17 More Wild Adventures Near Anchorage
If you are looking for wild adventures, head to my post covering 17 outdoor activities in Anchorage. I talk about the places for hiking, biking, kayaking, rafting, fishing, camping, skiing, sledding, and more! This guide is perfect for those adrenaline junkies!
Things to do for Nature Lovers
To take in nature without the adrenaline rush, here is a list to get you outdoors in nature, but at a more leisurely pace.
34. Go Bird Watching
At the southernmost point of Anchorage city is one of my favorite places to get out into nature, Potters Marsh. This marsh is home to hundreds of migrating bird species in the spring and summer – and even some local Eagles looking for a meal. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot a moose. Walk the boardwalk to see salmon swimming upstream and birds up close. Bring your binoculars and zoom lens – especially if you are a birder.
Another great sport for birders is West Chester Lagoon. This quiet little cove in downtown Anchorage is full of bird species living their best life. The lagoon has a paved walking trail that connects with the Coastal Trail, so you can choose a short walk around the lagoon or a long walk along the ocean.
35. Visit An Ancient Glacier Valley
In my hometown is the Eagle River Nature Center, tucked away in the wilderness. After a scenic drive down a long winding mountain valley, you will arrive at the center. There is a small hut with park rangers, information about the local wildlife, and some bear safety tips. After checking that out, head outdoors to enjoy a leisurely walk around an old glacier valley, view old beaver dams, and walk along forested trails learning about glaciers. There are also plenty of hiking trails for more active groups, but a small section is accessible for baby strollers and those with limited mobility.
If you didn’t rent a car, you can visit the Nature Center with a naturalist guide. This tour stops at a little local secret waterfall – Barbara Falls.
If you want more nature, then check out this tour that heads just outside of the Anchorage area to the Palmer Hay Flats Wildlife Refuge area after the Nature Center. The Hay Flats are often overlooked but great for wildlife and nature enthusiasts.
36. Combine Science and Nature
The Campbell Creek Science Center offers to engage outdoor nature activities with guides. Take an early morning bird walk, engage in a fireside chat about nature, and learn about Alaska’s natural history and animals. Check their calendar for all their upcoming events during winter or summer.
37. Ethically See Animals and Learn About Conservation
The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is a large outdoor rescue and rehabilitation center for Alaskan wildlife. Take a leisurely walk outdoors and get up close and personal with bears, moose, lynx, and eagle that call the center home. You’ll also see plenty of temporary animals, such as elk, bison, or baby animals, being rehabilitated for release. This is a great center doing a lot of conservation in Alaska. They just added a viewing area where your chances of seeing the Cook Inlet Beluga Whale are high!
Get your admission ticket ahead of time, which is perfect to pair as part of a self-guided itinerary and drive to the center or complement the Turnagain Arm shuttle.
38. Visit Wolf Song of Alaska
In Eagle River, Wolf Song is a non-profit group working to raise awareness about Alaskan wolves and their conservation. They have a small museum and education center where you can learn about one of Alaska’s most magnificent apex predators and how vital they are to our state.
Please note: Wolf Song is undergoing renovations at this time and hopes to be open later in the year with a brand new center for you to explore. In the meantime, check out their website to learn more.
39. Visit Anchorage’s Botanical Garden
Anchorage’s Botanical Garden is a great way to see some of Alaska’s native plants. The center engages in research, conservation, and education. The 100-acre garden featuring the best of the boreal is a great little natural escape from the city. You can visit by yourself and explore the relaxing gardens. For more context, you can book admission with a guide to learn about local plants and animals – the area is known to be visited by bears and moose!
Things to do for Culture Connoisseur
Modern-day Alaskan culture is a blend of rich Indigenous culture along with colonial-era Russian and U.S. history. I suggest exploring a little of everything to get a taste of the city.
40. See the Blending of Native and Russian Culture
Make sure you visit Eklutna Village, a Native community, for a beautiful cultural experience. Eklutna is Anchorage’s oldest inhabited area, with Dena’ina Athabascan living here for 800 years. When Russians invaded in the 1840s and forced the Indigenous population to convert to Russian Orthodoxy, they built Anchorage’s oldest still-standing building, St. Nicholas’ Church. Along with the church, you can see colorful spirit houses, a Dena’ina tradition for housing the spirits of the dead. This blending of Orthodoxy and Indigenous culture is fascinating. The park is open in the summer with tours M-F during the day, and you can reach out if you are visiting off-season. Please book a tour with a Native guide and support this small village of 70 people.
Up for a walk? Since you drove all the way out to Eklutna, add on a small hike to Thunderbird Falls for rainforest-like nature and a powerful waterfall.
41. Wear Qiviut from a Native Co-Op
When in downtown Anchorage, stop by Oomingmak Co-Op to learn about the native tradition of knitting Qiviut. Qiviut is Musk-Ox wool 8x warmer than sheep wool and light as a feather. Meet some Indigenous women to learn about the project that employs hundreds of them with a sustainable income. Each region has a unique Indigenous design you can take home on a scarf, hat, or sweater. The price tag is a little high, but it is worth it for this truly unique gift from Alaska.
42. See Native Culture and Dance
I mentioned stopping by the Alaska Native Heritage Center, but it is worth highlighting again for its amazing song and dance programs. The center is owned and operated by Indigenous Alaskans and run by my good friend Emily! The stage is set for Native dancing and storytelling, and you even have the opportunity to see Native Olympic athletes wow you with their athletic abilities centered around subsistence hunting. After a show, walk outside to see how the different tribes build homes and see Indigenous art.
The 4th Avenue Market Place downtown also hosts 3x weekly shows of traditional Native dance during the summer months.
43. Experience Fur Rondy
For a blending of all three cultures, you must visit in February for the Fur Rendezvous, known locally as the Fur Rondy. This cultural event is a huge part of Anchorage, and locals look forward to it yearly. For an entire week, Alaskans come from around the state for the running of the reindeer, outhouse races, snow sculpture contests, carnival rides, and more. It all leads up to the Iditarod official and ceremonial start, a beloved event for Alaskans around the state.
Things to Do for Art Aficionados
Alaskans are a creative bunch who build and create almost everything with their hands. Anchorage is an excellent place to see this handiwork and art on display.
44. Attend the Theater
The Alaska Center for Performing Arts is a top-notch concert and theater hall with three different halls. Book tickets in advance to see international musicals like Chicago and Lion King or local musicians and dance performances.
45. Buy Local Art to Take Home
Anchorage is home to dozens of art galleries teaming with local Alaskan artists. My favorites downtown are Sevigny Studio, Cabin Fever Gifts, and Stephan Fine Arts Gallery. For a selection of authentic Native Art, you can take home, check out the gift shop in the Anchorage Museum.
46. Check out the Street Art
Anchorage has a lot of fun street art. You can’t miss the colorful murals across 4th and 5th Avenue. The alleyways between B & F are known locally as Ziggy’s Alley, as one artist covers the walls with images of Alaska.
If you want a beautiful Indigenous-painted mural, head to the Covenant House on 8th and Barrow for a beautifully created one by Apayuq.
The “Greetings from Alaska” mural is located on 5th and Fairbanks.
Anchorage’s newest piece replaced a mural upholding colonial values with a refreshing and colorful Indigenous art piece created by Crystal. Her epic mural is on G and 7th downtown.
47. Appreciate 1% for art
Anchorage spends 1% of its annual budget on art – which is quite a lot, so keep an eye out for city-funded art. One thing that stands out the most is the colorful bears around the town, each painted by a different artist. One can is in front of the Anchorage Visitor Center, and another is wearing fishing boots at the end of 6th and Lst. Some of this art is outside the Anchorage museum, including some funky animals and a controversial human made out of blocks, and the Nesbett Courthouses have some traditional totem poles out front.
48. Attend a First Friday
Every first Friday of the month, Anchorage’s art community comes together to feature local artists alongside live music, drink specials, and more! Dozens of bars, restaurants, and art galleries host events, so turn it into an art crawl. If you happen to be in Anchorage on a first Friday, find all the best events on Facebook.
49. Support Anchorage’s Local Theater Scene
Cyrano’s Theater Company is a small intimate theater located off 4th Ave. Cyrano’s is run by a group of local thespians. Stopping by to see a show is a great way to see classics and original theater pieces by Alaskan actors.
The Best Things to Do for History Buffs
I’ve already suggested a few ways to explore Native history and culture, so this primarily focuses on ways to learn about more recent history since colonization.
50. Stay at the Historic Anchorage Hotel
With roots dating back to 1936, the Historic Anchorage Hotel is an old-fashioned but charming option for downtown accommodation in Anchorage. The location of the building was once the central hub and one of the few places you could get a sit-down meal in Anchorage’s early days as a city. The hotel itself is said to be haunted, but that adds to the charm.
51. Learn About the Earthquake
My mom, a lifelong Alaskan who lived here before it was a state, survived the second-largest earthquake in human recorded history. She describes her experience of seeing telephone poles bending with the seismic waves – hitting the ground, and then snapping back up. She remembers images of her sister being picked up as she crawled down the hall and tossed around like a rag doll. People she knew were carried out to sea in a massive tsunami – never to be seen again. This powerful earthquake shaped Alaskan history and the layout of the city. Visit Earthquake Park to learn about this tragedy.
52. WWII History in Anchorage
Alaska played a sizable role in WWII, and there are a few options for those wanting to learn more about that history. Ft. Richardson National Cemetery is the final resting place for veterans, including Canadians and Russians. A cenotaph honors the cremated remains of 235 Japanese soldiers who died in the Aleutian campaign. You can easily access our military base if you are a military member. If you are a civilian, you can request recreational access.
Off base, the 11th Air Force Monument is located on DeBarr and Lake Otis on the south side of Merrill Field airstrip. The Alaska Veterans Museum also includes the military history of Alaska. The Aviation History Museum hangers have a lot of veteran volunteers who would love to share the military history of Alaska with you while exploring some of AK’s Aviation History.
53. See 4th Avenue Theater
The 4th Avenue Theater is an iconic piece of history in Alaska. The architecture is a classic 1940s with a bold neon sign. Unfortunately, it has been closed and sold to a foreign business with plans to destroy it. Anchorage locals are trying to save the theater, but our efforts may be in vain. The outside is worth seeing while you can.
UPDATE AUGUST 2022: The city has begun demolition of this iconic building. I had my prom here, and it held a special place in many locals’ lives. Many are saddened by its destruction after a long campaign to try and save and revitalize the building. If you visit summer 2023, this building will likely be gone. I’ll leave the photo up as a remembrance.
54. Take a Ghost Tour of Anchorage
Experience Anchorage’s history with the help of the living dead. A long-time Anchorage local will take you around the city with enthralling storytelling. The Ghost Tours of Anchorage run May-Sept. No reservation is necessary; show up and be ready for an alternative walking tour of Anchorage.
55. Visit the Oscar Anderson House
The Anderson House is a museum in one of Anchorage’s first modern-day houses, built in the early 1900s. Here you can learn about what life was like for early white colonizers. Anderson claimed to have been the 18th person to have stepped foot in Anchorage. We all know that is a bunch of bull shit because thousands of Athabascan People lived in the area, so don’t believe everything the museum tells you, as it is a one-sided look at recent white history in Alaska. Please visit with that in mind. However, it does provide some context for colonial history in Anchorage.
Geeky Things to Do in Anchorage
Anchorage has plenty of great options for my fellow science lovers and geeks.
56. Do the Planet Walk
Starting at the sun on 5th and G downtown, you can walk the entire coastal trail to Pluto at Kincaid in a to-scale planet walk. Learn about the planets as you explore one of Anchorage’s most scenic areas. At the sun, you can learn some Native stories about the sun, moon, and stars. A leisurely pace mimics the speed of light. The walk takes about 5.5 hours one way; a bike ride might take about 2 hours. You might want to make sure you have a ride back home, or call a Lyft.
57. Visit the Planetarium
If you prefer not to walk the entire solar system, head to the planetarium at our local university University of Alaska Anchorage. Get your anchorage planetarium tickets and see what is showing online. The Anchorage Museum also has a smaller planetarium – but I suggest you support my Alma Mater, UAA. Omega Smith, who does the UAA shows, is great!
58. Learn About Alaska with Hands-On Learning
The Discovery Center, attached to the Anchorage Museum, explores Alaska through tactile science, technology, and visual displays. Learn about Arctic and Alaskan ecosystems’ geology, aurora, volcanoes, earthquakes, and biodiversity. This is fun for the whole family and a great place to bring kids, but it is also great for adults.
59. See the World’s Largest Seaplane Base
Visit Lake Hood to watch float planes take off and land. These small seaplanes are what connect Alaska due to limited road access. Stop by the bar at the Millennium Hotel and sit on their deck right off Lake Hood to enjoy the planes with a drink in hand. While you’re here, don’t miss Alaska’s Aviation Museum!
60. Visit the Alaska Museum of Science and Nature
One of my favorite museums in Anchorage, the Museum of Science and Nature, is underrated and under-visited. It is a great place to learn about prehistoric times in Alaska, including dinosaurs and ice-age mammoths. If you’re into geology, there are fantastic rock and mineral displays. See a real beluga skeleton and learn about marine animals and bird species.
61. Get Your Cosplay on!
If you’re more of the Anime Cosplay loving geek, don’t miss Alaska’s annual Senshi-Con with panel discussions, live DJs, cosplay contests, and more. This is an annual event usually held in September.
62. Visit Alaska’s Best Escape Room
Alaska Escape Rooms is a family-owned escape room that relies on local talent to bring you a one-of-a-kind experience. Alaska Escape Rooms has hired local inventors, actors, artists, and writers to help create living stories for an immersive and interactive guest experience. If you love escape rooms, this experience is a great one to brag about, and if you haven’t tried an escape room, then this is a great place to start. My family and I did this escape room last winter and it is incredible – try and escape from a series of 4 rooms all while enjoying a fantastic ambiance.
Things to Do on a Budget in Anchorage
Anchorage can be a bit expensive, especially if you are planning the trip of a lifetime with high-priced adventures like flightseeing and glacier excursions. Many things I mentioned are budget-friendly or free, but here are a few more things to do in Anchorage without the sticker shock.
63. Watch People Fishing
One of the coolest things you can do in Anchorage is totally free! Head down to ship creek to see locals fishing right in the heart of the city! Standing on the bridge and looking down, you can spot the salmon swimming into the inlet.
64. Enjoy Music in the Park
During the summer months, every Wednesday, down local and visitors alike for free music downtown. Right next to the Anchorage Visitor Center on 4th Avenue is a sunny patch of grass for mid-day music sessions. If you’re visiting on a Thursday evening, head to the Town Square for the Live After Five free music concert with food trucks and more.
For more free things to do downtown, stay updated with the Anchorage Downtown Partnership.
65. Ride the Anchorage Trolley
My friend Cyrus runs the Anchorage Trolley, and it is a fun way to get around Anchorage while learning about its history and geology. For only $20, you can get a narrated trolly experience around Anchorage as you see everything from Earthquake Park to historic downtown. They even offer a Deluxe hop on hop off tour for those that want a few minutes at four different stop to take photos.
66. Take a Virtual Ride Through Alaska
The Alaska Experience Theater is a small theater downtown showing feature films about the earthquake, the northern lights, and Alaska’s Wildlife. They have shows every 30 minutes in May-September for just a couple of bucks.
67. Peruse the Saturday Market
The Anchorage Saturday Market, which used to be downtown, has moved to South Anchorage. It is now located in the Dimond Parking Lot. This is unfortunate as it requires a car, but it is a lively place to get street food or shop for local products. You’ll find a few budget deals mixed in with quality art, but looking doesn’t cost a thing.
Top Annual Events and Festivals in Anchorage
These annual events are a great reason to plan your trip to experience them in person. I already mentioned the Fur Rondy, so I left it out here.
68. Party at Midnight
Every Summer Solstice, Anchorage locals throw a party to celebrate our 22 hours of daylight. Located right downtown, you’ll find games, food, street vendors, live music, and more.
69. Girdwood Festivals
The town of Girdwood always has something happening, from its annual Forest Fair, the Blueberry Festival, the Mushroom Festival, and the Spring Carnival. Check the Alyeska Hotel’s website for all the fun local events.
70. Celebrate the 4th of July
I’m sure every city in the U.S. has a 4th of July celebration, but if you’re in Anchorage to celebrate, make sure you head downtown to the Delaney Park Strip for everything from a pancake breakfast to a wholesome parade.
71. Support Pride Week
Show your support for Anchorage’s wonderful LGBTQI community in a colorful week-long PRIDE celebration at the Delaney Park Strip. Daily events include 150 vendors, live music, a pride parade, a beer garden, and plenty of family-friendly activities. This event is usually the last week of June, around the 21-27th.
72. Attend Alaska’s State Fair
Check our annual state fair dates if you are in the Anchorage area in the autumn, around August/September. It is about an hour and a half drive away in an adorable town called Palmer. Visiting the fair is a great way to learn about Alaska’s farming culture while you also can enjoy rides, food, music, and local products.
Local Things to Do in Anchorage
Most locals do all of the above regularly, but I’ll share a few hidden gems with you, from bakeries to a secret beach.
73. Hit the Beach
Want to hit the beach in Anchorage? Well, it is a thing you can do! Head to Pt. Campbell Park for a relaxing place to watch the waves lap along the shore. It is not the easiest place to get to or very accessible, but if you’re down for a little adventure, it is worth the trek for endless views over the inlet. You can even see Fire Island – where Anchorage’s wind power is generated. I do not recommend swimming at this beach, as the water is cold and there is glacial silt. But, I DO recommend doing as the locals do, taking a small picnic with a bottle of wine and enjoying some fresh air and great views.
While in the area, check out Anchorage’s dunes in Kincaid Park.
If you want to go swimming in the summer, head to Jewel Lake or Goose Lake, which have designated swimming areas and lifeguards on duty. Pack your swimmers, some local beer, a picnic, and a few games.
74. Watch a Movie While You Eat Alaska’s Best Pizza
One of my favorite things to do as a local is to head to the Bear Tooth movie theater. Grab a seat, catch a cheap movie, eat some of the best pizzas, and drink some of the best beer in town. Check the Bear Tooth Theater for what is playing and get your tickets.
75. Rock out at Williwaw
If you want to hang out with some of Anchorage’s hippest people, check out some of the events at the Williwaw Social. They host everything from yoga and beer to world-class electronic DJs like Nero, bingo nights, and local bands. This is your place if you love live music, food, and friendly people.
76. Watch a Baseball Game
The Anchorage Glacier Pilots are the home team, and locals love going out and supporting the team! Take advantage of those long summer days and head to the ballpark for local baseball action.
Dress The Part
The last thing I recommend you do in Anchorage is dress like a local. Grab a pair of X-Tra Tuffs from Big Rays downtown. These boots are the footwear of Alaska, and people even get married in them – I know I did, haha. Pair those boots with a flannel and some Carharts, and you’re a real Anchorage local!
Don’t Forget to Book Accommodation.
What is Your Favorite Thing to Do in Anchorage?
Let me know in the comments if you have a favorite thing I missed. Be sure to share this with your favorite Alaskan Pinterest board for future inspiration. Whether it is winter and you’re seeing the Aurora