As Alaska’s largest city, Anchorage serves as the perfect base to explore the adventure-filled wonders of Alaska. The city seamlessly blends the wild, untamed beauty of Alaska with modern urban conveniences, and a rich tapestry of native arts and culture. Discover glistening glaciers, diverse wildlife, eclectic cuisine, and the captivating spectacle of the northern lights. So come wander with us as we explore the top ten things to do and see in this urban and wild city.
1. Chase the Northern Lights
The glowing aurora borealis can often be seen in the skies above Alaska from mid-August through April, making it something you can add to your itinerary in any season. Many of the prime locations are easily accessible from Anchorage, and the milder winter temperatures are perfect for outdoor aurora chasing. We recommend booking a tour with one of the many local guides that will help you find the perfect spot to snap that magical photo.
2. Get Up Close to Icy Blue Glaciers
There are 60 glaciers within driving distance of Anchorage, and there are plenty of ways to see them. You can take a scenic road trip to one of the most accessible glaciers, explore a ten-story tall tower of ice by boat, kayak in a lake filled with flowing ice or even revel in the beauty of icebergs while dining at a AAA Four-Diamond restaurant where every table has panoramic glacier and water views.
3. Sample World-Class Cuisine
Anchorage is a melting pot of different cultures, which is reflected in its diverse culinary scene. You’ll find local chefs cooking up Alaskan specialties such as wild salmon, king crab, halibut, Baked Alaska and more, but you’ll also find family-owned German, Hawaiian, Japanese and Vietnamese eateries, BBQ joints and world-famous pizzerias (yes, Anchorage is known to have some of the best pizza in the U.S). And don’t forget to stop by the farmers’ markets and food truck stands to try local dishes such as reindeer hot dogs, wild blueberry ice cream and wildflower honey. Is your mouth watering yet?
Photo credit: Nicole Geils
4. Go Dog Sledding
With Anchorage as your starting point, dog sledding is one unforgettable adventure that is available year-round. In the summer, take an awe-inspiring helicopter ride to the top of a glacier where your mushers and dog sledding team await for a truly memorable experience. You can even cuddle with the puppies and learn how to drive the dog team yourself! Visiting in the winter? Don’t miss the iconic Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race that begins in Anchorage on the first Saturday of March each year. Cheer on these amazing furry athletes as they begin their nearly 1,000-mile journey to Nome.
5. Take to the Skies
Take to the skies from the city with the most pilots and planes per capita in the United States. Anchorage is home to the busiest floatplane base in the world, and for good reason. Flightseeing is one of the best ways to take in Alaska’s natural beauty. The breathtaking views of the mountains, glaciers and wildlife will leave a lasting impression on you long after you leave.
Photo credit: Ashley Heimbigner
6. Immerse Yourself in the Rich Cultural Heritage
Located within the traditional homelands of the Dena’ina Athabascan people and the Native Village of Eklutna, Anchorage offers visitors a distinctive cultural encounter unique to this area. The Alaska Native Heritage Center and the Anchorage Museum offer opportunities to learn about the Indigenous peoples of this area and experience the art, music, performances, and traditions that live on through the locals today.
Photo credit: Julie Dodds
7. Spot the Wildlife
In Anchorage, you’re never far from some of Alaska’s most iconic wildlife. You may see moose leisurely strolling down an urban bike path, or black bears roaming through expansive parks and hillside berry patches. White beluga whales can be spotted navigating the shores of Cook Inlet, and birders can enjoy watching migratory birds gathering in Potter Marsh. The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is also the perfect place for guaranteed wildlife viewing including reindeer, brown and black bears, bald eagles, bison, lynx, muskoxen, wolves and more.
Photo credit: Ashley Heimbigner
8. Pan for Gold
Families young and old alike will love prospecting for gold at the Crow Creek Historic Gold Mine. Learn the different ways to pan for gold and relive the history of Alaska’s Gold Rush era while taking in the beautiful mountain scenery. Plus, don’t miss their weekly salmon bakes featuring live music for a truly memorable experience.
Photo credit: Kristian Irey
9. Relax at a Nordic Spa
Alaska’s stunning natural beauty is the perfect setting for a relaxing and rejuvenating retreat. Indulge at Alaska’s first Nordic Spa designed to both calm and revitalize the body and mind. Nestled amid the breathtaking landscapes of the Chugach Mountains and enveloped by the rainforest, the Alyeska Nordic Spa features a hydrotherapy pool, barrel saunas, massage rooms, and more with a focus on a hot and cold approach and a variety of pools set to specific temperatures creating a rejuvenating therapy cycle. Experience Alaska’s First Nordic Spa
Photo credit: Nicole Geils
10. Watch the Bore Tide
If you’re looking for a truly unique experience while visiting Anchorage, head south along the Seward Highway to watch the Turnagain Arm bore tide, which is one of the largest in the world. What is a bore tide you ask? It’s a rush of seawater returning to a shallow and narrowing inlet from a broad bay created by the full or new moon. It creates a large wide wave that can get up to 6 feet tall, and it’s quite a sight to see. You may even spot some adventurous surfers riding the wave and beluga whales coming in to feed on the fish.
By Staff Contributor in partnership with Visit Anchorage
Visit Anchorage Visitor Guide