Anchorage: It Isn't All Wildlife and Fishing in Alaska!
Hey! Where's All the Igloos?!
I first moved to Alaska in 1992. It was an unusual change of life for me considering that Alaska was one of the last places on Earth I thought I would ever live. Much less visit. I was a city boy. Having spent the first twenty-five years of my life in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Sure, I had done "outdoorsy" things growing up. For example, we spent a week each summer in a cabin by a lake in central Minnesota. I loved it! But, at the end of each of those weeks, I was ready for the familiar trappings of suburban life. With its shopping malls, movie theaters, and baseball stadiums. So, you're probably asking yourself why I moved to Alaska then. Without going in to great detail (I know you probably didn't click on this article to hear about me), I was single, had just been rejected for entrance in to the Air Force (for medical reasons), had a job I hated, and was ready for a major life change. Some friends from high school had already moved here a couple of years before. One of them had met and married a girl from Alaska when she had briefly transplanted to Minnesota and they had moved back to be with her family. So, there it is in a nutshell. Alaska was about the only place in the world I could go where I actually knew people. So, I packed everything I owned in to my 1985 Ford Escort (selling everything else that wouldn't fit) and I made the three thousand mile trek northward! Fast forward to over twenty years later, where I currently reside in Soldotna, Alaska with my wife and two children.
There is a bit of culture shock when you arrive in Alaska. For example, you begin to notice that Alaska doesn't consist of igloos. In fact, you'd have to travel north to the Arctic Circle to find an one (and maybe even then you'd have some trouble). There is actual civilization here! Okay, the civilization is in a much more rustic setting than much of what you find in the lower 48 (what we call the contiguous US here in Alaska). But, that's primarily in the more rural settings. However, if you're from the city and wonder if Alaska offers something that reminds you more of home or you've just had your fill of mosquito infested campgrounds and that pronounced fish smell, then try Anchorage! Located in the south central portion of the state (just above the Kenai Peninsula where I live). Yes, it's an actual city! Alaska's largest and most populated city, to be exact. And, if you'll be visiting the Kenai Peninsula, it's likely you'll be flying in to Anchorage's Ted Stevens International Airport. Anchorage is, for all intents and purposes, an urban setting! With freeways, overpasses, office buildings, familiar big box retailers, shopping malls, a Starbucks every five feet, museums, concert halls, restaurants, a zoo, and more! In fact, when you're in Anchorage, you start to forget that you're surrounded by over a half million square miles of wilderness to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The only real indication you have that you're in Alaska is from the Chugach Mountains that overlook the city from the east.
My family and I often make the three hour trip up by car to Anchorage several times a year. Although Soldotna and its sister city, Kenai, have plenty of the modern conveniences, like, a Walmart and lots of great restaurants, we like the change of scenery and the abundance of shopping variety that we don't have where we live. And Anchorage also has its share of annual events that are worth partaking in. There's a large market and festival that takes place from May through early September in the downtown area. Also in downtown is the Solstice Festival in late June and a big Fourth of July parade and festival. Plus, the city boasts a few large arenas that play host to a number of sporting events, trade shows, and big name acts throughout the year. There's also a world class museum that features a discovery center for kids with lots of hands on activities! Not to mention a long list of great restaurants that would be worth your time and money. Anchorage also recently opened its very own Hard Rock Cafe! That may not impress some people, but, believe me, in Alaska, that's a big deal! And if you're like me, you mark each city stop on your journeys with a souvenir guitar pin with the location printed on it!
If you clicked on this article, hoping to find an extensive and detailed list of everything to do in Anchorage, my apologies. There are, however, some great websites that will give you everything you need for a well planned trip. My main purpose in writing this is to dispel any myths some may have about Alaska being merely a wilderness destination where roughing it is your only alternative. There is an oasis of concrete, commercialism, and citified culture that exists for those of you who just need a break from the bug bites in Anchorage.