Top Five Things to Do in Anchorage Alaska
Best things to do in Anchorage Alaska
Anchorage Alaska is more than a summertime cruise port or a cold and snowy winter destination. It turns out there are plenty of unique things to do in Anchorage. In fact, Anchorage is an eclectic mix of culture, history, and wildlife in a modern city intermixed with local hangouts with tourist spots.
Anchorage was our first stop of two summertime weeks in Alaska. We were in love with the state from the moment we got off the plane and discovered it was still light outside at midnight. It is an ideal city to begin our Alaska travels.
Tip: Keep your eyes open. Anchorage is surprisingly loaded with wildlife that can be spotted on the hills or in the sea.
Cruising out of Anchorage
Anchorage is a popular cruise port for those sailing the interior passage. The ships leave from either Whittier or Seaward, and passengers need at least half a day to get to their port of embarkation. If you arrive in Anchorage on the day or even the day before, you haven't allocated enough time to enjoy this amazing city.
We stayed for several days and could have stayed longer. We used private guide Steve Busby to transport us to our ship. He took us to three of the destinations below on the way. It is a much better option than simply taking a bus.
1. Alaskan Wildlife Conservation Center
Spotting wildlife is a highlight of any Alaskan holiday. But sometimes the animals need a bit of help. This is where the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center comes in. It is a sanctuary for preservation, education, investigation, and quality animal care, with the ultimate goal of protecting Alaska's wildlife.
The animals they take in were either injured or orphaned. Most are rehabilitated and returned to the wild, but those that cannot be released are given permanent homes that visitors can see. The enclosures are huge, therefore it feels very different from a zoo.
Getting here isn't easy. If you are cruising Alaska, it is best seen as part of your transport from Anchorage to Whittier.
Here are some of the animals we saw at the Wildlife Conservation Center
2. Alaska Native Heritage Center
Alaska Native Heritage Center should be on any things to do in Anchorage list.
Through storytelling, dance, demonstrations and life-size working models, we learned about Alaska's indigenous people and their traditions. The wooded grounds are beautiful and we enjoyed our stroll around Lake Tiulana as we "traveled through Alaska." We moved between authentic native dwellings of the Athabascan, Inupiaq/St. Lawrence Island Yupik, Yup'ik/Cup'ik, Aleut, Alutiiq, and the Eyak, Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian peoples.
At each clan house, we were greeted by native members to answer our questions.
There is a free shuttle bus from downtown.
Our afternoon at the Native Heritage Center in photos
Bring home your own piece of native Alaskan culture
A collaborative effort of 10 writers each representing one of Alaska's diverse native cultures. Each wrote about a specific value that they believe to be common to all, thus sharing the traditional stories that have been passed down through countless generations.
3. Anchorage Museum
The Anchorage Museum compliments the Native Heritage Center and is often mistakenly called the Alaska Museum. It highlights both the state's history, as well as its largest city, Anchorage. Interesting exhibits include the pipeline, aviation, native art, and the Imaginarium (hands-on opportunities to explore science).
There is also a planetarium show featuring the northern lights. As we visited Alaska in the summertime, we would not get to see these live, so this was our opportunity. The show is excellent.
Having fun at the Anchorage Museum
4. Lake Hood Sea Plane Base
The seaplane base in Anchorage is the busiest in the world. On average, 190 planes either take off or land each day. While we didn't fly anywhere, we enjoyed watching the activity and looking at the planes.
Watching the seaplanes is one of many things to do in Anchorage.
5. Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge
The popular boardwalk and viewing area at Potter's Marsh is a great spot to view the birds at the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge. This safe haven covers a 16 mile stretch along the Alaskan coast. It is abundant with birdlife and chicks including many migratory bird species like Canadian geese, swans, yellowlegs, and grebes.
Tip: Take caution if you are heading inland, as black bears are amongst the wildlife that lives in the woods.
Bird at the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge
Where is Anchorage?
Travel Tips for Visiting Anchorage
- The free shuttle bus to the Alaska Native Heritage Center from downtown also stops at the Anchorage Museum.
- If the salmon are running, be sure to stop at Ship Creek to watch the action.
- There is a log cabin visitor information center downtown and the staff are extremely helpful.
- If driving in and out of town, be sure to keep your eyes open for wild sheep, bald eagles, and beluga whales.
- Wear layers. The weather changes frequently, even in the summer.
© 2013 Rhonda Albom