In this post, I want to cover what to do in Anchorage Alaska, because I was reading a fellow travel blogger Traveling Tanya’s blog, and she has a great article about being a tourist in your own city.
This city has so much to offer, and deciding what to do in Anchorage Alaska it’s really going to depend on what month of the year you are looking at. This is because, being so close to the arctic circle the temperatures and the sunlight varies tremendously from summer to winter, and so the activities that you can do.
Few facts about Anchorage Alaska, before we dig in
Anchorage Alaska is the place I call home for now. In 2007 I moved here looking to give my family a better quality of life, and 12 years later I’m still here.
Even though Anchorage is the fourth largest city in the US by land area, it’s a very small city in population with only about 295,000 people, yet it’s the largest city of Alaska by a lot. As you might have concluded, Anchorage is still a small city, and because of that, I usually get this question from people all over the world: Do you live in an igloo? so let’s get that question out of the way.
No, I don’t live in an igloo, but frequently the city does feel small for my taste; at the end of the day, I’m a city girl!
The truth is that I love to travel, hence I started my blog, and being from Panama I miss the heat and the sun; but fortunately, Anchorage’s location in the globe puts it within 9.5 hours of flying time to almost 90% of the industrialized world. FedEx takes advantage of this by having a hub here. Sigh… If only commercial airlines would take advantage of that also, my traveling getaways would be so much easier.
So you understand why I’m dividing my thoughts about what to do in Anchorage Alaska between summer months and winter months; in the summer the daytime temperatures average between 55 to 78 F while in winter the average temperature drops between 5 and 30 F. The daylight gets also affected. Our longest day is 20 hours of sunlight this is in June, but it never really gets dark. It’s more like dusk. On the other hand in December the sunlight is only 4 hours, and the other 20 are really dark.
With that said, let’s explore what to do in Anchorage Alaska, and as Traveling Tanya would say as a tourist in your own city.
What to do in Anchorage Alaska in the summer months
1. Fishing for Wild Salmon
Between the month of June to late August there are several runs of wild salmon coming into Anchorage creeks and rivers. At different times you can get King Salmon, Sockeye Salmon or Silver Salmon. These creeks actually run into the city of Anchorage or to places that are a short drive from Anchorage. The best part is that this is a family activity so much that it’s even something that our daughters enjoy doing.
One amazing thing is that the fish are literally begging you to get them out of the water, if not how do you explain that even I have been able to get a salmon. Trust me, that was pure luck. You would know that if you know me.
The salmon that I caught was about 18 pounds, but of course, you can always do a day trip from Anchorage into Seward or Homer, and experience that way real fishing and maybe if you are lucky you can catch a 70 pounds or more halibut.
2. Hiking Flattop
This mountain is literally 25 minutes drive from downtown Anchorage, and 15 minutes from my house. It has a 3.3 mile heavily trafficked loop, which makes it safer considering that Anchorage has lots of wildlife roaming around, and it features beautiful wildflowers and berries. Even though the trail is accessible year round, it’s really a pretty sight in summer, and kids really enjoy the blueberry trail which is not too difficult for them, yet give them some sense of accomplishment and the rewards of the amazing views that flattop has to offer.
3. Observe the wildlife
There are two places in Anchorage where you can observe wildlife safely: The Alaska Zoo, where you can see from Polar Bears to Eagles and pretty much everything in between, or the Wildlife Conservation Center just outside Anchorage. In this last place, the animals are basically in their natural habitat which is super cool.
However, if you are lucky you might be able to see bears and moose just walking around town. If you do, please just stay away from them, these animals as magnificent as they are, are not pets nor like to be stalked.
Living in Anchorage, sometimes we get to see these animals roaming around. This picture is from a condo I was renting 2 years ago while I was transitioning from my old house to the new house.
This bull moose was literally feet away from my deck, kind of cool and nerve-racking at the same time.
4. Walk on a glacier
I have yet to do this, but I will add it to my bucket list for this summer. There is a glacier super close to Anchorage called the Matanuska glacier and people go all the time and walk in the glacier, in fact, my kids have done it, but of course, I wasn’t there so I don’t have that picture.
What to do in Anchorage Alaska in the winter months
1. Chase the Northern lights
Here is something I’m ashamed of admitting: Having lived in Alaska for 12 years, I’ve only seen these wonders once, and it was actually by chance.
About 4 years ago, I was coming back from Hawaii and the direct flight from Oahu to Anchorage lands at 5 am in the morning. It was a cold January day and as I was driving from the airport to my house I looked up and there they were the infamous northern lights.
I’ve seen how my friends in facebook post them sometimes, and they don’t even have to go far to see them. The only real conditions are that it has to be dark and cold. They usually are active at odd hours in the morning like from 2 am to 5 am hence why I haven’t seen them, but maybe next winter I’ll be a tourist and make sure I catch them again.
I might even take the Anchorage Northern Lights Tour myself.
2. Skiing at Alyeska Resort
Winters in Alaska are long, and a way to enjoy them is by doing winter sports. My two older kids are in a ski club and they ski every weekend at Alyeska Resort, only 45 minutes away from our house. There is also a small hill like 10 minutes away from the house, but even I will get bored in that small hill.
I used to ski when we lived in California. We used to go to Lake Tahoe, drive 3 hours each way on a weekend to go skiing. It was fun. I haven’t really skied much in Alaska, because I get too cold, but with the right equipment I hear is very enjoyable. I actually usually run into lots of people from my office at the ski hill. The only difference is that they go skiing and I’m just by the fire drinking something warm.
3. Watch the Iditarod
One winter thing that you only get to do in Anchorage Alaska, is to watch the beginning of the Iditarod also known as the Last Great Race on Earth. It’s basically a trail sled dog race, that has it’s origins back to when the only way of getting supplies to Western Alaska was using a sled.
The teams competing, race through blizzard conditions and this race is of such importance in Alaska that the mushers (that’s what the competitors are called) and their dogs become celebrities in the state.
The race has a ceremonial start Downtown Anchorage in March, and then the real start is the day later off Willow which is a town about 2 hours north of Anchorage.
This is definitely an activity for the entire family and we see many tourists coming into town during the Iditarod week to witness the activities.
Because this is such a popular event in Anchorage, tourist and locals alike can also get to experience what if feels like to drive your own dog sled.
4. Ice skating at Westchester Lagoon
Westchester Lagoon is located in the middle of Anchorage, very close to downtown in a residential area. On Sundays during the winter months usually in January and February when it’s the coldest and the ice is thick, they groom the surface of the lagoon and companies sponsor hot cocoa. This is a great family activity beloved by people of all ages.
What to do in Anchorage Alaska regardless of the season
Regardless of the season, Anchorage has some great restaurants that offer from a fine dining experience to a casual and cozy environment; but also there are many activities going on like the first Friday Art in downtown.
We also have a couple of museums around the city including The Anchorage Museum which is a large art, history, ethnography, ecology and science museum located in a modern building in the heart of Anchorage.
Day trips from Anchorage
Regardless of the season, you can always find a variety of day trips to go to and so many visitors of Anchorage use it as a hub. Some of these day trips to popular places like:
I will be reviewing those places in future blogs
I’m glad I came across Traveling Tanya’s to change my perspective about what to do in Anchorage Alaska. There is so much to do and see in my city and I will start looking at it as a tourist for sure.
If you have been to Anchorage please share with me what other things you did? I’m always looking for ideas and I’d like to connect with you.