15 Cannot Miss Things to do in Anchorage

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Anchorage is like few other cities in the United States because Alaska’s largest city is where nature collides with urban life. There are a lot of incredible things to do in Anchorage, from hiking or sightseeing in small planes to wildlife watching in the wilderness.

Anchorage is surrounded by spectacular glaciers, mountain peaks, and fjords, and with the nearby Chugach State Park found within the city limits, it’s common to see moose and even bears wandering through downtown.

Aside from nature though, as this is Alaska’s largest city, there are some excellent museums and historical sights to visit too when you are in Anchorage.

Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Alaska (Travel Guide)

15 Things to do in Anchorage, Alaska

Chugach National Forest - Anchorage, Alaska

1. Chugach State Park

Exploring Chugach State Park is one of the best things to do in Anchorage, and this vast natural preserve is found technically within the city limits. The park is home to a wide array of wildlife, and you can easily spot moose and occasionally bears if you venture into this wilderness.

Chugach State Park is renowned for its mountains, its glaciers, and its lakes, and you’ll find some of Alaska’s most scenic sights within the park boundaries, including the mystical Eklutna Lake and the beautiful Eagle River.

Our top recommended tours of Chugach State Park:

Chugach State Park - Anchorage Alaska

2. Turnagain Arm

One of the most popular things to do in Anchorage is to visit Turnagain Arm, which is located within Chugach State Park. Turnagain Arm is a long waterway that runs to the south of Anchorage, from the Cook Inlet, which then runs into the Gulf of Alaska.

Huge mountains are found along Turnagain Arm, but the area is noted for its accessibility because the main highway from Anchorage runs along the waterway. It’s one of the most incredible road trips you can make, or you can join a boat cruise from the city to see the landscapes from the water.

Our top recommended tours of Turnagain Arm:

Things to do in Anchorage

3. Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

Along the Seward Highway which hugs Turnagain Arm, you’ll reach the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, a sanctuary that provides shelter and treatment to local animals.

It’s one of the best things to do in Anchorage if you are looking to get close to the animals, but you don’t fancy an unfortunate meeting in the wilderness with a black bear.

You can drive or walk through the park, and you’ll see all the diversity of Alaska’s wildlife in the different areas found on site. The center is a way to educate both locals and tourists about Alaska’s wildlife. 

It is also an important research center, and you can learn about the conservation efforts being undertaken across the state, to preserve the unique biodiversity.

Our top recommended tours of the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center:

Things to do in Anchorage Alaska

4. Anchorage Museum

To learn more about the history of Alaska and Anchorage, then head to the excellent Anchorage Museum in downtown. This is the state’s largest museum, although it had incredibly humble beginnings when it opened in the 1960s with just a few select exhibits.

It’s since expanded and moved into a huge building, where you can explore the history of indigenous cultures and the subsequent settlers who populate Alaska today.

The museum has many archaeological, gold mining and anthropological relics collected from across the state, but as well as this, you can also peruse the wonderful art gallery which is dedicated to Alaskan landscapes and paintings. 

Things to do in Anchorage Alaska

5. Anchorage Native Heritage Center

For a more in-depth look at the indigenous cultures found in Alaska, then a visit to the Native Heritage Center is one of the best things to do in Anchorage. The center is found outside of the city, with many of the exhibits in a wonderful outdoor setting.

You can learn more about the different ethnicity that makes up native Alaska and learn about the diverse history, heritage and language of each individual group.

The Native Heritage Center tirelessly attempt to promote and to preserve Alaska’s original cultures, and alongside the vast collection of unique artifacts on display, you can enjoy shows and performances that showcase native dance and artistry.  

Our top recommended tours of Anchorage Native Heritage Center:

Things to do in Anchorage Alaska

6. Tony Knowles Coastal Trail

The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail is a long walking and cycling route that runs from downtown Anchorage and along the coast before ending at Kincaid Park. It’s 11 miles long and consists of paved roads, and a bike tour is the best way to see the trail in summer.

In winter, when the path is snowed over, the trail becomes popular with cross country skiers. You’ll have excellent views out into the Gulf of Alaska, as well as spectacular views of the city’s skyline.

Our top recommended tours of Tony Knowles Coastal Trail:

Things to do in Anchorage

7. Anchorage Brewing Company

Take a break from sightseeing or hiking to enjoy the city’s burgeoning craft beer scene with a visit to the Anchorage Brewing Company. The small microbrewery has fast become a popular stop on the tourist circuit for visitors looking to indulge in a few beverages during their stay in the city.

You can tour through the premises, to see first hand how the beers are brewed, or you can simply sit back at the bar and enjoy a few drinks in a friendly atmosphere.

Our top recommended tours of Anchorage Craft Breweries:

Things to do in Anchorage

8. Portage Glacier

For a bit more adventure, then head out of the city to visit Portage Glacier, which is part of the Chugach National Forest. Found by Portage Lake, the glacier makes for one of the most popular day trips from Anchorage, and there are several ways to visit.

You can hike, mountain bike or in winter ski to the glacier, but the best way to get close is to join a Portage Glacier Cruise. The boat will take you across the lake, and you’ll be able to stand just a few hundred meters from the wall of sheer ice that is slowly retreating and filling the lake.

Our top recommended tours of Portage Glacier:

Things to do in Anchorage

9. Whittier

Just a few miles away from the Portage Glacier, you can find the sleepy town of Whittier, which is located at the far edge of the Passage Canal.

Whittier is in spectacular surroundings, and you can cruise across the waterways and immerse yourself in the fjord-like scenery that would be more at home in Norway than Alaska.

As well as the scenery though, Whittier is known for its unusual quirks, which includes the unique fact that most of the 200 or so residents all live in the same, single tower block.

Things to do in Anchorage

10. Matanuska Glacier

Another spectacular glacier to visit when you are staying in Anchorage is the Matanuska Glacier, which makes for a popular spot for ice hiking. You can day trip here from the city, but you’ll be instantly transported from an urban world into an icy world.

The glacier is enormous, and you can join tours that take intrepid hikers out onto the ice and in search of hidden ice caves and underground caverns.

Our top recommended tours of Matanuska Glacier:

Things to do in Anchorage

11. Glacier Discovery Train

The Glacier Discovery Train is a fantastic way to travel across the state from Anchorage, and you can ride the railway south to Seward, and be back in the city for dinner the same day.

The unique train ride will take you in comfort past spectacular scenery, but it only runs in the summertime when the weather allows it. There are several stops to the south, and you can call in at Whittier, Portage, or head down further to the Spencer Glacier.

Things to do in Anchorage

12. Spencer Glacier

The Spencer Glacier is one of the best spots on the scenic railway from Anchorage, and in fact, the train is the only way to reach this isolated part of Chugach National Forest.

From the rail stop, you’ll walk along a nature trail to a viewing point where you’ll be able to see both the impressive glacier and the Spencer Lake that the ice is slowly falling away into.

Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Alaska (Travel Guide)

Things to do in Anchorage

13. Dog-sledding

If you’re in the city in winter, then one of the best things to do in Anchorage is dog-sledding. This local tradition is one of the most unique ways to travel around when the snow and ice blanket the roads.

You can take trips out into the wilderness in search of wildlife or see the Northern Lights, and you’ll have the chance to get close to nature and to see more of the local culture in the wintertime.

Our top recommended tours including Dog-sledding:

Things to do in Anchorage

14. Flight-seeing

The most spectacular way to get around Alaska is by airplane, and from Anchorage, you’ll find plenty of companies offering aerial tours of the wilderness and the national parks.

Known as Flight-seeing, it’s a fantastic way to reach destinations that you might otherwise not be able to travel to given the time and distance involved.

Our top recommended tour of Flight-seeing:

Things to do in Anchorage

15. Denali National Park and Preserve

Denali National Park and Preserve is one of the most famous national parks in the United States because it’s home to the towering Denali Mountain, the highest peak on the continent.

Otherwise known as Mount McKinley, the peak rises to the staggering height of 6144 meters and is perpetually covered in snow.

While you won’t be attempting to summit Denali without plenty of training and experience, you can enjoy the rest of the national park on long day trips from Anchorage. 

You can also take the scenic option and enjoy a flight-seeing tour from the city that takes you over the vast wilderness and provides exceptional aerial views of the mountains.

Our top recommended tours of Denali National Park and Preserve:

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About David Stock

I have always been an outdoorsman so becoming an adventure traveler was just the next natural step. I love nature, I love to get off the beaten path and I like to explore. I enjoy scuba diving and cars. And yes, Lina and I have a naked dog.

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