I admit it, when I imagined visiting Alaska the last place I thought I’d enjoy was Anchorage. In my mind it was nothing more than the place the airplane lands before I head off to the wild. It ends up I was wrong.
Anchorage offers memorable cultural experiences, beautiful hikes, and great food. I found that there are many wonderful things to do in Anchorage Alaska – and then I felt bad for judging the city so harshly.
I’m fortunate to have family in Anchorage and they were kind enough to let my family stay with them during our Alaskan adventure. They showed us some of the best things to do in Anchorage and I’m excited to share them with you. But first, you need a little background on Anchorage.
Anchorage Alaska is in a beautiful setting, nestled between the mountains and the sea in southcentral Alaska. It’s the the largest city in Alaska, with 294,000 people. Amazingly, more than 40% of Alaska’s population lives in Anchorage, which goes to show how sparsely populated the state is.
Between the 1930s and the 1950s, Anchorage experienced massive growth as airplanes and the military became increasingly important. Then on March 27, 1964, Anchorage was rocked by the magnitude 9.2 Good Friday Earthquake. This tragic event killed 115 people and decimated the city structures.
Rebuilding dominated Anchorage in the mid-1960s, which is why you’ll see so many buildings from that era.
To be honest, Anchorage is a ugly city.
But you’re not here for architectural marvels, you’re here to learn about Alaskan history and culture, enjoy the surrounding beauty, and eat great food. There are so many great things to do in Anchorage Alaska.
Without further adieu, here are the best things to do in Anchorage Alaska:
- Anchorage Museum
- Alaska Native Heritage Center
- Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum
- Anchorage Market
- Hike Glen Alps
- Tony Knowles Coastal Trail
- Potter Marsh Bird Sanctuary
- The Alaska Zoo
- Anchorage Restaurants
The Anchorage Museum has exceptional displays showcasing art and artifacts from all Native Alaskan cultures as well as contemporary art from local and Native Alaskans. Learn about Native culture and experiences through art, video, and artifacts.
There are spectacular pieces on display. I learned so much about Native cultures and how they live in such a harsh landscape.
On the lower level, the Discovery Center is a hands-on science center geared toward kids. There are more than 80 interactive exhibits, including simulated earthquakes, volcanoes, auroras, tidal pools, and a bubble center.
Alaska Native Heritage Center
The Alaska Native Heritage Center offers a unique experience to learn and explore the traditional and contemporary lifestyles of Alaska’s Indigenous cultures.
Replicas of Native housing surround a lake and each house has a representative from the tribe who talks about traditional lifestyles. In the Gathering Place, you’re treated to Alaska Native dancing, Native Games demonstrations, and intriguing storytelling.
Don’t miss the Hall of Cultures, where Alaska Native artist demonstrate and sell their work. Take home a beautiful piece of traditional Alaska Native art and support the artists.
Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum
The remoteness of Alaska has made small plane travel a necessity. Learn about the history of flight at the Alaska Aviation Museum, which celebrates Alaska’s rich aviation history. Located on the world’s largest seaplane base, Lake Hood, you’ll have a chance to watch seaplanes take-off and land on the lake, which is absolutely thrilling to kids.
The museum presents displays of Alaskan aviation history with many interactive displays, memorabilia, photographs, ﬁlms and artifacts from personal collections of Alaska’s pioneer aviators.
The Anchorage Market is a huge summertime weekly outdoor market with a large variety of Alaskan arts and crafts, produce, food vendors, and imports. Its a family-friendly market with music and special events. A great place to get unique souvenirs and feel like a local.
Hike Glen Alps
Just outside of town you’ll find the beautiful Glen Alps. This is the beginning of Chugach State Park, where you’ll find lush meadows and mountain trails that lead to spectacular views of the city, sea, and mountains.
For the best views, climb to the top of Flattop Mountain. On a clear day you’ll find panoramic views from Denali to the Aleutian Islands.
If you’d prefer a slower pace, hike Blueberry Loop. This gorgeous hike is perfect for kids and there’s a chance to see wildlife. We saw a moose in the distance and heard marmots chirp along the trail. The lush meadows and surrounding mountains are beautiful.
Don’t have a car? No worries. There’s a shuttle that takes people from Anchorage to the Glen Alps trailhead.
Tony Knowles Coastal Trail
This paved eleven-mile trail begins downtown and gently winds along the coast to the chalet at Kincaid Park. You’re treated to beautiful views of mountains across the inlet and wildlife is often seen on the trail, including moose and bear.
Biking is the best way to enjoy the trail. Pablo Bicycle Rentals is one block from the beginning of the trail and a great place to rent bikes (even electric bikes). They’ll get you set up with everything you need.
Potter Marsh Bird Sanctuary
Potter Marsh is a serene wetland on the outskirts of town. Boardwalks lead over the wet, green marshlands and provide beautiful views of the water, grasses, and mountains beyond.
We were there in late July, which meant the waters were teeming with salmon. Their shimmering scales were visible in the shallow waters as they made their way upstream. An eagle circled overhead before landing in it’s nest while smaller birds danced through the marsh grasses. We’re told moose frequent the area.
Potter Marsh is along Highway 1, just before the Turnagain Arm. If you’re heading to Seward, I recommend reserving a little time to stop here along the way.
Also be sure to read about the best things to do in Seward.
The Alaska Zoo
Natural paths wind through the small zoo, which evokes a feeling of traveling through a forest and discovering beautiful animals along the way. The goal of the Alaska Zoo is to care for orphaned or injured Alaskan animals.
The zoo is inexpensive and there’s a free shuttle from downtown in the summer. The Alaska Zoo offers a great introduction to the Alaskan animals you probably hope to see in the wild.
To see rescued Alaskan animals in a more natural setting, head to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. Read about the best day trips from Anchorage to lean more.
We were in Anchorage visiting family and these are the restaurants the recommended and took us to. I’m only going to recommend restaurants that I visited and enjoyed because it’s easy enough to find restaurant recommendations with a quick Yelp search.
Moose’s Tooth Pub & Pizzeria
I’m a pizza fan. I don’t want generic, bake at home pizza. I want pizza that makes a statement, and that’s exactly what Moose’s Tooth does. This is true artisanal pizza with unique ingredient combinations, stone baked to perfection.
You may think: who goes to Alaska and orders pizza when there’s so much fresh seafood? Fair question.
According to Trip Advisor, Moose’s Tooth ranked 5th in 2018 for best pizza in the United States. 5th in the whole country! How can you pass up the chance to eat some of the best pizza?
Because the food is amazing, Moose’s Tooth is busy year-round. Get there early and have a craft beer while you wait or have a picnic and phone in an order. Pick-up is through the door to the right of the main entrance.
Marco T’s Pizzeria
Pizza twice. Now I’m starting to get a little embarrassed by my restaurant list. In my defense, I was in Anchorage with a pack of kids.
Marco T’s is an Italian style pizzeria that specializes in individualized sized pizza. It’s in an unassuming building with a nice outdoor patio for those pleasant summer days. The pizza is good but the homemade gelato is the star. Don’t skip dessert.
Wild Scoops Ice Cream
Pizza and ice cream are the only recommendations on my list. This is a bit ridiculous. But I firmly stand by my recommendations!
Wild Scoops pride themselves on making small batch ice cream using seasonal Alaskan ingredients. Their unique ingredient combinations are fun and delicious. Come here and eat like a local.
To Sum It Up
Anchorage Alaska may be a pit-stop before you head into the wild, so hopefully this list will help you get the most out of your time here. There are plenty of choices depending on how you want to spend your time.
Make it a cultural adventure and visit the Anchorage Museum or the Alaska Native Heritage Center. Or explore the outdoors on the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail or hiking Glen Alps. And of course, eat some pizza and ice cream 😊
No matter what you’re looking for, you’ll find that there are many great things to do in Anchorage Alaska.
Leaving town? Check out these amazing day trips from Anchorage Alaska and Things to do in Seward Alaska. You’ll likely pass these areas on your way to your next adventure, so take it slow and enjoy everything along the way.
In Alaska, it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.