The city of Anchorage has been called many things, “North Seattle,” “the closest city outside of Alaska,” and “the largest small town you’ll ever live in” among them. But no matter what you call it (or whether you consider it “real Alaska!”) we love it. Anchorage has it all: moose, glaciers, salmon fishing, and outdoor living—right alongside Shakespeare, jazz, single-origin coffee, and craft beer. In other words, Anchorage offers a ton of amenities on par with any mid-sized U.S. city, and yet the wilderness is just a short drive out of town.
If you’re thinking about moving to Anchorage, let us give you a quick tour of some of our favorite spots so you can get a feel for whether it might be a place you could love, too. Come along with us, and we’ll show you some of the places that make us happy to make Anchorage our home.
#1: Chugach State Park
Just seven miles east of downtown Anchorage, you’ll find the start of this magnificent state park, which spreads across about 495,000 acres, or about half the size of the state of Rhode Island. Whether you want to go hiking, camping, kayaking, paragliding, snow machining, backpacking, or biking, the park offers it all—and more. Add in breathtaking scenery and the possibility of seeing some of Alaska’s rarer wildlife, such as the high-alpine marmot and the forest-dwelling lynx, and we think you’ll agree that Anchorage’s back yard is a pretty special place indeed.
#2: Snow City Café
President Obama bought out this café’s supply of cinnamon rolls during a visit in 2015, and when a spot gets that much press, you have to wonder, “Is it really that good?!” Snow City Café is one of our favorite breakfast spots in Anchorage. Just know before you go: Make a reservation so you can skip the line and a pecan roll and the Kodiak Benedict with Alaska red king crab cakes. You won’t be disappointed.
#3: Saturday Market
Open May through September, you’ll find more than 300 vendors spread out over two acres at the Anchorage Market. (Side note: Although it was called the “Saturday Market” for years, and you’ll likely hear locals still refer to it that way, this event is now officially called the “Anchorage Market,” and it’s also open on Sundays as well.) Browse local art, shop for unique clothing and gifts, take in some live music, or, maybe most importantly, grab a bite from the wide variety of food trucks and vendors. It’s also a great place to mingle with your new neighbors, especially if you’re a recent transplant to the Anchorage area.
#4: The Coastal Trail
In Anchorage, you’ll have 135 miles of bike paths to explore through the city. When you want to take a break from city life minus a long car ride, head for the 22-mile roundtrip Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. You can enjoy glimpses of moose and whales, spot airplanes coming in and out of Ted Stevens Airport, and even gaze upon several of Alaska’s snowcapped mountains, including the Chugach, the Talkeetna, and Mount McKinley. If you’re new to the area, you might try the Anchorage Bike and Brewery Tour, which offers a day-long trek along the trail that includes visits to three Anchorage breweries.
#5: The Area’s Fascinating Indigenous Heritage
Anchorage sits on Dena’ina Elnena (the homeland of the Dena’ina), and it’s home to the K’enaht’ana, the indigenous people of Knik Arm, who are members of the Eydlughet and K’enakatnu tribes.i Alaska’s indigenous heritage is part of what makes it such a unique place to live, and you’ll find plenty of opportunities in Anchorage to learn about the people who settled this land. The Alaska Native Heritage Center is a great place to start. You might also consider a tour of Anchorage with an Alaskan Native guide who sits on the Tribal Council, as offered by Alaska’s Finest Tours & Cruises, to give yourself a different lens with which to view your new home.
#6: The Seafood
Oh, the seafood. We could probably wax poetic about the bounty from Alaska’s surrounding waters for hours over a couple of beers. Of course, the best fish is the one you catch yourself. But if you need a quick fix, head over to Kincaid Grill and try their Alaskan scallops. We also can’t get enough of Alaskan oysters. You’ll find them in many of Anchorage’s restaurants, but we like picking them up from the farmer’s market to stretch our oyster dollars a little farther.
#7: Excellent Coffee
Whether or not Anchorage is “North Seattle,” there’s one area in which we’ve got the Emerald City beat, hands down. Did you know that Anchorage has the second-most coffee shops per capita in the U.S.? (Alaska’s capital, Juneau, has the most!)ii If caffeine is your thing, you’ll easily get your fix in Anchorage—and you’ll be able to find a shop that serves it just the way you like it. If you like your coffee single-origin and fair trade, stop by SteamDot Coffee for your cup of joe. Middle Way Café offers some excellent strong brews, with beans roasted by a master roaster just a couple hundred miles away in Homer. If you’re new to the city, we suggest a round-robin in which you try all of Anchorage’s ~170 coffee shops and so you can pick your own winner.
#8: Fur Rondy
The first Fur Rendezvous winter festival (known locally as “Fur Rondy” or just “Rondy”) took place over three days in 1936 when Anchorage was a city of just 3,000 people.iii Today, it’s a 12-day winter extravaganza leading up to the Iditarod that draws people from all over Alaska—and holds a special place in the heart of those of us who live in Anchorage. If you want to look like a local, don a fur hat or vest—or snag one at one of the auctions. You’ll find fun, games, food, and activities throughout the festival to enjoy. Some of our favorites include the snow sculpture contest, the cornhole tournament, and the annual Running of the Reindeer (like Pamplona’s Running of the Bulls with an Alaskan twist!). Don’t forget to snag your collectable Fur Rondy pin, a highly coveted souvenir that changes annually. If the winter starts to feel long, Fur Rondy always offers a good reason to get out of the house and enjoy some fun.
#9: Bear Tooth Theatrepub
Speaking of those long winter nights, there’s nothing better to break them up than a movie and a good meal. That’s why we love Bear Tooth Theatrepub, owned by the same people who make our favorite pizza pie in Anchorage, the Moose Tooth Apricot Pie. As a second-run movie theater, Bear Tooth Theatrepub movie tickets are cheaper than the ones you’ll see in the Lower 48: $4 per person, as of the writing of this article. (If you’re of a certain age, it hearkens back to a time when movie tickets were in the single digits!) It’s also a great spot to catch a documentary or an artsy film. The Theatrepub even hosts musical acts. The Indigo Girls, Jane’s Addiction, MGMT, and Paul Oakenfold have all graced the Theatrepub’s stage.
By the way, if casual social gatherings are your thing, you might also want to check out the Williwaw. Getting out and about is a great way to survive the Alaskan winter, and the Williwaw offers a bunch of different ways to do it. Relax by day with a steaming cup of coffee from the Steamdot outpost or meet friends at night for a cocktail and grab a burger while you catch up.
#10: Downtown Summer Solstice
On the opposite end of those cold, dark Alaskan winters, you’ll find the summer solstice, when Anchorage gets 22 hours of daylight. On and around June 21, downtown Anchorage turns into one, big celebration. You’ll find the hub of activity at the Town Square and Fourth Avenue, with live music and dance, art displays, food trucks, and activities for the kids like bouncy houses and a giant sandbox.
The party doesn’t stop with the solstice, though. You’ll find plenty of excuses to celebrate before and after the official date. Our favorite is the Slam’n Salm’n Derby, in which Alaska’s most enthusiastic king salmon fisherman and fisherwomen battle to reel in the largest king salmon in Ship Creek, right in the heart of Anchorage. Entry is just $20 and proceeds support four local Alaskan non-profits.
We Could Probably Go On and On About Anchorage…
But these ten spots will give you a good sense of what we think makes this place special—and whether it sounds like a place you’d be excited to make your home. Is it fair to call Anchorage “North Seattle?” Is it “real Alaska?” You’ll have to decide for yourself once you get here. However, there’s one thing we can say for sure. Anchorage is unlike any place you’ve ever lived before. Whether you stay for a few years or for a lifetime, the experiences you have here will be ones you’ll never forget.
When you’re ready to make your Anchorage move, we’d be happy to help! Just reach out to one of our Anchorage-based experts for a free consultation to get started. We’ll help you make a safe and easy move to the Land of the Midnight Sun.
Tell us about your move!