When you’re contemplating a significant move to a place like Anchorage, you might mentally “try on” your new hometown, much like stepping into a dressing room and pulling on a new outfit. While envisioning the different aspects of living in this new area, you might find yourself running through things like what Anchorage neighborhood you’ll live in, what your neighbors might be like, where you’ll work, what kind of schools you’ll send your kids to, what the surrounding areas will look like—and how you’ll spend your time off.
Although we named it last on our list, the activities you’ll engage in during your leisure time will shape a large part of your experience in your chosen hometown. So, to give you a hand in understanding what your life could look like in Anchorage, we’ll give you a quick guide to some things to do, activities, and attractions you’ll find in the City of Lights and Flowers. (Plus, if your friends and family come for a visit after you move, this will be a handy guide for showing them around!)
Let’s get started!
5 Sightseeing Ideas Around Anchorage
#1: Gaze Upon Glaciers
As you’ll discover, one of the perks of moving to Alaska involves seeing awe-inspiring natural sights on a near-daily basis. Even though Anchorage is Alaska’s largest city, you’ll still find those same opportunities in the area, especially when it comes to admiring (and hiking!) Alaska’s glaciers. However, if you decide you want to go even bigger on glaciers, consider a flightseeing tour from Anchorage which allows you to see some of Alaska’s more remote terrain from the air, a great deal of which is only accessible by plane.
#2: Ride the Rails
Anchorage is a hub for rail travel in the state, so you’ll have plenty of options for hopping a train to a number of destinations in the state—and pairing it with a little bit of extra fun. For example, take a six-hour ride to Kenai Fjords National Park with an all-you-can-eat salmon and prime rib buffet. Or hop the Glacier Discovery Train to the Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop, a remote location only accessible by rail. There, you’ll find an unforgettable opportunity to hike one of Alaska’s unspoiled paradise. Plan your trip at AlaskaRailroad.org.
#3: Hike to a 200-Foot Payoff
Maybe waterfalls are the kind of thing you associate with tropical paradises like Hawaii.
However, Alaska has its own share of waterfalls, including the 200′ Thunderbird Falls. A little over a half-hour out of town, you’ll find a short trail to a viewing platform for this natural wonder. If you’re a little more adventurous, you can take a side trail that leads you right to the base of the falls. By the way, this is the kind of thing that keeps attracting people to Anchorage: natural wonders on a grand scale, right in your backyard.
#4: Make Some New Feathered Friends
Just about ten miles south of Anchorage, you’ll find the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge and, on its southern end, Potter Marsh. Stroll the half-mile boardwalk to spot some of the hundreds of bird species that call the area their home during the spring and summer, including sandhill cranes, trumpeter swans, and Arctic terns. Keep an eye out, and you’ll also spy salmon and muskrats in the marsh water, and maybe even a moose or two. For best viewing, bring a pair of binoculars to extend your field of view.
#5: Hit the Beach
Where the Turnagain and Knik Arms meet, you’ll find a little windswept beach at Point Campbell. While it’s not Waikiki, it’s a nice little stretch of sand to explore, and you will see some people wading out into the water when the weather gets hot. That said, we prefer it for a picnic spot or an afternoon of beachcombing with the family. Access is through Kincaid Park, down a stretch of the paved Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, then down a smaller footpath.
Next, to complement your Anchorage-area sightseeing, we’ve got some ideas to dig a little deeper to discover the history of Anchorage and the culture its residents share today.
6 Ways to Experience the Arts, Culture, and History of Anchorage
#1: Learn About the Area’s Original Inhabitants
You’ll find plenty of different ways to kick off your exploration of the people who first populated Alaska, but if you’re new to the area, we recommend getting an Alaska Culture Pass. You’ll get discounted entrance to both the Alaska Native Heritage Center and the Alaska Museum and a complimentary shuttle ride that connects them. Between the two locations, you’ll get an excellent immersion in the customs, history, and traditions of the indigenous peoples of Alaska, giving you a broader understanding of the area you’ll call home.
#2: Catch a Live Show
You might not expect it, but Anchorage has a pretty lively music scene. You’ll find everything from rock to metal to jam bands to indie influences—sometimes all on the same bill in the same night. Although the beloved TapRoot closed a few years ago, you can get your fix of Anchorage’s live music scene at places like the Williwaw, Bernie’s Bungalow, Humpy’s, or Koot’s (more on this Anchorage institution below!).
#3: Check Out a Piece of Living History
About a half-hour from downtown Anchorage, you’ll find Eklutna Village, the area’s oldest continuously inhabited Athabaskan settlement. That in and of itself is noteworthy, but there’s another unique layer that makes this village an interesting waypoint. When Russian explorers settled in Alaska, they forced the area’s native peoples to convert to the Russian Orthodox religion. Today in Eklutna Village, you’ll find a relic of that era: St. Nicholas’ Russian Orthodox Church. The building was constructed somewhere between 1830–1870, making it the oldest standing building in the greater Anchorage area. Alongside the church, though, you’ll also find colorful and charismatic Athabaskan spirit houses, built by families to honor a deceased relative. It’s a unique opportunity to get a glimpse into the past, as well as a look into the present culture of the Athabaskan people who live in the village today.
#4: Take an Art Walk
What better way to support the arts scene in Anchorage—and meet some new neighbors—than an evening stroll through the city’s art galleries? Don’t miss Anchorage’s First Fridays, when galleries throw open their doors, stay open late, and host live events. During the evening, you’ll also enjoy drink specials, live music, and more, all centered around Anchorage’s galleries. Events and locations vary by month, so make sure to double-check the details before you head out.
#5: Support Local Theater
With a lineup as diverse as the community it belongs to, Cyrano’s is a lively entry on Anchorage’s cultural roster. In their 90-seat black box theater, the company puts on classics like Macbeth alongside modern hits like Nora Ephron’s Love, Loss, and What I Wore and Tony Award winner Boeing-Boeing, as well as offerings for kids like Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Cyrano’s also offers a unique Punchcard system that allows you to support the theater while remaining flexible in terms of what shows you want to see—and when. Their 10-play Punchcard is good for any 10 admissions over three years. All you have to do is RSVP for your chosen show at least 24 hours in advance (and you can use the card to bring a friend—or nine—with you)!
While you’re enjoying all of Anchorage’s cultural opportunities, you’ll probably work up an appetite. Not to worry; the city offers plenty of opportunities for sustenance, often with a view!
3 Ways to Eat and Drink Your Way Around Anchorage
#1: Snag a Reindeer Sausage
Anchorage has plenty of specialty foods that we’re sure you’ll be eager to try when you arrive. Of course, you’ll be able to eat your fill of delicious fresh seafood, including Alaskan oysters, salmon, and more. However, we think no Anchorage experience is complete without trying at least one variety of reindeer sausage. The International House of Hotdogs, Alaska Sausage & Seafood, or Red Umbrella Reindeer are all good bets.
#2: Embrace an Only-in-Anchorage Tradition
Koot’s, originally known as Chilkoot Charlie’s, is a great place to people watch with a drink in hand—or dance the night away. With three stages, three dance floors, and ten themed bars (as well as an 11th bar in the summer), there’s a little bit of something for everyone at Koot’s. Depending on your phase of life, it may not be your scene for the long term, but it’s worth seeing at least once. Don’t miss catching a view of the ice bar, constructed out of 25 feet of solid ice, or the Russian Room with its themed décor and Russian memorabilia collection.
#3: Enjoy a Meal with a View
About an hour outside of Anchorage, you’ll find the Alyeska Ski Area in Girdwood. Although the area features 1,610 skiable acres and 76 named trails, there’s also plenty to do in the area that has nothing to do with hitting the slopes. Ride the resort’s aerial tram to get views of Turnagain Arm, as many as seven glaciers, and the Chugach Mountain range. At the top of the tram, you’ll find the Bore Tide Deli and Bar, where you can enjoy a casual meal and take in the million-dollar view. If you want to enjoy a more refined culinary experience, such as a five-course tasting menu paired with a good bottle of wine or two, you’ll also find the resort’s Seven Glaciers restaurant at the top. Try to snag a table next to the window so you can enjoy the view along with your meal.
Bonus: If you decide to explore Girdwood and its surrounding areas, you’ll find some great places to eat (as well as some excellent hiking trails!). Don’t miss the Bake Shop, home of the famous Alyeska sourdough bread, and the Double Musky Inn, which holds the distinction of serving what’s been called the best steak in America by the Food Network.
Exploring All the Attractions Anchorage Has to Offer
Now that we’ve taken you through a tour of twelve of activities and things to do in and around Anchorage, you’ll start to have a sense of how you might want to spend your time off in the area—and whether Anchorage is a place you might want to call home.
As you make your final decision, there’s one more thing to keep in mind: Alaska is a place where you can live exactly the way you want to. Maybe you’ve always wanted to live an off-the-grid lifestyle in the wilderness. Maybe you want to take advantage of the amenities that a city like Anchorage has to offer. Or maybe you want something in between—a few amenities to make life easy while living in and around nature. You’ll find it all in Alaska, a place that you can truly make your own.
Once you make your decision, if you need some help with your Anchorage move, we’d be happy to assist! Our Anchorage-based team has helped individuals, families, and members of our military move to all kinds of locations within the state. We’d love to help you make a safe, easy, and affordable move. Just request a free quote to get started.