Anchorage offers a unique and accessible downtown, with major attractions—a world-class museum, shopping, restaurants and salmon fishing—sandwiched between views of the Chugach Mountains to the east and Cook Inlet to the west. Here’s how to spend a day (or more) exploring and enjoying Alaska’s largest city.
Begin your Anchorage visit with a photo stop at the Visitor Information Cabin on 4th Avenue, with its sod roof, summer flower display and Air Crossroads of the North Milepost out in front. Directly behind the cabin is the Anchorage Convention and Visitors Bureau information office, with racks of brochures and maps, and a staff of knowledgeable local people to help you. Outside the cabin, join Anchorage Trolley Tours for an introduction to downtown from their bright red bus.
Walk down to the Ship Creek Overlook for photos of the Statehood Monument. Walk down the hill to the Alaska Railroad station, then cross the street to visit the Ulu Factory. Behind the Ulu Factory there’s a walking path along Ship Creek, which offer salmon viewing and salmon fishing. Take the Ulu Factory’s free trolley back up the hill to Fourth Avenue.
Fourth Avenue also has the Alaska Public Lands Information Center, housed in the old Federal Building, with advice for hikers and campers and info on the natural history of the state; major souvenir shopping for visitors and plenty of places to eat (including the city’s ubiquitous street vendors); photo ops at the Balto and the Bear and Raven statues; and Peratrovich Park, which hosts outdoor concerts throughout the summer months. Resolution Park, at the west end of 4th Avenue, has a monument to Captain Cook and a fine view of Knik Arm and the Port of Anchorage, as well as a glimpse of the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail (bike rentals are available downtown).
Town Square is another park, adjacent the Performing Arts Center between 5th and 6th avenues, and across from the “Whaling Wall” on E Street, but this one features a stunning flower display in summer. Both 5th and 6th avenues are also popular shopping streets, with everything from the musk-ox fur cooperative to the Fifth Avenue Mall, and where some of the city’s most popular restaurants are found.
Walk east on 6th to C Street for the Anchorage Museum, a highly recommended stop and one of the city’s great attractions. The new West Wing is an architectural marvel, a subject you’ll learn more about if you join a museum tour. On your own, plan to spend at least an hour at the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center on the second level, where hundreds of objects from Alaska’s indigenous cultures are on display with state-of-the-art interpretation. Visitors with children, from tots through teens, will love the Imaginarium Discovery Center at the museum, the perfect place to learn about earth and life science. And in 2011, the Ice Age is coming to the museum with the exciting “Mammoths and Mastodons exhibit, which will star Lyuba, the 40,000-year-old baby mammoth from Siberia.
Slide show captions: 1. Visitor information cabin, 2. Sod-roof of visitor information cabin, 3. Arch in front of Anchorage CVB, 4. Trolley tour, 5. Entrance to Anchorage Museum at Rasmussen Center, 6. Street vendor in front of Federal Building, 7. & 8. Fourth Avenue, 9. City Hall and historical mural on 7th, 10. & 11. Ship Creek Overlook, 12. Alaska Railroad station from Ship Creek Overlook, 13. & 14. Fishing Ship Creek, 15. “Whaling Wall” mural by Wyland on E. St. at 5th Ave., 16. Skybridge across 6th Ave. connects Fifth Avenue Mall and Nordstrom’s, 17. & 18. Atwood Building and Linny Pacillo parking garage, 19. & 20. Music in Peratrovich Park, 21. to 24. Flower displays at Town Square, 25. Port of Anchorage, 26. Captain Cook statue, Resolution Park. (All photos Kris Valencia, staff, The MILEPOST®)