FOR MANY, Anchorage is merely a jumping-off point for other Alaska locales. Yet, this vibrant city of 300,000 merits a closer look. The Anchorage Museum of History and Art and/or Alaska Native Heritage Center are perfect ways to learn about the state’s colorful past, cultures and people. The scenic Tony Knowles Coastal Trail hugs Cook Inlet for 11 miles. And don’t forget the food. This town loves to dine out, and it shows.
Planning your trip
Log Cabin Visitor Center, 4th Avenue and F Street: Open all year, the center offers maps, brochures and other information -- and some of the biggest begonias you’ve ever seen. The volunteers are extremely helpful.
Alaska Public Lands Information Center, 605 W. 4th Ave.: The best deal downtown showcases state and national parks, low-key exhibits, reference materials and movies on Alaska every hour in the summer. It’s free; also has public restrooms.
Anchorage Museum of History and Art, 6th and C: This must-see museum features Alaska’s history and art, a planetarium and a children’s museum. Docents are extremely knowledgeable. The gift shop is a good place to buy Native art, and the café is a nice lunch spot. Open late, with jazz music, on the first Friday of the month.
Tony Knowles Coastal Trail: Walk, jog, bike or roller-blade this 11-mile, paved trail along Cook Inlet from downtown, past the airport and ending at Kincaid Park. Waterfowl and songbirds are plentiful. Near Westchester Lagoon, you’ll see homes of some of the city’s richest, luckiest and most-daring residents – this is earthquake country, remember. Go farther, and you’ll pass even nicer houses, see Earthquake Park’s interpretive signs, experience jets and floatplanes taking off and landing and increase your odds of seeing moose and bears.
Earthquake Park: This area, just north of the international airport, once was home to houses that slid into the inlet during the magnitude-9.2 earthquake of 1964. Now a small park, it has interpretive signs, great views of Cook Inlet, downtown and, on a clear day, Mount McKinley.
Ship Creek, behind railroad depot and Comfort Inn near 1st Avenue: When the salmon run, anglers stand elbow to elbow in pursuit of kings or silvers. Watch the salmon jump the locks.
Alaska Native Heritage Center, east Anchorage: A showcase for Native cultures of Alaska in a parklike setting, the center features dancers, craftsmen and storytellers. Hefty admission price, however, so consider a joint ticket with the Museum of History and Art. A free shuttle, with pickup points at the visitor’s center and the museum, offers transportation to and from at set times.
Alaska Native Medical Center, east Anchorage: The gift shop is the best place to buy Native art, but hours are limited. The impressive, state-of-the-art hospital also is like a free Native art museum -- take the elevator to the top floor, and walk down the stairwells and hallways.
Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum, near airport: Pilots love this place, which focuses on the state’s aviation history and features vintage aircraft that you can’t believe people flew.
Alaska Zoo, O’Malley Road: Small, but nice with “local critters” that many other zoos won’t house. The zoo offers a natural setting with mostly rescued animals.
Flat Top Mountain, Glen Alps Trailhead, Chugach State Park: Lots of hiking opportunities within a 20-minute drive from downtown. The view is great, even if you don’t make it to the top.
Photos by Tom Wolfe, 2007
A lone wolf and a brown bear with three cubs roam the Savonoski River in Katmai National Park.
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