Population: 284,994. Alaska’s largest city, Anchorage is on the southcentral gulf coast,located on the shores of Cook Inlet. Anchorage is also Mile 0 of the Glenn Highway and Mile 127 (the end) of the Seward Highway. Visitor Information: The Anchorage Convention & Visitors Bureau Log Cabin Visitor Information Center at 524 W. 4th Avenue; phone (907) 274-3531 or (907) 276-4118. Or contact the Municipality of Anchorage, or the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce. Alaska Public Lands Information Center (APLIC) at 605 W. 4th Avenue, has a variety of exhibits, films, and special programs as well as maps and brochures on the state's recreational lands; phone (907) 644-3661. The Alaska Visitors Center at 733 W. 4th Avenue provides reservations for the Alaska Marine Highway and other travel services.
Started in 1914 as construction camp and headquarters for the railroad, Anchorage was originally the anchorage for the gold rush community of Knik (across Knik Arm to the north). The tent town of 2,000 grew and started building permanent structures on the bluff. Anchorage was incorporated in 1920.
Anchorage has grown in spurts brought on by railroad construction, colonization of the Matanuska Valley in the 1930s, construction of military bases in 1940, discovery of oil in Cook Inlet in the late 1950s and oil development on the North Slope starting in the late 1960s. In the 1970s and 1980s, Anchorage experienced a population and construction boom and most of the tallest buildings date from this time.
Covering 1,961 square miles, Anchorage lies between the Chugach Mountains on the east and Knik Arm of Cook Inlet on the west. With its distinctive mixture of old frontier and jet age, Anchorage is a truly unique city that combines cosmopolitan amenities with the creative enthusiasm of a young, progressive city.
All services are available. Lodging at major-chain motels and hotels and local bed-and-breakfasts. Dining from fast food to fine dining. Anchorage also offers all the amenities of any Lower 48 big city: big box stores; auto/RV rentals and services; shopping at gift shops, bookstores and malls; visiting art galleries and crafts stores; and tour companies offering uniquely Alaskan opportunities, from flightseeing Mount McKinley to cruising glaciers. Camping at area private campgrounds and the municipal Centennial Campground.
Visit the Ulu Factory and learn the history of this uniquely Alaskan implement, or check out the store, Oomingmak, for knitted items made from musk oxen hair.
Hike Flattop, the state's most popular trail. Shuttle from downtown to trailhead. Great views of Anchorage, Sleeping Lady and Mount McKinley/Denali and Foraker (on a clear day).
Music in the Park. Enjoy one of the many free concerts presented downtown in the park at E Street and 4th Avenue.
Anchorage has more than 200 parks, many of which are connected by the Municipality's more than 120 miles of paved trails. These multi-use trails criss-cross the city and take you along its green-belts and streams. Bike rentals are available. Keep your eyes open for moose – the most common wild animal to be seen here – as well as bears, lynx and wolves.
Visit downtown Anchorage on the weekend for the Anchorage Markets and Festival outdoor market. Shop more than 300 booths featuring produce, gifts and other items while enjoying the free music and events on stage. It makes a great starting point for your downtown tour of the shops, museums and historical sites.
Tour the campuses of the University of Alaska Anchorage and Alaska Pacific University. APU is the largest private 4-year university in Alaska, and UAA is the largest branch of the state’s university system. UAA has some unique architecture and both are set amongst the greenery of Goose Lake and surrounding parks.
Visit the Alaska Zoo, home to more than 80 orphaned and injured animals from the arctic and subarctic regions of the globe. A highlight is the polar bear exhibit, but there are also snow leopards, camels and Tibetan yaks on this 20 acre wooded lot.
Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, located 48 miles south of Anchorage on the Seward Highway, features bears, moose, muskox, wood bison and other mammals and birds in their outdoor park.
Watch small planes at Lake Hood (the world’s largest and busiest seaplane base), Lake Spenard or Merrill Field. While you’re there, charter a plane for flightseeing or fly-in hunting and fishing.
Enjoy salmon viewing (and fishing!) on Ship Creek in downtown Anchorage. June, July and August are the best time of year to see this urban fishery at its best.
Eagle River Nature Center, located at the end of Eagle River Road, about a 26-mile drive from downtown Anchorage, offers self-guiding nature trails and a variety of naturalist programs throughout the year in Chugach State Park. Well worth the drive.
In the Girdwood-Alyeska area, which is about 40 miles south of downtown Anchorage via the Seward and Alyeska highways—but still part of the Municipality of Anchorage—the Alyeska Resort tramway takes visitors up to the top of the mountain for a wonderful view of Turnagain Arm. On the way, visit Indian Valley Gold Mine and the historic Crow Creek Mine to try your hand a gold panning.
Ride the Alaska Railroad to Spencer Glacier, Seward, Denali National Park or Fairbanks. The railroad offers a variety of travel options and a unique view of Alaska.
Anchorage is a jumping-off point for Southcentral's many attractions, such as the Kenai Peninsula, with its fishing and sightseeing opportunities; the Mat-Su Valley, home of the Musk-Ox Farm, the Alaska State Fair, Independence Mine State Historical Park and Matanuska Glacier; cruising glaciers and wildlife viewing in Prince William Sound; driving the longest highway tunnel in North America on the way to Whittier; and more.