Insider's Guide to Anchorage
Alaska’s most populous city, framed by the Chugach Mountains, contains more than 40 percent of the state’s population and has quite a lot of things to see and do. With about 300,000 people living here, the story of how Alaska’s biggest city came to be is an odd one. Neither a fishing or mining camp (no minerals to be found here), it was chosen as a railroad-construction port in 1914, two years after Alaska became a U.S. territory.
An interesting fact about the city: Anchorage’s location makes it an important stop on the global supply chain, as it is about ten hours by air to 90 percent of the industrialized world. (The Anchorage airport is ranked fourth in the world for cargo after Hong Kong, Memphis and Shanghai, and 2.6 million metric tons of air cargo pass through Anchorage in any given year.) Another thing to note: with Alaska being a wild state, there are quite a few animals roaming in the city limits of Anchorage and its surrounding area, so don’t be surprised if you see the occasional bear, moose, mountain goat or Dall sheep in the city.
The city has a lot of fantastic things to see and do—here are some of my favourite picks from my most recent research trip!
Best Breakfast and Coffee Shops
The best breakfast spot in the city: Snow City serves breakfast classics and weekly specials in a homey atmosphere. It was good enough for former President Obama’s breakfast during his visits to Anchorage, so it must be good enough for us! We heard he cleared them out of their renowned cinnamon buns, and we can’t say we blame him.
Coffee connoisseurs can find pour over coffee worth the wait time and handcrafted espressos at one of SteamDot’s four cozy locations in Anchorage. They roast their beans themselves at their headquarters downtown and were recently awarded the title “Best Coffee in Alaska” by Food and Wine.
Fresh is the focus of Middle Way Café, who use only locally sourced ingredients in their dishes. Their coffee comes from an organic roaster in Homer and is best served in the form of a latte or mocha with a work of art on top by one of their expert baristas.
This not-for-profit market is a must-see if you’re visiting Anchorage on a Saturday. Find an array of local vendors selling 100% Alaskan-grown fruits, vegetables, and flowers as well as fresh-baked goods to enjoy while you peruse the stalls.
For innovative and delicious wood-fired pizza served in a warm atmosphere, head to Hearth Artisan Pizza. Pair your organic, Neapolitan-style pizza with one of their 17 craft beers and ciders available on tap.
Widely considered Anchorage’s best brewery, Glacier Brewhouse has been perfecting English and West Coast style ales since 1996. Mastering more than just beer, their menu of wild Alaskan seafood and rotisserie meats is also sure to impress.
A favourite among locals, Midnight Sun crafts barleywines and barrel-aged stouts, perfect for keeping warm during the frosty (and long) Alaskan winters. Begin your visit here with a tour of their brewery before enjoying their libations in their trendy, industrial-style loft.
Found in the Williwaw building, a multi-gathering space in downtown Anchorage, Blues Central is a chic speakeasy bar concocting sublime cocktails. Inspired by the era of prohibition, there’s a password for entry that changes daily.
Perched atop our favourite hotel in Anchorage, the Captain Cook Hotel, Crow’s Nest affords a 360-degree panorama of the bay and the downtown skyline. Take in the views with one of their craft cocktails or a glass of wine from their cellar housing over 10,000 bottles.
A brewpub and an outdoor entertainment venue, Moose’s Tooth is a convivial spot perfect for large groups and families. Proudly serving their house label, Broken Tooth Beer, a new brew is released the first Thursday of each month. The event, called First Tap Tap, is a much-anticipated event by locals and often paired with live music.
Best seafood in Anchorage:
Housed on a bridge that stretches over a salmon stream, it makes sense that this restaurant plates some of the best seafood in Anchorage. Look on as the fishermen make their daily catch, while you dine on fresh Alaskan crab, salmon, and oysters.
Best Ice Cream:
No matter where I am in the world, I will always seek out the best ice cream in town! Here is Anchorage’s best: handcrafted on-site, this cute little mint-green food truck serves some amazing organic ice cream. Owner Laura Aubry creates unique Alaskan frozen desserts, from ice cream to ‘ice lollies’ (popsicles). Keep an eye out for the truck!
Best specialty grocery store:
For handcrafted cheeses and charcuterie, head to Fromagio’s Artisan Cheese. Along with their fine foods for sale, they offer a daily lunch menu of salads, cheese boards, sandwiches, and their signature dish: Fromagio’s mac and cheese.
Things to See & Do in Anchorage
The most diverse museum in the city, the Anchorage Museum showcases Alaskan heritage, artworks and landscape through both permanent and temporary displays. A new wing, the Rasmuson Wing Art of the North, features paintings, sculpture, photography, video and other media representing the land and people of the wild northern landscape through historical and contemporary exhibitions. Their interactive Discovery Centre offers hands-on learning through 80 exhibits; perfect for keeping the kids entertained.
Learn about Alaska’s famed bush pilots and their trusty aircraft at the Alaska Aviation Museum located on Lake Hood, that biggest seaplane base in the world. Peruse their display of vintage planes, experience the thrill of flying via a full-immersion, Oculus Rift virtual reality flight simulator, and watch as seaplanes take-off and land from the control tower.
See Alaska’s vast archaeological discoveries at the Museum of Science and Nature. Through exhibitions of dinosaur and marine life skeletons, replicas of Ice Age animals, and a collection of rocks and minerals unearth the state’s deep ecological, geographical, and cultural roots throughout various eras.
Discover the First Nations Culture and the settlers that followed at this museum dedicated to Alaska’s heritage and the Gold Rush Era. The largest private collection of its kind in Alaska, it features Alaskan native artifacts and fine arts along with historic Wells Fargo stagecoaches.
Dos Manos is the best place to find works by First Nations artists and artisans. This small shop located in Midtown offers local and jewelry, home decor, clothing, paintings and other handmade goods as well as local artwork.