Alaska's largest city is the hub of the state, and its central position, comparatively mild temperatures and outstanding transport system to and from the rest of the country, have made it an important destination for travellers.
Perched on the edge of a vast beautiful wilderness, Anchorage is encompassed in scenic splendour, surrounded by mountains, forest, rivers and tundra; a short drive in any direction offers an abundant variety of wilderness experiences.
The city started out in 1915 as a tented camp for the workers on the Alaska Railroad, and with the later discovery of oil at Prudhoe Bay and the construction of the trans-Alaska pipeline, Anchorage's development was fast and furious. Today this sprawling city is full of life, with an array of dining options, a thriving music scene, theatres, and museums.
Its conservative, transient character is due in part to the fact that many of its residents are from other parts of the US, working for a few years and then moving on. The rest of the population is made up of Alaskan indigenous peoples, oil workers, gold seekers, loggers, and fishermen, together with the moose and occasional bear that wander into town. As a cosmopolitan urban area, it has similarities with other small American cities, but still retains a uniquely Alaskan feel.
Famous for its spectacular mountain vistas, abundant wildlife, glaciers, vast expanses of sub-arctic tundra, and North America's highest mountain, Mount McKinley, Denali National Park and Preserve is a real wilderness area that attracts millions of visitors each year. More than six million acres are home to grizzly bears, caribou, moose, Dall sheep, wolves and numerous species of birds. The main attraction is the snow-covered massif of Mount McKinley, towering 20,320ft (6,096m) above the peaks of the Alaska Range, the definitive symbol of untamed Alaska. On a clear day its twin peaks can be seen from Anchorage, 149 miles (240km) away.
The Alaska Range divides the park into north and south sides, with the majority of visitors accessing the north where the main visitors centre is located. Mountaineers seeking out the challenges of Mount McKinley need to access the park from the south side. Other peaks offer excellent climbing opportunities for those not wishing to risk the mountain that has earned its reputation as one of the world's most difficult climbs. The park region also offers a wide variety of other activities including day hikes or backcountry hiking, camping, mountain biking, whitewater rafting and ice climbing. Early June or late September is the best time to avoid the crowds.
The world-class Museum of History and Art is the largest museum in Alaska and is one of the most visited attractions in Anchorage. The exhibits cover the history and cultures of Alaska - from Native American beginnings to American colonisation - and explore the natural resources and landscapes of the country. Part of exploring the cultures of the country is exhibiting Alaskan art, and the museum has a good permanent collection and hosts multiple temporary art exhibitions. Art, history and the natural sciences are combined to great effect in this wonderful museum. Visitors of all ages should find something to interest them. Check the official website listed below for details.
The Alaska Native Heritage Center is a wonderful place for visitors to learn about the culture and heritage of the native Alaskan people while in Anchorage. Indigenous traditions, customs and lifestyles are showcased in the centre's exhibits, which include artefacts such as tools, watercraft, clothing, pieces of art and musical instruments. The centre also hosts local storytelling, dancing and craft events which help to bring the traditions to life for visitors. The Alaska Native Heritage Center is closed in winter, but hosts monthly cultural events. Check the official website listed below to see what's on offer during your visit.
Anchorage has a subarctic climate characterised by short, cool summers and long, cold winters. Average daytime summer temperatures range from 55°F (13°C) to 78°F (26°C), while average daytime winter temperatures range from 5°F (-15°C) to 30°F (-1°C). The average winter snowfall is 70 inches (1778mm).
As with all of Alaska, Anchorage has extremely long days in the summer, with the Summer Solstice in late June experiencing 22 hours of sunlight; winter is just as dark as summer is light, and at the Winter Solstice in late December the daylight lasts less than six hours. The best time for visitors to travel to Anchorage is the period between May and early September when long days, clear skies and warm afternoons prevail.
Anchorage's public transit system, People Mover, provides easy access to most tourist attractions and places of interest. The buses run roughly between 6.30am and 9pm on weekdays and thereafter until 11pm, but the service during these late hours is limited. Travellers should note that operating times vary by route and are reduced on weekends. Maps and schedules are available from the People Mover Transit Center on 6th Avenue. Adult bus fare starts at $2. Day passes are available and good value for money if you will be sightseeing all day.
Some tourist attractions provide free shuttles to and from downtown Anchorage, where many of the hotels are situated. There are also taxis, rental cars and rental bicycles available. Ride-hailing services, like Uber, are also available.
Anchorage is a priceless travel hub for many visitors to Alaska, but the appeal for tourists is rooted firmly in the good transport networks and the glorious wilderness on the city's doorstep. Anchorage itself is not a renowned tourist destination. Having said that, the city retains a sort of pioneer charm as it is still a gathering point for Americans and foreigners looking to make their fortune in various trades. Within the city, the most popular sightseeing attractions include the Alaska Native Heritage Center and the Anchorage Museum of History and Art. Downtown Anchorage also hosts the fantastic Anchorage Market & Festival every weekend in the summer, which is a great attraction for visitors. The market offers an array of locally-made goods including clothing, paintings, handmade jewellery and dolls (Russian nesting dolls), as well as a great selection of food from all over the world. There are also entertaining music and dance performances to enjoy, and a special Kids' Market where children sell their hand-made items to raise money for charities and other organisations.
Most visitors quickly exit the urban sprawl to enjoy the wonders just beyond the city, like Prince William Sound, Chugach National Forest and Flattop Mountain, the most climbed mountain in Alaska. The Denali National Park is one of the top attractions in the state and encompasses many of the most beautiful landscapes Alaska has to offer. Those in need of some information or advice should pop into the Anchorage Log Cabin Visitor Information Center, situated at 524 West Fourth Avenue.
No direct flights from Heathrow to this Destination