Alaska’s largest city is full of cultural, historic, and culinary delights. Located in the southern region of the 49th state, Anchorage also serves as the perfect base for exploring Alaska’s wild landscape.
The city itself has much to offer, with museums, breweries, restaurants, parks, and cultural points of interest waiting to be discovered in a relatively compact area. From perusing local art galleries and learning about Native culture to venturing along the coastal trail and indulging in craft brews, there are enough things to do in downtown Anchorage to keep any visitor entertained.
Visit the Anchorage Museum
Built on the Eklutna Dena’ina traditional land, the state-of-the-art Anchorage Museum celebrates the culture and history of all Indigenous people in Alaska through exhibitions, tours, workshops, and many other exciting and thought-provoking programs. It’s the city’s most impressive museum, and is centrally located in the middle of the downtown area.
Tour the various exhibitions, detailing the social, cultural, scientific, artistic, and political aspects of the north’s storied past. Observe the 13 themes within the impressive Alaska Exhibition, where you’ll learn about life in Alaska over the decades.
One of the flagship features is the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center, displaying hundreds of Alaska Native objects ranging from simple household implements to masks and artworks.
Enjoy the interactive Alaska and the Arctic Discovery Center, host to environmental installations, tanks displaying sea life, and many more interesting, hands-on displays of science too. After exploring this amazing museum, which could easily fill an afternoon, relax at the onsite cafe and peruse the gift shop for a souvenir. The Anchorage Museum is one of the best things to do in downtown Anchorage.
Embark on an Alaskan Brewery Tour
Beer enthusiasts will wholeheartedly embrace the fantastic brewery scene in downtown Anchorage. Alaskan beer has a special quality thanks to one of the state’s best natural resources, pristine water.
You’ll learn about the local brewery history and renowned beer culture with a tour of some of the city’s top taprooms. Sample beers at Midnight Sun Brewing Company, Anchorage’s oldest brewery, where you’ll have the chance to taste their iconic flagship IPA, the Sockeye Red, Belgian ales, and barrel-aged stouts.
Continue your brewery tour at other taproom hotspots like 49th State Brewing, one of the city’s favorite brewpubs. Learn more about the rich Anchorage beer culture with a stop at King Street Brewing Company, another local favorite.
Try their “Beer of the Month” to wash down snacks from food trucks. Or sip a flight at Cynosure Brewing, named after the North Star and known for their quality lagers and Belgian ales.
Explore the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail
You can embrace Alaska’s natural beauty without even leaving the city. The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail is one of the most enjoyable things to do in Anchorage and a favorite of photographers looking to capture the city blended with the splendor of nature.
Walk or bike along this popular 11-mile trail that stretches along the coast of Knik Arm from downtown Anchorage to the wide-open expanse of Kincaid Park, from where you can see all the way to Denali on a clear day. Locals gather here to watch the fiery sunsets, too.
Enjoy the scenic views of downtown Anchorage, mountain vistas and the water as you make your way along the coastal trail. Keep an eye out for Alaskan wildlife, as moose, eagles, and seabirds may well make an appearance. If cycling is more your speed, bike rentals are available as well for a leisurely ride down the trail.
Learn About the Ulu Knife’s History at The ULU Factory
Spend time learning about Alaska’s inextricable connection to nature with a visit to the ULU Factory in downtown Anchorage, housed in an old cabin-style building. You’ll learn about the craftsmanship and innovation by the ancient Inupiaq, the inventors of a blade.
The knife is perfect for filleting their fresh catch of the day, such as trout and salmon. The curved design of the blade made the act of filleting fish effective and easy with a rocking motion.
This technique dates back some 3,000 years, when bone or slate rock were the best available tools. The modern design, though, employs stainless steel and wood. Watch the production of the ulu knife while listening to the history and use of this inventive tool throughout history, including sewing muktuks and preparing walrus hides.
After, peruse the gift shop where you’ll have the opportunity to purchase your own authentic ulu knife to take home to hone your own fish filleting skills.
Experience the Anchorage Culinary Scene on a Food Tour
Sampling delicious local cuisine is one of the best things to do in downtown Anchorage. Whether you choose to go on a guided culinary tour or put together a self-led itinerary, you’ll get a true taste of Alaskan culture with every bite.
Try local foods such as reindeer sausage, smoked salmon, halibut, king crab legs, and any desserts that use fresh, Alaskan-grown wild berries. Some favorite spots include Snow City Cafe, known for its all-day breakfast and particularly the Eggs Benedict with king crab.
At the Glacier Brewhouse, you can pair craft brews with fresh seafood and other delicious fares, while Simon and Seaforts is an Anchorage staple with dreamy views of Cook Inlet and Mount Susitna.
No Alaskan food tour is complete without sampling Alaskan coffee. Kaladi Brothers Coffee is an Anchorage institution and a coffee lover’s heaven.
Ice cream is another quintessential Alaskan treat, and with a visit to Wild Scoops in downtown Anchorage, you’ll see why. This micro creamery experiments with local flavors, so you could end up sampling snowberry, coconut, Guinness brownie or rosemary birch walnut flavors.
Shop for Alaskan Souvenirs
Support the local shops during your time in Anchorage, and find a great souvenir at the same time. Whether you’re interested in purchasing hand-crafted items, Native Alaskan artwork, culinary goods, or outdoor clothing, Anchorage has plenty of high-quality shops.
Stop into Alaska Wild Berry Products, located in the Anchorage 5th Avenue Mall, where you can buy delicious jams, jellies, and chocolates. A giant chocolate fountain takes center stage in the store, and you can watch as experts prepare candy and fudge with fruit filling.
Another great Alaskan souvenir shop located within the mall is Once in a Blue Moose, which sells Alaskan-made jewelry, naturally scented bath products, jam, caribou sausage, smoked Alaskan salmon, herbal teas, and spicy sauces.
Peruse downtown’s Tiny Gallery, a boutique specializing in handmade, local artisan products. Discover a wide array of crafted items such as jewelry, watercolor artwork, textiles, glass art, crochet, and woodworking treasures.
In the summer months, the Anchorage Market is an all-encompassing open-air shopping experience with live music and vendors selling anything from local produce to clothing, art, and Alaskan-made souvenirs.
Hike Flat Top Mountain
Stretch your legs on a scenic hike while in Anchorage and you’ll be rewarded with awe-inspiring views. The trailhead of this classic Alaskan trek starts just outside of the city, where you can experience the splendor of the region’s incredible landscapes.
Flat Top Mountain is a loop trail that’s a little over three miles in total, delivering sweeping vistas of the ocean and surrounding peaks. A shuttle leaves from downtown Anchorage every afternoon in the summer months, so hiking enthusiasts can venture along one of the area’s most popular trails within half an hour from the heart of downtown.
Enjoy spotting birds and wildflowers along the way and gain a bird’s eye perspective of Anchorage from the top of Flat Top Mountain which is, as its name suggests, flat. On a clear day, you might even be lucky enough to see the elusive Denali looming in the distance.
Tour the Alaska Native Heritage Center
Situated just 10 miles from downtown Anchorage, the Alaska Native Heritage Center provides an educational and immersive cultural experience. Learn about the 11 major cultural groups at the core of Alaska’s Indigenous population, from the Inupiaq to the Tlingit, Eyak, Haida, and more.
Exhibits, performances, and demonstrations, as well as artwork within the heritage center act as a portal through more than 10,000 years of Native history. You can tour the authentic Native dwellings that have been recreated on site near the scenic Lake Tiulana.
Watch an Alaskan Native games demonstration, storytelling, or live theatrical or dance performances in the Hall of Cultures or theater space.
Hop Aboard the Anchorage Trolley
For an entertaining, all-around tour of the city, jump on board the Anchorage Trolley with a local as your informative guide. Departing from the Visit Anchorage Log Cabin Visitor Center, next to the Old Anchorage City Hall, your tour starts with a piece of history.
The City Hall building dates back to 1936 and has housed the mayor’s office, a library, jail cells, firemen’s quarter’s and municipal offices for Anchorage, while the log cabin style of the visitors’ center is an iconic structure symbolic of the 49th state.
As you travel around the city, you’ll be regaled by stories of Anchorage throughout the years. You’ll be treated to magnificent mountain and ocean views, as well as stops at historical points of interest. You’ll also see Earthquake Park and the Alaska Railroad, looking out for wildlife all the time. The trolley tour is a fantastic way to get to know the heart and history of Anchorage.
Delve Into History at the Oscar Anderson House Museum
Head to Elderberry Park and discover the intriguing history of the Oscar Anderson House Museum, dating back to 1915. The quaint wooden building is on the National Register of Historic Places and was the home of Oscar Anderson, who is said to be the 18th person to set foot in Anchorage and was an important influence on the city’s development and early growth.
Travel back in time to the early 1900s for a glimpse into everyday life in Alaska with a tour of this renovated historic house-turned-museum. Browse antiques, old photographs, and furnishings as they were in the times of the early settlers, when life was harsh in this mountainous, snowy wilderness. You don’t have to be a history aficionado to appreciate a visit to this important place and the impact on the foundation of Anchorage.
Discover the rich history and culture of Alaska’s biggest city, surrounded by beautiful mountains and coastal landscapes. An Alaska Cruisetour is a fantastic way to experience all the best things to do in downtown Anchorage and other exciting destinations in Alaska’s interior.
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