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5 Things You Can’t Miss in Anchorage, Alaska

Anchorage, the most populous city in Alaska, is modest-sized—with only about 300,000 people—yet it’s bursting with experiences that appeal to both residents and visitors. Alaskans live under midnight sun and auroras, share their backyards with moose, and fish in urban salmon streams at lunch. Anchorage residents spend their weekends beyond the reach of email, whether in the backcountry or the brewery. Live like the locals with these easy-to-access Alaska adventures.

Wildlife viewing

a brown bear walks through the grass in anchorage, alaska

Anchorage’s residents include more than 1,500 moose, plus bears, eagles, beluga whales, and millions of migratory birds. The city’s parks and greenbelts offer exceptional opportunities to see Alaska’s vast array of wildlife. Visit Kincaid Park for a solid chance at spotting a moose while on an urban stroll or during a game of disc golf.  Be sure to snap a photo of Mount Susitna—locally known as Sleeping Lady—or even Denali, on a clear day.

Glacier tours

Hikers enjoy the view of Portage Glacier from Portage Pass Trail outside Anchorage, Alaska.

With approximately 60 glaciers just east of the city, Anchorage provides the opportunity to fly out to a glacier, cruise amid tidewater glaciers, or climb a mountain peak for views of surrounding glaciers.  Portage Glacier is one of the most accessible glaciers, about an hour’s drive south of Anchorage. Daily cruises throughout the summer on Portage Lake bring visitors to the face of the icy ridge. Aboard the ship, Forest Service rangers share the story of Portage Valley’s geology, wildlife, and history. The Forest Service rangers also lead a tour from the nearby visitor center to the popular Byron Glacier Trail, which travels less than a mile from the trailhead to the glacier.

Urban trails and hiking

Hikers stop to rest at Winner Creek in anchorage, alaska.

Anchorage’s 135 miles of paved urban trails are perfect for biking and walking. Trails stretch well beyond the bounds of the cityscape, with an additional 300 miles of hiking trails spread out over Chugach State Park. Take advantage of any of these trails with Anchorage Downtown Bicycle Rental. Rent a bicycle and hop on the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, or take the shuttle to the Glen Alps Trailhead and summit Flattop Mountain for scenic views of Cook Inlet and the Chugach Mountains.

Fishing

Hauling in salmon at Anchorage's urban salmon Fishery, Ship Creek in Anchorage, Alaska.

Ship Creek is a bustling salmon fishery steps from downtown. The creek sees king and silver salmon runs in summer, spurring enough activity to support an annual angling competition. Whether you go for the fishing or simply to watch others reel in their catch, Ship Creek is a great spot to view salmon making their way upstream. Outfitters conveniently located nearby can provide all the necessary gear, fishing license included. Those interested in learning more about the life cycle of salmon can visit the hatchery just up the road.

Rail tours

The Alaska Railroad's Glacier Discovery Train approaches Bartlett Glacier in the Chugach Mountains and the Grandview area.

Anchorage owes its beginning to the Alaska Railroad. In the summer, daily service ties Anchorage to Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop, Whittier, Seward, Talkeetna, Denali National Park, and Fairbanks. The train offers large picture windows that perfectly frame Alaska’s epic scenery, and offer an easy way to view wildlife. Take the train to the remote location of Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop, a hidden jewel just a short trip from Anchorage. Disembark for a short hike or venture on a tour by kayak, raft, or stand-up paddleboard to view the glacier up close.

Anchorage is the perfect jumping-off point for iconic Alaska adventures. But it’s also awash in the conveniences of city life. Start each day with locally crafted coffee, feast on local seafood, and brewery-hop to discover the thriving local beer scene. Discover Anchorage’s mix of frontier spirit, creature comforts, and natural beauty, and you’ll find a home away from home.

By Christine Sarkis

There's a 95 percent chance Senior Editor Christine Sarkis is thinking about travel right now. Follow her on Instagram @postcartography and Twitter @ChristineSarkis.

Christine Sarkis is an SATW-award-winning journalist and executive editor at SmarterTravel. Her stories have also appeared on USA Today, Conde Nast Traveler, Huffington Post, and Business Insider. Her advice has been featured in dozens of print and online publications including The New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, and People magazine. She has also shared travel tips on television and radio shows including Good Morning America, Marketplace, and Here & Now. Her work has been published in the anthologies Spain from a Backpack and The Best Women's Travel Writing 2008. She is currently working on a travel memoir.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: The Trtl Pillow. It's easy to pack and comfortable, and makes it so I can actually sleep on flights.

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: Seeing the Aurora Borealis from the comfort of somewhere warm, like a glass igloo or hot spring.

Travel Motto: Curiosity is an amazing compass.

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: Aisle all the way.

Email Christine Sarkis at editor@smartertravel.com.

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