3 Days in Anchorage, Alaska

Sunset over the Anchorage skyline, Anchorage, Alaska (Shutterstock)

Sunset over the Anchorage skyline, Anchorage, Alaska (Shutterstock)

GetCurrentFast.com Travel Guide™

This travel guide presents the top things to do in Anchorage, Alaska during a 3-day trip at a leisurely pace in the summertime. Although it is filled with many practical travel tips, we wrote this guide to be “A good read even without the going,”™ so enjoy this virtual trip.

In this guide, you first explore the city, getting to know to its diverse cultures. Then you take a trip to the wilder side, either exploring the soaring peaks of Denali or fishing on the Yentna River. Of course, your trip would not be complete without a scenic train ride and viewing of glaciers.

To read the itinerary version of this travel guide, click here.

A bull caribou in Denali National Park, Alaska (Shutterstock)

A bull caribou in Denali National Park, Alaska (Shutterstock)

Alaska. Say the word out loud, and listen.

Just as a seashell held to the ear whispers the essence of the ocean; those three syllables echo the incredible beauty, romance, and adventure of America’s “Last Frontier.” So much of our land in the United States has been tamed and peopled for quite some time, Alaska seems to be our last hope to experience the wild within our own borders.

John Muir, renowned author, activist, ect, first heeded the call to Alaska in 1879. His adventures are documented in his book Travels in Alaska.

Adventurer and conservationist John Muir in 1907 (Wikipedia)

Adventurer and conservationist John Muir in 1907 (Wikipedia)

“Fain would I describe the glories of those months in the ice-world — the beautiful and terrible network of crevasses, the clustering pinnacles, the thousand streams ringing and gurgling in azure channels cut in the living body of the glacier, the glorious radiance of the sunbeams falling on crystal dale and hill, the rosy glow of the dawn and sunset, the march of the clouds on the mountains, and the mysterious splendor of the auroras when the nights grow long, etc., etc., etc. But this would require a volume, while here I have only space to add — Go to Alaska, go and see.”

Although Muir was roused to write those words by the exquisite beauty of an Alaskan winter, we suggest summertime for your first trip to the northern-most state. The weather is mild, if a bit rainy; but most importantly, you will enjoy the 19.5 hours of sunlight in the average summer day. The extended daylight affords you plenty of time to explore the “Land of the Midnight Sun.”

A totem pole with the Alaskan wilderness in the background (Shutterstock)

A totem pole with the Alaskan wilderness in the background (Shutterstock)

We suggest you start your Alaskan adventure in Anchorage. The largest city in the state is home to more than 40% of the state’s population, as well a diverse wildlife population. Moose and bear are common sights in the city. When Muir made his first trek up to Alaska, the city of Anchorage simply was not; it is a surprisingly young city. It was not founded as mining or fishing city, as were the majority of prominent Alaskan towns. The city was founded in 1914 when it became a construction camp for the Alaskan railroad — purely by happenstance; happy happenstance that landed the city within 9.5 hours by flight from 90% of the industrialized world! Thus Anchorage evolved into an aviation hub which makes the cost of travel there a lot less than your Alaskan adventure would otherwise cost.

Romanticized in the writings of explorer, and with a larger-than-life reputation, you may ask yourself: Can it really live up to my wild expectations? To that we echo Muir’s words: “Go to Alaska, go and see.”

While you could easily spend a long time exploring all that Anchorage has to offer, if you have only a few days, this guide helps you make the most of them, including a suggested itinerary and a list of Editors’ Choice restaurants.

Day 1: Walking Tour of Anchorage

Native Alaskans dance at the Alaska Native Heritage Center (Courtesy)

Native Alaskans dance at the Alaska Native Heritage Center (Courtesy)

We suggest you start your day with a hearty breakfast at Snow City Cafe or a cup of coffee from Dark Horse Coffee Company. (See Editor’s Choice Restaurants, below)

To begin your acquaintance with Anchorage, take a stroll around the historic town square bordered by W 5th St, W 6th St, F St, E St. The surrounding neighborhood is full of shops and restaurants. From there, you can learn about Alaska’s diverse native cultures —both past and present— at the Alaska Native Heritage Center. Or visit the Alaska Aviation Museum where they pay tribute to the planes and pilots who pioneered Alaskan aviation. They are long walks from the historic district, or a short drive, whichever you prefer.

Alternately, you can visit the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, about an hour’s drive from the city.  The Center rescues and rehabilitates injured and orphaned animals, and visitors have the chance to see native animals in their natural habitat.

We suggest dinner in the city (See Editor’s Choice Restaurants below) followed by an evening stroll on the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail.

Day 2: Fish the Yentna or Visit Denali

The Riversong Lodge on the Yentna River in Alaska is northwest of Anchorage (Courtesy)

The Riversong Lodge on the Yentna River in Alaska is northwest of Anchorage (Courtesy)

For your second day in Anchorage, there are two choices. You can hop a floatplane and fish the famed Yentna River, or drive to the ever popular Denali National Park. Both are excellent, and distinctly Alaskan, experiences.

If fishing is your choice, our favorite destination for a day is Riversong Lodge offering Day Fishing Excursions for the novice and experienced fishermen. The lodge provides all the equipment, expert guides, rainwear if needed, and a gourmet lunch. When we went, it rained most of the day, but the fishing was so good we didn’t mind. The Yentna River is home to all five species of Pacific salmon including king and sockeye. Rainbow trout are also common. While lunch may leave you inclined for a nap by the fireplace, that’s your call. The Lodge, accessible only by float plane, is serviced by Rust’s Aviation and its highly experienced bush pilots. If weather permits, the 20 minute flight is a good opportunity to spot wildlife.

If Denali National Park is your choice for the day, then plan to be up early for the 3-hour drive to the park. The park is made up of a staggering 6 million acres of land, including Mt. McKinley, North America’s tallest peak. Once in the park, you must use the park’s bus system to access many destinations. Visiting the park anytime is a treat, but the weather can obscure Mt. McKinley which is why it may be best to reserve at least a few days to visit Denali.

Day 3: Trains and Glaciers

Seward, Alaska (Shutterstock)

Seward, Alaska (Shutterstock)

Your third day can find you taking the 4-hour scenic train ride from Anchorage to Seward via the Alaska Railroad. Their Resurrection Bay Wildlife Cruise includes the train ride, cruise to Fox Island, and a lunch of Alaska salmon and prime rib. Along the way, you’ll travel to alpine glaciers and see the rugged coastline to view the breathtaking scenery and, if you’re lucky, some wildlife. During our visit, a super-pod of Orca whales accompanied our boat for much of the journey. This is a very rare occurrence, but an example of what can happen in delightful Alaska. As an option, you can spend a night or more on Fox Island in one of the beach front cabins.

Take a Walk, Hike, and R&R (Relax and Recharge)

A tour boat stops for a visit to a glacier near Fox Island, Alaska (Frank Flavin - Alaska Tourism Council)

A tour boat stops for a visit to a glacier near Fox Island, Alaska (Frank Flavin – Alaska Tourism Council)

Alaska abounds with trails to explore, and peaks to summit. To list all of the possible hikes is beyond the scope of this guide. From the list below, choose one or more of the places to walk, hike, or just relax and recharge. Of course, you and your doctor should agree that you’re up to any physical exertion. Also, remember that you are in or near the wilderness, so learn how to avoid unpleasant encounters with a bear, moose, or other wildlife.

  • Tony Knowles Coastal Trail winds for 11 miles along the coast. The paved trail makes for an easy stroll, however long you want to make it.
  • Flattop Mountain Trail — this moderate to difficult 3.4mi hike leads you to the top of Flattop Mountain. From there, enjoy 360 degree views of Anchorage, Cook Inlet, and surrounding mountains.
  • Alaska Botanical Garden is an ideal spot for a casual walk along one of the trails that meander through the gardens.

If you do opt to take a walk or hike, look for a spot to sit back and relax for a while, ideally unplugged. Unless you’re in the city, you’ll find cell phone coverage in Alaska is spotty, so make the most of your quiet time.

Editors’ Choice Restaurants

The Crow's Nest Restaurant at the Hotel Captain Cook in Anchorage, Alaska (Courtesy)

The Crow’s Nest Restaurant at the Hotel Captain Cook in Anchorage, Alaska (Courtesy)

Our top picks for area restaurants are listed alphabetically below. We carefully screened them as if we were making a recommendation to our family or friends. In most popular areas, particularly during peak seasons, we suggest making reservations or at least calling ahead for wait times. Arriving early is also a good idea, and can help make the meal more leisurely and relaxing. Of course, prices and menus are subject to change.

 

Editors’ Choice Restaurants Meals Price
Range
 Comments
(American food unless noted otherwise)
B L D
Club Paris $$$ Anchorage’s oldest steakhouse.
Crow’s Nest Restaurant  •  $$$-$$$$ American and French cuisine is served with views of Cook Inlet, Downtown Anchorage, and Chugach Mountains.
Dark Horse Coffee Company $ Serves specialty coffee drinks along with pastries and sandwiches for a quick and casual breakfast or lunch.
Fancy Moose Lounge at the Millennium Alaskan Hotel $$-$$$ Seasonal patio dining and views of the floatplanes taking off and landing at Lake Spenard/Lake Hood
Jens’ Restaurant  $$-$$$$ An ever changing menu features local seafood and game with European flair.
Kaladi Brothers Coffee $ “Alaska’s Premier Coffee Roaster”serves up specialty coffee drinks at the handful of cafes sprinkled throughout the city.
Kincaid Grill $$$-$$$$ Serving “Alaskan Regional Cuisine” with an emphasis on the bounty of local seafood..
Midnight Sun Brewing $-$$ This local brewery serves up craft brews with eclectic, casual fare.
Moose Tooth Pub & Pizzeria  $$ An array of craft beer and stone-baked pizza put this brewpub on the map.
Red Chair Cafe, The $-$$ Eclectic cafe featuring food, beverages, art, and entertainment along with dinner and entertainment on Friday and Saturday
Snow City Cafe  • $$ Hearty breakfast plates are served all day at this local cafe.
Snow Goose Restaurant $$-$$$ Pubgrub and beverages including a Reindeer Burger and Caribou Meatloaf

 

Map of Editors’ Picks from GetCurrentFast.com

Visitor Info

Anchorage Conventions and Visitor’s Bureau 

Sources:

General: AAA Travel | America Strong | Fodor’s Travel | Frommer’sTrip Advisor, | WikiTravel | Wine Spectator, and other trusted sources

Local Facts & Trivia: 50States.com, and other trusted sources | Hiking (basic maps and reports are free): Trails.com and AllTrails.com

Restaurant Reviews: AAA Travel | Fodor’s | Open TableTrip Advisor | Urban Spoon | Zagat, and other trusted sources

Please travel and enjoy yourself responsibly —and at a leisurely pace.

GetCurrentFast.com Travel Digest
A good read even without the going™

Jessica O'Malley
Jessica O’Malley, Associate Editor, writes for GetCurrentFast.com. Her work is distributed by GCF Media Syndicate. Jessica is an entrepreneur, real estate and business investor, writer, culinary artist and coach, and world wanderer. In addition to her international travels, she has been to all 50 states and is revisiting them to write about the top destinations, attractions, and restaurants in the USA.
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