When you think of Alaska the first thoughts that come to mind are often towering mountain peaks, fantastic wildlife, and epic scenery.
It's honestly one of the best places to travel in the world so make sure you add it to your bucket list!
Anchorage is the state's largest city and it doesn't disappoint! You’ll find tons of attractions, wildlife-watching opportunities, and striking landscapes here so be prepared for the adventure of a lifetime.
However, the city is also part of a much larger municipality with the same name.
This municipality covers an area of 1,706 sq miles (4,418 sq km) which makes it bigger than the entire state of Rhode Island so as you can imagine - there’s a lot to see.
There are tons of things to do in Anchorage ranging from exploring the city on a trolley bus to visiting one of the nearby national parks!
For this reason, putting together an itinerary can feel pretty overwhelming but that's where we come in.
So, if you're looking for things to do around Anchorage we've detailed everything you need to know...
There are a couple of different ways you can reach Anchorage so let’s take a look at each one!
Generally, the most popular way to reach the city is by air as the airport is located just 5.5 miles (8.9 km) from Downtown Anchorage.
Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport has over 100 flights arriving daily, with many of them being domestic services from other cities in the United States.
You'll find plenty of direct flights available from U.S cities including Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Chicago!
Once you’ve arrived, you can get to Anchorage by hiring a taxi from the airport or taking the No.7 public bus which is much cheaper.
Ferries run from Bellingham which is located in Washington to Whittier and beyond, with the final destination being Dutch Harbor.
Although the ferries don’t stop off at Anchorage, you can depart at Whittier and make your way to the city from there.
The ferries are run by the Alaska Marine Highway System and will take you along the inside passage and across the Gulf of Alaska.
One-way cruises are another popular option to reach the city. They depart from Vancouver and sail along the inside passage before reaching Anchorage.
However, they’re the most expensive way to reach the city and you’re likely to be on there for at least seven days.
The Alaskan Highway covers an impressive 1,382 miles and connects British Columbia with Alaska.
British Columbia is located in Canada, and you can then travel to Anchorage from the border.
If this is an option for you, then I can highly recommend it! Along the way, you’ll get to see epic mountain landscapes, observe a ton of wildlife, and make plenty of stops too.
Just allow a minimum of 4-5 days for this journey as this isn’t a road trip you want to rush!
The best way to get around Anchorage is to hire a campervan or a rental car.
This gives you ultimate flexibility when planning your trip, as many of the popular attractions and national parks in the area are located a good distance from the city centre.
Although there are bus routes and trains that run to some of these places, you’ll be restricted by their timetables and won’t be able to make scenic stop-offs along the way.
If you hire a campervan, you can also take advantage of the many campgrounds surrounding Anchorage. This allows you to save money on accommodation and be close to nature, making it the perfect option - it's actually one of our top tips for keeping the costs down whilst traveling.
When it comes to car rentals your best option is to check out the deals on Rentalcars first before comparing packages in Anchorage. For campervan hire, I’d recommend using Motorhome Republic!
If you don’t have your own vehicle, there are other ways to get around Anchorage:
Shuttle services: You’ll find plenty of shuttle service operators within Anchorage so shop around for the best deals.
Hire a bicycle: Although you can’t explore the whole municipality on a bicycle, this is a great way to explore the city. This way you can cycle the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail that starts from Downtown Anchorage.
Train: This is a great option for day trips as trains run regularly to Whittier and Spencer Glacier. You’ll also find some trains that head toward Denali National Park.
Rideshare: Both Uber and Lyft operate within the city or you can organise a rideshare via a local taxi company.
Bus: There are lots of bus routes throughout Anchorage - especially within the city. You’ll also find buses that run to Denali and Seward so you can explore the nearby national parks.
Tour: Anchorage is home to plenty of fantastic tour options! Some of the most popular tours in the area include this awesome 1-hour trolley tour and glacier and wildlife discovery tour.
You can also go out on a wilderness experience from Anchorage!
Whilst exploring this huge city & municipality, many people choose to base themselves in and around Downtown Anchorage. This is the best area for transport links, exploring the attractions, and for admiring the epic views.
Here are my top recommendations!
This luxury hotel is in the prime location for exploring Anchorage as it’s close to popular attractions including the Anchorage Museum and Elderberry Park.
With four on-site restaurants, two swimming pools, retail stores, and a spa & wellness centre - this place has so much to offer!
The Historic Anchorage Hotel is another great option with fantastic facilities. On-site you’ll find a fitness centre, a business centre, and a 24-hour reception.
The suites are incredibly spacious and feature plenty of amenities including free WiFi, a flat-screen TV with streaming services, and a desk. Breakfast is also included with your stay!
This is one of the more budget-friendly options in Anchorage and it's situated in the heart of the city. With cosy rooms, free parking, and a continental breakfast, it’s an excellent option.
However, the highlight of this place has to be its top-floor deck. From here, you’ll get panoramic views of the Cook Inlet and its spectacular mountain backdrop.
During your time in Alaska, you have to explore Downtown Anchorage. It’s the heart of the city and is where you’ll find iconic shops, quirky restaurants, and lush city parks.
One of the best places to visit in this area is the Log Cabin Visitor Center where you can get some friendly advice on where to visit and nearby shuttle services.
During your stay in Anchorage, you’ll also want to visit Elderberry Park, the ULU Factory, and the Oscar Anderson Museum House Museum. Don’t forget about the Anchorage Museum either!
There are plenty of attractions to keep you entertained, but the most popular is perhaps the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail which is included in this awesome city bike tour.
Starting from downtown, this trail is one of the most beautiful coastal routes in Alaska. It’s 11 miles (17.7 km) long and offers stunning views of Mount McKinley - North America’s tallest Peak.
You might even get to spot moose and beluga whales from the trail too!
If that’s not enough to convince you to explore, then this part of the city is also the site of some fantastic tours.
One of the most popular options is this fantastic half-day craft brewery tour where you’ll head to three different venues to taste some of Anchorage’s local beers.
There’s no better way to explore Anchorage than by taking the iconic trolley bus!
It allows you to learn about the city’s history and culture along the way, and you might even get to spot some urban moose too.
The 1-hour trolley tour will take you on a 15-mile tour of Anchorage, whilst a local guide talks about the city’s culture, historical events, and present-day life.
You’ll get to drive past some of the city’s most popular sites including the Earthquake Park, Westchester Lagoon, Lake Hood, and Lake Shepherd.
Not only will you get to marvel at these sites, but you’ll also get to spot seaplanes taking off and witness some of Anchorage’s epic vistas.
This tour comes with a complimentary ticket book too that offers $200 of savings when it comes to local restaurants, attractions, and tours!
There’s also a deluxe city tour that lasts between 1.5-2 hours and allows passengers to get off at each stop.
This allows you to take plenty of photographs and ask the guide some questions, rather than just staying onboard the trolley bus at all times!
Anchorage Museum is situated within the downtown area of the city and is a must-visit! It’s the largest museum in Alaska and is the best place to learn about the state's history.
Not only will you get to learn about Alaska’s culture, but you’ll also get to learn about the gold-rush era, the earliest humans, and the challenges of living in this state.
There’s also a display about the biggest earthquake ever recorded in North America, that devastated Alaska in 1964.
Although the exhibits are ever-changing here, there are a couple of permanent exhibitions that you NEED to visit.
These include the ‘Living Our Cultures’ exhibit, the ‘Art of the North’ gallery, and the Alaska exhibition.
Visiting this museum is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Anchorage so don’t leave it off your itinerary.
You could easily spend 4-5 hours marvelling at the exhibits, but if you’re on a tight schedule then 2 hours should be enough to see the highlights.
If you’re looking to make the most out of your visit and you’re travelling to Anchorage in the summer - there are even FREE daily tours available.
Chugach State Park is one of the largest state parks in the United States and offers spectacular vistas and wildlife-watching opportunities.
There are 280 miles of hiking trails within the park and 16 specific trailheads making Chugach a hiker’s paradise. You can even go on a guided alpine trek where you’ll get breathtaking views of the surrounding area.
However, if you’re looking for more of an adventure then I recommend going rafting instead!
You’ll be heading down the stunning Eagle River, with rapids ranging in difficulty from Class 1 to 4 so there’s something for everyone.
There are plenty of outfitters in the area that offer this experience including Chugach Outdoor Center, Chugach Adventures, and Flow AK. Just shop around, and see which one offers the best deals.
As well as an adrenaline-pumping experience, you’ll be rewarded with stunning mountain views, plenty of wildlife-watching opportunities, and of course - an epic adventure!
The park headquarters is just a 20-minute drive outside of Anchorage so is easily accessible.
However, if you’re not just planning to go rafting you’ll ideally need a vehicle to explore all the highlights.
Alaska has a long history of gold mining, so it’s only fitting that you should try it out yourself!
The best place to do this is the Crow Creek Gold Mine which has been around since 1896 and is one of the country’s most famous mining operations.
They offer hands-on experience when it comes to gold panning, and will teach you everything you need to know.
Whether you’re a complete beginner or you’ve got some experience when it comes to panning for gold - there’s something for everyone.
The staff will demonstrate the best techniques for gold panning and offer some top tips along the way too.
Not only that, but you’ll be given a pay dirt packet to practice with that actually contains gold!
Don’t worry about the equipment either, as you’ll be given everything you need including gold pans, shovels, buckets, and a glass vial to keep any gold that you find.
During your time at Crow Creek, make sure you explore some of the historical buildings in the area too and wander along the Iditarod Trail.
So, if you’re looking for fun things to do in Anchorage add this activity to your list!
Girdwood is just a 45-minute drive from Anchorage and is one of the most beautiful resort towns in Alaska. If you don’t have your own vehicle, you can also catch the train.
This is where you’ll find the Crow Creek Gold Mine that I just mentioned, however, there are plenty of other things to do here too!
One of the best things to do in Girdwood is to take the aerial tram up to the top of Mount Alyeska. The Seven Glaciers Restaurant is located here and offers panoramic views of Turnagain Arm and seven glaciers (hence the name).
During your time in Girdwood, you’ll also want to look at taking a flightseeing tour or go dog sledding for the ultimate Alaskan experience.
If that’s not enough to convince you then why not explore Chugach National Forest, hike the Winner Creek Trail, or visit Alyeska Nordic Spa.
The most popular attraction though is the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center!
This 200-acre centre works to preserve Alaska’s wildlife and educate people about the species in the area.
It also allows you to observe some of the state's native wildlife that can’t be released back into the wild. You can book your tickets in advance too with Get Your Guide.
If you’re a big fan of exploring nature like us then you just HAVE to go kayaking at Spencer Glacier.
This is a bucket list experience for sure and is one that will leave you with memories to last a lifetime.
Spencer Glacier is an impressive 3,500 ft high and is one of the most beautiful sights you’ll see during your time in Anchorage.
You can hike up to the glacier, but I’d recommend kayaking instead as it’s a much better experience!
There are two options when it comes to kayaking at Spencer Glacier; un-guided and guided.
If you’ve got your own kayak then exploring the waters unguided is an experience like no other! You’ll have these serene waters all to yourself and will get to admire towering icebergs along the way.
However, if you don’t have the equipment or you aren’t a confident kayaker then you can go on a guided kayak tour with Chugach Adventures!
You’ve got the choice of two departure points; Anchorage or Girdwood and lunch is included too!
Not only will you get to see some of Alaska's most magical sights this way, but you’ll have an experienced guide with you at all times.
Now, this is without a doubt one of the top things to do in Anchorage, Alaska.
The Coastal Classic Train runs from Anchorage to Seward and is considered to be one of the ‘Top 10 Train Rides in North America’ by National Geographic.
Running along the rugged coastline of Alaska, this train ride offers fantastic wildlife-watching opportunities and the chance to marvel at the epic scenery along the way.
This includes stunning vistas of the Chugach mountains, the Turnagain Arm, towering glaciers, and backcountry wilderness.
If you’re not planning to stay in Seward, then you can just jump back on the train with this ticket and head back to Anchorage.
It includes round-trip transportation from Anchorage and reserved seats, so your journey will be hassle-free! The train times are convenient too as you’ll be arriving in Seward at 11:45 am, and not departing until 6:00 pm so you’ve got some time to explore.
Taking a train ride along the Alaska Railroad is one of the best ways to explore the state so don’t miss out on this experience. Trust me - you’ll regret it otherwise!
Dog sledding has to be one of the most iconic adventures in Alaska, as you can find this experience up and down the country.
It’s one of the best ways to explore the state's rugged wilderness and you’ll get to see plenty of cute dogs too - what more do you need?
Anchorage is home to plenty of tour operators offering this activity including Alaska Mushing School and Greatland Adventures.
However, if you’re looking for the ultimate Alaskan experience, then make sure you check out this fantastic tour in the Anchorage area.
First of all, you’ll go on a helicopter ride over the Church Range and Knik Glacier before landing on Troublesome Glacier. From here, you’ll then go on a dog-sled ride with a team of 40 dogs for the ultimate sledding adventure.
Not only will you get to admire the beautiful scenery from a unique perspective, but if you’re lucky you might get to spot moose and mountain goats along the way.
Dog sledding is one of the most popular activities in Anchorage and it’s not hard to see why!
If you’re wondering what to do in Anchorage, then make sure you take a day trip out to Knik Glacier. This is undoubtedly one of the most impressive glaciers in Alaska at an impressive 25 miles (40.2 km) long!
The glacier winds its way through the Chugach mountains before tumbling into a beautiful lake that feeds the Knik River.
The Face of Knik Glacier is 5 miles (8 km) long and is made up of 400ft towering walls of ice, so is quite the sight!
There are a couple of ways you can view Knik Glacier, and one of these is via a flightseeing tour. Some of the top operators in the area that can offer this include Outbound Heli Adventures and Alaska Helicopter Tours!
The other popular option is by taking a full-day ATV tour where you’ll get to experience the backcountry wilderness along the way.
Popular operators that offer this experience include Alaska Backcountry Adventure Tours and 49th State Motor Tours.
If you’re short of time and can’t do a full-day tour, then why not hike along the West Butte Trail instead which is just 1.5 miles long. It offers stunning views of the glacier and is just a 45-minute drive outside of Anchorage.
Going on a glacier hiking tour is without a doubt one of the best things to do in Anchorage, AK.
There’s nothing that compares to the feeling of hiking on a glacier, making it a must during your visit to Alaska.
Luckily, there are tons of options so you’ve got plenty of choices.
If you’re looking to head north of Anchorage, then the most popular glaciers are Knik and Matanuska. Whereas if you’d prefer to head south, you’ll have the choice of Portage Glacier or Spencer Glacier.
Many of the tours depart from Downtown Anchorage and combine glacier hiking with wildlife-watching or photography for the full experience.
This fantastic photography tour will take you to Matanuska, where you can climb up on the glacier and be rewarded with some epic views and shots of course!
Otherwise, you can choose from the many fantastic operators within the city including Greatland Adventures, Alaska Tours, and Salmonberry Travel & Tours.
Just make sure you shop around to find the best deals and check that the tours include transportation as well as glacier hiking!
Denali National Park is one of the most popular national parks in the world and it’s not hard to see why!
With towering peaks, fantastic wildlife-watching opportunities, and plenty of hiking trails - there’s something for everyone.
Denali is also home to the highest peak in North America - the iconic Mount McKinley!
Covering an impressive 6 million acres, and with just one road running through the middle, Denali is the perfect place to visit in Alaska if you’re looking to spot some wildlife.
The park is home to a HUGE variety of species including Alaska’s big 5; bear, caribou, Dall sheep, moose, and wolves. You might also get to spot lynx, snowshoe hares, and marmots!
One of the best ways to spot wildlife in Denali is to take one of the bus tours that run right through the middle of the park. `
You’ll have a naturalist guide on board who will be an expert at spotting wildlife, and you’ll also get to stop at some of the best wildlife viewing spots along the way.
Heading to Denali is one of the best things to do in Anchorage - especially for animal lovers!
Here's some information on things to do in Denali National Park...
Katmai National Park was established in 1918 and has over 9,000 years of human history.
However, the national park is most famous for its brown bears!
Katmai is actually one of the best areas in the world for brown bear viewings, thanks to its healthy salmon population.
It’s estimated that there are around 2,200 brown bears in the park and one of the best places to spot them is Brooks Camp!
This is where the bears congregate to feed on sockeye salmon as the fish swim up Brooks River to try and leap up Brooks Falls.
There are four viewing platforms situated along the river, where you’ll be able to get spectacular views of this natural occurrence. So, make sure you’ve got a camera on you!
The main way to reach Katmai National Park is by plane, so be prepared for a true wilderness experience!
To keep you safe, you’ll be required to attend a talk where the rangers will discuss bear safety and park regulations. You can’t head to the viewing areas until you’ve done this as it’s for your own good!
If you're looking to visit Katmai National Park then here's some information that you may find helpful...
Another place you need to visit if you’re looking to spot wildlife is Kenai Fjords National Park.
The park is situated at the edge of the Kenai Peninsula and offers scenic vistas, endless glaciers, and the chance to spot a variety of marine life.
There are plenty of tour operators that offer cruises within Kenai Fjords, but this awesome tour really stands out!
It’s a 6-hour morning cruise that departs from Seward and will take you through the national park.
Not only will you be cruising past striking glaciers, but if you’re lucky you’ll be able to spot whales, sea lions, and otters along the way!
This part of Alaska is also a great place to spot killer whales too, so keep your eyes peeled.
This cruise will even head past the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge where you’ll get to see plenty of seabird rookeries. You’ll also get to dine on board and listen to the captain's commentary throughout the tour.
Taking a glacier cruise through Kenai Fjords National Park is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and isn’t something you want to miss during your time in Alaska.
Just make sure you're dressed accordingly!
Here's some more information if you're looking to visit Kenai Fjords National Park...
Seeing the Northern Lights is on many people’s bucket lists, and there are plenty of places throughout the world where they’re visible.
However, there’s nothing quite like spotting them in Alaska!
This state is one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights due to its low precipitation levels, and its location underneath the Auroral Oval (a zone where the lights are concentrated).
To spot them you’ll need to be a night owl, but trust me - the experience is 100% worth it and will take your breath away!
If you’re looking for Anchorage activities that revolve around the aurora borealis, then make sure you check out this fantastic photography tour.
You’ll be picked up from your hotel during the night, where you’ll then head out in search of this natural phenomenon.
Throughout the trip, you’ll get personalised photography tips from the guide so you can take the best shots possible! The use of a tripod is also included so you don’t have to worry about taking photographs with your shaky hands.
Just keep in mind there’s no guarantee you’ll see the Northern lights with this tour, but you will pick up some new photography skills along the way.
So, what are you waiting for?
The best time to visit Anchorage is the peak tourist season which falls between June and September. This is when you’ll have pleasant temperatures, clear skies, and plenty of daylight.
It’s also a great time to spot bears in the surrounding area, and is the peak season for whale–watching too!
There are so many amazing things to do in Anchorage, and you’ll want to spend plenty of time outside the city too.
To make the most of this area, I’d recommend spending at least 3-4 days here! This gives you enough time to visit the most popular attractions and national parks in and around the city.
There’s no escaping the fact that Anchorage and Alaska as a whole aren’t cheap! It’s actually one of the most expensive states in America so be prepared to part with some cash during your trip.
With accommodation, transport, food, and tours - you’ll want to allow yourself a budget of at least $200-250 per person.
You can save money (like we certainly did) by having your own form of accommodation like a motorhome. But eating out and doing all the epic tours within a short period of time will certainly increase your overall spending.
There are plenty of fantastic tour options available if you’re staying in Anchorage. If you’re looking for an all-around trip then this fantastic Glacier and wildlife discovery tour is a great option!
You’ve also got the choice of this 1-hour trolley tour or an afternoon wilderness adventure. However, if you’re looking for the ultimate Alaska tour then make sure you check out this 7-day bear and Denali adventure that departs from the city.
As you can see there's so much to do in Anchorage but experiences likes this city bike tour can sell out in advance so make sure you check for availability!
So, you’ve explored the largest city in Alaska and its surrounding area!
There are so many incredible things to do in Anchorage, but that’s only just scratching the surface of what this beautiful state has to offer.
The question is where do you go from here?
Luckily Anchorage has a ton of fantastic cities and attractions to visit, so make sure you leave some extra time to explore!
This includes the scenic cities of Juneau, Seward and Fairbanks, and of course Glacier Bay and Wrangell St. Elias National Park.
If you're planning to explore more of the United States then here are some other guides that you might find helpful:
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