Anchorage, AK, USA cruises

In Anchorage, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities abound, such as gazing in wonder at the magnificent Northern Lights, or touring snow-capped mountains, icy valleys and glassy lakes by helicopter.

Anchorage port guide.

Anchorage may be Alaska’s largest city, but its fringes are as equally blessed with glaciers, babbling brooks and moose-filled forests as its smaller state neighbors enjoy.

In fact, of everything Anchorage has to offer, the city’s outdoor lifestyle is its biggest magnet, attracting the likes of fishermen, hikers and mountaineers throughout the season, as well as ex-pats looking to achieve the perfect balance between work and play.

But Anchorage isn’t only for those who feel at home in the outdoors. The city’s cultural and culinary offer is another reason almost half of Alaska’s population chooses to live here (and why Anchorage is nicknamed “Alaska’s Big Apple”). From independent galleries and live music, to celebrations of Alaska’s history, Anchorage is rich with cultural experiences of every persuasion, while the city’s (hundreds of) restaurants serve food of Alaskan provenance as fresh as any you’ll taste.

Top landmarks and sights in Anchorage.

One of the defining things about Anchorage is its location. Enviably positioned between mountains and sea, the city enjoys some of Alaska’s finest scenery on its doorstep; from the coastal trails of Cook Inlet to the west, to the snowy peaks of Chugach Mountains to the east. The Matanuska Valley is under an hour away and the nearest national park just a twenty-minute drive. Hikers will adore the wild and untamed beauty of Far North Bicentennial Park, while renting a bike and cycling the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail offers chance encounters with moose and Beluga whales. 

Unsurprisingly, flightseeing tours are common in Anchorage and spying a seaplane in the sky is as likely as seeing an eagle circling overhead. On busy days, up to 600 journeys can take place, and watching the tiny aircraft land and take off from Lake Hood is a joy in itself. If you do decide to take a flight, you won’t be disappointed. The views from above are truly breathtaking, revealing the breadth of Anchorage’s extreme beauty.

Anchorage is also the perfect place to catch natural phenomena including the Midnight Sun and Bore Tides. From late March to September, the city gains half an hour of daylight each week, averaging around 22 hours in June, while Bore Tides (six feet waves that travel for miles) are also common in Anchorage, and regularly sighted along the Seward Highway.

Things to do in Anchorage, Alaska.

From gold panning and salmon fishing to microbrewery hopping and museum trails, Anchorage is a place to immerse yourself in Alaska’s culture through and through.

You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to museums. Anchorage lays claims to dozens worthy of a visit, from the Alaska Museum of Science and Nature to the Anchorage Museum, and Oscar Anderson House, where you can take a guided tour of one of the city’s oldest homes.

At Crow Creek Mine, established in 1898, you’ll discover Alaska’s gold rush era and put your own panning skills to the test, while a visit to the Alaska Native Cultural Center reveals the history of Alaska’s First Nation people through live dance and interactive storytelling.

Craft beer fans may wish to savor a native brew in one of Anchorage’s many local microbreweries, while visiting Anchorage in late July and August offers the chance to catch Chinook salmon as they make their annual pilgrimage upstream to breed. There’s a viewing platform on Potter Marsh boardwalk that affords great views of this natural migration or, alternatively, watch the action unfold from the bridge over Ship Creek in the city’s downtown.

Eating and drinking near Anchorage cruise port.

Alaska is famous for serving up the freshest locally caught seafood and Anchorage’s restaurants only reinforce why the state deserves every culinary accolade it receives. In the city’s hundreds of places to dine out, you’ll find everything from line caught salmon and Alaskan king crab, to scallop, clams, halibut and oysters. All of it prepared to perfection and mouth-wateringly fresh.

Anchorage also benefits from its proximity to the fertile soils of the Matanuska Valley, which supplies a steady stream of farm-to-table produce to the city’s kitchens. Fresh greens, rhubarb and berries are among the delicacies the Matanuska Valley serves up in abundance, and it’s not unusual to find these ingredients heavily featured on Anchorage menus.

Another specialty you might want to try on a port call to Anchorage is reindeer sausage, while a frosty beer is also easy to come by in the city’s friendly and welcoming microbreweries.

Steakhouse, seafood and American restaurants are widely represented throughout Anchorage but the city’s food offer extends beyond the usual Alaska fare. You’ll also find sushi, Italian, Indian and European dining options to whet your appetite, while food stands and fine dining experiences offer something at either end of the dining spectrum.

A great choice of restaurants and cafés are concentrated around East Street, in Anchorage’s downtown, and in the roads leading off of West 3rd and West 5th Avenues.

Shopping in Anchorage.

Anchorage has a wider selection of shops than you’re likely to find at other Alaska cruise ports, so if you’re looking for an original keepsake from your travels to take home, Anchorage is a good place to source it.

In over 90 stores at the city’s 5th Avenue Mall, you’ll find a blend of Alaskan brands and global names that’s perfect for a one-stop-shop. For something truly unique to Anchorage, seek out The Kobuk, also located on 5th Avenue. Opened in 1915, this family-run gift shop is the oldest in Anchorage and a great place to pick up local arts and other native Alaskan crafts. There’s also a tearoom, bakery and espresso bar on site, while the building itself is steeped in historic character.

Museum and gallery gift shops are another great place to pick up Alaska souvenirs in Anchorage, and the Anchorage Museum houses one of the best gift shops of any museum in Alaska. The carefully curated offer includes indigenous art and clothing, together with books and craft items, each one locally sourced and offering a deeper perspective of life in the North.

Finally, no Anchorage shopping expedition would be complete without trying on an Alaskan parky. These Eskimo style coats are symbolic of Alaska, and come in both lightweight summer and heavy-duty winter variations.

Anchorage history and culture.

The discovery of gold, then later oil, WWII and the development of Alaska’s first federally-owned railway have all helped to mold Anchorage for more than a century, taking the city from a non-native population of just 430 in 1880 to almost 300,000.

While gold rush prospectors were the first migrant settlers to arrive in Anchorage, it wasn’t until the railway’s introduction in the early 1900s that non-natives really started to put down permanent roots here, heralding the start of the city’s growth.

The next significant population boom occurred just after the attack on Pearl Harbor, when the US military established two new bases near Anchorage, attracting a wealth of personnel to the region. Even today military jets can often be seen circling in the skies above the city.

When a swathe of oil companies chose to headquarter in Anchorage in the 1970s, the city grew yet again. This time expanding to accommodate a host of new cultural venues, museums and restaurants, the likes of which Anchorage is famed for today. The city is now home to 40% of all Alaska residents, with a higher concentration of chefs, artists and musicians than anywhere else in the state.

Anchorage cruise port location and facilities.

Cruises to Anchorage call south of the city at Seward cruise port. From here you can take a connecting bus or train to reach Anchorage.