IT asked former Traveler staffer Meghan Aftosmis (who currently works in PR) to ask her Alaskan colleagues for their favorite wintry things to do in Big Wild Life (a.k.a. Anchorage) besides watching the start of the Iditarod or viewing the Northern Lights. Here’s what she came up with:
The Chugach Mountains tower over the Anchorage skyline and are hardly a secret. In winter, trailheads are accessible, views are unbelievable and options are limitless. Try the multi-purpose Powerline Pass trail from the Glen Alps Trailhead high above Anchorage. It leads to views of the city and the seemingly never-ending Chugach Range. Enjoy the trail and surroundings on Nordic skis or snowshoes.
It’s never too cold to go ice skating in the city’s outdoor rink on Town Square with its beautifully colored and lit ice sculptures. Or try the ice on Westchester Lagoon, a pond known to attract local skaters.
It also features warming barrels to keep frosty temperatures at bay.
For downtown art and shopping, check out the Alaska Glass Gallery. Artist and owner Cynthia England often offers clinics so you can give glassblowing a try for yourself. Also stop into the Musk Ox Producer’s Co-operative for some Quiviut —finely spun wool from the underbelly of the musk ox, which is finer and warmer than cashmere. And be sure to pick up an AK Starfish T-shirt at Skinny Raven, the best running store in town (also locally owned). Even if you’re not going to buy coffee, a visit to Kobuk Coffee Company is a must-see for its general-store atmosphere, a holdover from its early days as a trading post.
When you get hungry, Snow City Café is another must for breakfast. For lunch, stop by Lucky Wishbone for the best burgers and fried chicken in town. Or, for something a little more gourmet, try the Marx Brothers Café in the Anchorage Museum of History & Art—afterwards, view the museum’s phenomenal pieces of Alaskan art. If you’re in a hurry, pick up some locally roasted Kaladi Brothers coffee and gourmet meats, cheeses and pastries at the New Sagaya’s Markets. Or go to the Panda Restaurant—for the past three years, USA Today has recognized it as one of the top ten Chinese restaurants in the nation.
For dinner, stop by the warm and friendly Glacier Brewhouse and order the seafood jambalaya, the wild Alaska salmon, or the amazing free-range venison. Or try one of the newest restaurants in town, City Diner. Opened by two of the city’s most well known chefs, the restaurant—appropriately named—serves back-to-basics comfort food. If you can’t get a seat here (it’s been busy since it opened), try the chefs’ flagships, Kincaid Grill and Southside Bistro.
Turn in for the night at the cozy Historic Anchorage Hotel. With only 26 rooms, it offers a personal touch and all the right amenities, including free wireless Internet and complimentary breakfast. Or, if you’re up for a 40-minute drive—and some fabulous views—treat yourself to a night at the Alyeska Resort, where you can ski or tube all day, take respite in the new day spa, and sample Alaskan seafood at the Seven Glaciers restaurant. The best part? Sign up for a Northern Lights wake-up call before turning in and the hotel staff will call you if the sky lights up.
- Nat Geo Expeditions