Photograph by HagePhoto, Getty Images

 

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A backpacker hikes in Chugach State Park near Anchorage.

 

Photograph by HagePhoto, Getty Images

 

Everything to Know About Anchorage

Anchorage is an urban oasis in the midst of the Alaska wilderness.

One hundred years ago in Anchorage, everyone was living in tents down by Ship Creek. The city rose from its meager roots to become a hub for commerce and culture. Then, a younger crowd discovered opportunity in the "Last Frontier." They could build a community on the edge of the frontier-while skiing, hiking, biking, fishing, rafting and everything in-between. Anchorage has the vibe of a city whose inhabitants came to town on vacation—and stayed!

When to Go

In the summer, Anchorage is the "Land of the Midnight Sun." June, July, and August are "peak season" for visitors from the Lower 48. But Alaskans love the snow—so winter is the time for skiing and to watch for the incredible northern lights.

Celebrate

The city knows how to celebrate, with Anchorage's biggest festival, Fur Rendezvous, taking place in the spring. By the end of February, Anchorage is ready to party. It's still chilly outside, but all the carnival rides are up and the community comes together for events including Snowshoe softball, The "Rondy" parade, the world sled dog championship races and the traditional fur auction. Then there's the start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race to Nome covering 1,049 miles. There's even a 50k ski tour, the "Tour of Anchorage."

What to Eat

Wild Alaska seafood is the theme in Anchorage. Pick your variety: halibut, salmon (fresh or smoked), rockfish, cod, scallops—even oysters. Don't be surprised if your server goes into detail about the variety of salmon (King, red or silver). Locals and visitors alike love fish tacos (rockfish, halibut, cod), fish and chips (halibut, cod), and scallops of any kind.

Souvenir to Take Home

Tucked away in a house in downtown Anchorage is the Oomingmak Musk Ox Producers' Co-op. This group of 250 native Alaskan women knit each piece of "qiviut" by hand. Eight times warmer than wool and very lightweight, the qiviut is the soft wool that falls off naturally from Arctic Musk Ox. Pick a hat, a scarf, or a "nachaq" which covers both your head and your neck. It's not cheap, but you'll think of Alaska each time you put it on in the winter.

Sustainable Travel Tip

Hike or pedal your way around Anchorage on the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. This 11-mile trail starts downtown, wraps around the airport and continues to Kincaid Park. The trail is just one of many in Anchorage, but it's the jewel in the crown because it hugs the water for its entire length. Caution: do not play on the mudflats which appear at low tide. You can get stuck in the gooey stuff and the tide will come back in.

Instagram-Worthy View

You can't miss Flat Top Mountain. It's the mountain that frames south Anchorage with—you guessed it—a flat top. You can drive to a parking lot at the end of the road for a five dollar fee, but here's your moment of truth: you can walk over to the park bench for a lovely photo—or take the two-hour hike to the top for the million-dollar shot. Both are Christmas-card-worthy.