Anchorage sits at the base of the Chugach Mountains, in one of the world’s most spectacular settings. With a great deal to offer the visitor, Anchorage is an attractive and exotic tourist destination.
Russian explorers had established themselves in southern Alaska by 1784, but English explorer Captain James Cook is credited with first exploring and describing the Anchorage area in 1778 during his third voyage of discovery.
During the next hundred years Russian trading activity and cultural influence increased. Then in 1867 problems at home forced the sale of Russian America to the United States for a sum of $7,200,000.
In 1915 President Woodrow Wilson authorized funds for the construction of the Alaska Railroad. Ship Creek Landing in Anchorage was selected as the headquarters of this effort. Soon a “Tent City” sprang up at the mouth of Ship Creek and a population quickly swelled to more than 2,000.
Would-be entrepreneurs flocked to this bustling frontier town, and brought with them everything necessary to build a city. A popular hardware and clothing store, “The Anchorage,” was actually an old dry-docked steamship name “Berth.” Although the area had been known by various names, the U.S. Post Office Department formalized the use of the name “Anchorage,” and despite some protests the name stuck. Anchorage was incorporated on November 23, 1920. Alaska attained statehood in 1959.
On March 27th, 1964, a natural disaster of incredible proportions struck Anchorage and Southcentral Alaska: the Good Friday earthquake. This earthquake measured 9.2 on the Richter Scale, the largest ever recorded in North America and, because Anchorage lay only 80 miles from the epicentre, damage to structures totalled hundreds of millions of dollars.
The decade of the 1980s was a time of growth, thanks to a flood of North Slope oil revenue into the state treasury. Tourism and recreational activities were fast becoming a mainstay of the modern Anchorage economy, which has continued to the present day.
Location: Anchorage is located on a triangular peninsula on the shores of Cook Inlet in South Central Alaska, northeast of the Alaska Peninsula, and northwest of Prince William Sound.
Ferry: The Alaska Marine Highway System provides transportation for people, goods and vehicles with regularly scheduled service among 32 Alaska communities, in addition to Bellingham in Washington, USA and Prince Rupert in British Columbia.
Road: Anchorage has easy access to three main highways. The Alaska Highway from Seattle via Canada is a beautiful drive, paved almost the entire way. This road passes through 1,440 miles (2,300 kms) of wilderness, where mechanics are scarce and gas prices are high. Gas stations are located approximately 50 miles apart, but roadhouses and inns are numerous. The Glenn Highway runs through the community of Eagle River and on to Matanuska Valley, where drivers can then take the George Parks Highway northbound to Fairbanks. The Seward Highway winds along the Turnagain Arm southward to Seward and the Kenai Peninsula.
Air: Anchorage is served by Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, with 160 domestic passenger flights per day and international passenger flights from Asia, Europe and Russia. Lake Hood is the world’s largest and busiest seaplane base, accommodating more than 800 take-offs and landings on a peak summer day.
The Anchorage Museum of History and Art exhibits splendid objects from Alaska’s past and present. The Alaska Gallery hosts a display of more than 1,000 objects that portray the history and people of the state. The collections and exhibits, lectures, films, children’s programs and special events attract more than 250,000 residents and travelers annually.
The Alaska Native Heritage Center, located off the Glenn Highway, provides workshops, demonstrations, and guided tours of indoor exhibits and outdoor village sites. Visitors are introduced to Native traditions and customs of past and present. The Welcome House celebrates contemporary Alaska Native cultures, while outdoor facilities and sites allow the exploration of ancient tradition and the presentation of stories from the past.
The Imaginarium is a hands-on science discovery center aimed at entertaining and teaching kids of all ages about science, nature and space through constructed displays in a kid-friendly environment
Glaciers: There are approximately 100,000 glaciers in Alaska, 60 of which are within 50 miles of Anchorage. Portage Glacier, just 45 miles (72 km) south of downtown, is one of the most visited attractions in all of Alaska.
Summer Activities: In the summer, hiking, biking, camping, backpacking, paragliding, horseback riding, and golf are popular recreational activities. Popular water sports include boating, swimming, diving, wind surfing, kayaking and rafting.
Hiking: The extensive trail system in anchorage is ranked second in the US. One of the most popular routes is the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, an 11-mile asphalt trail that is popular among runners, bikers, skiers and walkers that runs from downtown Anchorage to Kincaid Park.
Fishing: Alaska boasts some of the best fishing in the world. Salmon fishing is unparalleled, and Anchorage is one of the few cities in the world where fish can be caught safely in the heart of downtown. Ship Creek runs from the Chugach Mountains to Cook Inlet, supporting several species of salmon, and trout fishing is excellent as well.
Winter Activities: Anchorage offers four top notch downhill skiing areas: Hilltop Ski Area, Russian Jack Springs, and Alpenglow at Arctic Valley are located within the city limits, and Mt. Alyeska in Girdwood, home to Alaska’s largest ski resort, is just a 40-minute drive south of Anchorage. Kincaid Park in southwest Anchorage offers 60 kilometers of groomed ski trails.
Seafood Dining: Alaska is known around the world for the quality and taste of its fresh seafood products. Many classically trained chefs feature seafood on their menu and fine dining establishments are plentiful.
Events: Annual events in summer are numerous: The Girdwood Forest Fair, set in the forest along Glacier Creek in July, is a family fair featuring Alaskan artists, hand-crafted items, exotic foods, and entertainers from all over Alaska. The Bear Paw Festival in Eagle River in July features a 5K fun run, Slippery Salmon Olympics, and a Teddy Bear Picnic. The Great Alaska Salmon Bake and Fly-by in late July offers salmon with all the trimmings, an all-you-can-eat buffet, live music, vintage aircraft, and fly-bys from around the state. Events in August include the Alyeska Blueberry & Mountain Arts Festival and the Alaska State Fair.
Alaska Zoo in Anchorage exhibits wildlife of the Arctic and sub-Arctic in a natural setting, including moose, caribou, sheep, wolves, muskox, caribou, Dall sheep, mountain goats, polar bears, grizzly bears, and black bears.
The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is unlike any other event in the world: a race over 1,150 miles of the most extreme and beautiful terrain known to man. From Anchorage, the race crosses mountain ranges, frozen rivers, dense forests, desolate tundra and windswept coastline to the community of Nome on the western Bering Sea.
In what is called the “Last Great Race on Earth teams of 12 to 16 dogs and their musher cover the distance in 10 to 17 days. The race pits man and animal against nature, against wild Alaska at her best. The Iditarod Trail, now a National Historic Trail, had its beginnings as a mail and supply route from the coastal towns of Seward and Knik to the interior mining camps at Flat, Ophir, Ruby and beyond to the west coast communities of Unalakleet, Elim, Golovin, White Mountain and Nome. Mail and supplies went in and gold came out – all via dog sled. Heroes were made and legends were born.
Prince William Sound offers visitors stunning scenery of fjords, glaciers, waterfalls and bays. Rainy day or sunny day, any day in Prince William Sound is a once-in-a-lifetime day.