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Alaska is a place many people dream about visiting. Known for the grandeur of its mountains, accessibility to wildlife - it isn’t uncommon to see moose wandering down the road or resting in a park in the middle of the city - offering the chance to hike on a glacier, enjoy phenomenal fishing, and so on, it’s a popular destination.
There is a lot to do and see in America’s largest state, and because of that people arriving in Anchorage may not have a whole lot of time before they are off to another destination.
Near downtown you’ll find the Anchorage Market & Festival, which operates on the weekends from mid-May through Labor Day weekend, in September. You can buy locally made products, as well as Alaska-grown produce. Food vendors will offer you the chance to try reindeer (get the bratwurst). Tundra comic artist is often found here and is always happy to autograph your purchase. They also host a kids’ market if you’ve brought the little ones along.
Chugach State Park is located in nearby Eagle River and offers beautiful views and enjoyable hikes. This wonderful park also boasts more than 50 glaciers, areas for mountaineering, horseback riding, bike paths (suitable for both road and mountain bikes), fishing, and even wind surfing. Since there’s a lot to do here, you can also camp for relatively cheap ($10-28 per night).
A short drive away is Exit Glacier. You can spot it from the highway, and it’s fun to watch it “grow” as you drive to the access point. It is part of the Kenai Fjords National Park and is the only part of the park accessible by road. It is a short, easy hike to the viewing point of the glacier, and you can get fairly close to the blue-tinted ice, an effect created by the absorption of light. If you want a little bit more of a workout, you can continue past the viewing area and hike across the frozen structure.
Nearby is the small coastal town of Seward. The SeaLife Center is a wonderful place to visit, especially with children. It offers up-close views and experiences with all kinds of aquatic and marine life, including sea lions and a giant Pacific octopus. Admission is a bit stiff, at $20 USD for adults and $10 for kids ages 4-11 (students 12-17 pay $15 with student ID). The small town offers many outdoor adventures as well. By now you’ve worked up an appetite, so stop at Ray’s Waterfront restaurant and enjoy a delicious meal with outstanding views.
The city of Anchorage offers miles of bike and pedestrian paths throughout the city as well as ocean views. Bring some food and visit the lake near the airport to watch sea planes take off and land on the water. Anchorage also boasts a zoo which provides a home for injured, orphaned, and captive-born wildlife. They offer a variety of behind-the-scenes encounters ranging from short tours to a full-day experience as a zookeeper. Check out Alaska Zoo.
If you can work an extra few days into your Alaska itinerary, I would encourage you to plan at least 3-4 days to experience all that Alaska’s biggest city has to offer.