Alaska is an amazing place to visit and offers so many wonderful and adventurous experiences. It’s a Bucket List vacation spot for many people, and for good reason too. Natural beauty is abundant and adventure lies around every corner. However, goods and services tend to be more expensive than in the continental United States because much of these items must be delivered via ship or plane. Luckily, there are so many free activities to partake in that a visit to the 49th state doesn’t have to break the bank.
1.) Hike Flattop Mountain
Hiking to the top of Flattop Mountain was the highlight of my time spent in Anchorage, and if you’re physically fit enough to hike this trail, you will not be disappointed. The trail is 2.8 miles, gains an elevation of about 1,300 feet, and is broken into three segments that become increasingly challenging. The last couple hundred feet will require some rock scrambling (using hands for grip and stabilization), but the 360 degree view from the top is absolutely amazing! Even if you don’t make it all the way to the top you will still be afforded incredible views. Allow 2-3 hours for this hike and take plenty of water. If you don’t have an Alaska State Park annual parking pass there is a $5 per car fee to park at the head of the trail.
2.) Anchorage Market and Festival
If you’re in Anchorage during the summer season (mid-May to mid-September) check out the weekend festival on 3rd Ave. between C and E Streets. It’s open from 10am to 6pm on Saturdays and 10am to 5pm on Sundays and features over 300 different vendors, live music and local food trucks. Peruse the stalls selling everything from local food and produce to locally made crafts like antler carvings, leather goods, and gold nugget jewelry. You’re sure to see some unique items you’ve never seen before!
3.) Alaska Public Lands Information Center
Adjacent to the picture perfect Log Cabin Visitor Information Center in downtown Anchorage is the Alaska Public Lands Information Center. It is staffed with National Park Rangers and is a great resource for enhancing your Alaska vacation. In addition to getting to speak with the Rangers one-on-one, there are interesting exhibits on Alaska’s wildlife, culture and history. They also offer several educational, yet entertaining movies on subjects such as the animals of Alaska, the history of the Alaska railroad, the Gold Rush and the 1964 Earthquake.
4.) Tony Knowles Coastal Trail
This scenic trail is 11 miles long and provides great views of Cook Inlet, downtown Anchorage, the Chugach Mountains, Fire Island, and possibly even Mount Denali on a clear day. Walk or rent a bike to cruise along this flat, paved trail that starts by downtown Anchorage and spans all the way to Kincaid Park. Access to the trail is limited, so keep in mind that you might have to double back for the nearest exit.
5.) Kincaid Park
This massive park in Anchorage is over 1,400 acres, and provides scenic views of Cook Inlet, Fire Island, and Mount Susitna. Kincaid Park is the best bet for seeing moose in the city, and besides moose stalking, you can also play disc golf, enjoy beautiful sand dunes, hike, bike, and even ski in the winter.
6.) Beluga Point
Less than 20 miles South of Anchorage at mile 110 on the Seward Highway is Beluga Point. It sits on the Turnagain Arm where you can view incredible coastal scenery, occasionally spot beluga whales, and at certain times watch the Bore Tide. The Bore Tide is a visible tide change where the water can reach a height of 6 to 10 feet and a velocity of 10-15 miles per hour as it enters the Turnagain Arm.
7.) Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Museum
Less than one hour North of Anchorage in the town of Wasilla is the home of the Iditarod Headquarters. The Iditarod is a grueling 1,000 mile sled dog race where dozens of dedicated mushers and hundreds of eager dogs participate. The museum that is dedicated to the world’s most famous dog sled race is small, yet interesting. It houses an informative movie about the race and the care of the dogs, pictures of past winners, trophies, and a gift shop. During nice weather in the summer months there is also an opportunity to get mushed by a team of dogs!
8.) Ship Creek Salmon Viewing
Within walking distance of downtown Anchorage is Ship Creek. The creek is relatively shallow and is crystal clear, so when the salmon run in the summer you can actually see them swimming upstream. During this time you will also get to watch some anglers in action as they whip their fly fishing lines around their head, casting over and over to attract the fish. The mountains in the background will make you feel like you’re miles away from the city.
9.) Float Plane Base at Lake Hood
Next to the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport is Lake Hood. It’s the busiest float plane base in the world, and therefore the best place to watch float planes take off and land. Planes fly in and out of the base all day long. Some act as taxis from remote areas, others transport goods, and quite a few also cater to tourists for flightseeing. There are planes parked all along the lake, just like boats would be at a marina, so it’s also a great place for a unique photo op.
10.) Potter Marsh Bird Watching
Avid bird watchers will be delighted with a visit to Potter Marsh. More than 200 different species of birds can be spotted from the 1,150 foot long boardwalk. It’s just a short 11 mile drive south of downtown Anchorage to this feathered oasis.
If a visit to Alaska isn’t on your bucket list, it should be. Everywhere you turn there is a photo-worthy view, the locals are friendly, and there is enough to do to keep person busy for weeks. There are no limits on the amount of exploring you can do.
The entire state of Alaska is nearly 2.5 times bigger than the state of Texas and there is much of Alaska that is still untouched. They don’t call it The Last Frontier for nothing, so go and discover a little bit of Alaska for yourself.
Like this article? You might also enjoy my What to Pack for Alaska in the summer article.
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