The last great frontier to be explored in the Americas is Alaska. The combination of its latitude and rugged terrain make the state of Alaska largely uninhabited by anything other than the hardiest of animals able to withstand the harsh environment. And on the edge of that frontier sits Anchorage, the state’s largest and most inhabited city and home to more than 40% of Alaska’s total population. Out of all Alaska destinations, this is the most popular with visitors to the state.
As of 2015, Anchorage itself boasted a population of just under 299,000. There are more than 396,000 residents when you combine the city with its surrounding boroughs. If you want to see the frontier, there is lots of open space to choose from. But if you want to see what city life is like in Alaska, Anchorage is the place to be.
Anchorage is an important refuelling hub for both commercial and military aircraft due to its geographic location. Some 90% of the industrialised world is within easy flying distance (under 10 hours) from the city, so getting there from Europe is actually pretty simple. Plan on going in the summer if you are averse to severe winter weather. If you don’t mind snow, ice, and limited daylight, you will find the winter months are less expensive for travel.
History and Culture
Taking the time to study the history and culture of Anchorage is fascinating. Among all the Alaska destinations, there are lots to see and do in this city from both the historic and cultural perspectives. For example:
Alaska Native Heritage Center
This combination heritage centre and museum is one of the most important places to visit if you want to learn about the indigenous people who called the area home before Alaska became part of the US. The centre offers numerous displays of native artefacts, cultural performances that include dancing and storytelling, and educational opportunities to learn more about everything from indigenous housing to tribal differences. The centre is open daily between May and September; it is only open on Saturdays during the winter. Admission is USD $25 for adults and $17 for children.
The Anchorage Museum also has some native history and cultural offerings, but it is a lot more expansive and inclusive. It is Alaska’s largest museum and includes displays that cover history, art, native wildlife, and more. For an entrance fee of $15 for adults and $7 for children, you can get a very good introduction into all things Alaska. The Anchorage Museum is open daily from 9am to 6pm during the summer. It is open during the winter, but hours are shorter and may vary depending on the weather.
Experience Nature in Anchorage
Being that Anchorage sits on the edge of the Alaskan frontier, it would be a shame to visit this wonderful city and not take in some of its unique natural surroundings. Again, you have numerous choices, including the following Alaska destinations close to Anchorage:
Kincaid Park sits on the southern edge of the city overlooking Cook Inlet. The park consists of 1,400 acres offering gardens, biking, hiking trails and, during the winter, cross-country skiing. The most exciting thing about Kincaid Park are the animals. You will get an up-close view of everything from native foxes to the incredible moose. The park is open daily from 10am to 10pm – and it’s free.
Alaska Botanical Garden
The harsh environment of Alaska tends to cause us to forget that the area is home to more than 100 native plant species and 1,100 perennials. Some of these species are incredibly colourful. You can see them all at the Alaska Botanical Garden, a 110-acre parcel completed and opened to the public in 2015. It is open year-round, but times vary depending on the season. Admission is $10 for adults during the summer, $7 during the winter. Children are always free.
Other Things to Do in Anchorage
Anchorage offers a lot more to see and do than most people know. I highly recommend a visit to the city if you are interested in discovering life on the last American frontier. In closing, here are just a couple of other things to consider doing while you’re there:
- Alaska Railroad – A scenic, guided railroad tour that will take you through forests, past glaciers, and along Prince William sound.
- Alaska Aviation Museum – Aviation continues to play an important role in the life of native Alaskans. Learn about how aviators have to adapt to Alaska’s harsh environment at this wonderful museum.
- Gold-Mining – Alaska experienced its own gold rush not too long ago. You can get a taste of what it might have been like by visiting one of numerous gold mines in the area offering a historically accurate experience to visitors.
- Alaska State Fair – The US is known for their individualised state fair programmes. If you are going to be in Alaska during the month of September, you might want to visit the state fair in Anchorage. Take a sweater, though.
- Prince William Sound Tours – Lastly, Prince William Sound is the most famous waterway in Alaska. It is a great place to see marine wildlife comparable to that which is found off the coast of Scotland. Be sure to take a guided boat tour while in Anchorage.
Anchorage is the city that sits on the last American frontier. It’s also a very popular tourist destination for people from all over the world. If you need a break from your typical tourist spots, give Anchorage a look. You will not be disappointed; out of all Alaska destinations available to visitors, the city offers the most choice in terms of things to see and do.
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- Anchorage Skyline: By Frank K. from Anchorage, Alaska, USA – Anchorage looking nice on an April evening, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4020827
- Alaska Native Heritage Center: http://www.alaska.org/
- Anchorage Museum: https://www.flickr.com/photos/atelier_flir/
- Kincaid Park: https://www.flickr.com/photos/paxson_woelber/
- Alaska Botanical Gardens: By Scott A. Johnson, http://scojo.us (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons