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Anchorage, the “Gateway to Alaska”

Anchorage, the “Gateway to Alaska”

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Anchorage is the first impression of this state for many visitors to Alaska. Here, planes from all over the place land. Sometimes just passing through, but often as the start of a visit to Alaska. Although the city doesn’t have the image of a beautiful city, we’ll show you that Anchorage is a good place to stay for a few days. Because, in our experience, the city has many interesting sights!


General impression of the city

The city itself is not a beauty when it comes to buildings. However, it’s interesting to see how the shops and restaurants look in this environment. There are good and not so good restaurants. On the street, you’ll find some stalls with burgers, including ‘reindeer burger’. The shops have a modest and small-scale feel. They sell clothes, souvenirs, or more functional items. No glitter and glamour in this northern enclave.

We are staying near Ship Creek, a river on the edge of the city. After a short walk from our hotel, we first pass the station. The railway has been of great importance for the development and accessibility of Alaska. This is immediately pointed out to you. There are enormous locomotives that give a loud signal upon arrival and departure. They are impressive. We will hear this sound regularly in the coming weeks.

train station

Fascinating salmon run in Ship Creek

We cross the railway and see the first fishermen getting their fishing gear ready at 7:00 am. We also smell a pungent odor. Upon reaching the river, the contrast between the city and nature is particularly striking. In the middle of an industrial area runs a beautiful river. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of salmon swim against the current here. They are on their way to an upstream location. The goal: reproduction. What we never realized is how many salmon don’t make it to their destination. The smell we perceive comes from dead rotting salmon lying along the riverbank. Seagulls prey on weakened specimens.


Fishing is the national sport, even in the city

A little further, there are a few fishermen. You wonder why they cast a line, as the salmon are so easy to scoop out of the water. Upon asking, they turn out to be after the Silver Salmon (Coho salmon). A specific type; the others go back into the river. The number of fishermen along the bank is steadily increasing.

We are fascinated by the spectacle. Yet, this struggle also evokes a feeling of compassion for all those fish that are driving themselves to their death. The location and salmon run make a deep impression.


Cycling on the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail

After a long time sitting on the plane, you feel the need to move. Cycling is, we think, a good way to do this. And especially fun if you want to see something of the surroundings.

The downtown area itself is easily walkable. We want to cycle a stretch on the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. This is a cycle path of just under 20 kilometers along the coast. We arrange bike rental in the city without a reservation. The rental is per hour. We are helped very well. Bottle of water, camera, and a jacket in the backpack. The temperature is still chilly by our standards. Locally, however, people think very differently, given the shorts and T-shirts that are already abundant at this time.


We pick up the route along the coast and head towards the airport. On the path, we encounter many spotters. We briefly wonder whether they are whales or birds. Upon asking, it turns out to be birds, which are also present in large numbers. The surroundings are beautiful with woodland vegetation on one side and the sea on the other. “Beware of Moose,” we are told by some walkers. The warning signs are also clear about this: it’s better to stay away from them. It can be dangerous when their ears are directed downward. Secretly, we hope to see them on this trip.

Warning sign

Earthquake Park, a reminder of a devastating earthquake

During our bike ride, we pass by Earthquake Park. It serves as a monument in memory of the massive earthquake and tsunami that Alaska experienced in 1964. This is why the city has hardly any old buildings. The vast majority of all houses were destroyed at that time. New houses give off a somewhat bunker-like impression and are built to be earthquake-resistant. The monument provides details of the disaster in various locations.

We continue cycling until we reach the airport where we decide to take the route back. Midway, we opt for an alternative route. After a good two hours of cycling, we are back at the rental. It’s very enjoyable, a good cycle path and a great way to explore the surroundings. It’s also a way to talk to people walking along this route.


Anchorage Museum

We reserve the afternoon for the Anchorage Museum. The building looks modern from the outside. With an admission ticket, you can look around for a while, go outside, and come back later. This is quite convenient and we take advantage of it.

The museum is particularly impressive due to the story of Alaska’s original inhabitants. This is portrayed in a particularly poignant and respectful manner. There’s also attention given to the construction of the railway, the geographic position of the country, and art from Alaska. We find the museum more than worthwhile. A great start to a vacation in a country you are about to explore further.


Anchorage as a starting point for your tour of Alaska

We experienced Anchorage in this way as a great place to start our tour. We could acclimatize after our flight and adjust to the time difference. The city itself has quite a bit to offer. But you can also entertain yourself in the surroundings of Anchorage. You can visit the Eklutna Historical Park, which is a good half-hour drive by car. You can also go to Girdwood to admire Mount Alyeska. Count on at least an hour’s travel time with your rental car.

Do you need more time in Anchorage than the two days we were there? We don’t think so. After the activities described in this blog, you are most likely eager to further explore Alaska.


Answers to questions about your visit to Anchorage

Where is Anchorage located?

The city is centrally located in Alaska at the intersection of two major bodies of water: the Turnagain Arm and the Knik Arm of the Cook Inlet. To the south, the train departs towards the Kenai Peninsula (Seward and Homer). Heading north, you'll reach the Denali National Park and Fairbanks.

What should you see when in Anchorage?

In principle, there is plenty to see. First and foremost, we recommend visiting the Anchorage Museum. In between, you can go into the city to eat or look around. Additionally, take a bike ride to Ship Creek to admire the salmon run. Combine this with a visit to the station. Here, you'll see the imposing trains and a monument for the Alaska Railroad. But even just outside the city, you can entertain yourself. For example, take a bike ride to Earthquake Park, about 10 kilometers outside the city center. The park has, among other things, a memorial monument and tells the impact of the earthquake on informational signs.

What are some nice dining options in Anchorage?

A nice find for us was Anchorage – 49th State Brewing. It has the atmosphere of a brewery but is a large restaurant with a beautiful rooftop terrace overlooking Ship Creek. Additionally, we can recommend the Italian restaurant Originale (everything homemade) and the Mexican restaurant La Cabana.

What are good accommodations in Anchorage?

There are numerous hotels, B&Bs, and guesthouses in Anchorage. We stayed at the Downtown Guesthouse ourselves. A pleasant location within walking distance of the downtown area and the station. The host lives on the first floor and is very helpful. The rooms are clean, spacious, and a great place to acclimatize. There is no cooking facilities, but there is the option for coffee/tea. Good value for money.

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