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Anchorage Alaska Itinerary: The Perfect Day Awaits!

Updated: May 23

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Ever wondered how to make the most out of a single day in Anchorage, Alaska? Whether you're a travel enthusiast, adventure seeker, local explorer, or an Alaska cruise traveler, Anchorage offers a vibrant tapestry of activities and experiences. So, buckle up as we dive into my meticulously crafted 24-hour itinerary designed to help you discover the essence of this captivating city.


Flowers in Downtown Anchorage
Flowers in downtown Anchorage

My 24 hours in Anchorage Alaska, Alaska's largest city, was great. It was an extremely busy day, but so worth it. Today’s blog post contains my exhausting itinerary, a sample of another itinerary, and a list of places to see around the area to make your own Anchorage itinerary. I hope you enjoy the blog and get ideas of what to do when you visit this wonderful city before your cruise.


You may see this and laugh. But it truly is the hanging basket capital of the world. When I was there during the summer months, I saw more hanging baskets on the streets of Anchorage than anywhere I have ever been. Honestly, more flowers in general than any other city in the World.


Anchorage is not just a city; it's an experience waiting to unfold. Anchorage is a beautiful blend of urban sophistication and wild landscapes. Nestled between the Chugach Mountains and the waters of Cook Inlet, it’s a paradise for nature lovers and urbanites alike.


Anchorage is a beautiful place, it's a large enough city but still feels small, with some of the nicest people you will ever meet. It gives you the feeling of something new but at home at the same time. Being that I am from the east coast, I was 2 flights away from home. Charlotte to Chicago, then a 5-hour flight from Chicago to Anchorage. I was exhausted from all the flying, but when I landed at 9:30PM it was still daylight, which totally confused my body. Anchorage is south of the Arctic Circle, but still you can see why the area is known as the land of the midnight sun. When you think about how much the sun is out in the summer, no wonder they have so many flowers. As I walked through the airport and started to the exit you could see the magical mountains that surround the area. It was almost overwhelming. From Anchorage and weather permitting, you can see 6 different mountain ranges. You will also see animals. Lol



Flying into Anchorage

View of flying into Anchorage
View of flying into Anchorage

If you are flying to Anchorage for a cruise, (like me), it will probably leave south of Anchorage in Seward Alaska or Whittier Alaska. If so, check out the train that takes you over mountains to Seward to get on the cruise ship. The train station is at the Anchorage airport. My only request is to spend a day or 2 in Anchorage before heading to the ship. You will not regret it.


If you are traveling from the east coast, you will notice snowcapped mountains, and glaciers along the way. A beautiful site from 30,000 feet in the air. You will notice the rugged mountains, mountains that seem to be taller than any you have seen before. As you start your descent into the Anchorage area you will notice the sea and how it looks so cold, but you can also tell the sea and the land is full of wonder and of life unlike anything you have ever seen before. 


Your journey starts the moment you land at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. Conveniently located just a few miles from downtown, the airport offers smooth access to the city's heart. Whether you're arriving early in the morning or late at night, the city welcomes you with open arms and breathtaking views, very close to the sea.


Moose at the airport
Moose at the airport

Navigating through the airport was a breeze. The airport was your typical hustle and bustle that you would see at any airport, but unlike most I have flown through, the Anchorage airport was a simple experience. My flight landed late in the day, at 9:30PM and noticing out the windows of the airport at how light it was still outside made me witness the amazing mountains just outside the window in the airport lobby. Just outside the entrance to the airport was the waiting area for the hotel shuttle, not a far walk. Never in my life have I been able to grab my luggage, leave the airport and be on my way to the hotel so quickly. Kudos to Anchorage. Of course, Anchorage is not a huge airport, which helps a lot. But you can tell they have their stuff together here. By 10:10PM, I was already in my hotel room, hungry for a late-night snack and ready to start early in the morning for my 24 hours in this wonderful city.


Ideas for Itinerary in Anchorage.

Whether it is your first time in Alaska, or just a first day of many. The sample itinerary below is a suggestion for a great day of exploring. Change it up and add other items if you like. Some of what is listed, I also did in my personal itinerary.


Breakfast: Fuel Your Day

Kickstart your Anchorage adventure with a delicious breakfast at Snow City Cafe. Renowned for its mouth-watering pancakes and locally sourced ingredients, it's the perfect spot to energize yourself. Try their famous "Stuffed French Toast" and pair it with a hot cup of Alaskan coffee to get your day rolling. 


Bear in Alaska
Bear in Alaska

Morning Activities: Exploring Nature and Culture

Trail to Hike: Flattop Mountain

What better way to start your day than conquering Flattop Mountain? Just a short drive from downtown, Flattop offers trails suitable for all levels. Reach the summit for panoramic views of Anchorage and beyond; it's an exhilarating start to your 24-hour adventure.


Museums: Anchorage Museum

Next, head over to the Anchorage Museum. This cultural treasure trove offers a fascinating glimpse into Alaska's rich history and vibrant arts scene. Wander through exhibits that showcase everything from indigenous artifacts to contemporary art.


Lunch: Savor the Flavors of Anchorage

For lunch, make your way to 49th State Brewing Co.. Here, you can savor locally brewed beer and a menu brimming with Alaskan specialties. Indulge in their Alaskan Halibut Tacos while enjoying stunning views of the inlet and mountains from their rooftop patio. There are a couple other places I could recommend for lunch or a great beer. Just in case you would prefer somewhere else. Check out Humpy’s Great Alaskan Alehouse A great spot for some seafood and beers, located in Anchorage.


Afternoon Adventures: Dive Deeper into Anchorage

Shopping: Anchorage Market & Festival

Immerse yourself in the local culture at the Anchorage Market & Festival. Open on weekends, this bustling market offers everything from handmade crafts to gourmet treats. It's a perfect spot to pick up unique souvenirs and experience the local vibe.


Fishing: Ship Creek

If you’re an angler at heart, head to Ship Creek for some urban fishing. Known for its salmon runs, Ship Creek provides a fantastic fishing experience right in the city. Even if you're not inclined to fish, watching the anglers in action is quite a sight.


Dinner: A Culinary Delight

As the day winds down, treat yourself to a memorable dinner at Simon & Seafort’s Saloon & Grill. This great place offers an elegant dining experience with a menu that highlights the best of Alaskan seafood. From King Crab Legs to Grilled Mahi-Mahi, every dish is a culinary masterpiece.


Evening Activities: Anchorage After Dark

Other Activities: Northern Lights Viewing

Alaska Northern Lights
Alaska Northern Lights

End your day on a magical note by attempting to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. This will be hard to do in the summer months, so if you are in Anchorage for a cruise, you will most likely not see them. The best time for catching a glimpse is in winter. While sightings aren't guaranteed, the phenomenon is a bucket-list experience for many. Head to Point Woronzof or Earthquake Park is a great place with some of the best viewing spots in the city.



Other Activities in or near Anchorage, for an Alaska Itinerary.

  • Alaska Native Heritage Center- One of the best museums in Anchorage and possibly even Alaska all together. The perfect place to learn about the native cultures of Alaska. Become educated about the history through their culture.

  • Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center- A special place where injured native Alaska animals are taken care of and healed. This place is great for observing animals and learning about them. Located in Girdwood, you will have the opportunity to see all animals from a porcupine to a black bear.

  • Alaska Veterans Museum- at only a cost of $3 you will learn about the Tundra Eskimo Army Scouts, plus so much more. Did you know the last shot of the Civil War happened in Alaska.

Tony Knowles Coastal Trail sign
Tony Knowles Coastal Trail sign
  • Alaska Botanical Gardens- Anchorage is known as the hanging basket city of the world, and when you arrive in summer you will see all the beautiful native flowers everywhere. That is no reason to not visit the botanical gardens. You will see so many flowers, learn about horticulture, and even see some art.

  • Chugach State Park- Located in Anchorage, this is the 4th largest state park in the United States. Close proximity to many popular towns surrounding Anchorage and even the Eagle River. 

  • Kincaid Park- Is a great local park in Anchorage that gives spectacular views of Fire Island and Denali, and also gives great sunsets. Tons of trails for hiking or biking. It is the perfect place if you are looking for a place in Anchorage for some natural scenery.

  • Delaney Park Strip- A large city park that used to the landing strip for airplanes. Close to downtown and a great place for people watching. On a visit look for Star the Reindeer. Star is basically Anchorage’s mascot and lives nearby. She is known to take walks with her owner at the park.

  • Chocolate and wine Sampling Tour- This is a great tour where you can sample wine and eat chocolates from Chugach Chocolates.

  • Alaska Zoo- One of the best ways to see native animals of Alaska, check their website and plan a visit during feeding times. They even have grizzly bears and polar bears. The grave of Annabelle the famous painting elephant from the Alaska zoo is buried there in the corner of the zoo. An interesting site to see while there.

  • Spencer Glacier and Whistle Stop- A visit to this remote place is great for some wilderness time. Also, it gives you the opportunity to ride the Alaska Railroad. The railroad goes southeast towards Seward, but Spencer is a good bit closer than all the way to Seward. Spencer Glacier is a sight to behold, and just a 1.3-mile hike from the whistle stop, where you view the glacier and Spencer Lake.

  • Alaska Sea Life Center- Located in Seward is a great place to visit if you are leaving from Seward for a cruise. Rescued Sea Otters to Stellar Sea Lions to many other marine animals and birds will be seen at this center.

  • Alaska Center for the Performing Arts- Plan your visit to see a Broadway show or even the HD Northern Lights projection.  The performing arts center is a great place to catch a show.

  • Lake Hood- Is a seaplane or float plane base. A cool place to see especially if one is landing or taking off. Something you don't witness every day unless you live in Alaska.

  • Alaska Aviation Museum- Located on Lake Hood, this museum is affordable and offers viewing of at least 100 different planes throughout history.

  • Helicopter tour- For a unique experience, that many do not do when visiting the area. Helicopter tour of the Kink Glacier. It is a neat experience to walk on a glacier from the helicopter landing on it, without any hiking at all.

  • Matanuska Glacier Hike- This hiking tour is great, and lead by excellent tour operators. Learn about nature, and history. Plus, water and snacks are included.

  • Portage Glacier- This tour is amazing, offering views of the glacier and wildlife viewing. A 4-hour tour that leaves from Anchorage is a perfect way for exploring nature and glaciers.

  • Wildlife tour of Turnagain Arm- I highly suggest doing this in July, due to the Salmon run, but on the banks of the Turnagain Sound you can sometimes spot a group of Beluga Whales feeding on salmon. It is unusual to have beluga whales this far south, as they typically are much farther north, but there is a group that lives in the area all year long.


National Parks somewhat close to Anchorage

There are 3 National Parks that are great daytrip, although it might make for a long day. 

National Park Land
National Park Land
  • Kenai Fjords National Park is only 2 hours away if you drive the main road by Turnagain Arm, but you can also take the train to Seward to visit the Park, which will take closer to 4 hours, but it is a beautiful train ride on the Alaska Railroad. I have done this train ride to Seward for the cruise I was taking, and saw so many bald eagles, I couldn't keep up with the count. I also spotted brown bears along the way.

  • Katmai and Lake Clark National Park is an easy float plane ride away from Anchorage. If you like the thoughts of this, I highly suggest a visit. Lake Clark is rugged and remote, so if you want time away, with not as many visitors as other national parks, these are where you should visit but float planes to save time.

  • Denali National Park is on the way to Fairbanks, but one of the most interesting ways to see it is by a tour plane. If driving this will definitely be an all-day visit, at around 240 miles, but can take over 4 hours just to drive up. This will not give you enough time to do lots of exploring Delali, but the scenic drive up is also part of the exploration.




Odd and Unusual Places to stop for a picture.

If you are looking for odd sights, check out some of these free unusual things below:


  • Snowplow Train- just off the Seward Highway, but only 3 miles from the city of Anchorage. 

women fishing
women fishing
  • Gravity Hill- It is an optical illusion, where cars look like they are rolling backwards up a hill. (Upper Huffman Road)

  • Large Roller Skate- this is a way of advertising a skating rink, but it is a large skate on a pole. (Homer Drive)

  • Atlas Statue- This statue has been in Anchorage for some time but moved to the parking lot of a gym. (MacKay Street)

  • Rock Man- A 19-foot boulder made to look like a man. (Juneau Street)

  • Chrome Bear- Located at the Harley Davidson Dealership, it is a neat statue to see. (Spenard Rd.)

  • Tattoo Needle- A giant tattoo needle located near a Mcdonalds; it is on a pole. (West Benson Blvd.)

  • Fishing Reel Bridge- 7 Fishing poles turned into hanging flower basket holders. A perfect reminder of what Anchorage is known for. Their hanging baskets. (E.15th Street)

  • Martin Luther King Jr monument- this is the northernmost monument to this notable figure in US history. (9th Street)

  • Captain Cook Parking Garage- A tribute to the man that sailed into the area many years ago. (K Street)

  • Whale Drowns Men Statue- an unusual statue to spot (K Street)

  • Scale Model of Solar System- If you are taking a walk, it is set to resemble the speed of light as you walk (5th Ave)

  • Balto the Wonder Dog Statue- Neat, and beautiful sled dog statue. (D Street)


My 24 Hours in Anchorage

Anchorage has many cheap or free things to do, especially if you like walking or hiking on a clear day. On this trip I did not get a rental car. I took the free shuttle to the hotel from the airport and booked a hotel right beside a late-night fast-food joint just in case I was hungry when I landed. Which I was, thank goodness for Wendys. As I walked back in the door at the hotel, I saw a sign warning bears have been spotted at the hotel recently. Glad I didn't see one on my walk over to Wendy's, or I would have lost my burger. lol. The hotel I stayed at was a Holiday Inn Express.


The next morning, knowing I would have a full day of activities, I walked up the street to Gwennie's Old Alaska for a hearty breakfast, only because I wanted to try reindeer sausage, and it was amazing. It was a little bit of a walk, but so worth it and too close to get an Uber, also look into the crab benedict, it looks delicious. I highly recommend Gwennie's! This is a local favorite, and you will see more locals here than tourists.


Reindeer Taco's at the City Market
Reindeer Taco's at the City Market

From there I rented an Uber to take me to the downtown area near the Anchorage Market, which was open on the weekends. Walking the free market was neat, so many items for sale that you would not see normally at other markets. Fur caps, and jackets, gold nuggets, Japanese Fish Net Balls, and lots of food made from the animals of the area, Jerky, Caribou tacos, and these cool looking knives I needed to learn more about, the Ulu Knife. You can really start to see the influence of Russia and even Japan in Anchorage. It makes total sense, since this was a Russian area until the United States bought it in 1867. Also, the native culture is also present. This is nice to see, and there are plenty of tours and Native American museums in Anchorage for you to check out to dive deeper into the culture of the area.


Down the hill from the Anchorage Market is the Ulu Factory, these are really expensive knives but are heavy duty, and made totally different than any knife you have ever seen. As I walked down to the factory, I noticed to the left was the entrance to a walking trail, the Tom Knowles Coastal Trail. I made note of this to explore later. After walking all the way down the hill, I decided to walk behind and to the left of the factory, where people were fishing on Ship Creek. They were fishing for salmon, and at that moment, the water wasn't really deep, but you could still see fish. This is one of the best places to see fishing and the salmon in Anchorage.


Once I was done shopping at the Ulu Factory, and visited the railroad gift shop located next door, I walked back to the left to Ship Creek. I was shocked to see how much the water levels in the creek had changed. People were no longer fishing, and the creek was almost empty. Strange for this saltwater stream to be so full of water just an hour or so earlier. This led me to google tides where I found out, the tide changes in Anchorage are extreme. Look up Bore tides to learn more.



Now it was to walk back up the hill to the market, or was it? There is a trolley that takes you back up, so you do not need to walk this steep hill. I am so grateful for this, and anyone who suffers from knee pain will love this little trolley too. From the trolley ride I learned why this is such a steep hill. The reason was the huge shift in the ground due to the earthquake in 1964. It was a 9.2 on the scale and was only 70 miles away from Anchorage. Google it, it's crazy to read about, and I will be talking about it again later in this post. While visiting this area you are standing on a fault line.


Me with one of the many bears in Anchorage
Me with one of the many bears in Anchorage

L Street to C street (vertically), and from 4th to 6th Street (horizontally) is the heart of the downtown area. So many gift shops, coffee shops, restaurants, and Ice cream. Wild Scoops is an Ice cream joint and is a must when in downtown Anchorage. As you walk this area stop and take a picture with all the stuffed bears you see. There will be several.


While downtown I booked a tour. I wanted to see more of Anchorage, but my legs and feet were feeling the day, and it was early afternoon. The Anchorage Trolley Tour, which was the best way to see the city and learn about it. I got to see seaplanes land on Lake Hood, and visit Earthquake Park, where you can see more of what the earthquake did to the land. You will even spot where Star the Reindeer lives (more on her later). This trolley tour shows many more sites too. I highly recommend it.


I just love trolley tours
I just love trolley tours

After the tour and my legs were rested, I decided to check out the trail I spotted earlier that morning, near the market. It is called the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, and it starts on 2nd and H Street. The views were amazing, birdwatching, flowers and other plants and trees. Plus. you have a huge chance to see other wildlife. This is an 11-mile trail, so I knew I wasn't walking all of it. The flowers, sea grasses and even watching the water on this trail is magnificent. I spotted several birds, including seabirds. I did not see a Moose, but they have been spotted on the trail before. One thing that was obvious was mosquitoes. Swarms of Alaska mosquitos can be massive, and if typically, are bitten by these little creatures, you will definitely have a few bites by them hen visiting anywhere in Anchorage. Pro Tip: Pack and use bug spray when out and about in Alaska.


What I have learned was you can rent bikes or E-bikes for the trail. You can also hire tour guides for this trail. It is a super easy trail though, all paved and not rough or bumpy. I only walked to West Chester lagoon, but you could continue on to Earthquake Park and Kincaid Park. I highly recommend doing at least a small bit of this trail, even if you don't do it all.


Exhausted from the walk, I headed back up to the downtown area with some stops on the way. I stopped by Star the Reindeers house, hoping to catch a glimpse of her, and I did but the picture wasn't that great. She is a major tourist attraction and more like the unofficial mascot of Anchorage. There have been 7 “Stars” that have been there in a 60-year period. The owners like to take her on walks at Delaney Park, a long park that used to be the airport. They only live a couple blocks away from the park. While walking back downtown I stopped several times to rest the feet at park benches in Delaney Park, did some people watching, and reflected on everything I had seen today.




Coastal Trail
Coastal Trail


Coastal Trail
Coastal Trail

I had one last stop to do downtown in Anchorage, and that was a 7pm reservation at Orso. As I walked in, I knew I didn't look like I should be dining in a fancy restaurant, from all the walking and sweating in the hot summer sun. (Yes, it was hot when I was in Anchorage, I even got a sunburn) But I was seated and had one of the best meals I have ever had. This was an expensive restaurant, but I usually allow myself 1 expensive meal on any trip, and this was it. Crispy Ravioli and Alaska Seafood Spiedini, delicious. I wish I had taken a picture of my meal. After the meal, I was done. 22,000 steps for the day, and a full belly. This was enough for me to get an Uber for a ride back to the hotel....... WHERE I SAW A BEAR!!!!!!! Wildlife is everywhere here, be careful when out walking around.






Visiting Star the Reindeer
Visiting Star the Reindeer

My Experience: A Day to Remember

My 24 hours in Anchorage were nothing short of spectacular. From the serene walk on the Coastal Trail to indulging in local culinary delights, every moment was infused with a sense of wonder and excitement. The highlight? Exploring this city, rich with kind people, great scenery, and an amazing history.


Anchorage is a city that captivates the heart and ignites the soul. It’s a place where nature and culture dance together in perfect harmony, offering experiences that are both exhilarating and enriching.



Conclusion

Whether you have 24 hours or a week, Anchorage has something to offer every traveler. Use this itinerary as your guide to explore the best of what this incredible city has to offer. Ready to embark on your own Alaskan adventure? Start planning your Anchorage itinerary today and prepare for an unforgettable journey.


I hope you have enjoyed my blog about 24 hours in Anchorage, I was exhausted by the end of the day, but fulfilled. Anchorage is a big city with a down-home feel that is an absolute stunner! So, take some time if you are flying into Anchorage for a cruise. the hanging flower basket capital of the world, you will not regret it.

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