Updated: Nov 6
My 24 hours in Anchorage before leaving for Seward was great. It was an extremely busy day, but so worth it. Hope you enjoy the post and get ideas of what to do when you visit this wonderful city before your cruise.
You may see this headline 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 a beautiful place, it's a large enough city but still feels small. 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 9PM it was still daylight, which totally confused my body. 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. And you will also see animals.
Navigating through the airport was a breeze, and waiting outside for the hotel shuttle was simple too. 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.
If you are flying to Anchorage for a cruise, (like me), it will probably leave south of Anchorage in Seward 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.
Anchorage has many cheap or free things to do, especially if you like walking or hiking. On this trip I did not rent a 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. The hotel I stayed at was a Holiday Inn Express. The next morning, I walked up the street to Gwennie's Old Alaska for breakfast, only b/c 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.
From there I rented an Uber to take me to the downtown area near the 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 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. I made note of this to explore later. After walking all the way down, I decided to walk behind and to the left of the factory, where people were fishing. They were fishing for salmon, and at that moment, the water wasn't really deep, but you could still see fish. I figured I would go check out the factory and check on them again when I came back out. I spent about an hour in the Ulu factory, and also checked out the Railroad gift shop nearby. I looked over to where the guys were fishing, and they were gone. There wasn't any water at all where there was a nice saltwater stream an hour ago. Which led me to google........ the tide changes in Anchorage are extreme. Look up Bore tides to learn more.
Now I am sure if you see my other posts, you know how much I hate walking a lot, b/c I live in constant foot and knee pain. The only reason I felt it was ok for me to walk to this factory was because I would not have to walk back up the steep hill. There is a trolley that takes you back to the top of the market. Now while in the factory I learned something else........ The reason there is a steep hill down where I walked was 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.
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. It 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. Anchorage Trolley Tours was great, got to see seaplanes land on Lake Hood, Visit Earthquake Park, where you can see what the earthquake did to the land, you will even see where Star the Reindeer lives (more on her later). This trolley tour shows many more sites too. I highly recommend it.
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 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, but I still did a lot.
What I have learned was you can rent bikes for the trail. That would have been nice, and maybe wouldn't have made me so sore. 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.
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, 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.
If you are interested in an adventure to Alaska, reach out to me and I will do the research, advise, and help you book. If you want to do the research on flights yourself, click the link below, I've had a lot of luck with them lately, Crystal Travel.
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