Known as the Last Frontier, Alaska is the America's northernmost state, and Anchorage is its largest city. In terms of area, Anchorage is larger than Rhode Island, though the Anchorage Metropolitan Area is home to only 400,000 people. Alaska is known for its natural wonders, and Anchorage is a great jumping off point for visitors to experience untouched wilderness. People looking to escape the heat of the south can enjoy Anchorage's cooler temperatures while exploring all the sights the city has to offer.
Visitors who travel to Anchorage to see the wonders of Mother Nature will not be disappointed. Kenai Fjords, Denali, Lake Clark, and Katmai national parks are all close enough. The less adventurous may enjoy the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, a bike path that follows the shore of Cook Inlet and offers great views of Mount Susitna. Anchorage also has some of the world's highest tides. Visitors to Turnagain Arm can see the bore tide, a wave that's up to six feet tall.
Close encounters with wildlife are another part of what makes Anchorage a great place to visit. Travelers can see bears in Katmai or Lake Clare National Parks, whales off the coast and moose practically everywhere. For people who prefer a fence between themselves and the animals, Alaska Zoo and the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center allow visitors to see the area's wildlife and learn about them at the same time.
Seafood lovers will enjoy dining out in Anchorage, with a variety of fresh fish available in many local restaurants. Lesser-known specialties include reindeer sausage, birch syrup, and chaga tea. Locals are fans of the wide variety of berries that grow wild around Anchorage; the annual Blueberry Festival gives visitors a chance to join the berry-picking fun. Anchorage is also a great brewery city, with glacier waters giving each brew a unique taste.
For those who like to catch their own seafood, Anchorage offers an abundance of fishing opportunities. Ship Creek, which runs through downtown Anchorage, is an especially popular spot. Local waterways are home to salmon species along with grayling, Arctic char, and trout. Adventurous fishers can take a private boat to deep water or join fishing charters that fly visitors to remote areas for a day of fishing fun.
Dog sledding is generally a winter past-time, but visitors can get a taste of the sport throughout the year. Many mushers offer tours of their kennels that include cuddles with puppies and a thorough education about sledding and its history. It may be easier to get a ride in winter, but in summer, it is possible to take a helicopter ride to a glacier to experience the thrill of driving a team.
The northern lights are unpredictable, so visitors wanting to see them should plan to stay for a few days. The lights are most active in the colder months from September through to April. Caused by ionized gas particles hitting the earth's magnetic field, the lights dance across the sky and come in green, red, purple and blue. They are most commonly seen close to midnight under cloudless, moonless skies.
Anchorage is the starting point for rail travel in Alaska, and many visitors choose to see the natural wonders of the state from the comfort of a train. In the summer, trains depart daily for far-flung locales including Prince William Sound, Denali, and Fairbanks. People staying close to Anchorage can still enjoy a train ride on the Glacier Discovery train, which has a number of day trips, including to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center and Chugach National Forest.
There are a number of museums that offer visitors a glimpse at the history and culture of the area for people wanting to spend a day indoors. The Anchorage Museum gives visitors an insight into the art and history of Alaska and the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum details how airplanes helped shape the state in the time before railways and paved roads. No trip to Alaska is complete without experiencing the aboriginal culture. The Alaska Native Heritage Center shares Alaska's 11 major cultures with visitors through dance, stories and more.
People visiting the national parks are likely to see a glacier, but even those avoiding a long hike should ensure they also visit the ice. The Glacier Discovery Train stops at the Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop. A short walk on a gravel path leads to Spencer Lake and a great view of Spencer Glacier. Aleyska Tramway takes passengers up the 2,000-foot Mount Aleyska, offering aerial views of seven glaciers as well as Turnagain Arm.
Between March and September each year, Anchorage's days lengthen and the city enjoys more daylight hours than anywhere else in the United States. On the summer solstice, the city has 22 hours of daylight and the sky stays light throughout the night with the sun only dipping below the horizon. There are many events scheduled for the longest days, including the Solstice Festival and the Mayor's Midnight Sun Marathon and Half Marathon, where runners finish under the midnight sun.