24 Things to Do in Anchorage in Winter or Summer

March 10, 2024   4 Comments »

Updated September 2023 – Anchorage is a great jumping-off point for your Alaska travels and I like to use it as a hub for adventure because so many tour companies and operators originate out of Anchorage; ensuring that there are plenty of things to do in Anchorage Alaska!

Anchorage is the biggest city in the state (population 282,000) and has the largest airport in the state. So when you visit Alaska, you’ll likely end up spending time there at some point.

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Get out and play!

Anchorage is surrounded by mountains and has one of the most stunning downtown views I’ve ever seen. There are plenty of things to do in Anchorage; there are some lovely walking/biking trails, museums, and gardens.

However, I’m an adventure gal, and I feel those nearby mountains calling. Whenever I find myself with an extra day in Anchorage and look around at the Chugach Mountains surrounding the city I think – “How do I get out there and play?”

I want to be clear – this isn’t just any list of things to do in Anchorage, I’ve done every single thing on this list personally and you’ll see my thoughts on them and tips for how to go about them as you go through the list. I only recommend things I love.

Anchorage Alaska Vacation anchorage points of interest
Photo from Travel Alaska

Whether it’s Anchorage tours or Anchorage day trips, you won’t be disappointed. And you’ll also likely knock a few things off your bucket list! Ummm – Glacier anyone? Northern lights? Or maybe you want to see a grizzly bear or a moose…from a safe distance of course!

Want more Alaska? I’ve been to Alaska multiple times and have done a great variety of unique things. Read all of my Alaska travel tours and tips.

Best Time to Visit Anchorage Alaska

I’ve spent extensive time in Anchorage in the winter and summer, and both have their benefits. I generally prefer the Anchorage winter because there are just fewer people, in general, traveling there. I also love winter in Alaska – hello dancing northern lights! It’s not as cold as you think in Anchorage and if you pack the right winter gear, you’ll be fine! The average high in the winter is 25F and the low is 17F.

Anchorage in the summer means you’ll certainly encounter more tourists, but the days are long and you can pack a ton of stuff in if you have the energy! Plus, there’s a lot of space around Anchorage. I think it also feels busier because all of the Alaska Railroad train routes are running in the summer and nearly every Alaska Railroad route goes through Anchorage. The average high in the summer is 61F and the low is 51F.

But for me, the absolute best time to visit is the shoulder seasons of September and March. These also are the best times to catch aurora around Anchorage because aurora is most active around the equinoxes. I love traveling in the shoulder seasons.

But basically, you can’t go wrong in Anchorage in summer or winter!

I’ve been to Anchorage 4 times in winter and summer; all of these Anchorage things to do come from my personal experiences. These are all places I’ve visited personally or tours I’ve taken. I feel like it’s important to provide travel advice based on my personal experiences of things to do in Anchorage, not just a list of things anyone can compile from the internet.

Just like Alaska, Anchorage is big. And that means there’s lots to do beyond the city center. Here are some of my favorite things to do in Anchorage beyond urban exploration and outdoor adventures within sight of downtown Anchorage. So – know that this is all my personal opinions and experiences with these companies and feel free to contact me with any additional questions – I’m a real person who’s traveled there and I’m happy to help!

Take a look at my recommended Alaska winter packing list to make sure you stay warm

Things to do around Anchorage

I love Anchorage, it has many cool things to do in city limits and just right outside the city (you can see all of those below). But my favorite thing about traveling to Alaska is the great outdoors, and I prefer to use Anchorage as a hub and do more nature-oriented adventure day trips from Anchorage! So that’s why I started with the day trips from Anchorage first!

1. Spencer Glacier Adventure Tour – Summer

Activities: kayaking, glacier hiking, and flagging down a train

All aboard the Glacier Discovery Train! This trip is a long day but full of thrills and incredible scenery. I departed Anchorage on the Glacier Discovery Train early in the morning as the sun lit up the Turnagain Arm. My guide for the day met me at the Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop. This is a remote area within the Chugach National Forest, which is only accessible by train. That basically means that the Spencer Glacier is practically empty since you can’t reach it by road; we had the glacier all to ourselves!

We paddled out onto the lake fed by the glacier and soon we were paddling next to floating icebergs that had broken off the glacier and lodged themselves in the lake. After an iceberg ‘tour’ we paddled over to the glacier where we left the kayaks, dawned crampons, and took off hiking on the glacier.

It’s About the Journey

Our guide had studied glaciology in school and as we hiked we learned about the formations and movements of the glacier. After a few hours on the glacier, we got back in the kayaks, paddled back across the lake, and then flagged down the Coastal Classic Train coming from Seward and rode it back into Anchorage as the sun went down. This was a day where it wasn’t simply about the destination of the glacier, it was about the journey!

Discover why an Alaska train trip should be on your winter itinerary

How to Book this Day Trip

Ascending Path based out of Girdwood will organize and coordinate your day for you and provide everything you need.  It appears that they have changed the itinerary a bit since I did this tour, and now they offer the train-kayak-helicopter hike on glacier-helicopter to train (an Epic trip no doubt!) or a train-kayak-land hike-train option. You can find more information on the Ascending Path website.

Or check out this similar trip to Spencer Glacier from Anchorage:
From Anchorage: Glacier and Wildlife Full-Day Tour

What to Take: Layers of clothes as the glacier is cold and don’t forget sun protection – it’s a long day! A rain jacket is always a good idea as well as a dry bag. Ascending Path will provide all of your kayaking and ice hiking gear, plus lunch. You can purchase dinner on board the train on the way home, but you may want to take some snacks.

How to Get There: No car is necessary – just take the train from Anchorage and it will drop you back off in Anchorage!

2. Get Muddy and Ride an ATV to Knik Glacier – Summer

Activities: riding or driving an ATV through the backcountry, lunch at the Knik Glacier

If you want more adventure than I’ve mentioned thus far, look into taking an ATV tour out at Knik Glacier (pronounced kuh-nick) in Chugach State Park. A number of operators offer Anchorage pick-up and drop-off for this tour. This is one of the more adventurous things to do in Anchorage.

“We feel you don’t truly start to experience what Alaska has to offer until you’re out of cell phone range, surrounded by towering mountains, pristine glaciers, and monstrous rivers,” Brian one of our guides explained.

Our guide Brian talked about how this was the best local way to see Alaska. After all, if you don’t own a bush plane in Alaska, you own an ATV – and normally you own both! We had already driven 40 miles out of Anchorage to get to the trailhead and now we were ready to depart the shuttle and have the real adventure begin.

As guide Shane readied the ATVs in the parking lot, we paired up and geared up. They furnish helmets, goggles, and various other gear if you don’t have it – but dress with the idea that you are going to get muddy and wet! Brian and Shane showed us how to operate the ATV and our group roared off on the 22 miles of ATV trails headed toward the Glacier.

You drive through many different environments; wooded forests, sand dunes, dry riverbeds, meadows, and a glacial lake. The trail is well-defined yet rugged, and it really helps to be able to follow the guide through the maze of trails as they know best what is doable.

The ATV highlight for me was stopping at a big water crossing getting instructions from our guides and then following them through. The Knik River is always changing, so every trip is different.

Anchorage Tour ATV Knik Glacier -things to do in achorage
Be prepared to get wet

Arriving at Knik Glacier

As we got closer to the glacier the trees started getting sparse and suddenly we were staring at the Knik Glacier! The Knik Glacier, located on the northern edge of the Chugach Mountains, is over 28 miles long and 5 miles across, making it one of Southcentral Alaska’s greatest rivers of ice. We parked and Shane and Brian cooked up a feast for us as we enjoyed the views. Then we headed back on different routes and everyone had chances to drive and be really as daring as they wanted.

One of my favorite perks of the tour was that Brian and Shane took videos and pictures during the whole trip and then sent them to you to download for free. This ensures you can be safe and enjoy the ride while someone else worries about capturing your adventurous feats!

How to Book This Anchorage Day Trip

49th State Motor Tours offers a variety of tours, even an overnight tour. However, you can find this Anchorage day tour here – Knick Glacier ATV

Another option to see Knick Glacier:
From Anchorage: Glacier and Wildlife Full-Day Tour

What to Take: They provide food and water, but bring a snack as it’s a long 8-hour day! Bring gear that you don’t care about getting dirty or wet! If you don’t have any, then check with them prior to the tour as they often can bring extra. Layers are of course a great idea. And if you have this kind of rain boots bring them!

How to Get There: No car is necessary for this adventure day trip from Anchorage either! 49th State Motors will pick you up from Anchorage and shuttle you to the trail and back.

3. Kayak or Bike Eklutna Lake – Summer

Activities: kayaking, biking, and hiking

It was a beautiful 40-minute drive from downtown Anchorage and soon I was deep in the woods on winding roads. I met Dan, my guide from Lifetime Adventures, at the Eklutna Visitor Center. The center is also the office for Lifetime Adventures where you can rent bikes, kayaks or so guided trips like I was doing.

I was excited to get out on the calm turquoise lake so kayaking would be the perfect way to experience it with Dan. The long lake is fed by Eklutna Glacier nearby. The day was a bit overcast, but it just made the colors of the lake and the fall foliage even more vibrant. I spent the day kayaking with Dan, however, there are plenty of other options too.

Lifetime Adventures also offers a cool paddle and pedal option to get the most out of your time in the area. You kayak out, 8 miles one-way, to the end of the lake where you then have a bike waiting for the return trip! This trip takes 5 to 6 hours to complete and is only offered Sun-Wed. It’s a great way to combine two of the most popular things to do in Anchorage.

Anchorage Tour eklunta lake kayak - things to.do in anchorage
Kayaking Eklutna Lake

How to Book this Day Trip from Anchorage

You can see all of the Eklutna Lake Tours and rentals offered here at the Lifetime Adventures Website. They rent kayaks and bikes for a day at the lake.

What to Take: They furnish kayaks, paddles, lunch, and bikes. So just make sure you bring layers as the weather can change quickly. A waterproof jacket is a good idea. Comfortable adventure sandals are good and bring a dry bag for your camera.

How to Get There: I drove myself out there in a rental car that I already had, however for some of the full-day trips, Lifetime Adventures will come to pick you up in Anchorage. Be sure to check carefully which ones include a pickup/dropoff.

4. Alaska Railroad Coastal Classic Train Trip to Seward – Summer

Activities: sightseeing, photography, wildlife

Every trip to Alaska should include a trip on the Alaska Railroad, it’s a spectacular way to see the landscapes and areas that aren’t accessible by car. One of the best (and easiest) day trips you can take is to ride the Coastal Classic Train from Anchorage to Seward and back in a day. Granted, it’s a long day, but well worth it.

You’ll start off early and watch the sunrise as you travel down the scenic Turnagain Arm. After Girdwood, you’ll then turn away from following the highway and deep into the backcountry wilderness of the Kenai Peninsula and Kenai Fjords National Park. You’ll see massive glaciers and towering waterfalls right out of your train window. You can even eat breakfast on the train!

Learn how to take the best pictures from a train

You arrive in the seaside town of Seward around 11 AM and can look around this quaint town, visit a nearby glacier, take a boat ride to spot wildlife, or even go fishing!

The train departs Seward at 6 PM and returns back to Anchorage while the sun sets and once again lights up the Turnagain Arm.

How to book the Coastal Classic Day Trip from Anchorage

Go to the Alaska Railroad website and buy your round-trip tickets. I highly recommend splurging and getting the Gold Star Class – it’s worth it on this scenic route!

What to bring: Bring a camera for pictures, and make sure you bring layers as the weather can change fast in Alaska.

How to get there: All you have to do is get yourself to the Alaska Railroad Station in Anchorage which is very central to downtown. You might even be able to walk from your downtown hotel!

5. Visit the Muskox Farm in Palmer – Summer or Winter

Activities: wildlife

Don’t miss the Muskox farm in Palmer Alaska. It’s incredible to see these prehistoric-looking animals up close. The first time I ever saw one, in Nome, I honestly didn’t think it was real. It looked like something from the dinosaur times! But I can assure you muskox are real and thriving at the Muskox Farm. Plus, you’ll learn everything you ever wanted to know about this amazing animal.

This is a nonprofit organization and it is raising around 80 muskoxen at the foot of the beautiful Chugach Mountains. They consider themself a real farm; they believe that agriculture should be done slowly and gently. What do they produce you ask? I wondered that too…

Hair. The Muskox Farm is basically farming hair. And they are harvesting it by hand…with a small comb! These big animals eat, poop, and grow hair (called qiviut – a great Scrabble word)…and they are crushing it! Qiviut fiber, qiviut yarn, and qiviut garments are the most coveted gift items in Alaska. The ultra-fine qiviut fiber is eight times warmer than wool and softer than cashmere. And it costs about $90 for an ounce!

How to Visit the Muskox Farm

You can go on a farm visit and walk around the farm learning all about the muskoxen and even see the frolicking calves. Learn more at the Muskox Farm Website

What to Bring: Bring a camera (the views are spectacular), and some extra money if you’d like to buy a super unique gift from the gift shop! Make sure you dress appropriately for the time of year. This is an outdoor tour, so you will be exposed to the elements.

How to get there: It’s a short (and scenic) drive 50 minutes North of Anchorage, but you will need your own car. This is also great to include on your way to/from Talkeetna – another great day trip from Anchorage (#9 listed below)!

Anchorage Attractions - Things to do in Anchorage, Alaska in the Summer

6. Snowmobile to Spencer Glacier for a truly Unique Glacial Experience – Winter

Activities: snowmobiling, glacier walk

What’s it like to walk right up to the edge of a glacier in the winter and touch it…it’s pretty spectacular! I took a snowmobile tour with Glacier City Snowmobile Tours through the backcountry to Spencer Glacier. Yes – this is the same Spencer Glacier I talked about above that I kayaked to in the summer!

This is probably the only chance you’ll get to ever stand this close to the front of a glacier – it was epic.

This time I snowmobiled OVER the frozen lake, past the big icebergs frozen in place on the lake, and right to the terminus of the frozen glacier. We could walk on the icebergs, go in ice caves, and be in awe of the dense blue ice under the watchful eyes of our guides who directed us on what areas were safe.

Don’t Forget the Snowmobiling!

In addition to wandering around the icebergs and glaciers – there’s also the fun of doing one of the most popular activities in Alaska in the winter – snowmobiling. They actually refer to it as snow machining in Alaska for some reason – potato, potaaaato – it was a blast whatever you call it.

After outfitting you in all of the warm gear you’ll need, they give you a quick lesson on how to operate a snow machine and how to drive safely. I started off a bit timid at first, but once I got the hang of the throttle and how to slow down, I was off to the races. There are ample opportunities to go upwards of 55mph as you speed out to the glacier!

But don’t go too fast as you’ll miss all of the spectacular scenery along the way!

How to Book this Glacier Snowmobile Tour

Learn more on the Glacier City Snowtours Website and book their glacier tour or mountain tour.

What to take: They ask you to bring whatever gear you have, they review it and supplement you with anything you need to stay warm on the tour. I ended up using their boots, a top-layer coat, and mittens. I was never cold! And be sure to bring your camera or GoPro – you’ll want it at the glacier!

How to Get There: The tour originates from Girdwood, a 45-minute drive from Anchorage. You’ll need a rental car to drive yourself there. Once at Glacier City Offices, they will transport you to the snowmobile trailhead.

7. Skiing at Alyeska – Winter

Activities: skiing

I must confess, I’m not a skier. However, I did stay at the Alyeska Resort at the bottom of the ski hill in Girdwood! It has ski-in/ski-out access plus the Gondola leaves right from the building. So I was exposed to a lot of skiing while there. The runs looked challenging and the views were incredible. If you are a skier – this is the place to go and it’s only a 45-minute drive from Anchorage!

skiing in Alaska - things to.do.in anchorage alaska in december
Look at the views from the ski hill!

Check prices and availability for the Alyeska Resort | Read reviews for the Alyeska Resort on Trip Advisor | Search for other hotels in Girdwood

8. Fat Biking in Girdwood – Winter

Activities: biking, snowshoeing

Yes – you can bike in the winter. So if you like biking in the summer, why wouldn’t you try it out in the winter? Especially when a place like Alyeska Resort makes it so darn easy for you!

You can rent a fat bike at the resort and choose from a variety of beginner to more advanced trails. They groom the trails which does make the riding part much easier!

These bikes are sort of like mountain bikes but with even fatter tires (4 to 5 inches!). This gives you much more stability in the snow and quite frankly makes riding in the snow a breeze!

I bundled up (too much!) and took the bike out on the trails around the resort. It didn’t take me long to get hot and really get a workout while enjoying empty trails while the sun came up over the mountain peaks. It was magical!!

9. Drive to Talkeetna and Back – Summer or Winter

Activities: sightseeing, flightseeing

If you like to road trip and want to get a nice slice of small-town Alaska goodness…and maybe also a slice of pie, then take off for a day trip from Anchorage to Talkeetna!

It’s a 2-hour scenic drive north to the little town of Talkeetna at the end of the spur road. It’s a wonderful place to spend the day strolling the 3-block main street, visiting the Mayor (a cat!), shopping, eating, and drinking! Main Street ends at the river one of the highlights of the area, and a place for great views of Denali National Park peaks.

Plus, if you want to add some adventure to your day, you can do a 1-hour flightseeing tour and see Denali National Park from above! Denali National Park and Preserve is over 6 million acres, and most people only get to see 15 miles of it. The best way to really get to see the grandeur of the national park and the Alaska Range is to go flightseeing. Most flightseeing is done out of the little town of Talkeetna Alaska. Bonus – you can even do it in summer or winter!

Check out all of the things to Do in Talkeetna in summer or winter

How to Do a Day Trip to Talkeetna

Start early in the morning so that you’ll have plenty of time to play in Talkeetna. And make sure to book your flightseeing adventure in advance in the summer as it can be quite popular. I’ve done flightseeing in the winter and summer with K2 Aviation.

How to Get There: You’ll need to rent a car if you want to do Talkeetna on a day trip. Otherwise, you can get there by Denali Star Train out of Anchorage and catch a train the next day back to Anchorage.

10. Ride the Gondola at Alyeska for Incredible Views – Summer or Winter

Activities: sightseeing

If you feel like getting to the top of a mountain without working too hard, then the Gondola at Alyeska is the way to go! This 7-minute ride will take you up to 2,300 feet to some of the best views you can get of the Turnagain Arm!

You can ride this in the summer, look for wildlife, and get off and do some hiking at the top enjoying the wildflowers and views. In the winter you can watch the skiers tackle the mountain. And no matter what time of year you go, you can grab a drink and food at the Bore Tide Deli and Bar and catch a great sunset. Be sure to visit the Roundhouse Museum to learn about the mountain’s history.

Things to do in Anchorage, Alaska in the Winter - what to do in anchorage in december

11. Hike on the Matanuska Glacier AND drive the Glenn Highway Scenic Drive – Summer or Winter

Activities: glacier hiking, sightseeing, photography

Sometimes it’s about the drive, and sometimes it’s about the destination – this Anchorage day trip offers both! The Matanuska Glacier is one of the few glaciers you can actually see from the road which makes it really special to me…plus it means it’s easy to get to. It’s located a few miles off of the Glenn Highway; one of the most scenic drives in the world in my opinion. You will spend much of the time picking up your jaw from the floor on this highway; which is especially beautiful in the fall (Late Aug/early Sep).

It’s great when you can let someone else do the driving on the Glenn Highway so that you can spend all of your time looking out the window. That’s why I went on this Anchorage day trip with Salmonberry Tours. They are an uber local company, women-owned, and they are Alaska experts! They supply all glacier gear and provide the ONLY Wilderness First Responder and Glacier Trekking and Rescue trained Glacier Experts guiding on the Matanuska Glacier year-round. Plus they have a strict 6:1 guest-to-guide ratio which means that it still feels like an intimate experience. I can’t recommend them enough!

However, I think my favorite thing about my experience with SalmonBerry was that all of their guides are local to Alaska – I mean like they grew up there. They aren’t just seasonal guides or people who moved to Alaska. In fact, during my tour one of our guides actually pointed out the house that he grew up in Palmer…we passed right by it! It’s just cool to know that these are people who really know the state and what it’s like to live there.

How to Book the Matanuska Glacier Hike Day Trip

Head on over to SalmonBerry Tours and you can book this cool adventure. Plus while you are there check out their other great day trips around Anchorage.

What to Bring: Bring your camera as the photo opportunities are stunning on the glacier. Also of course bring warm clothes depending on the time of year (they run this in winter and summer). They will provide snacks and a full lunch at a local restaurant that overlooks the glacier. In addition, they supply crampons and hiking poles.

How to Get There: SalmonBerry will do all the driving…so that you can keep your eyes on the scenery! It’s a full day of activities – but you can nap on the way back to Anchorage – I certainly did!

12. Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center – Winter or Summer

Activities: wildlife

Welcome to the wild side of Alaska! Get ready to embark on a journey through the untamed and magnificent world of wildlife conservation at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center ( AWCC). Brace yourselves for jaw-dropping encounters with some of nature’s coolest residents, all while supporting their well-being and preservation. Trust me, this is not your average walk in the park!

Picture this: You’re strolling around AWCC, surrounded by breathtaking scenery that looks like it jumped right out of a National Geographic documentary. As you wander further into this animal wonderland, prepare yourself for up-close-and-personal meetings with our furry friends. From grizzly bears who are as cuddly as they are fierce to elusive wolves that will make your heart skip a beat – AWCC has got it all.

The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center isn’t just about providing visitors with unforgettable animal encounters; it’s also dedicated to protecting and rehabilitating injured or orphaned wildlife. Talk about being superheroes for our furry friends!

What to Do in Anchorage

Day trips from Anchorage are great, but if you prefer to stay closer to the city center, because maybe you only have a limited amount of time, or you don’t have transportation of your own, then check out all of these great things to do in Anchorage.

13. Photo Workshop to the Most Photogenic Just-Outside-of-Anchorage Destinations – Summer or Winter

Activities: photography and sunset hunting

Jody, our Alaska Photo Treks photography guide for the night, picked me up and we chatted about my photography experience as we filled the van with other photo enthusiasts looking to make the most of the time in Anchorage. This is an evening tour typically as the whole goal is to get out of Anchorage to the best spots to capture and enjoy the sunset and the golden hours.

As you might guess, this isn’t a heart-thumping adventure, but if you like photography, this is a must. You can be at any level and have any kind of camera (even a phone), and you’ll walk away with great tips and a better eye for photography.

The tour took us to 3 different destinations outside of Anchorage I never would have found on my own and Jody gave us tutoring and guidance in each spot to get the most out of our sunset images. ‘Golden Hour’ (the best time to take photos when the sun is low to the horizon) turns into ‘Golden 3 Hours’ at these latitudes in Alaska so expect to be out for at least 4 to 5 hours shooting and enjoying the scenic spots.

Practice Different Elements of Photography

At our stops, we focused on different elements of photography; long exposure, reflections, wildlife, and even some light painting once the sun went down!

Alaska Wilderness waterfall - things to do in anchorage ak anchorage things to do in february

It’s amazing what just a little tutoring can do, isn’t it? Thanks to my instructor Jody who reminded me how to shoot waterfalls so they can look like this. Granted, she made me practically get in the water and crawl under a Devil’s Club plant (very thorny) to get the shot, but it worked!

Read my complete write-up on this Anchorage photography tour here

How to book your Anchorage Photo Workshop Tour

Get more information on the Alaska Photo Treks website. If you only have a night, try the Twilight Photo Tour. They also offer a number of other day tours to choose from. Book a Twilight Photo Tour and you can reserve a seat on Anchorage Aurora Quest at no additional cost.

What to Take: Bring your camera (and don’t forget extra batteries!)– that’s all you need! Your guide will have extra tripods and filters to use if you’d like and you don’t have any of your own. They also furnish some snacks. However, I recommend you eat prior to the tour as it is a long night.

How to Get There: Alaska Photo Treks will pick you up at your hotel!

14. Visit the Anchorage Museum – Summer or Winter

Activities: history, culture

Learn more about the history and culture of Anchorage and Alaska at the Anchorage Museum, a stunning museum in the heart of Anchorage. At the Anchorage Museum, you can explore the diversity of Alaska cultures, and experience 10,000 years of Alaska history and art. In 2017 they opened a new wing that features the art of the North. The exhibition features 13 themes reflecting essential aspects of life in Alaska.

When I went they had an incredible exhibit called Women of the North featuring the tough, strong Alaska women. It was both inspiring and eye-opening.

15. Go Hiking in the Chugach Mountains – Summer

Activities: hiking

I love hiking, and there are ample places to go on a day hike in Chugach State Park around Anchorage. Chugach State Park is one of the largest state parks in the nation.

If you want to learn while you hike (of course you do!), then get a guide. Matt from Go Hike Alaska will teach you everything you need to know about Alaska hiking safety (bears and moose…eek!), as well as the geography, wildlife, flowers, and fauna of the area.

Even though you are only a 30-minute drive from downtown Anchorage, you’ll feel like you’ve journeyed deep into the wilderness.

16. Go Anchorage Aurora Chasing – Winter

Activities: Northern Lights viewing, photography

The same company that does the sunset tours, Alaska Photo Treks, is also the best way to experience the Anchorage Aurora. And not only will you experience it, but you’ll also learn how to photograph it!

When I went out with Carl from Alaska Photo Treks in March the forecast didn’t look too great in the city, but he took us to where the aurora could be seen (normally up to 70 miles out of Anchorage if need be!).

A One-of-a-Kind Aurora Experience outside of Anchorage

“Steve’s here!” Carl opened the van door and yelled with excitement. We were all a bit confused by who Steve was and why he was out in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night.

Carl taught us that the celestial phenomenon known as ‘STEVE’ is likely caused by a combination of the heating of charged particles in the atmosphere and energetic electrons like those that power the aurora. It shows up as a thin pink/purple ribbon of light stretched from east to west across the entire sky. It shows up south of where auroras normally appear.

STEVE aurora alaska - anchorage tourist attractions - things to do in anchorage in january

Last year, the obscure atmospheric lights became an internet sensation. There are numerous research studies on the phenomenon discovering that during STEVE, a flowing “river” of charged particles in Earth’s ionosphere collide, creating friction that heats the particles and causes them to emit mauve light. Incandescent light bulbs work in much the same way, where electricity heats a filament of tungsten until it’s hot enough to glow. We were able to see and learn about this rare phenomenon thanks to Alaska Photo Treks!

The aurora chasing tour goes all night and will teach you all about the Northern Lights, how to shoot aurora, tips on how to set up shots, and Carl will even take pictures of you and the aurora! You can even nap in the warm van. Carl will even serve you hot chocolate.

I never could have found these awesome places/settings on my own. In the summer he does sunset tours around Anchorage. If you want some awesome Alaska photos, be sure to check out this tour and meet Carl!

How to Book Anchorage Aurora Chasing and Photography Workshop

Just contact Alaska Photo Treks and Carl will do all of the work for you! He will check all of the forecasts and determine if it’s worth it to go out.

What to Bring: WARM clothes and layers. I find that aurora chasing is one of the coldest things to do in the winter, mainly because there can be long amounts of time when you are just standing outside. Brrr.

How to Get There: Alaska Photo Treks will pick you up at your hotel.

17. Go Snowshoeing in Anchorage – Winter

Activities: snowshoeing, wildlife

One of the best ways to experience winter in Anchorage is to head out snowshoeing. What’s that, you didn’t travel with snowshoes in your luggage?! Go Hike Alaska to the rescue! Hire a snowshoe guide who will bring you snowshoes and poles and take you snowshoeing in Chugach State Park!

things to do in anchorage in december - snowshoeing

Matt was a super guide teaching us about the Chugach Mountains, the park, the various peaks, lichen, and wildlife! We examined wildlife tracks trying to identify them and saw one of the best views of Anchorage from above!

Check out my Snowshoeing 101 Guide: Why do it, What to wear, Where to go

I find snowshoeing so relaxing – a time to take in the little things around you in nature. In fact, we even saw the Alaska state bird – the ptarmigan. It’s a fitting state bird because it doesn’t fly south in the winter, instead, it stays in the state all year long and its feathers change from brown to white in the winter to blend into its environment. Plus – check out the feathers on its feet! Luckily our guide heard it and was able to spot it! Something I never could’ve done on my own!

Go Hike Alaska also runs helicopter snowshoeing around Anchorage! They will pick you up at your hotel and bring all the gear you need to play in the snow! Plus – yummy snacks!

18. Enjoy an Anchorage Sunset from the Crow’s Nest – Summer or Winter

Head to the 20th floor of the Captain Cook Hotel for a sophisticated sunset cocktail! The Crow’s Nest restaurant and bar offer 360-degree views of Anchorage from an incredible vantage point. Granted, in the summer you likely won’t get to see a sunset (#midnightsunproblems) but in the winter it’s the perfect place to see the Chugach Mountains and Cook Inlet skies glow a pale pink as the sun goes down. They even have cocktails that match the sunset!

Note, most places in Anchorage are really casual, however, no beanies are allowed in the Crow’s Nest we were informed! (#hathead)

Note, most places in Anchorage are really casual, however, no beanies are allowed in the Crow’s Nest we were informed! (#hathead)

19. Stuff Your Face Full of Seafood – Summer or Winter

It doesn’t matter what time of year it is – it’s always a great time for seafood in Anchorage. My favorite place to eat delicious, fresh seafood with a view is Simon and Seafort’s. Make sure to ask for their fresh catch, and don’t skip the key lime pie! Simon and Seafort’s has been around since 1978 and they don’t just have great seafood, but they also have a beautiful view of the Cook Inlet!

Find out why you should visit Lake Clark National Park in Alaska

20. Rent a Bike and head out on the Coastal Trail – Summer or Winter

Activities: fat-tire biking, cycling, walking, sightseeing

Follow the paved trail along the shore of the Cook Inlet from downtown Anchorage to Kincaid Park. I did this in the winter on an electric fat bike – and it was fabulous! I had a whole new perspective of Anchorage; the views from the inlet are phenomenal. You’ll also likely run into a little wildlife. Plus, check out the great views of Mount Susitna. See if you can make out why they call it the Sleeping Lady.

In the winter I actually ran into Moose on the trail. PLEASE BE CAUTIOUS AND DON’T APPROACH THE MOOSE! I actually had a bit of a scare with a moose on the trail, which may be a good reason to think about going with a local guide!

Take this Coastal Trail 3-Hour City Bike Tour with a guide and learn all about Anchorage’s history, plus get transportation to the beginning and from the end of the trail.

You can also rent a bike (or a fat bike in the winter). I rented from Pablos which is right by the start of the trail. The bikes were some of the best quality bikes I’ve ever rented. They have an electric fleet of fat bikes with studded tires which made riding in the snow so fun and safe. The service was great too – I highly recommend them and taking a half day and getting out on this trail!

You’ll find Pablos bike rental near the trail at L St between 4th and 5th Ave. Pablo Bicycle Rentals

21. Alaska Native Heritage Center – Summer or Winter

Activities: culture, native cuisine

Welcome to the Alaska Native Heritage Center, a cultural hub that celebrates and preserves the rich heritage of Alaska’s native peoples. Located in Anchorage, this center offers an immersive experience where visitors can learn about the diverse indigenous cultures of Alaska.

At the heart of the Alaska Native Heritage Center is a strong commitment to education and understanding. The center serves as a bridge between past and present, providing insight into traditional practices, customs, languages, art forms, and much more. You’ll get a deeper appreciation for the unique history and living traditions of Alaska’s native communities.

Explore the outdoor village sites which showcase authentic dwellings from different native communities. You might find yourself standing in awe before an intricately carved totem pole or watching talented artisans demonstrate their craftsmanship firsthand. Oh, and don’t forget your camera – these sights are truly Instagram-worthy!

If you’re feeling adventurous (and who wouldn’t be?), join one of the interactive activities where you can try your hand at traditional dances or even learn how to throw an Inuit harpoon! It’s much harder than it looks but definitely worth the laughter.

Hungry after all those exhilarating experiences? Head over to the cafeteria for some delicious native cuisine. I highly recommend trying out salmon cooked in traditional ways – it’s like a mouthful of Alaskan wilderness on your plate!

22. Snow City Cafe

Activities: sweet treats

Looking to satisfy your sweet tooth and indulge in a delightful morning treat? Look no further than Snow City Cafe in Anchorage, where their cinnamon rolls are the stuff of legends. These heavenly creations will have you rethinking everything you thought you knew about breakfast pastries. Prepare yourself for a taste sensation like no other.

Snow City’s cinnamon rolls are a perfect balance of softness, gooeyness, and just the right amount of sweetness. With each bite, you’ll discover layers upon layers of pillowy dough infused with rich cinnamon goodness that will transport your taste buds to cloud nine. But what sets Snow City Cafe apart from the countless other cinnamon roll purveyors out there? Well, it’s not just the mouthwatering flavor; it’s also their commitment to using only the finest ingredients.

These rolls are crafted with love and attention to detail, ensuring every batch is a masterpiece. The moment you step into Snow City Cafe, your senses will be overwhelmed by the warm aroma of freshly baked cinnamon goodness wafting through the air. It’s like stepping into a sugary wonderland where dreams come true and calories don’t count (we wish!). The friendly staff will greet you with big smiles as they serve up these indulgent treats that could very well change your life forever.

Now, let’s talk size because when it comes to cinnamon rolls, bigger is always better. And at Snow City Cafe, they certainly don’t skimp on portion sizes. These bad boys are generously sized – we’re talking plates overflowing with pure bliss. So make sure you bring your appetite or be prepared to share!

23. Ice Fishing in Anchorage – Winter

Why not get to know a very local pastime – ice fishing? Fishhound Expeditions runs fishing tours out of Anchorage year-round – however, ice fishing is only obviously offered in the winter. This may sound like a very cold activity – but it’s not! In fact – it’s practically hot inside the tent with the propane heater going!

You’ll learn everything but need absolutely no gear as Fishhound brings it all for you – making it a very simple thing to do in Anchorage! We even had a fish camera that we could put in the water and see them swimming around! You can also get as hands-on as you want – drill your own ice fishing hole, put on your own bait, and catch and release by yourself. One of the coolest things is that you can do sight-fishing – meaning you can see the fish bite at your hook and then snag it. The tent can be made very dark and when that happens, you can see through the water – in fact, it actually ‘glows’ when you black out the tent.

My guide didn’t just teach me about ice fishing, he taught me all about fishing and conservation in Alaska, farming vs. wild, fish lifecycles, and more. He was a wealth of knowledge and I found it all fascinating. It’s a super way to meet a local, learn about fishing, learn about Alaska, and have a super afternoon!

How to Book an Ice Fishing Day Tour in Anchorage

Contact Fishhound Expeditions and book a day. They’ll do everything else! Note: You’ll have to get a day fishing license – it’s about $15, but they can help you do that too.

24. Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge and Potter Marsh – Summer

Activities: hiking, wildlife

This hidden gem nestled along the stunning Alaskan coastline is a haven for both nature enthusiasts and wildlife aficionados. The Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge offers a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the beauty of Alaska’s diverse ecosystems. Covering over 1,500 acres of land and water, the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge is home to an abundance of coastal wildlife.

I suggest you visit during sunset when you can get beautiful reflections in the lakes and the birds are most active at this time.

From bald eagles soaring through the sky to playful sea otters frolicking in the waves, this refuge offers a glimpse into the fascinating lives of these enchanting creatures. One of the most iconic residents of this refuge is the elusive beluga whale. Known for their distinctive white coloration and melodic songs, spotting these gentle giants swimming gracefully in their natural habitat is truly awe-inspiring. Keep your eyes peeled as you explore the shoreline – you never know when these magnificent creatures will make an appearance!

As you venture further into the refuge, you’ll discover an array of migratory birds that call this place their temporary home during certain seasons. Thousands of shorebirds flock here each year, taking advantage of its rich feeding grounds before continuing on their extraordinary journeys across continents. Birdwatchers will be enthralled by this spectacle, capturing glimpses of vibrant species such as sandpipers and plovers.

For those who prefer getting up close and personal with nature’s wonders, take a leisurely stroll along one of several scenic trails and boardwalks within the refuge. As you wander through lush forests and meandering streams, keep an eye out for deer and moose grazing peacefully or black bears ambling about – just remember to be aware at all times.

Where to Stay in Anchorage

I’ve stayed all over Anchorage in hotels, B&Bs, and AirB&Bs. I prefer smaller hotels that are family-owned or have some history about them – and here are two of my favorites:

Copper Whale Inn – This is a really cute boutique hotel situated right downtown. In 2020 they remodeled their rooms! Plus, they also run the Salmon Berry Tour Company – another great place to book Anchorage day trips! It’s super close to the Coastal Trail and bike rentals!

Check prices and availability for the Copper Whale Inn | Read reviews for The Copper Whale Inn on Trip Advisor | Search for other hotels in Anchorage

Historic Anchorage Hotel These rooms are spacious and comfortable. Every room I’ve stayed in there has lots of windows and a whole sitting room area, it’s really comfortable after a long flight to Alaska! This is also a great location if you have an early train reservation in the morning! 

Check prices and availability for the Historic Anchorage Hotel | Read reviews for the Historic Anchorage Hotel on Trip Advisor | Search for other hotels in Anchorage

Whether you are coming or going out of the Anchorage airport and have a few extra days or hours, or you are using Anchorage as a base for Alaska adventures – there are plenty of things to do.in Anchorage to keep your adrenaline high and your trip memorable!

5 Travel Essentials for Your Anchorage Trip

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    03/06/2024 12:17 am GMT
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I was a guest of these tour companies in Anchorage, however all opinions expressed here are my own.

This list contains some affiliate links. If you choose to purchase items through these links, I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. These commissions help reduce the costs of running this site

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