Craving an unforgettable adventure that’ll awaken all your senses? Well, look no further and explore the best things to do in Anchorage, Alaska. Alaska’s largest city, Anchorage is the perfect spot to launch an epic adventure through the northernmost state in the United States.
If you’re an adventurer and love the rugged outdoors, Anchorage is the ultimate destination. With seaside cliffs, snow-capped mountains, lakes, and waterfalls as your backdrop, you’ll find plenty to explore here.
As you tackle the top tourist attractions in Anchorage, strap on your hiking boots and venture into the wilderness of Kenai Fjords National Park. Or witness the spectacular Northern Lights dancing under the city’s starry skies.
Not sure what to do and where to go? Scope out the city’s most magical corners with this complete guide to the best places to visit in Anchorage, AK.
Must-see places to visit in Anchorage, AK
Looking to introduce yourself to the city’s diverse wildlife? Meander over to the Alaska Zoo. One of the top points of interest in Anchorage, it delivers an educational experience about Alaska’s unique wildlife habitats.
At the Alaska Zoo, you’ll meet more than 50 species of domestic and exotic animals, including brown bears, musk ox, Amur tigers, black bears, alpacas, Tibetan yaks, snow leopards, and the famous polar bear.
The Alaska Zoo is also the ideal destination for birders. Witness a variety of majestic birds from all over the world, along with several native Alaskan birds.
Nestled southwest of Anchorage in the shadow of the Chugach Mountains, the Alaska Zoo also offers a variety of classes, programs, and touring exhibits for its guests.
Alaska Native Heritage Center
Want to gain insight into the history of the native cultures of this Alaskan city? There’s no better place to do it than the Alaska Native Heritage Center. Learn about the indigenous culture and origins of Alaska’s heritage through native stories, native artifacts, dances, and performances.
Amid the center’s wonderful forests of the Alaska Native Heritage Center, you’ll find several traditional dwellings to explore. The state-of-the-art heritage center also features galleries full of artwork, kayaks, weapons, and original artifacts, along with a theater and a meeting place for workshops and performances.
Chugach State Park
Located outside the city limits, Chugach State Park covers 700 square miles, making it one of the four largest state parks in the United States. The park features a vast terrain covered with mountains for biking, acres of hiking trails, and plenty of rivers and lakes.
Chugach State Park is a popular destination for hiking, skiing, camping, and fun outdoor activities. The park meets saltwater at several points along the Seward Highway and crosses along the shores of Turnagain Arm. Its major landmarks intersect with the Chugach National Forest, where you can find attractions such as Portage Glacier.
Seeking out Alaska’s native wildlife? On your visit to Chugach State Park, keep your eyes on the lookout for polar bears, wolves, beavers, moose, and lynxes hanging around the area.
Chugach State Park also has numerous popular hiking trails, such as the Falls Creek Trail, McHugh Creek Trail, the Bird Ridge Trail, and the Flattop Mountain Trail.
Escape city life minutes from downtown Anchorage at Earthquake Park. Set in the woods along the Knik Arm coast, the 134-acre park memorializes a 1964 earthquake that caused an entire neighborhood to slide into the coastal waters.
Wedged between Hood Creek and Point Woronzof, Earthquake Park is the perfect spot to relax after a hectic day in Anchorage.
Wander to the park’s north end to marvel at dramatic views over the Knik Arm and the Chugach Mountains. Elsewhere in the park, you’ll enjoy vistas over Downtown Anchorage to the northeast.
Aside from its own biking & hiking trails, Earthquake Park offers visitors access to the Coastal Trail. Stretching 11 miles along the water, it’s a fantastic spot to soak up Anchorage’s spectacular coastal charms.
Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
If you’re an animal lover visiting Anchorage, don’t miss dropping into the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. Perched upon the Turnagain Arm to a backdrop of glacial mountains, the center is the perfect spot to brush up on your knowledge of Alaskan wildlife.
Opened in 1993, the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center spans 200 acres of wilderness, split into several distinct areas. Wind your way from the center’s 65 acres of tidal flat terrain to spot wood bison in their natural habitat. Or catch a glimpse of Hugo, a rescued grizzly bear from the northwestern corner of Alaska, as she trots around her own 20-acre habitat.
If you’re brave enough to be visiting Anchorage in winter, hop onto the center’s 1.5-mile loop. Keep your eyes peeled for moose, reindeer, wolves, muskox, and deer.
Alaska Botanical Garden
Featuring over 1,100 species of perennials and 150 native plant species, the Alaska Botanical Garden is one of the most surprising Anchorage tourist attractions for nature lovers.
Most travelers would imagine that Alaska’s cold climate would leave behind little interesting flora; the Alaska Botanical Garden proves that this isn’t the case! Stroll through this 100-acre paradise in the shadows of a natural forest to see hundreds of Alaska’s most interesting plant and flower species thriving.
Explore the wildflower trail to marvel at the cold-hardy roses, irises, poppies, and Asiatic lilies. Wander through the herb garden for a sense of the various herbs used for nourishment and traditional medicine. Or get a quick Alaskan history lesson in the Anchorage Heritage Garden while exploring a typical 20th-century garden layout of vegetables, annuals, and perennials.
Located at the Rasmuson Center in the city center, the Anchorage Museum is the state’s largest museum and one of the most popular places to see in Anchorage for history buffs and art lovers alike.
The Anchorage Museum strings together a compelling narrative of the state’s past, ranging from Alaska native culture & art to settlement during the Alaskan gold rush. Browse over 600 native artifacts, including ceremonial masks and traditional waterproof clothing. You’ll also get to check out short films delving into the history of Alaska’s native people and how native cultures are being preserved in the modern day.
After the history lesson, bring the kids to the museum’s discovery center for a dash of interactive fun. The discover center features 80 family-friendly science exhibits, including an aquarium and planetarium.
Set upon a former Cold War missile base, Kincaid Park is one of the most interesting Anchorage points of interest for outdoor adventurers. The park drapes over 1,500 acres of moraine on the edge of the Anchorage Bowl. From its unique perch, you can marvel at dramatic views of Denali National Park and the Cook Inlet.
Just 20 minutes from the city center, Kincaid Park is one of Anchorage’s most popular escapes, teeming with outdoor activities. On its over 35 miles of trails, you can gear for a hike, run, or bike ride or, if you’re visiting in winter, a cross-country skiing adventure. Among the birch and spruce trees, keep on the lookout for native Alaskan wildlife, including moose, black bears, and eagles.
Need a little more action? Challenge your travel partners to a game of disc golf on the 18-hole course or hit the park’s archery range for target practice.
Alaska Aviation Museum
Looking for insight into Alaska’s aviation history? Bring along the whole family to enjoy the interactive and informative exhibits at the fascinating Alaska Aviation Museum. The museum is located at Lake Hood, the world’s largest base for float planes.
Explore the four hangars at the Alaska Aviation Museum to spot historic planes dating back to WWII, artifacts, maps, photographs, and bush pilot uniforms. Once you’ve got your fill of aviation history, scale up the Seybert Tower for a birds-eye view of the vintage aircraft and to catch some up-close take-offs and landings at Lake Hood.
Once a “firebreak” clearing at the southern edge of Anchorage, Delaney Park is now smack-dab in the middle of town and is one of the city’s go-to spots for outdoor recreation.
Delaney Park is just one block wide but stretches 13 blocks east to west. Get active in Anchorage with the park’s slate of recreational facilities, including soccer fields, tennis courts, volleyball courts, and baseball fields.
In winter, challenge your family to a game of ice hockey on the park’s outdoor skating rink. (Or just enjoy the crisp weather with a leisurely skate in the rink’s general ice-skating area.)
Chugach National Forest
Located 35 miles south of Anchorage, the Chugach National Forest is one of Alaska’s most-coveted outdoor destinations. Stretching 6.9 million acres, it’s the second-largest national forest in the United States.
The Chugach National Forest covers several major landmarks, including the Copper River Delta, the Kenai Peninsula, and Prince William Sound. Within its span, you can explore nearly all of Alaska’s unique climatic zones, from rainforests and boreal forests to coastal inlets and wetlands. You can also marvel at 20 glaciers within the park, including the Byron Glacier and the world-famous Portage Glacier.
If you’re visiting from Anchorage, head down the Seward Highway to Girdwood. The small resort town, located along the Turnagain Arm, is the gateway to the Kenai Peninsula, famed for its Kenai Fjords National Park.
Set your sights on the nearby Portage Valley Recreation Area, one of the most popular day trips from Anchorage. The Portage Valley Recreation Area offers a multitude of outdoor activities, from hiking and biking to fishing and kayaking.
From Moose Flats off Portage Glacier Road, embark on an epic hike along the Trail of Blue Ice. The 5-mile hiking trail winds through the dense woodlands, past streams and ponds, to a backdrop of the Chugach Mountains.
Or, if you’ve got good weather, venture a little further to the Begich Boggs Visitor Center to tackle the Byron Glacier Trail. Although short and easy, the 1-mile trail opens up to impressive views of dramatic cliffs and the glacier. If you’re visiting at dusk, keep on the lookout for the Byron Glacier’s famed ice worms clinging to the lower slopes.
The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail
The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail is one of the most exquisite spots around Anchorage for hiking, running, or biking. Start from downtown Anchorage and ride the smooth and paved 19.7-mile out-and-back trail to Kincaid Park, admiring the gorgeous views along the way.
Bearing the name of Alaska’s former governor, the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail follows the city’s coastline south, passing through wetlands, forests, and wilderness areas along the way. Try to spot moose and eagles as you enjoy the beautiful views over Anchorage, the Chugach Mountains, Denali National Park, and Fire Island.
Alaska Museum of Science and Nature
Visiting Anchorage with kids? Add a little education to your itinerary with a visit to the Alaska Museum of Science and Nature, one of the top family-friendly attractions in Anchorage. Through fun and informative exhibits, kids will learn all about Alaska’s unique geology and ecology.
At the Alaska Museum of Science and Nature, you’ll peruse the state’s largest collection of minerals, rocks, and fossils. Unearth rare finds, including North America’s oldest duckbill dinosaur and a full-scale model of a pterosaur, the only prehistoric flying reptile.
Oscar Anderson House Museum
Step back into Anchorage history with a stop at the Oscar Anderson House Museum. Located in Elderberry Park in downtown Anchorage, the historic house depicts early settler life in Anchorage through its slate of period decor and artifacts.
Once the home of one of Anchorage’s most prominent citizens, the Oscar Anderson House Museum was added to the National Register of History Places in 1978. In the following year, it underwent extensive renovations, restoring the historic home to its early-20th-century glory.
Tours of the Oscar Anderson House Museum are available by appointment between Memorial Day and Labor Day. If you’re visiting Anchorage in early December, visit the home to see it adorned with traditional Swedish Christmas decorations.
Potter Marsh Bird Sanctuary
Located at the southern edge of the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge, Potter Marsh Bird Sanctuary is an Alaska must-see for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. The wilderness area sits wedged between the prominent peaks of the Chugach Mountains and the wild waters of the Turnagain Arm.
The Potter Marsh Bird Sanctuary shelters the natural habitat of at least 130 species of birds. Walk along the sanctuary’s 0.5-mile boardwalk to witness Canadian geese, canvasback ducks, Arctic terns, and northern pintails pecking around. From late spring to summer, you might even spot several salmon species fluttering about in Rabbit Creek below the boardwalk.
It’s not unusual to see eagles soaring above or moose foraging around the Potter Marsh Bird Sanctuary, either—keep your eyes peeled!
Embarking on a road trip along the Seward Highway south of Anchorage? Step on the brakes en route for a stop at Beluga Point. At this popular lookout point, you’ll marvel at panoramic views of the Turnagain Arm.
Try to swing Beluga Point at high tide to spot brave surfers riding the waves and kayakers paddling along. If you’re visiting Anchorage in the summer months, you may even be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of beluga whales fluttering in the surf.
Where to stay in Anchorage for sightseeing
For most travelers, the most popular places to stay in Anchorage are in its downtown core. Downtown Anchorage is home to most of the city’s top hotels and is a great base for exploring its top points of interest, restaurants, bars, and entertainment. Can’t find what you’re looking for in downtwn? Other neighborhoods to consider include South Addition and Midtown Anchorage.
Set in the heart of Anchorage’s historic downtown, this 4-star hotel is the perfect option for travelers looking for great central digs without breaking the bank. Guests will love the spacious guest rooms and a range of amenities, from an on-site fitness center to free WiFi.
One of Alaska’s most popular hotels, The Hotel Captain Cook offers rooms with spectacular views of the Chugach Mountains and Cook Inlet. Besides relaxing in the comfortable modern rooms, you can treat yourself to soothing spa treatments, keep up with your workout routine in the on-site fitness center, or indulge in one of the hotel’s superb restaurants.
One of Anchorage’s more upscale hotels, the Marriott Anchorage Downtown offers guest comfortable rooms with superb views over the city and surrounding landscapes. The hotel is just steps away from some of the city’s top estaurants and attractions like Delaney Park and the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail.