If you get a thrill when you look in your backyard and see a deer, imagine looking in your backyard and spotting a moose. For Jack Bonney, public relations manager for Visit Anchorage, it’s not an uncommon event.
“It never gets old,” Bonney said. “I’ve lived here for many, many years, and I still run to tell my wife, ‘There’s a moose outside!’”
Bonney grew up for much of his life in Anchorage. He left to pursue college and other interests but found himself talking about Alaska when he was gone.
“I missed those same things that people love when they visit,” he said. “When your plane is landing in Anchorage, you see the mountains on the horizon and know you are 15 minutes away from territory that is home to wildlife others only dream about. And in Anchorage, you don’t want for anything, from restaurants to shopping to athletic opportunities. Anchorage has the best of all worlds.”
Moose and Much More
Anchorage is home to 300,000 people and 1,500 moose and is the size of Delaware.
“It’s big. That is daunting to visitors who want to see it all in a day,” Bonney said. “It takes time to see it all.”
For 50 percent of local visitors, Anchorage is the start or end point of their Alaskan cruise.
“The others arrive by air and then use Anchorage as a hub for road, rail and air travel in Alaska,” Bonney said. “What drives people to visit Anchorage is the wildlife and the Chugach Mountains that offer 500,000 acres of land in one of the four largest state parks in the U.S. There are more than 50 named glaciers, hiking, biking and amazing rafting.”
One of those glaciers is Portage Glacier, and it is one of the most accessible to visitors. The glacier features abundant hiking trails, and a Portage Lake sightseeing cruise offers another opportunity to have a close encounter.
Just outside nearby Whittier, groups can take a cruise on the pristine waters of the Prince William Sound to see whales, sea otters and the world’s largest concentration of bald eagles. Active tidewater glaciers, many of them described as ancient, awe boaters when giant slabs of ice break off and crash into the water.
Aboard the Coastal Classic Train, a favorite travel option between Anchorage and Seward, passengers see glaciers and much more. The Kenai Mountains, moose, bear and wolves are all easy to see from glass-domed train cars and outdoor viewing platforms.
The Grandview Valley is one of the most scenic areas of Alaska’s railway and is only accessible by train. A sightseeing trip can be accomplished in a day and showcases wildflowers, glaciers and wildlife.
Only in Anchorage
Watching a moose graze outside your window will most likely be a first-time experience. But without a doubt, watching an outhouse race, in which Alaskans compete to be king or queen of their throne, will be one for your record book.
At the great Anchorage Fur Rendezvous, a late-February/early-March celebration started by miners and trappers more than 75 years ago, guests see outhouse races, a leaf-blower hockey game, reindeer races and nearly 50 events around town. A native-arts festival that features hundreds of vendors from throughout the state, a fireworks extravaganza, a grand parade and the self-explanatory Jim Beam Jam are just a handful of more ways to have fun at the Rendezvous.
On the first Saturday of March, check out the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, the iconic Alaska dogsled race that starts in Anchorage. From here, the teams face 1,049 miles of wilderness on their trip to Nome.
And when you put a midnight round of golf on your Anchorage itinerary, travelers just might think it is a typo until they realize that the city offers 22 hours of daylight in the middle of June. At the Summer Solstice Celebration, concerts, festivals, marathons, observances from different cultures and the Hero Games, where firefighters, police and the military test their skills, crowd the streets under the midnight sun during this annual event.
No matter when you are in town, remember that you are within the traditional territory of the Dena’ina Athabascans, original inhabitants of the south central Alaska region.
“The Anchorage Museum is one of the first places I take guests,” said Bonney. “This is the place to explore the history and culture of Alaska, from the native cultures to the Bering Sea to Russian exploration. It’s an amazing facility that takes a while to really wrap your head around.”
At the Alaska Native Heritage Center, visitors witness demonstrations and life-size traditional dwellings, and interpreters highlight traditions of Alaska’s indigenous people.