Many road trip enthusiasts love searching for novel attractions wherever they go, like the World’s Largest Ball of Twine in Cawker City, Kansas. For those looking for special experiences that can’t be found anywhere else, Anchorage has many offerings. From rare natural phenomena like the Turnagain Arm bore tide to cultural treasures like the Grandma Olga art installation, this list of top things to do in Anchorage promises a memorable adventure in Alaska’s largest city.
1. See the world’s largest chocolate waterfall
We’re kicking off this list with an indoor activity in Anchorage. Forget Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and visit Alaska Wild Berry Products’ 20-foot chocolate waterfall. With more than 3,000 pounds of molten goodness cascading down a 20-foot fountain of copper kettles, this is a real confectionary wonder. Just don’t fall in or try to take a taste! Don’t worry, there is plenty of chocolate to taste at the candy counter nearby.
2. Drive through the longest highway tunnel in North America
The Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel is North America’s longest combined road-and-rail tunnel, stretching two-and-a-half miles. Its noteworthy features don’t stop there. It’s the first tunnel to use fans and jet engines for ventilation. It’s also the first tunnel designed to withstand temperatures of 40 degrees below, 150 mph winds and avalanches.
The tunnel, constructed during World War II and refurbished for vehicle traffic in 2000, connects the port city of Whittier with the Seward Highway. But “longest” doesn’t mean “widest” — it is a one-lane road with a set daily schedule so cars and trains can take turns.
3. See Alaska’s wildlife at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
Bison, moose and bears, oh my! A must-see for wildlife lovers and families, the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is a nonprofit sanctuary that protects and conserves Alaska’s wildlife. Just a fence separates visitors from lynx, bears, wood bison, foxes, wolves, moose, elk and more! One of AWCC’s programs involves reintroducing native wood bison into their natural habitats after a 100-year absence. So far, 130 wood bison have been released into Western Alaska through these efforts.
With the option of walking or driving through the center, AWCC is easily accessible.
4. Go birding and ghost hunting along Ship Creek
Birding enthusiasts and ghost hunters alike will appreciate Ship Creek. If you’re looking for shorebirds like plovers, sandpipers, and waterfowl, this is the place to visit.
Ship Creek is also said to be haunted by the spirit of an Alaska Native woman named Marie who was murdered in the 1980s.
The area was the location of Tent City for early Anchorage settlers about 100 years ago. Around 2,000 settlers stayed by Ship Creek in tents as the Alaska Railroad began construction.
5. Witness Spirit Houses in Eklutna Village Historical Park
Eklutna Village Historical Park is an easy 30-minute drive from downtown and is the area’s oldest continuously inhabited Athabaskan settlement. There you will find brightly colored wooden Spirit Houses representing a combination of Athabascan tradition and influence from Russian Orthodox missionaries. The bright colors of the boxes, built over the graves of loved ones, represent family names.
6. Check out Earthquake Park
On Good Friday in 1964, Anchorage was hit with a magnitude 9.2 earthquake, the largest earthquake ever recorded in North America and the second largest in history.
You can still witness the event’s impact today — Earthquake Park marks the area where an entire neighborhood slid into the ocean. You may access the park from a parking lot or along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail which passes through the park.
7. See historic aircraft at the Alaska Aviation Museum
Located on Lake Hood, the world’s largest floatplane base, the Alaska Aviation Museum has a collection of historic aircraft, some from as early as the 1920s. The museum also offers a winter lecture series and community events like big band dances and beer tastings. It is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
8. Discover pre-statehood law and order stories at the Alaska Law Enforcement Museum
Get to know everything about the history of law enforcement in Alaska’s rugged frontier at the Alaska Trooper Museum. View antique radios, shackles, wire-tapping equipment and law enforcement memorabilia from around the world.
9. Scramble up and down Kincaid sand dunes
It’s bizarre to think there are sand dunes, let alone beaches, in Alaska. But secluded in the middle of Kincaid Park overlooking the Cook Inlet, the Kincaid Sand Dunes are ready to be explored and made into sand castles. One of the best activities here is searching for Japanese glass fishing floats.
10. Partake in Outhouse Races at Fur Rondy
This one is for the die-hard quirk enthusiasts — visit Alaska in late February or early March for the annual Anchorage Fur Rendezvous Festival. The event began in 1936 and coincided with the return of miners and trappers after their winter hauls. Fur Rondy has a long list of both serious and goofball events, including Outhouse Races, Running of the Reindeer, and the Open World Championship Sled Dog Races.
Outhouse Races are just what they sound like — a team builds an outhouse and competes to win the race by pulling the outhouse with somebody sitting on the seat across a snowy stretch. Participants get quite creative with their take on an outhouse, coming in all shapes, sizes and colors.
11. Try reindeer sausage
Alaska might be known for its seafood, but don’t overlook the delicious reindeer sausage! One walk around downtown in the summer and you’ll likely find many stands selling reindeer sausage and hot dogs. You can also try it at many local restaurants on pizza, in your favorite breakfast dish and more.
12. Check out the bore tide in Turnagain Arm
The Alaska bore tide in Turnagain Arm, a clash of tides reaching up to 10 feet high, is a mesmerizing natural phenomenon. The tide attracts onlookers driving the Turnagain Arm as well as thrill-seekers, including surfers, kiteboarders, and paddleboarders. There are many pull outs along the highway perfect for viewing the bore tide so check the tide book and stake out a spot to catch a view of this phenomenon.
13. Learn about Alaska Native cultures at the Alaska Native Heritage Center
There are over 200 tribes and cultural groups in Alaska, each with unique languages, traditions and histories. To learn about the Indigenous people of Alaska, visitors should make time for the Alaska Native Heritage Center. The museum offers interactive exhibits, films about Alaska Native people and various events and classes for more hands-on learning experiences. As one of Alaska’s best museums, ANHC offers the chance to gain a deeper appreciation for the cultural richness in Alaska.
14. Conquer Flattop hike
Ascend Flattop Mountain, Anchorage’s most hiked peak and experience the thrill of ascending one of Alaska’s iconic peaks. Notable for its flat top, this popular trail offers breathtaking panoramic views of the city, Cook Inlet and the Chugach Range. Whether you’re an avid hiker or a nature lover looking for a memorable outing, Flattop is a must-do excursion for anyone visiting Anchorage. Be careful as you reach the top, it gets steep and some rock scrambling is required.
15. Sip on the flavors of Alaska on an Anchorage brewery hop
Explore the city’s vibrant craft beer scene with an Anchorage brewery hop. With more than 15 craft breweries to choose from, Anchorage offers a delightful journey for beer enthusiasts. From innovative brews inspired by the state’s rugged wilderness to classic styles with an Alaska twist, these breweries showcase the essence of local flavors in each pour. Whether you’re a connoisseur or a casual beer lover, the Anchorage brewery scene promises a diverse tasting experience.
16. Pay homage to Grandma Olga
The Grandma Olga art installation is a culturally significant art installation in Anchorage. This bronze sculpture, crafted by Dena’ina artist Joel Isaak, commemorates the rich history of the Native Village of Eklutna and their ancestral ties to the land. Modeled after the revered elder Olga Nikolai Ezi, the statue embodies the spirit of resilience, cultural preservation, and the matrilineal heritage of the Dena’ina people. As you stand before this remarkable artwork, you’ll not only pay homage to Grandma Olga but also gain a deeper understanding of the connection between Alaska Native communities and their ancestral traditions.
17. Experience the Alaska Railroad route
Experience an iconic journey on the Alaska Railroad. Consider booking one of Gray Line Alaska’s rail tours departing from Anchorage to immerse yourself in this historic and scenic adventure. Taking the Alaska Railroad offers an unforgettable way to see parts of Alaska you may otherwise miss.
Sightseeing in Anchorage, a city that defies expectations at every turn, offers a wealth of unique experiences. So, pack your bags and sense of wonder! Each moment is a reminder that Anchorage is a destination like no other, where the extraordinary becomes the everyday. Enhance your visit by staying at the Westmark Anchorage Hotel, a comfortable and convenient base for your adventures in the heart of the city.