ANCHORAGE is a sprawling city set in a wilderness setting. It sports the trappings of the modern world; all the products, services and providers one would find in any metropolis around the country can be found here. But when you look closer and take in the Chugach Range, Cook Inlet, the many lakes, creeks, trails and parks that dot the landscape and house migratory salmon, resident bears and moose, then you realize this big city is uniquely Alaskan.
Home to about half the population of the state, Anchorage has something for everyone. From authentic local cuisine to fine dining, there’s a vibrant and varied food scene in Anchorage. Visitors have a wide range of accommodations to choose from, which include both national and local hotel brands, as well as smaller places and bed and breakfasts offering a hometown feel. There are many sights to see including cultural attractions, museums, parks and trails, and strictly-Alaskan points of interest.
A visitor can come to Anchorage in the morning, buy or rent gear at a local sporting goods shop like The Bait Shack and be fishing for salmon and trout, as well as other species like char, grayling and northern pike, before the sun sets. Fly-outs to remote fisheries are varied and plentiful and Lake Hood is a bustling small-plane hub waiting to take day fishermen and overnight guests into the Bush all summer long.
For the visitor who wants to bring home something special to commemorate the trip, or bring gifts to friends and family, Anchorage is opportunity packed. Local places like Oomingmak Cooperative Musk Ox Producers, Alaska Fur Exchange, Indian Valley Meats and Alaska Sausage and Seafood provide a wide array of Alaska-made gifts. Many other locales provide items from t-shirts and hats to the one-of-a-kind artwork, all with an Alaska theme.
This article will serve as an overview to the city of Anchorage, describing places to stay and where to eat, things to do, parks and trails of interest, cultural destinations, where to get outfitted, and where to find treasures and souvenirs from your adventure. We’ll also give you an overview on the annual fishing opportunities in the big city and then you can read on in this issue for more details. Our staff will share local insights on some of their favorite haunts and bring you some of the reasons why Anchorage is a great place to live.
Fishing in Anchorage
Fishing is a year-round pursuit in Anchorage if you want it to be. Anglers generally have April to October to enjoy open-water angling, with the remainder of the year spent chasing fish through the ice. Lakes contain rainbow trout, Arctic char, Arctic grayling, landlocked salmon, and the occasional lake trout or pike. All five species of salmon return to Anchorage freshwater. Ship Creek, Bird Creek and Campbell Creek are the main salmon fisheries. See the sidebar in this article by Dustin Slinker on year-round lake fishing around the city, as well as the other articles in this issue.
Options abound from sourdough spots like Gwennie’s to the iconic Flying Machine Restaurant at the Lakefront on Lake Hood, to fine dining at The Bridge, Kincaid Grill or Club Paris. There’s a multi-cultural element to Alaska’s food landscape; great food is made from restaurants specializing in Thai, Japanese, Chinese, Mexican, Greek, Italian and the list goes on.
With so much top-notch seafood coming out of Alaska’s waters, it’s our recommendation to sample some when in town.
Places to Stay
There are a wide range of options for accommodations. Generally, they are located in midtown from the airport east, as well as north along the C Street corridor, and there are many hotels downtown. Some of our recommended spots include The Lakefront, Puffin Inn, The Best Western Golden Lion, Alex Hotels and the Ramada. Most major hotel brands are located in Anchorage as well as boutique options.
There is a range of pricing based on the level of service and amenities at each location. Expect to pay a seasonably-higher rate for summer. You could consider taking a shoulder-season trip when rates and occupancy drop. There’s great fishing in May and September in Alaska and the rates begin to fall while the crowds thin out.
Many hotels have restaurants on site. Some, like The Lakefront, provide shuttle service to the airport. The Lakefront is especially impressive as their shuttle service runs every half-hour 24 hours-per-day.
Things to see
There are a wide range of things to see when in Anchorage. Potter Marsh is part of the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge and is a great place to stop and see nesting waterfowl, Arctic terns, eagles and other birds that thrive in this complex ecosystem. You may even encounter the occasional moose, muskrat or bear.
The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is a refuge for injured or orphaned animals located about 40 minutes south of Anchorage just south of Girdwood at Portage. Time it right, and you’ll be able to watch the caretakers feed the bears, which is always neat to see. Other animal residents include musk ox, elk, deer, caribou, moose, porcupine, as well as endangered wood bison which are part of a successful restoration effort to repopulate them back into the wild.
The Anchorage Market & Festival runs from mid-May to September. This weekend market is located in the heart of downtown and offers free admission to local entertainment and over 300 booths selling gifts, furs, crafts, food and more.
Fur Rendezvous (Fur Rondy) is a truly-Alaskan festival that is held a week or so before the annual historical Iditarod race during late February through early March. Here you will see the entries for the snow-sculpture contest, antler and pelt auction, sled-dog race, native-arts market and much more. It’s smack dab in the middle of winter, so you’ll want to bundle up for this event.
Another great winter event that’s worth checking out is the ceremonial start of the Iditarod sled dog race the first Saturday in March each year. It happens right in downtown Anchorage and you can see all the mushers and their dog teams up close and personal.
The Alaska Zoo is located on O’Malley Road in Anchorage. It houses a variety of animals including Alaskan species like brown- and black bear, moose, caribou, eagles, wolves, muskox, foxes, even snow leopards. This winter they are getting a new polar bear! There are also non-native species like tigers and camels. It’s a great zoo and takes a couple hours to see all the animals. A great inexpensive and active day excursion is a trip to the zoo followed by a drive up to nearby Flattop mountain for a good hike with a very scenic view of Anchorage and upper Cook Inlet.
The kings and silvers that make it past the determined anglers down at Ship Creek find their way to the William Jack Hernandez Sport Fish Hatchery where they were born and set free. Here, you can learn of the lifecycle of Chinook, coho, rainbow trout and Arctic char through videos, displays and tours. The knowledgeable staff will share the process of what they do in fertilizing, incubating, hatching and raising of the fry before setting them off on their way. Whether it’s releasing rainbow trout into nearby lakes or the baby salmon to Ship Creek, it’s no doubt that their efforts are appreciated by all and have an extremely valuable role to play in many fisheries in Southcentral.
The Annual Slam’n Salm’n Festival that benefits the Downtown Soup Kitchen Hope Center occurs annually at Ship Creek. The festival and fishing derby runs from June 8 through 15th in 2019. Tickets can be purchased and gear can be rented at The Bait Shack. Enter to win some great prizes and support a noble cause.
Parks and Trails
Kincaid Park is a 1500-acre park on the west side of town near the airport and sports world-class cross-country ski trails that double as hiking and biking trails in the summer. Over 40 miles of trail are groomed and there are about 12 miles of trail that are lit. The park is home to many resident moose. Other activities at the park include disc-golf, soccer, and archery. Dine at the Kincaid Grill for a scrumptious dinner after a day hiking or biking in the park. They don’t mind the casually dressed on this excellent, fine-dining restaurant.
The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail connects Kincaid Park with downtown. It is about 11 miles long, is paved and mostly flat. It’s a popular multi-use trail for walkers, cyclists, roller-bladers and skiers. The trail offers great views of downtown, Sleeping Lady (a mountain to the west that looks like a sleeping lady) and Denali.
Campbell Creek Trail is a great place for bicycling, skiing and walking on its approximately seven miles of well-maintained trails. During August and September you can fish for silvers and trout but be aware of the wildlife that inhabit this large parcel of wilderness in the middle of Anchorage. Moose, bears and foxes are known to frequent the area.
Russian Jack Springs Park is about 300 acres large and located on the northeast side of town. It sports a 9-hole golf course and lots of trails for hiking, cycling, roller-blading, skiing, etc. The park also has one of the better sledding hills in town for kids. There’s a public greenhouse and solarium here that are worth checking out. Just down the street are the Cartee softball fields, a good place to see plenty of co-ed rec-league softball matches during the summer.
Hillside Park is located in the southeast part of the city, where Abbot Road turns into Hillside Drive. It’s a very good cross-country skiing locale, with easy-, intermediate-, and advanced trails. Spencer Loop is a very good test of your cross-country skills and climbs by switchback several miles into the hills before rewarding the skier with a fast descent back to Gasline Trail. Riding these same trails on a mountain bike is exhilarating. Hilltop is the city-proper’s downhill ski hill. It’s a short ride on the chair lift to the top and a great place to learn to downhill ski or snowboard before progressing to more advanced trails at Alpenglow and Alyeska Resort.
The Flattop Mountain/Glen Alps Trailhead is a popular location for hikers. The drive to the trailhead is scenic in itself and is located mid-way up the hillside at about 2200 feet. There is a lookout adjacent to the parking lot that provides great cityscape views, as well as views of Denali, Foraker and Hunter mountains. Some hikers choose to head uphill to the summit of Flattop Mountain, at about 3500 feet, which provides a breathtaking view of the city, mountains and volcanoes. Others head down the hill down the Powerline Trail which eventually connects with Spencer Loop and the Hillside Park trails. If you head uphill on the Powerline Trail, you can climb over Powerline Pass which will put you in the town of Indian on Turnagain Arm.
The Anchorage Museum is a great place to learn about the history of Alaska’s land and people. Children of all ages will enjoy learning about science with hands-on displays and activities in the Imaginarium. History buffs will find Alaska’s vast and complicated history fascinating along with the many artifacts out on display. And art enthusiasts will find joy in seeing the beautiful artwork gracing its galleries. This is definitely a place you don’t want to miss.
Alaska Native Heritage Center culturally immerses you in a hands-on experience which consists of replica houses from five major native groups. Here you will be able to watch and listen to native performers, dancers, storytellers and craftsmen recounting age-old tales of life in Alaska. Touch and feel the pelts and skins that make up the different clothing they utilized in order to thrive in Alaska’s harsh conditions.
Alaska Aviation Museum is run mostly by volunteers with a passion for flight. It is packed with interesting historical tidbits that can easily draw you in. People of all ages will enjoy the flight simulator in the main lobby/gift shop. Walk through an airplane and restoration hangar where current projects are being painstakingly restored to their former glory. The interesting variety of historical artifacts in the main museum along with looping movies of old-time footage will transport you to the time of WWII and the island of Attu in the Aleutian chain, or see for yourself the huge contribution that bush planes have made to living in the Last Frontier, and the brave men and women who flew them.
Airplanes make it possible to see much of Alaska, which would otherwise be impossible due to limited roads and impassable terrain.
Fly-outs for fishing include trips across Cook Inlet to hit salmon streams, north and west to lakes and rivers to target salmon and resident species like trout, char, grayling and pike. Multi-day adventures into Bristol Bay and Katmai also originate in Anchorage.
Others choose to take fly-outs to sight see or bear view. From close-up views of glaciers to landing near Denali, scenic flights can be spectacular. Likewise, a bear-viewing adventure can give you a close-up look at how bears interact and provide a lasting memory of the bruins in their habitat.
Anchorage fly-outs originate at either Merrill Field or Lake Hood.
Where to get Outfitted
Alaska’s weather can be brutal and demands the best clothing and rain gear on the market. Additionally, there are unique tackle considerations for fishing large salmon in rivers where there might be quite a few other anglers, such as Ship Creek. And then there’s always the things you forgot to bring.
Luckily Anchorage offers a wide range of tackle shops and sporting goods stores to choose from. We recommend Sportsman’s Warehouse, Mossy’s Fly Shop, Big Ray’s, B&J’s Sporting Goods, and The Bait Shack.
Anchorage is both a destination and a jumping-off point for remote adventures. It combines culture with outstanding outdoor spaces, wildlife and unique attractions. It serves up something enjoyable for everyone and makes for an excellent spot to spend a few days or a few weeks. Some will be surprised at the amenities found in the biggest city in Alaska. However, that moose or bear sighting, stunning mountain views, clean air and ample wilderness will remind you that you are indeed in Alaska.
Recommended Anchorage Hotels:
Alex Hotel & Suites
Alex Hotel & Suites is conveniently located near the Anchorage Airport and the Lake Hood seaplane base. For their fishing and hunting guests, a large walk-in freezer is provided to keep their catch frozen until departure.
Best Western Golden Lion Hotel
Best Western Golden Lion has a warm and welcome atmosphere provided by friendly staff, spacious rooms and luxurious bedding.
The Ramada Anchorage is conveniently located downtown near shopping, dining and the Anchorage Museum. You are with walking distance from Ship Creek plus their onsite restaurant The Slippery Salmon Bar & Grill serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and full-service cocktails. They have a terrific deck overlooking downtown where you can eat and be outside.
Located close to the airport and downtown Anchorage, the newly renovated Puffin Inn offers affordable accommodations for every budget, complimentary breakfast, free wi-fi and a 24/7 airport shuttle.
Anchorage Flight Services & Tours
Trail Ridge Air
Trail Ridge Air operates off of Lake Hood, just minutes away from Anchorage Airport. Whether you want to go on a flightseeing tour, bear viewing, or a backcountry drop-off for rafting trips or fishing trips, they’ll get you there.
Alaska Air Taxi
Alaska Air Taxi offers direct non-stop commuter flights to and from Anchorage and Seldovia aside from bear viewing, flightseeing and hunting/fishing drop-offs.
Founded in 1955, PenAir is one of the oldest family-owned airlines in the U.S. They have regularly scheduled stops in Cold Bay, Dillingham, King Salmon, McGrath, Sand Point, St. George Island and St. Paul Island.
Local Gifts & Shopping
Alaska Fur Exchange
Alaska Fur Exchange has a vast inventory of museum quality gift items made by native artisans all across Alaska. Items include hand-made jewelry, baskets, masks, soapstone, ivory and bone carvings, fur products and so much more.
Oomingmak is a co-op of Native Alaskans who hand-knit qiviut (kiv-ee-ute), the downy-soft underwool from the Arctic Musk Ox, into beautiful scarves, hats, smokerings, caps and more. Their heirloom pieces are stunning and functional. They make a fantastic gift item for loved ones.
49th State Brewing Co.
49th State Brewery welcomes tourists and locals alike to enjoy their menu of craft-brewed, award-winning beers and a diverse menu using freshly sourced Alaskan produce and meats.
The Bridge is a popular seafood restaurant that literally bridges over Ship Creek in Anchorage. This seasonal restaurant is only open from the end of May through August which allow diners to witness the spectacle of anglers targeting the kings, pinks and silver salmon traveling back to the hatchery farther up the creek.
Club Paris is Anchorage’s oldest steakhouse and has been serving Alaskans and visitors since the late 1950’s. They specialize in the finest fresh beef and Alaskan seafood and are open for lunch and dinner.
This landmark restaurant is popular with tourists and locals alike. You’ll enjoy their big portions at reasonable prices while dining in the museum-like atmosphere.
Mexico in Alaska
For traditional homemade Mexican food, you need look no further than Mexico in Alaska. Serving Alaska since 1972, they have been recognized as “one of the Nation’s 50 best Hispanic Restaurants” in Hispanic Magazine. Their authentic Mexican-style and family-friendly restaurant continue to delight locals and visitors year after year.
Kincaid Grill offers excellent, high-end fare in a small, elegant atmosphere. The friendly staff and fresh Alaskan-sourced ingredients round out the quality dining experience you’ll find here. Executive Chef Drew Johnson creates original and exquisite-tasting menus for guests highlighting the best local seafood, specialty meats and game, and hand-crafted desserts.
Slippery Salmon Bar & Grill
The Slippery Salmon Bar & Grill serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and full-service cocktails. They have a terrific deck overlooking downtown where you can eat in the fresh Alaska air. The Slippery Salmon is frequented by both locals and visitors. It is attached to the Ramada Inn downtown for a convenient place to stay.
Anchorage Fishing Guides
This guide-owned and operated company offers fly fishing trips on some of Alaska’s best rivers. Whether you want a day trip or a multi-day trip, these knowledgeable and passionate guides will take you to your Alaska fishing trip of a lifetime.
Women’s Flyfishing is dedicated to helping women learn and enjoy the sport of fly fishing in a supportive and non-competitive environment by offering small guided group trips throughout Alaska for trout, salmon, arctic grayling, char and pike.
For Locals or Relocating
From humble beginnings in 1913, this small, family business blossomed over the years to become one of the best places to get car, truck and trailer wheels, small trailer components, light truck accessories, tire shop supplies, equipment and heavy duty parts.
Adventures in Eye Care
Adventures in Eye Care has experienced eye doctors on hand that have provided comprehensive optometry services and vision care products since 1984.
Alaska Adventure Gear
Home of Alaskan Outfitter Inflatables, they are a sporting goods store that also carries outdoor clothing, camping and rafting gear at fair prices.
Alaska Fly Fishers
Alaska Fly Fishers is a non-profit fly fishing club that promotes all things flyfishing. Members are invited to participate in flyfishing events, seminars, and more.
Alaska Performance RV & Marine
Alaska Performance RV & Marine is comprised of a team of qualified technicians and customer service professionals dedicated to repairing RVs and supplying marine parts and accessories.
Alaska Marine specializes in all aspects of boat and trailer repairs so that you can get back on the water or the road.
Alaska Raft & Kayak
Alaska Raft & Kayak is Anchorage’s top spot for rafting and kayaking needs. Their friendly, knowledgeable staff can help with everything including repairs and custom orders. They sell top brands like Hobie, NRS, Aire, Outcast, ClackaCraft, Kokatat and more. Their rental fleet includes samples of most of their inventory so prospective buyers can try before they buy and visitors can access Alaska’s waters by affordably renting quality watercraft.
Ashbreez Boatworks can do it all when it comes to your boat. Refurbishments, repairs and any system installations are just a few of the many things they can help you with.
Handmade here in Anchorage, Yukon Rack specializes in lightweight, strong and simple bunk bed cots worthy of the Alaska outdoors.
Dewey’s Cook Inlet
Dewey’s Cook Inlet is the place to shop for Yamaha Outboards, EZ Loader Trailers, HewesCraft, Duckworth, SeaArk, G-3, Lund and RH Boats. Aside from being the largest marine dealer in Anchorage, they also specialize in top marine products and host two boat shows each year.
Rural Energy Enterprises
Rural Energy Enterprises is a wholesale distributor of high-efficiency, direct-vent heating systems.
Stan Tebow of Tebow Financial has been with the Allstate agency for over 33 years, and with that kind of experience has a great understanding of how to help you protect the things that are important to you – your family, home, car, boat and more.
For those looking to buy a piece of the Last Frontier, Trout Realty are the people to see. From condos, multi-family, houses or land, they can get you settled into your Alaskan home.
Sporting Goods, Outdoor Gear, and Apparel
B&J Sporting Goods
B&J Sporting Goods has been “Alaska’s Premier Outdoor Store” since 1955. They sell all the gear needed for fishing and hunting whether it be apparel to knives to footwear.
Big Rays has been outfitting Alaskans since 1947 and offer a huge array of clothing and footwear for men, women and children. They have two locations in Anchorage—downtown and midtown–and offer Alaska-specific fishing gear as well as apparel in their downtown location.
Fishewear creates functional fishing fashion for women. The bright, artistic designs are whimsical and beautiful. Apply that to apparel and fishing gear and you instantly have fishing femme fatale!
This is your go-to place for all your boating and marine needs. Everything from marine hardware, Mustang survival gear, Grundens rain gear, Scotty downriggers and so much more!
Mossy’s Fly Shop
Mossy’s Fly Shop is your one-stop-shop for all things fly. They have a large fly selection, best fly rods on the market, wading gear, fishing packs and loads of knowledge they’ll gladly share.
The Bait Shack
When in Anchorage between May and the end of August, you’ll want to visit Dustin at The Bait Shack to rent gear and get the know-how you’ll need to catch kings, silvers and pinks out of Ship Creek.
Alaska Trip Planning
AK Trophy Expediters
This transport company is dedicated to helping you ship, store, and transport your Alaskan trophy home including fish storage, large moose antlers and meat, or simply getting your gear where it needs to be.
The Surveyor’s Exchange
The Surveyor’s Exchange specializes in satellite phones, whether you want to buy one or rent one. Alaskan owned and operated since 1969, they offer 24/7 technical support for many Alaskans and local companies, corporations, guides and government agencies who understand that a satellite phone can be your “lifeline” while in a remote location in Alaska or anywhere in the world.
This article originally appeared in the December 2018 issue of Fish Alaska.