Anchorage: Our Alaskan Starting Point

Anchorage is the largest city in Alaska with approximately 300,000 residents and accounts for around 40% of the states population. People here think of it as the big city, but it feels more like a small town. Anchorage was our first stop in Alaska, and we quickly felt like we “knew” the city even in the few short layovers that we had there. For us, Anchorage was a refuel, dry out, and shower city (one of the few places were we actually had a room instead of a tent.) All in all we stayed there on three separate occasions, for two nights each. I have to say, I like Anchorage. It is a causal city for people who like the outdoors, nothing flashy.

We always stayed at the Bent Prop Inn & Hostel, which is downtown, within walking distance of just about anything you need in a city. It wasn’t glamorous, but it had what we needed: a clean bed, showers, laundry, a shared kitchen, computers/internet, and storage for our non-camping luggage when we left town.

There are some really great things to see, do, and places to eat. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Tony Knowles Coastal Trail: This is a great walking/biking trail that comes right out of downtown and runs 10 plus miles along the coast and through the woods. We rented bikes and road this trail from downtown to Kincaid Park, which sits up on a hill overlooking the city. On the bike ride we saw the famous Alaskan mud flats (Alaska has the second largest tidal swing in the world- 20-40 feet), planes flying over our heads and landing at the airport, and moose! The mud flats look like, well, mud. But it is funny to sea ocean stretching out behind them. And I have never seen planes landing so close. After they went over, we could feel the wind they kicked up. See picture (that is right over my head!).

But the best part, of course, were the moose. As we were riding I started saying, “I just want to see a moose.” And bam: we turned a corner and there was a mom and baby moose munching right next to the trail. A family was stopped on the trail on the other side, and we all just stood there watching. It was the first of many times in Alaska when I felt like I was on the discovery channel.

  • The Bear Tooth Theater Pub: This place is genius. It is three restaurants, a brewery, and a movie theater. Best part- they serve dinner (and beer/wine) while you are watching the movie.We saw Super 8, pretty good, ate fish tacos, and drank a yummy stout. We went back another night and ate at one of the restaurants because everyone told us the pizza was awesome, and they were right. This is a must visit!
  • Hood Lake: This lake has the highest number of float plane take offs and landings in Alaska, which is saying something in a place with only four major highways. We rode our bikes to the lake and sat and watched the planes take off and land with the mountains behind them. Very cool.
  • Ship Creek: This is where you can see the salmon run right in downtown Anchorage. We saw the pink salmon running here. There is a bridge across the river and you can walk out and see the salmon struggling to go up river. They spend a lot of time “resting” on the sides of the river, but even when they are resting they have to keep swimming. Lots of people fishing here, but later on our trip south we saw red salmon running (way better) and saw people catch a few in Seward (more on this in my Seward post.) But Ship Creek is defiantly worth checking out if you are there at the right time of year. It is the only place that salmon run in an urban area.
  • The Ulu Factory: I am officially obsessed with the ulu. The ulu is a traditional Alaskan knife that was originally used for skinning and filleting. But it can really be used for anything. At the ulu factory you can see the production area (where the knives are made) and they offer demonstrations on how to use the knife. They also sell ulus and other tourist Alaskan items. We liked the knife so much we bought one. It is our first, and so far only, Alaskan souvenir. I used it last night for the first time to chop up onion and jalapeno for black bean tacos, and I love it! I am planning to make to make an all ulu dinner (if that is possible) and will blog about it with pictures. For generic pictures check out: http://www.theulufactory.com/
  • Star the Reindeer: Star is my new Alaskan friend. We are even friends on facebook. She (not really sure on the gender) is a reindeer that lives near Delaney Park in Anchorage. Her home was on our walking route to the grocery store so we saw her a lot when we were in town. Too cute. Only in Alaska would someone have a pet reindeer.
  • Music in the Park: I love a small town feel and having local music in the main (small) downtown park at lunch defiantly adds to that feeling in Anchorage. I had a veggie sandwich, and Lucas had an elk gyro from a street vendor, and we sat and listened and watched the little kids dance like crazy.
  • Stuffed Bears: People in this town love to display stuffed bears (grizzly, brown, Kodiak, and polar- I haven’t seen any black bears although they live in AK too). Tourist gift shops roll out these huge stuffed bears in the morning that they chain to a pole in front of the store to draw people in, or have a huge bear right inside the door to get your picture taken with. The airports (both in Anchorage and Fairbanks) feature a variety of stuffed bears. It makes you really see how big they are. 

Overall, Anchorage is a pretty great place.

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