Cruise Port Tips Alaska 25 Things to Do in Anchorage, Alaska During a Cruise

25 Things to Do in Anchorage, Alaska During a Cruise

Find out about these things to do in Anchorage, Alaska for cruise ship visitors. Covering the cruise port and best shore excursions.

One of the best places to experience the worlds most scenic outdoors is Anchorage, Alaska. It is the largest city in Alaska, a modern coastal city that is fronted by the mighty Pacific and surrounded by glaciers and mountain ranges.

Alpine and spruce forests cover the lower levels of the rugged mountain background and are home to a variety of native Alaskan wildlife. While the top open tundra eco-systems are the playing ground for Grizzlies. Higher up the snow-covered peaks is the place for mountain goats, dog sledding and skiing.

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With all these features, it’s easy to see why Anchorage is an outdoors person’s paradise. Nevertheless, with a rich cultural heritage, indoors people, also have a chance to explore the ways of the Eskimos in many museums and cultural centers.

A cruise to Anchorage is the best way to explore all that Alaska has to offer. You can experience this through these 25 things to do in Anchorage, Alaska during a cruise.

Anchorage Cruise Port Information

Anchorage only has one port and even though it is the largest city in Alaska the port is actually in an industrial area and not often used. Anchorage is not a popular embarkation port but for the cruise ships which do dock there are free shuttles are often available to take guests to the nearby downtown.

The closest ports to Anchorage which are more popular for cruise ships is Whittier which is 60-miles southeast and then Seward which is 125-miles further south.

1. Tony Knowles Coastal Trail-Biking

Once in Anchorage, check out the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. This scenic 11-mile coastal trail winding along anchorage’s coast takes you through forests, parks, and lagoons ending at Chalet in Kincaid Park. You can walk, bike, ski, or rollerblade on this trail. Along the way, you are likely to see moose or beluga whales at the scenic Cook Inlet.

Also, check out Earthquake Park, Point Woronzof, and Westchester Lagoon and experience incredible views of Denali (Mt. McKinley) and the Chugach Mountain Range. The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail starts in Downtown Anchorage at 2nd Avenue and ends at Kincaid Park.

2. Bird Viewing at Potter Marsh

Stop by Potter Marsh, a lovely nature trail off of Seward highway some 15minutes from downtown Anchorage. It’s the largest freshwater marsh on upper Cook Inlet.  Waterfowl and shorebirds frequent the marsh, especially in their season. Walk the raised boardwalk that takes you into the marsh for closer views. You will then likely see swans, eagles, Arctic tern, ducks, and, moose. Enjoy scenic vistas of Turnagain Arm while at it.

The park is a nice place to visit during spring or summer and its free. You can explore the area within 20-minutes. 

3. Visit the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Centre

Visit the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Centre, a 140-acre park that acts as a refuge center for sick, injured, and orphaned wildlife. It’s found at the head of the scenic Turnagain Arm.

The trip to the park alone is worth it, as you will be treated to scenic views of Turnagain Arm along Seward Highway. Explore the rainforest, glaciers and take photos along the way.

At the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Centre, you will see the rare Alaskan Lynx, Bears, Porcupines, Birds, Deer, Coyote, Elk, and Moose.  The park also has a bear feeding program you can participate in.

A trip to this side of Anchorage might possibly be the highlight of your cruise to Alaska. You can learn more about this excursion here.

4. Learn the People’s Culture at Alaska Native Heritage Centre

Alaska Native Heritage Centre is a cultural institution that showcases Alaska’s indigenous cultures, their ways, and traditions. Go on a journey of 10,000 years of Alaskan Native History. By checking out the cultural, art, history, dance, and movie exhibits.

Explore winter dwellings as well and listen to stories, see the carvers work, or learn some native dances. Alaska Native Heritage Centre is a nice place to learn the ways of native Alaskans. You can shop here too, for snow boots, tunics, hats, and other crafts to remember your time in Alaska by.

5. Scenic Ride by Alaska Railroad

One of the best ways to see Alaska’s great outdoors is by traveling on the Alaska Railroad.  This railroad takes you on a 4-hour scenic journey through some of the remote regions of Alaska.

The train goes from Anchorage to Seward and back. On this trip, you’ll see wildlife, glaciers, spectacular vistas, and some places only accessible by rail.

There are local guides on the train who tell you what you see. And a food place to get something to eat. You can plan a tour of Alaska Railroad right here.

Welcome to Anchorage, Alaska

6. Visit Anchorage Museum

Anchorage Museum, Alaska’s largest museum showcases the history, science, art, and culture of the last frontier. The museum has 4 floors divided into two wings to showcase the history, art, and culture of Alaska through permanent and temporary exhibits. You need a few hours to half a day to explore the entire 170,000-square-feet museum.

Anchorage Museum is also a fun place for kids as they especially enjoy the Discovery Center. The museum charges $18 per adult and $9 for kids aged 3-12 years old.

7. Check Out Earthquake Park

Earthquake Park is a 134-acre park that commemorates the Alaskan earthquake of 1964. At a magnitude of 9.2, it was the largest earthquake ever recorded in North America and the second largest in the world to date. This park found in the wooded area of Knik arm where the earthquake took place is set on an area where an entire neighborhood slid into the sea.

Here is where you’ll learn plenty of details about the earthquake and how it changed Anchorage.

The area has benches and picnic areas where you can enjoy panoramic views of Knik Arm, Cook Inlet, Anchorage, Denali, and the Chugach Mountains. Wildlife is also visible from the park, be on the lookout for moose galloping or foraging in the woods.

From the park, you can access the Tony Knowles coastal trail and go for a walk, bike, or visit other nearby parks.

8. Go Flightseeing

There is no better way to see Anchorage’s rugged wilderness than on a flightseeing tour. An air tour is a must if you want to see the spectacular glacier-filled, mountainous wilderness of Alaska.

There are many flight tour operators in Anchorage who are mostly based at Lake Hood (world’s largest seaplane base) Girdwood, and Merrill Field. Enjoy Alaska’s spectacular views, see wildlife, land on glaciers, and open mountain spaces, or do fly-fishing.

Afterward, visit an Iditarod Musher dog kennel and learn how to dogsled. Your camera will constantly be in action as there is never a dull moment on these tours.

9. Explore Alaska Aviation Museum

One of Alaska’s top attractions is the Aviation Museum found at Lake Hood, Anchorage International Airport. This museum showcases and preserves Alaska’s aviation heritage.

Alaska has a rich aviation heritage with at least 1 in every10 people being a certified pilot. As such, the state has more pilots per capita than the rest of the United States.

The museum has four hangars which represent the aviation history by showcasing vintage planes, artifacts and memorabilia such as back in the day aviation clothing. Apart from a tour of the hangars, you are also treated to a control room tour with live radio transmissions, where you’ll see the planes take off and land at the base.

You can also enjoy flight simulations and see a live vintage plane restoration at the restoration hangar. Other events at the museum also include: viewing vintage planes fly over the lake. For just $15 Adults and $10 for kids 5-17 years old, you can enjoy this unforgettable experience. Check out tours to the place at [email protected]

10. Visit Chugach State Park

Chugach State Park is one of Alaska’s most accessible state parks and the fourth largest in the USA. Located just a few miles from downtown Anchorage, the park is easily accessible.

Chugach offers a lot of recreational activities including hiking, biking, hunting, camping, skating, skiing, kayaking, ATVs, and fishing. The park features 9 distinct ecosystems including the most-hiked peak in Alaska.

Chugach Park also has a variety of wildlife and is one of the places where you can see all of Alaska’s land animals.  This includes bears, moose, lynx, wolves, porcupines, Dall sheep, mountain goat, and more.

Go explore different ecosystems such as glaciers, lakes, marine habitat, hemlock spruce, alpine tundra, and muskeg areas.

Worth Reading: 18 Ways to Enjoy Sitka, Alaska While on a Cruise

11. Meet Alaska’s Animals at the Alaska Zoo

Haven’t had any luck viewing Alaska’s wildlife yet? Then visit the Alaska Zoo where you can see all Alaskan animals in one place. You will learn plenty about them too. 

Alaska Zoo found just 15minutes south of downtown Anchorage occupies 25-acres at the foot of Anchorage hill. It has bears, mountain goats, llamas, camels, moose, musk ox, wolves, tigers, bald eagles, sea otters, snow leopards, and more.

The zoo is open all year round but times vary in different seasons. It charges $15 for Adults and $7 for kids aged between 3-17 years. Take advantage of the Discover tour from June to August which is a behind the scenes tour of the zoo.

12. Denali National Park

Denali National Park is one of Alaska’s most popular attraction. It’s North America’s highest peak and stands at 20,310-feet covering 6million-acres.

The mountain’s lower level comprises of taiga forest made up of spruce, pines, and chestnuts. While the middle level is made up of subarctic tundra. The highest level of the mountain is made up of granite peaks, glaciers, and glacial rivers that flow south. This creates some of the best vistas in the world.

There are at least 40 species of wildlife and over 100 species of birds that can be viewed at Denali. The top 5 include moose, caribou, Dall sheep, wolves, and Grizzlies.

You can take a bus tour, hike or bike the trails at the park to explore the place’s beauty.

Visiting Denali from Anchorage is a full day’s tour which takes about 5hours or 3hrs from Fairbanks. If you are spending a few days in Anchorage before or after your cruise, then please consider spending at least 2days at the park to experience all its wonders.

13. Get Active at Kincaid Park

Kincaid Park, seated on a former cold war missile base is a 1500-acre park graced with great views and plenty of wildlife. The park is an adrenaline junkie’s paradise that hosts all manner of outdoor activities. There are many trail systems including 20-miles of a ski trail.

Kincaid Park has plenty of wildlife such as moose, bears, and bald eagles. It also offers beautiful views of Denali and Cook Inlet. You can bike, ski, run, hike, jog, fish and practice archery at the park.

14. Ride the Alyeska Tram Way

Alyeska Tram offers a scenic and enjoyable ride to an observation deck at the top of Mt. Alyeska. It’s an 8-minute ride that offers you beautiful views of the majestic Chugach Mountains, hanging glaciers, sparkling streams beneath, spruce, and the scenic Turnagain Arm.

The tram takes you 2,300 feet above sea level to the mountain top where there is an observation deck, restaurants, museum, and washrooms. Enjoy spectacular vistas at the observation deck or go hiking, paragliding or berry picking.

Located just 45 miles south of Anchorage at Alyeska Hotel in Girdwood, this tram ride is a must experience. The tram charges $30 for adults and $15 for kids. However, there are special packages you can take advantage off at their site.

15. Experience the Anchorage Shopping Scene

One word describes the shopping scene in Anchorage – authentic. Get jewelry, clothes, art, and fish in Alaska’s premier shopping destination. Most shops are located on the 4th and 5th avenues. Here is where you can shop a variety of gifts and keepsakes to take home.

Indulge in fur-studded coats, snow boots, jade, and gold jewelry. Or have fresh salmon processed and packed for you. 

There are plenty of unique items to carry home from Anchorage. In fact, ensure you carry less luggage so that you have space for souvenirs and gifts.

For your outfitting needs, check out The Hoarding Marmot, Mountain View Sports Centre, and, Alaska Outdoor Outfitters. Over 300 local vendors set up a tent market on weekends. Check it out if you are in town during the weekend.

Other interesting and unique items to buy include the ULU blade and clothes made from the Qivuit fabric. These are sold by the ULU factory at ship creek and the Oomingmak Coop downtown.

16. Eat Like an Alaskan

Anchorage’s dining scene offers a wide selection of cuisines from the world. However, the main specialty is seafood. Here is where you will have the best salmon, halibut, and king crab.

Even though Anchorage offers a wide cuisine selection, there is always an Alaska twist. For example, enjoy pancakes featuring wild blueberries picked from its great outdoors or Reindeer hotdogs. And drink fresh glacier tap water.

There are many places you can grab a bite at, but some of the most recommended include Snow City Café for the best breakfast. This is also where former President, Barack Obama ate his breakfast when he last visited Anchorage.

  • Get your yogurt from Williwaw.
  • Get your Italian from Orso.
  • Get your Asian/South Pacific flare at Ginger.
  • Hit Middle Way Cafe for coffee and lunch.

Taste some mouth-watering Oregon inspired stone baked pizza at Moose’s Tooth Pub and Pizzeria. Not forgetting Spenard Roadhouse, voted the best restaurant in Anchorage by the locals.  Here they offer classic comfort food and an atmosphere to boot.

17. Go Dog Sledding in Anchorage.

Dogsledding is one of Alaska’s most unique attractions. It’s mainly done during winter, but also available in summer. Dogsledding is an amazing bucket list item to strike off.  

A dogsled excursion takes place at an Iditarod dog kennel or on top of a glacier. On this excursion, you learn about the dogs and how to dogsled. The dogs love to run and are always eager to get out in the wild and run.

Go in pairs, so that one of you can ride in the cart while the other assumes the musher’s role and exchange places halfway through. It’s a truly unique experience that you should experience at least once in your lifetime.

18. See Bears

Southwest of Anchorage at Katmai national park is where most of Alaska’s brown bears congregate. Why? Because of the bountiful supply of salmon in the park’s rivers especially at Brooks river falls and wolverine creek. But to get here a seaplane is necessary. Other places you can see the bears include Denali National Park but from a great distance.

19. Pan for Gold at Crow Creek or Indian Valley

There are two premier places to do gold mining in Anchorage and that is Crow Creek and Indian Valley Mines. Alaska became known for gold after the Klondike gold rush of 1897-98. Since then, people have been trying their luck at finding this precious commodity.

Try your hand at the same at mines. You will learn a lot about gold mining from the owners. Use their planning tips and who knows you might come out with something.

20. Fishing

Go salmon fishing at Ship Creek in downtown Anchorage. This summer attraction is popular with local fishermen and cruisers alike. Flowing salmon headed home to spawn attracts plenty of fishers to the creek.

Have fun watching fishers lined on either side of the river trying to catch lunch or dinner. You, however, need to get an Alaskan fishing license to fish at the creek. Luckily Bait Shack Shop right at the site does this. They rent fishing gear and outfit tourists with a fishing license. 

However, if you are looking for a more serious fishing experience, you can book a fishing charter. These charters take you to the surrounding waters of Anchorage like the Kenai River where you can catch over 50 pound Kings.

21. Check Out the Oscar Anderson House

Oscar Anderson House, the first private building to be built in Anchorage was the house of the 18th settler of the town.  Oscar built the famous house in the then Ship Creek Tent City.  

The Oscar Anderson house, which is now a museum registered as a national historic place, showcases what it was like to live in the 1915s. Located at the west end of downtown, it still has the original furnishings and decors.

Making it a fun place to visit and learn about the history of the town and the owner. The original owner, Oscar Anderson, was an industrialist that helped develop Anchorage to what it is today.

22. Take a Town Tour

If you only have a few hours in town, then take up a city tour. This will take you to all the major landmarks, attractions, and help you learn Anchorage’s history quickly.

Downtown Anchorage, Alaska

At Ship Creek, you’ll get to take in the town’s rich history from its early years. From there you will take tour the Turnagain Arm, known as the most scenic highway in the US. Before getting there, you will stop by Earthquake Park, check out cook inlet, and visit the scenic Point Woronzof.

You’ll get a chance to see plenty of wildlife such as moose, eagle, beluga whales, salmon bears, Dall sheep, and mountain goats. You can check out some tours by clicking here.

23. Family Adventure with Alaska Escape Rooms

Have an adventure of a lifetime at Alaska’s escape rooms. This is a weatherproof activity that the whole family can enjoy, which is also good for the brain. Escape or rescue someone by solving a series of puzzles that unlock closed rooms.

These rooms are set up to mimic different environments. Find your inner detective and work as a team to escape each room. You will enjoy a whole new bonding experience at this attraction.

24. Look Out from Flattop Mountain at Glen Alps

Visit the most hiked mountain in Alaska, Flattop’s peak is the most accessible in the region. This peak, which is the size of a football field is flat at the top. Hence the name.

Flattop is located just 20 minutes from Anchorage. It has a trail called the Glen Alps trail found at the foot of the mountain. The 1.5-miles long trail with an elevation of 1540-feet leads the hike to the top. This hike is doable by hikers of all levels. There are shorter loops with great vistas for those unable to reach the top.

The vistas at the peak are incredible. They include sights of Denali (Mt. McKinley), Mt. Foraker, and Anchorage. Try this hike while in Anchorage, Alaska. There are shuttle services to take you to the place.

25. Take a Photo Tour

Alaska’s gorgeous outdoors is the dream of Photographers. Take advantage of your cruise to the town and scale up your photography skills. Anchorage offers photography tours led by professional photographers who help you come out with the best photos of Alaska.

Visit the wilderness of Anchorage and practice photography with professional tips and tricks. Book a photography tour here.

Also Read: Get all you Alaska packing tips right here

Conclusion

There are many things to do in Anchorage, Alaska. This list only highlights some of the best. You can also visit Anchorage’s botanic garden, explore the many breweries in the city or visit the performing arts center. There you have it. Go have fun. Happy Cruising!!

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