a   l   a   s   k   a   j   o   u   r   n   e   y   .   c   o   m
Anchorage, Matsu & Cook Inlet
AlaskaJourney Home

Anchorage, Matsu & Cook Inlet



Chugach State Park

Seward Highway (AK9)--Portage to Anchorage

Girdwood & Alyeska

Portage Glacier Recreation Area (Chugach National Forest)

Knik Arm

Glenn Highway (AK1)--Anchorage to Parks Highway Junction





Hatcher Pass

Independence Mine State Historic Park

Lake Clark National Park & Preserve


Location/Climate: Head of Cook Inlet in Southcentral Alaska. 16”/yr. precipitation, 69”/yr. snowfall, 8°F–65°F.

Population: 258,798 (1999, includes Eagle River, Chugiak, Turnagain Arm communities; 7.2 percent native).

Travel Attractions: Access to entire state, center of information and public lands administration, Chugach State Park, Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, ski basins, zoo, museums, arts options, tourist attractions.

Getting There: Scheduled air service from Seattle and many other points, including direct service to and from many Alaska towns; scheduled rail service from Seward and Fairbanks; scheduled bus and shuttle-van service from many points; vehicle access from Kenai Peninsula via Seward Highway (AK 1), from Fairbanks via George Parks Highway (AK 3), and from Tok and the Alaska Highway via Glenn Highway (AK 1).

Information: Anchorage Convention and Visitors Bureau, 1600 A Street, Suite 200, Anchorage, AK 99501, www.anchorage.net; “Log Cabin” Visitor Information Center, 4th Avenue at F Street, Anchorage, AK 99501, 276-4118 for information by phone, (800) 478-1255 for a printed visitors guide. Various public lands information outlets.

Anchorage is Alaska’s version of “Everycity”—strip malls and chain stores, steel and glass office towers, fast-food joints, tract homes, and six-plex apartments. All are tied together with a thick flow of—prepare yourself—traffic! It can be a rude shock to someone who has spent two weeks with only the sounds of wind and water in their ears. Still, 250,000 people are only 250,000 people; 20 minutes and a little luck will take you from one end of Anchorage to the other. The city center still has that “Nebraska county seat” feel to it—all you have to do to see the edge of downtown is peer up a side street.

Situated on the shores of Cook Inlet with the mountains of the Alaska and Aleutian Ranges visible across the water, Anchorage enjoys a marvelous setting. On clear summer days, Denali can be seen 140 miles away, small but presidential on the horizon. To the east, the city is backed by the western end of the Chugach Mountains and the huge Chugach State Park. Around the bend south of town, the highway follows Turnagain Arm 40 miles to Alyeska Ski Resort, then on to Portage Glacier and the Kenai Peninsula.

Recreational opportunities for Anchorage residents are plentiful and outstanding. Over 120 miles of bike trails weave throughout the city, including dedicated non-motorized routes like the very popular, 10-mile Tony Knowles Coastal Path. Mountain bike and hiking trails are found in Chugach State Park. There are great birding opportunities along protected coastal flats and tide lands. Urban parks and lakes offer easy sites for walking, jogging, canoeing, and relaxing. Rock climbers frequent a couple of locations along the Seward Highway (AK 1) just south of town. The Alaska classics of fishing and flightseeing are readily available, while winter brings skiing, skating, snowmobiling, and dog mushing.

In town there are arts facilities, hotels and restaurants, nightlife opportunities, coffeeshops, bookstores, and sights to see. There are dozens of parks, good golf courses, and a fine zoo where Alaskan and exotic wildlife can be viewed up close. Merrill Field and Lake Hood Seaplane Base are bustling hubs of the small-plane activity that is such a big part of intrastate transport. Anchorage is a major interstate and international transportation hub as well.

Stop at the Anchorage Convention and Visitors Bureau’s Log Cabin Visitor Center on 4th Avenue at F Street. Although it’s oriented toward directing tourists to commercial enterprises, the staff possess a wealth of information. The center (274-3531) is open 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. in summer, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. in May and September, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. the rest of the year. Anchorage has the People Mover, a fair bus system that you can use to get around town (343-6543 for information).

A number of valuable offices are accessible by foot, bus, taxi, or car. Start with a phone search to make sure you find the correct bureaucratic maze. Addresses are listed in the relevant sections below and in the appendix.

Things to See and Do in Anchorage

Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum—Twenty-one vintage aircraft are on display and a 60-seat theater offers a short film. You can watch takeoffs and landings at the adjacent Lake Hood Seaplane Base, located on the south shore of Lake Hood. Take International Airport Road west to Aircraft Drive. Open May 15–September 15 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, Tuesday–Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., 248-5325, http://home.gci.net/~aahm/.

Alaska Botanical Gardens—Still under development, the gardens feature native Alaskan plant species. Interpretive signs can be followed through the two existing gardens, or you can take a guided tour. Take Tudor Road east and turn right on Campbell Airstrip Road. Park in the Benny Benson School lot. 265-3165, www.alaskabg.org. Open May 15–September 15, Sunday through Saturday, 9 a.m.–9 p.m., and, September 16–May 14, Sunday through Saturday, daylight hours. $5, family $10, ages 2-17 $3, ages 60+ $3, under 2 free.

Alaska Experience Center—An IMAX theater with a 3-story curved screen is the main attraction and one of my favorite visitor spots in Anchorage. Regular showings of 40 minute-long Alaska the Greatland are featured, along with other films. With IMAX, you feel as if you’re part of the action. Since the action is often a swooping plane flight through wild terrain, you might start feeling a little queasy. If that happens, just close your eyes. It’s a great way to spend an hour on a rainy afternoon.

Also at the center is the Alaska Earthquake Exhibit, which features displays, murals, a movie, and a floor that shakes you in your seat. The center is at 705 West 6th Avenue, Anchorage, 276-3730, www.alaskaexperiencetheatre.com, open daily 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. in summer, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. in spring and fall, noon to 6 in winter. Admission is $8 for the theater, $6 for the earthquake exhibit, or $12 for both, less for kids.

Alaska Public Lands Information Center—One of three such centers in the state, this is your one-stop site for information on all of Alaska’s parks, preserves, refuges, and undesignated public lands. Exhibits, videos, a theater, and a bookstore are part of the center. Call or stop in for a schedule of programs, films, and slide shows. Old Federal Building, 4th Avenue and F Street, 271-2737, www.nps.gov/aplic/center, open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., 7 days a week in summer; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday–Friday. September-May.

Alaska Zoo—This is almost certainly the only place you’ll find an elephant in Alaska. The zoo specializes in native species but throws in a few curve balls for the entertainment of all. Many of the individual animals were rescued and unable to be reintroduced to the wild. Take O’Malley Road east from the Seward Highway (AK 1) or from the Old Seward Highway near the south end of town. Open every day except Christmas and Thanksgiving Days, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. in summer, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. October–April, 346-1088, www.alaskazoo.org.

Anchorage Museum of History and Art—This outstanding museum is one of Alaska’s finest and an architectural jewel as well. A fine permanent art collection is on the main floor. Upstairs is the large Alaska Gallery, featuring an excellent collection of artifacts and dioramas related to the state’s native and settlement history. Twenty touring exhibits come through annually, native dance performances are presented daily, and the Children’s Gallery has hands-on opportunities for young ones. There’s also a pleasant cafe and museum shop. 121 West 7th Avenue, 343-4326, museum@anchoragemuseum.org, www.anchoragemuseum.org. Hours: May 15–September 15, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Thursday until 9 p.m.), 7 days a week; January 1-May 14, Wednesday-Saturday 10 am - 6 pm, Sundays Noon - 5 pm, closed Mondays and Tuesdays. $6.50, 65+ and military $6, 17 and under free.

Earthquake Park—When the Good Friday earthquake struck in 1964, a huge section of land on the coast southwest of downtown subsided dramatically, destroying 75 homes. The remaining landscape—a series of broken ridges and troughs barely above sea level—was preserved as a legacy of the event. An interpretive display tells the story and short trails offer access to coastal views. Unfortunately (perhaps), trees have grown up to cover the area, making the patterns of destruction invisible to the casual observer. The park now resembles little more than a ragged hunk of undeveloped coastline. Take Northern Lights Boulevard west, past Wisconsin Street. The park is between the road and Cook Inlet.

Imaginarium—A nice science discovery museum for kids of all ages. Lots of hands-on exhibits and activities (Marine Life Touch Tank, Polar Bear Lair, Physics of Toys, and Bubbles are a few). 737 West 5th Avenue, 276-3179, www.imaginarium.org. Open daily 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., $5.

Oscar Anderson House—This is the only one of the city’s few historic homes that functions as a museum. It was the first wood frame house in Anchorage, built in 1915 by Swedish immigrant Oscar Anderson. 420 M Street, 274-2336, www.anchoragehistoricproperties.org/oscar.htm. Guided Tours (approx. 45 minutes) Noon-5pm, Monday through Friday, June 1 through mid-September, $3, children $1.

Resolution Park and Captain Cook Monument—Captain James Cook, explorer of the inlet that bears his name, is immortalized in this small park overlooking the water. Take a look on your downtown walkabout. 3rd Avenue and L Street.

Wolf Song of Alaska—Part gift shop, part wolf exhibit, Wolf Song is a nonprofit organization "dedicated to promoting an understanding of the wolf through educational programs, research, and increased public awareness." 346-3073, www.wolfsongalaska.org.

Where to Stay in Anchorage

Anchorage has several chain accommodations, including Best Western, Super 8, Holiday Inn, Ramada, Comfort, Executive Suites, and Quality Inn, all with 800 numbers. There are numerous independents as well. Call or stop at the visitor center for help in getting your chosen location and price.

AAA B&B Reservations (reservation service), Anchorage, 346-2533. Also Aurora Winds B&B.

Adventure Alaska Bed and Breakfast Reservations, 6740 Lawlor Circle, 243-0265, www.alaska.net/~alaskabb. Central reservations for B&Bs in Anchorage, Homer, Seward, Kenai, and Denali. Outfitting and tours, too.

Anchorage Hilton, 500 West 3rd Avenue, (800) HILTONS, 265-7152, 272-7411. Mid-May–September $195–$215, winter $150–$170. The works. Even if you’re not staying, enjoy the view at the Top of the World Restaurant and bar on the top floor.

Anchorage International Hostel, 700 H Street, 276-3635, www.anchorageinternationalhostel.org. $20. 95 beds, closed 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., downtown, 1 a.m. curfew, reservations advised.

Centennial Park Campground, take Boundary Road east from Muldoon Road, just south of Glenn Highway, 333-9711. $13 sites, RVs okay, free showers.

Copper Whale Inn, 440 L Street, 258-7999. $100 and up in summer, $55 and up in winter. Great downtown location overlooking Cook Inlet. Very nice.

Hotel Captain Cook, 4th and K Street, (800) 843-1950, 276-6000. $230–$240 summer, $130–$140 winter. The other fine downtown luxury hotel, with a nice rooftop bar and restaurant with a view.

Where to Eat in Anchorage

Elevation 92, 3rd Avenue and L Street, 279-1578. Enjoy fine seafood dining with Cook Inlet views 92 feet above sea level.

F Street Station, 325 F Street, Anchorage, 272-5196. Upscale pub grub.

Glacier Brew House, 735 West 5th Avenue, 274-2739. A new and popular brew pub with good food.

Humpys Great Alaskan Alehouse, 610 West 6th Avenue, 276-2337. Tasty food and more than 40 microbrews on tap.

Phyllis’s Cafe and Salmon Bake, 436 D Street, 273-6656. Open daily 8 a.m. to midnight. Indoor/outdoor seating, big menu, touristy, fun.

Sea Galley & Pepper Mill Restaurant, 4101 Credit Union Drive, 563-3520 (Sea Galley), 561-0800 (Pepper Mill), fax 563-6382. Opens at 11 a.m. for lunch and dinner. Popular and huge place for big and tasty meals. Seafood, steaks, prime rib, pastas.

Simon & Seafort’s Saloon and Grill, 420 L Street, 274-3502. Enjoy Cook Inlet views and fine dining downtown.

V.I.P. Restaurant, 555 West Northern Lights Boulevard, 279-8514, 279-7549. Could be the best Korean food in town. Chinese cuisine served as well.