What’s new in Anchorage?

Larry Olmsted

Anchorage is even easier to get to than ever this summer, with lots of new airlift, more flights on Alaska Airlines, JetBlue, Delta and United and entirely new first time routes from Icelandair and Virgin America, which will arrive nonstop from San Francisco. Jet Blue is adding Seattle nonstop, and both Alaska and Delta are adding additional flights from LA. The Millennium Hotel, famous as headquarters for the Iditarod dog-sled race, is undergoing a total renovation to be finished later this year. The hotel is equally popular in summer, sitting on the shore of Lake Hood, with a restaurant deck overlooking the floatplane departure dock popular for flightseeing trips to grizzly bear country and around Mt. McKinley. One entirely new tourism offering is Gold Mine Safari Tours, which drives visitors into the mining heart of nearby Girdwood aboard extreme six-wheeled Pinzgauer trucks, to explore two gold mines high in the Chugach Mountains. You’ll pan for gold along the Historic Iditarod Trail, visit a century old defunct mine and get exclusive access to an active modern gold mine. Today’s Alaskan gold rush is based on beer, with a staggering number of craft breweries, and now you can easily take this liquid gold home: the Silver Gulch brewery just opened a unique to-go growler bar — inside security in the Anchorage airport’s C concourse!

  • On April 30, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What are the best bars in Anchorage?

    Craft brewing is the rage in Anchorage, so many of the most popular bars make their own beers, including Midnight Sun Brewing Company, Glacier Brew Pub, and Snow Goose Restaurant & Sleeping Lady Brewery. Then there are several other beer-centric places that don’t brew but have a wide range of Alaskan and other specialty beers, including Firetap Alehouse and Humpy’s Great Alaskan Brewhouse, perhaps the most popular bar in downtown, with the state’s largest selection of drafts, including dozens of local specialty and limited release options. For a more upscale and romantic cocktail experience, the top choice in the city is the famous Crow’s Nest atop the Hotel Captain Cook, the highest watering hole in Anchorage, with tremendous views in every direction. For an Alaskan frontier feel, try F Street Station downtown, all dark wood, a bar festooned with hundreds of stickers placed by patrons over the years, and the infamous block o’ cheese on the corner of the bar, to try at your own risk.
  • On April 30, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What are the best restaurants in Anchorage?

    Seafood rules in Anchorage — Alaska is the only state with sustainability of fishing grounds written into its Constitution, and everything is wild caught, as fish farming is outlawed. There are several excellent seafood eateries downtown, but Sack’s Café & Restaurant is the most consistent and creative, serving ultra-fresh oysters, shrimp, snow and king crab, cod, halibut, rockfish and the major types of salmon: chum, sockeye/red, silver/coho, pink, and king in a bewildering array of interesting styles that change nightly. Simon & Seafort’s Saloon & Grill is another top choice that marries a lot of fresh seafood with Anchorage’s best steaks. Ginger puts a modern Pacific Rim flavor spin on its fresh seafood, while Orso takes on the bounty of fresh seafood with a Mediterranean flair. For breakfast (all day long) it is impossible to beat the wonderful Snow City Cafe, with all the standards plus Alaskan twists like King crab benedict and reindeer sausage. Craft beer is huge in Alaska, and for casual but tasty meals, try the Midnight Sun Brewing Company or Glacier Brew Pub.
  • On April 30, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    Where is the best shopping in Anchorage?

    The most popular shopping items in Anchorage are Alaskan ulu knives, great for anyone who cooks to chop and dice herbs or garlic, jewelry made from local gold and shed caribou horns, and smoked meats and fish, especially salmon, reindeer and caribou. Downtown is teeming with souvenir shops, but most of them are cheesy, so head to one of the more authentic native craft centers, like the gift shop at the Anchorage Museum or the Alaska Native Arts Foundation Gallery. Wherever you shop, especially along the main downtown commercial drags of Fourth and Sixth avenues, look for the silver hand logo, a government program that guarantees these crafts were made locally by native Alaskans. The best place for smoked and canned specialty meats and fish — great gifts — is Indian Valley Meats on the Seward Highway about 20 minutes south of the city. Perhaps Alaska’s rarest specialty is Quiviut, wool form the underbelly of the Arctic Musk Oxen, softer and warmer (and more expensive!) than cashmere, and the only place to shop for it is at Oomingmak Musk Ox Producer Coop. Hundreds of Native Alaskans across the huge state knit at home and ship their wares to this cooperative, in the middle of downtown since 1969. If you miss out on shopping time, Sourdough Mercantile in Concourse C of the airport represents over a hundred local artisans and craftspeople.
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  • On April 30, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What are the best attractions in Anchorage?

    For culture, the Anchorage Museum and Alaska Native Heritage Center are hard to beat. The former is the state’s largest museum with permanent displays of Alaskan art, history, science and Native culture, plus a planetarium. The latter has full-sized replica villages representing each of the state’s various indigenous people, along with craft making exhibitions, dances and many other live cultural displays. The best way to get your bearings upon arriving in Anchorage is with the daily free 45-minute walking tour of the city led by a National Park Service Ranger — something few cities offer — which departs for the Alaska Public Lands Information Center downtown. After all, Alaska has more National Park and Forest than any other state, by a huge margin. There are also hour-long narrated trolley tours of the city.
  • On April 30, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What are the best things to do in Anchorage?

    Cruise Prince William Sound is Anchorage’s top attraction: View whales, killer whales, sea otters, mountains and nature at its grandest. Options include sea kayak, sailing/catamaran or guided naturalist cruises with many choices, all easy to reach from downtown. With its huge float plan and ski plane center next to the city’s main airport, Anchorage is the hub for Alaska’s ultra-popular flightseeing day tours: Summer or winter you can view McKinley, North America’s tallest peak and surrounding Denali National park, land on glaciers or pristine lakes and basically take in the grandeur that is the Last Frontier from the very best vantage point, the air. Because Alaska is so outdoor oriented, hiking and biking (rentals available) are huge here and a number of easy to use, well marked and maintained trails leave right from downtown, the most popular if which is the 11-mile paved and boardwalk Tony Knowles Nature Trail, which runs from the heart of Anchorage out along the coast to Kincaid Park.
  • On April 30, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What’s new in Anchorage?

    Anchorage is even easier to get to than ever this summer, with lots of new airlift, more flights on Alaska Airlines, JetBlue, Delta and United and entirely new first time routes from Icelandair and Virgin America, which will arrive nonstop from San Francisco. Jet Blue is adding Seattle nonstop, and both Alaska and Delta are adding additional flights from LA. The Millennium Hotel, famous as headquarters for the Iditarod dog-sled race, is undergoing a total renovation to be finished later this year. The hotel is equally popular in summer, sitting on the shore of Lake Hood, with a restaurant deck overlooking the floatplane departure dock popular for flightseeing trips to grizzly bear country and around Mt. McKinley. One entirely new tourism offering is Gold Mine Safari Tours, which drives visitors into the mining heart of nearby Girdwood aboard extreme six-wheeled Pinzgauer trucks, to explore two gold mines high in the Chugach Mountains. You’ll pan for gold along the Historic Iditarod Trail, visit a century old defunct mine and get exclusive access to an active modern gold mine. Today’s Alaskan gold rush is based on beer, with a staggering number of craft breweries, and now you can easily take this liquid gold home: the Silver Gulch brewery just opened a unique to-go growler bar — inside security in the Anchorage airport’s C concourse!