Visiting Alaska This Summer? 16 Insider Tips to Anchorage

by Janis on July 6, 2010

Every Tuesday is Travel Tip Day
Today: 16 insider tips to Anchorage, Alaska

Going to Alaska this summer?  There is a good chance that you’ll see the state’s largest city, Anchorage, if only for a brief stop from the airport.  

Anchorage is Mr. Jones’ birthplace and hometown.  The biggest draw to Anchorage, for us, is visiting with friends and family. Yet we have our favorite “tourist” spots that we try to hit every trip. As soon as out plane breaks out of the clouds and begins final descent, we start thinking about our must-visit places in this city:

Here’s our list of 16 insider tips for Anchorage, Alaska:    

1.   Wait until you’re downtown Anchorage to rent a car.  Anchorage has shockingly high taxes on rental cars. If you are only in the city for a day or two, better to take a cab or shuttle downtown.  You can also save on taxes if you rent a car from Avis downtown, rather than at the airport.

2.   Stop by the Anchorage Log Cabin and Downtown Visitor Information Center  Fourth Avenue and F Street.  This charming visitor center is staffed with long-time Alaskan volunteers who will answer your questions and make you feel welcome.

3.   Buy an inexpensive sweatshirt or fleece.  Alaska can be cool and if you aren’t prepared, the best place with wide selection of inexpensive sweatshirts, fleece and jackets (along with tons of tacky tourist stuff) is The Polar Bear Outlet Store at 600 W. 4th St.

4.   Shop for tax-free shoes at Nordstrom 603 D Street.  There is no sales tax in Anchorage. This makes up for that high rental car tax, so be sure and shop to take advantage.

5.   Browse exceptional Alaska crafts, books, jewelry and art at Cabin Fever at 4th and G. There are numerous art galleries in this area of downtown.

6.   Enjoy a locals’ lunch at Club Paris, 417 West 5th Ave.   It’s dark inside in the booths, but the beef is Midwest prime.  Have a Paris Special (a loaf of ground tenderloin) served with Au Jus, with a side of killer fries and a spicy Bloody Mary. Or feast on the fresh halibut fish and chips.

If the bartender is Kurt – who makes the best Bloody Mary’s – ask him about his latest fishing adventure.

7.   Visit the Anchorage Museum and new Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center at 625 C Street.   The Alaska Gallery presents Alaskan history starting with the Natives, then settlement by Russians, the gold rush era, World War II and statehood.  The museum’s permanent art collection includes an entire gallery of paintings by Sydney Laurence, Alaska’s best known artist.  The Imaginarium Discovery Center is a hands-on science gallery and planetarium where “kids” of all ages can explore earth and physical science.

8.    Take a walk on the Tony Knowles trail.  This world-class 11-mile-long paved trail though parks begins in downtown Anchorage on 2nd Avenue.  Watch out for moose; be careful not to get between a mother and her offspring.

9.   Enjoy the view of Cook Inlet while enjoying the Hot Dungeness Crab and Artichoke Dip with a margarita or a glass of wine at Simon & Seafort’s 420 L Street.  This restaurant specializes is seafood as good as the views.

10.   For a romantic dinner, go downstairs to the Corsair Restaurant at 944 West 5th Avenue Not up for dinner?  Sit in the bar and let Andy mix you Anchorage’s best martini – or the cocktail of your choice.  The pate and the shrimp appetizers make the perfect accompaniment.

11.   Stop by Orso (an Italian bear) at 737 West 5th Avenue.  The attractive bar offers creative cocktails and bar bites while the restaurant serves local seafood with an Italian flavor.

12.   Get a bird’s eye view of downtown Anchorage, the Chugach Mountains and Cook Inlet, with a drink and or dinner at the Crow’s Nest at the top of the Captain Cook hotelat 939 W. 5th Avenue.  Best as the sun is starting to set but remember – this is Alaska in the summer – so the sun may still be up at midnight.

13.   Go local at Darwin’s Theory on 426 G. Street.  Help yourself to a basket of salty popcorn, and order a round of red hot shots and beers.  Darwin writes a funny newsletter that keeps out-of-state readers filled in on Anchorage politics.

14.   For a hearty breakfast or a slice of famous pie, Peggy’s Café is the spot, located at 1675 East 5th Avenue near by Merrill Field, where you can charter a flightseeing adventure.

15.   If you are heading back to the airport, make a breakfast stop on the way in Midtown at the City Diner 3000 Minnesota Drive.  Breakfast Sliders, Eggs Benedict or the Black Dog Scramble are local favorites.

16.   Sample Alaska’s terrific sushi.  We have two favorites: In Midtown, Yamato Ya at 3700 Old Seward Hwy is the legendary standard, with a popular namesake Yamato Ya roll and a friendly, family environment.   Near the airport, DISH Sushi Bar, 639 West International Airport Rd, offers an exotic and creative selection of sushi and more than 50 familiar.

 With all of Alaska’s beauty, it’s tempting to skip Anchorage in haste to get to other destinations.  That would mean you’d miss out on a key part of Alaska: its biggest city, Anchorage.

Other related post: Visiting Alaska This Summer? 10 Tips on What to Pack  

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