Anchorage has unrivaled access to natural places; its national parks, incredible wildlife and glaciers fuel dream trips. Ask any residents how they first arrived: You’ll likely hear of unexpectedly falling in love with Alaska and Anchorage—and never leaving! Extraordinary outdoor opportunities combine with a modern metropolitan area for the best of both worlds.
Alaska has more parkland by area than the rest of the United States put together. Anchorage has great access to it, with national parks Denali, Katmai, Kenai Fjords, Wrangell-Saint Elias and Lake Clark within easy reach. Anchorage is home to an amazing array of moose, bear, Dall sheep, salmon, beluga whales, bald eagles and other wildlife.
More than 50 named glaciers are within a day’s travel. Whether by boat, train, foot, helicopter or bush plane, there are many ways to reach them and many ways to enjoy them—such as kayaking, rafting, ice climbing and trekking.
Anchorage, at the center of Alaska’s road and rail network, has the state’s largest airport; it’s easy to reach Alaska and get around after arrival. Alaska has more pilots than any other state, most living and keeping their aircraft in Anchorage. Seward and Whittier ports of are close, making Anchorage ideal for starting or ending a one-way Alaska cruise.
NACTA 2017 Conference takes place in Anchorage—and September is a wonderful time to visit. Among the best of summer are day cruises for glacier views, flightseeing around Prince William Sound, nearby mountains, Denali, biking on a vast paved trail network and nearby state park hiking.
Some special charms are only found in September. After months of midnight sun come a few hours of night, and the possibility of viewing the northern lights. Birches and aspens turn brilliant yellow. More moose descend the mountains, sticking close to Anchorage in search of easier forage; it’s also mating season, when males sport picture-perfect antlers.
How better to launch into Conference than with North America’s tallest mountain and one of Alaska’s favorite national parks? Alaska Railroad is one of the best ways to see Alaska. Trains connect Anchorage to Fairbanks in the north and Seward and Whittier cruise ports in the south.
Alaskan-owned and -operated, Hotel Captain Cook is one of the state’s finest hotels. With four restaurants, an athletic club and nearly 550 rooms, it’s a pillar of the community, prominent piece of the skyline and downtown landmark. Décor features scenes from the Pacific voyages of Captain Cook, the first European to explore this part of Alaska’s waters. Art imparts a specific sense of place; no waking up in a hotel that looks like all the others, wondering where you are.
Alaska is full of amazing places, and Anchorage is among the finest for beginning a trip. With attractions like Anchorage Museum and Alaska Native Heritage Center, it’s the single best spot to gain an understanding of what clients will see during a visit. Starting in Anchorage helps travelers better appreciate the sights, and gives deeper meaning to a vast place with a deep history.
The oft-overlooked Chugach Mountains make up 9,000 square miles of natural space at Anchorage’s doorstep. Chugach State Park, and Chugach National Forest beyond it, holds fantastic hiking, rafting, biking and camping spots. The Chugach boasts some of Alaska’s most accessible glacier views and wildlife sighting. The most popular trailheads are less than 20 miles from downtown, and glacial lake kayaking or summer dogsledding opportunities are a short hop by helicopter or bush plane.
Tucked into the Chugach, Girdwood—technically part of Anchorage—has its own mountain town feel. Called Glacier City for the more than half dozen hanging glaciers ringing the valley, it’s Alaska’s premier winter ski destination, with Alyeska Resort, several heli-skiing operators and more than 650 inches of snow recorded annually at the summit.
Adding a day doesn’t allow much time to explore, something even more true given Alaska’s size. Don’t miss out on the state’s best parts: Ensure there’s enough time to become immersed in Anchorage and the surrounding region. Learn what your clients want in visiting Alaska. Odds are, it’s here.
By Amy L Charles
Photo courtesy of Frank Flavin.