Quirky Attraction: Anchorage Light Speed Planet Walk

anchorage light speed planet walk venus

The Anchorage Light Speed Planet Walk
Location: Starts at Alaska Center for Performing Arts (5th Ave & G St, Anchorage AK)
When to visit: Anytime during daylight hours
Cost: Free
Time needed: 15 minutes to six hours, depending how many of the planet markers you want to see
Website: http://anchorageplanetwalk.org/

Astronomy nerds, take note! Downtown Anchorage, Alaska has a very cool cosmic attraction: A scale-model representation of our solar system: The Anchorage Planet Walk!

The city set up a marker at 5th Avenue & G Street (at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts) to represent the Sun. Then, they created stations for each of the planets.

Look at that giant model of the Sun!

anchorage sun marker
The sun marker that starts the Light Speed Planet Walk.

What makes this setup cool is that each step is calculated to equal the distance light travels in one second (roughly 186,000 miles or 300,000 kms.)

This means that since it takes eight minutes for a beam of light to get from the Sun to Earth, it will take you eight minutes to walk from the Sun marker to the Earth marker.

Visiting the Planet Walk Markers

Each planet station has photos and facts about the featured planet. You can play out light travel in real time as you walk down 5th Avenue!

mercury light speed planet walk

The first four planets are located very close together, just as they are in real life.

You can walk from the Sun to the Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars planet markers in less than 13 minutes. But after that, the planets start becoming quite far apart.

anchorage light speed planet walk

The Saturn, Jupiter, and Uranus planet markers are on the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, an 11-mile walking and biking path that runs from downtown all the way past the airport.

saturn light speed planet walk marker

The Jupiter marker is a 43-minute walk from downtown, while Uranus is 2 hours and 42 minutes away.

You’ll have to do quite a bit of walking or driving if you plan to see all the planets! Or just rent a bike and ride the entire Coastal Trail.

Each board is loaded with fun science facts about the planet. Learn everything you’ve ever wanted to know!

Did you know that Uranus has 10 rings? Or that each pole of Uranus experiences 42 straight years of daylight, followed by 42 straight years of darkness?

uranus planet walk

For any crazy people who want to walk all the way to Pluto (which isn’t officially a planet anymore, we know), you’ll have to set aside 5 hours and 30 minutes to walk all the way down to Kincaid Chalet.

That signifies the 5.5 hours it takes for light to reach Pluto from the Sun.

Not many cities have an attraction dedicated to astronomy education, so the Anchorage Planet Walk is a nifty little landmark. Don’t miss it while you’re walking around town!

Here’s your map from the Anchorage Light Speed Planet Walk brochure. Good luck finding them all!

anchorage planet walk map
A map of the Anchorage Planet Walk showing the locations of each marker.

Google Maps actually has each planet noted in its system, so you can easily use GPS to find them. Just search “light speed planet walk” and the planets will pop up.

On my last visit to Anchorage, I almost missed the Earth planet marker, because it had been moved. I wouldn’t have found it without Google Maps.

It now resides on the side of a nondescript parking garage, so it’s easy to overlook.

earth planet marker

History of the Light Speed Planet Walk

The planet walk has an interesting history. It was created in the mid ’00s by high school student Eli Menaker.

That’s the cool thing about a city the size of Anchorage – it’s still small enough that one student can make a real difference!

venus planet walk map
The Venus planet marker is right in front of Hotel Captain Cook.

Anchorage’s Planet Walk was inspired by the Carl Sagan Memorial Planet Walk in Ithaca, New York.

Anchorage has a bunch of awesome city tours, including food tours, brewery tours, walking tours, bike tours, and many more. See our article on all the different Anchorage tours available.

While you’re in Alaska, see our guides to the Alaska Veterans Memorial, the best festivals in Anchorage, backcountry camping in Denali National Park, visiting Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, the best Alaska road trips, and visiting the quirky towns of Chicken and Talkeetna.

Also see 35 fun facts about Alaska, and our detailed post on how much it costs to visit Alaska!

Have you ever visited a planet walk before?