35 Cool Things To Do in Downtown Anchorage, Alaska

Visitors can find a ton of cool things to do in downtown Anchorage, from indigenous art museums to cool art murals to statues of sled dogs. Who knew there was so much fun to be had in Alaska’s capital city?

As part of any Alaska road trip, I recommend giving yourself at least 1.5 days in Anchorage to experience the city. Get to know the restaurants, walk some of the trails, and stop in to the local shops.

alaska mural

For some people, Anchorage is merely a pass-through city, a temporary homebase while awaiting a trip to other exciting places in Alaska, such as Katmai National Park, Kobuk Valley, or Denali.

Other travelers choose to spend a few days in Anchorage, exploring its parks, cultural sites, and urban life.

Regardless of which group you fall into, I’ve put together a list of the best things to do in downtown Anchorage for visitors. We’re covering restaurants, guided tours, special events, public parks, museums, and much more.

anchorage skyline

This list has been compiled over the multiple visits I’ve made to Anchorage over the years. Feel free to add any suggestions that I may have missed!

About Downtown Anchorage (History, Maps, Public Transit)

First, a few notes about Anchorage itself. Anchorage was founded in 1914, and had about 44,000 residents when Alaska became a state in 1959.

Today, the city’s population has exploded to roughly 290,000. Somewhere between 1000 to 6000 (estimates vary wildly by source) live in downtown proper.

We’re defining “downtown Anchorage” as the business center, with Delaney Park as the southern boundary, Gambell Street the eastern boundary, the coastline as the western boundary, and Ship Creek as the northern boundary.

alaska museum
An exhibit in the Anchorage Museum.

Be alert for wildlife, as the city does have some bears and moose within its borders. Some of these recommended attractions may afford you a chance to spot one.

If you’re staying downtown, just about everything on this list is within walking distance. But you can always use the bus if desired.

Can you take a bus from the Anchorage Airport to downtown Anchorage? Absolutely! I’ve done it a few times.

The #40 People Mover bus picks up right outside baggage claim at Ted Stevens International Airport, and reaches downtown 25 minutes later.

It’s just $2 for a single ride, or $5 for a day pass if you plan on taking multiple rides around town. You can pay in cash on the bus, or download the People Mover mTicket app.

Things To Do in Downtown Anchorage

Here’s the map of all of the attractions on our list of activities in the Anchorage city center. Scroll down to read about each one!

Parks and Trails

Tony Knowles Coastal Trail

tony knowles coastal trail

Anchorage has an awesome walking and bike trail called the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail that runs from downtown all the way to Kincaid Park.

The trail covers 11 miles each way, and you can bike the entire thing by renting a bicycle from one of multiple vendors downtown.

The Coastal Trail passes Woronzof Point near the airport, where you can stand right under the airplanes taking off. Keep your eyes open for bears and moose, which wander onto the trail now and then.

Delaney Park

delaney park

Generally considered the southern border of downtown, Delaney Park is a greenspace that is 13 blocks wide. It can be a good place to take it easy and hang out for a couple hours.

On a recent summer day, I saw ultimate frisbee and rugby games taking place there. The park has picnic benches and even a few outlets, though the one I tried last time wasn’t working.

Look for the park’s numerous memorials and displays, including a memorial to Martin Luther King, Jr.; another for Pope John Paul II, who visited the park in 1981; a rose garden; and an old locomotive engine from the 1940s.

Town Square Park

Find Town Square Park right in the heart of downtown. During summer, the busy park features lots of bright flowers, and it hosts live music on Thursday evenings.

In the winter, the park takes on new life with the installation of Christmas lights and an ice skating rink.

Flattop Mountain

If you’re looking for a real mountain hike near downtown Anchorage, Flattop Mountain is definitely your best bet.

Flattop Mountain isn’t located in downtown itself, but there’s a shuttle that runs directly there from downtown, so even tourists without a rental car can do the hike!

From May 15 to September 15, reserve the shuttle and enjoy the 30-minute ride to Chugach State Park.

Flattop is the most-climbed mountain in Alaska. It’s a challenging hike, gaining 1325 feet of elevation in just 1.4 miles, for a 2.8-mile round-trip. And the views are outstanding.

Ship Creek Overlook Park

This small waterfront park provides a chance to see thousands of fish swimming past, if you happen to get there at the right time, usually during summer. Black bears occasionally appear in this area.

Museums in Downtown Anchorage

Log Cabin Visitor Center

log cabin visitor center

Although the blog post you’re reading is sufficient to create a great downtown Anchorage itinerary, it may be worth popping into the Log Cabin Visitor Center for some additional ideas from local docents.

They have brochures available on all kinds of topics, from the cuisine of Anchorage to whale-watching tours to street art maps.

Alaska Public Lands Information Center

public lands information center

I believe the Alaska Public Lands Information Center is the most underrated attraction in downtown Anchorage. This place is a goldmine of exhibits about all the national parks in Alaska, and it’s entirely free!

The center shows documentary videos throughout the day on various parks like Kenai Fjords, Denali, and Glacier Bay.

They have national park brochures for most of the NPS units in the entire state, and they have National Parks Passport stamps for some of the remote parks, like Lake Clark and Gates of the Arctic.

It’s located in a federal government building, so expect to pass through metal detectors on your way in.

The Anchorage Museum

anchorage museum

I confess that on my first visit to Anchorage, I didn’t make time to visit the Anchorage Museum. I assumed it was just like other city museums around the country, which tend to be underwhelming.

But as I learned when I stopped by last year, the Anchorage Museum is different! This is a fantastic museum, with interactive exhibits, interesting artwork of all kinds, historic photos, a planetarium, and more.

The exhibits on the history of the Alaska Railroad and the culture of the native peoples of Alaska are especially enlightening.

Oscar Anderson House and Museum

oscar anderson house

Built in 1915, the Oscar Anderson House Museum offers a chance to step back in time and relive the early days of western settlement in Alaska. The two-story home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Alaska Veterans Museum

The Alaska Veterans Museum is a small but informative facility that covers the role of Alaskans in the military over the years.

It houses exhibits on each conflict from World War I through Vietnam, and a special exhibit on women in the military.

Alaska Law Enforcement Museum

The Alaska Law Enforcement Museum has very limited hours (Wednesday through Friday, 10 am to 4 pm.) But if you find yourself in town on those days, it may be worth stopping in to see the old police artifacts and memorabilia.

Guided Tours in Anchorage

If you’ve got limited time in downtown Anchorage, a group tour can be one of the best ways to see as much as possible in a short time.

We’ve got an entire article on the best Anchorage tours, covering everything from helicopter tours to kayak tours to walking tours. Click that link to see the entire list.

matanuska glacier
Hiking inside Matanuska Glacier!

Below, see a shortlist of the five tours I most recommend for visitors with at least one full day in Anchorage. Click each tour name to see pricing and availability.

Downtown Anchorage Food & History Walking Tour. The name says it all. This 3-hour small group excursion conveys historic facts while visiting various restaurants. The specific eateries on each tour may vary, but often include Alaska-centric dishes like salmon and reindeer sausage.

Anchorage Trolley Tour. Enjoy the city’s most popular guided tour while riding on a big red trolley bus to some of Anchorage’s most interesting spots, like Earthquake Park, Point Woronzof, and Lake Spenard. It’s a great way for visitors to get to know the city, and it only takes 90 minutes.

trolley things to do in anchorage
The Trolley Tour is one of the most popular things to do in Anchorage!

Matanuska Glacier Day Hike. Put on your crampons and walk around inside Matanuska Glacier! This tour picks up right from your Anchorage hotel and provides transportation and all the equipment you’ll need to safely navigate the ice caves and mini-rivers inside the glacier. I did this tour and absolutely loved it!

Half-Day Craft Brewery Tour. You may be surprised how many breweries Anchorage has. Visit three of them (six total tastings) on this tour, which also includes a behind-the-scenes look at how some of the brewpubs make their suds.

Alaska Railroad Day Trip to Seward. Here’s your chance to ride the famous Alaska Railroad and make it back to Anchorage in the same day. Ride from the Anchorage Depot downtown all the way down to Seward, a fishing community where you’ll have 7 hours to explore the town or join boating or whale-watching excursions.

Statues, Monuments, Murals, and Street Art

The “Greetings from Alaska” Sign

greetings from alaska mural

Find this cool touristy mural at 610 E. 5th Avenue. It’s a few blocks east of the Anchorage city center, but it’s worth the walk if you want a cool selfie to let everyone know you’ve made it to the 49th state.

Alaska Statehood Monument

alaska statehood monument

See a monument dedicated to Alaska becoming a state in 1959. It features a statue of President Eisenhower, who was in office at the time.

Balto’s Statue

balto sled dog statue

Balto the Wonder Dog was one of the lead dogs in the 1925 race that eventually became the Iditarod.

Find the Balto statue in downtown Anchorage on W. 4th Avenue. The Alaskan husky is depicted in full sprint mode.

Captain Cook Monument

captain cook monument

Captain Cook is big in Anchorage. The British explorer visited the area in the 1770s, and now has his name on several noteworthy entities, including Cook Inlet and the popular Captain Cook Hotel downtown.

Head to Resolution Park to see the Captain Cook Monument, a life-size statue that was installed in 1976 as a gift from BP gas.

“Seasonal Aurora Borealis” Bear Statue

seasonal aurora borealis bear statue anchorage

Created by artist Katie Sevigny, this bear is named Seasonal Aurora Borealis. It features a huge bear painted like a forest with bright colors in the sky.

Find the bright bear next to City Hall and the Log Cabin Visitor Center.

SEED Lab Murals

seed lab murals

The SEED Lab at 6th Avenue & A Street has multiple murals by local artists that attempt to bring awareness to issues like climate change and the plight of Alaska’s indigenous communities.

Nulbay Park

Find an orca sculpture and dolphin statues in Nulbay Park, a parklet located on West 7th Avenue along the shore.

Fallen Firefighter Memorial

firefighters memorial

The Anchorage Fallen Firefighter Memorial is similar to those in other cities which honor those who’ve lost their lives while fighting to battle blazes and save lives.

What’s unique about this one is that the firefighter’s helmet has icicles dripping off it, a reminder of the very cold conditions they work in here.

Quirky Attractions and Shops

Light Speed Planet Walk

anchorage light speed planet walk

My favorite quirky attraction in Anchorage is the Light Speed Planet Walk. It’s a scale-model replica of our solar system.

Head to the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts to see a large orb representing the sun. Then walk west on 5th Avenue to see markers for each planet.

Because this solar system is to scale, only the Mercury through Mars planet markers are downtown. The planets beyond Jupiter are located on the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, and they have 20+ minute walks between each one.

The Sleeping Lady

sleeping lady mount susitna
A distant view of the Sleeping Lady, Mount Susitna.

Mount Susitna is referred to as “The Sleeping Lady” because the somewhat flat peak supposedly looks like a woman sleeping on her side.

I don’t see it, but you can take a gander at the mountain from various places in the city, including Resolution Park and the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. Viewing the Sleeping Lady at sunset is a popular activity.

ULU Factory

The ulu knife is one of the most useful tools that came from Eskimo culture. Today, the ULU Factory gives guests a chance to see how the knives are made in modern times, and to purchase these tools or other gifts.

Visit All the Gift Shops!

anchorage gift shops

A walk around 4th and 5th Avenues downtown reveals a large number of gift and souvenir shops. Stop in to see the unique local gifts that are available.

These shops have magnets, trinkets, and even food items that are related to Alaska. I’m not usually a souvenir person, but I still enjoy shopping at these stores.

5th Avenue Mall

I encourage supporting local shops in Anchorage, but if you find yourself needing something from a national shopping mall chain, walk to the 5th Avenue Mall.

Shops include American Eagle, Apple Store, AT&T, Claire’s, Coach, Footlocker, Hot Topic, Lululemon, Lush, Pac Sun, and JC Penney.

Anchorage Restaurants

The city has lots of good restaurants, serving up seafood, ethnic cuisine, hearty American favorites, and delicious snacks and pastries. These are a few of my favorite Anchorage restaurants.

Forty Ninth State Brewing

49th state brewing anchorage

Forty Ninth State Brewing is a lively brewpub with a great menu of pub favorites and drinks. It has plenty of tables for large groups and extensive bar seating for those traveling alone.

I recommend the Mt. Magnificent Burger (with bacon, cheese, and BBQ sauce), with tater tots and a blueberry cream soda on the side! They also serve yak and elk burgers, halibut tacos, and reindeer sausage pizza.

Crow’s Nest

For high-end dining, head to the top of Hotel Captain Cook to the Crow’s Nest. Enjoy the 360-degree scenic views while dining on steaks, pork chops, and fish.

Crow’s Nest is open only for dinner from Tuesday through Saturday.

Snow City Cafe

snow city cafe

The Snow City Cafe is a great option for folks looking for a casual and fun breakfast or lunch spot.

This cafe can get busy during peak breakfast and lunch hours. Try the Eggs Benedict, Stuffed French Toast, or the Mac & Cheese.

Haute Quarter Grill

For excellent seafood, try the upscale establishment Haute Quarter Grill on 4th Avenue.

Among the options: Smoked Salmon Fettucine, Jambalaya with Alaskan scallops, Red King Crab, and Pasta with Scallops & Prawns.

Tequila 61°

The popular gastrobar Tequila 61° has Mexican favorites like empanadas and chilaquiles, plus all sorts of taco fillings, including rockfish, portobello mushrooms, coconut shrimp, and shredded duck.

This restaurant also serves up lots of good seafood, such as Alaskan oysters and a full pound of King Crab.

Have a Reindeer Sausage on the Street

reindeer sausage stand

Downtown Anchorage has a few hot dog and sausage stands in high-traffic areas. These merchants typically sell reindeer sausages, so if you’ve never tried reindeer (caribou), here’s your opportunity.

RED Umbrella Reindeer is a good choice to find one – it’s right in front of Tequila 61 restaurant.

Special Events and Festivals

Anchorage has quite a few fairs and festivals, even during the winter. See my article about the best festivals in Anchorage to view the entire list.

Here are a few that may be of interest to Anchorage visitors:

ANC Market Social

If you’re in town from late May to early September, check out the ANC Market Social, an outdoor market and street fair with live music and local vendors.

Find the market on E Street between 5th and 6th Avenue, and in Town Square Park. It runs on Sunday afternoons from 11 am to 5 pm.

Fur Rendezvous

Late February is the time for “Fur Rondy,” or the Fur Rendezvous festival, which has been going strong for 90 years now.

The two-week fest features all kinds of winter fun, including sled dog races, a snow sculpture contest, a parade, and the famous “Running of the Reindeer.”

Iditarod Ceremony

Most of the famous Iditarod dog race takes place in remote sections of Alaska, but the ceremonial start takes place in March right in downtown Anchorage.

If you happen to be in town, head to 4th Avenue and D Street to see an introduction to the dogs and mushers.

Spenard Jazz Fest

The first weekend in June, enjoy the Spenard Jazz Fest, which features Jazz in the Park from local and national artists.

Venues may be scattered around the city but tend to include some downtown locations, including local breweries and even the lawn of the Anchorage Museum.

A Few Activities Worth Leaving Downtown For

Let’s wrap up by looking at a couple cool activities outside the downtown corridor. Even if you don’t have a car, these are easily reachable by public transit or via Uber or Lyft.

Earthquake Park

earthquake park

In 1964, a 9.2 mega-quake struck Alaska and dropped a huge section of land down into the ocean. Today, you can view remnants of the damage at Earthquake Park, located along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail.

It’s fascinating to see how the landscape shifted, and you can also get great views of the distant mountains and maybe even see a moose on the walking trails in this forested park.

Kincaid Sand Dunes

Who would’ve guessed there are natural sand dunes in Anchorage? This sand dune was created from dirt and pebbles created by retreating glaciers 10,000 years ago. People go there for picnics and to play in the sand.

Alaska Aviation Museum

alaska aviation museum

If you find yourself near the airport with some extra time, consider walking over to the Alaska Aviation Museum.

Open seven days a week, the facility houses lots of old bush planes and artifacts related to flight.

World’s Largest Chocolate Waterfall

The Alaska Wild Berry Products gift shop has what it calls the world’s largest chocolate waterfall. It’s made from 3000 pounds of chocolate!

Alaska Native Heritage Center

alaska native heritage center
Souvenirs for sale at the Alaska Native Heritage Center.

I visited the Alaska Native Heritage Center a while back, and really enjoyed its exhibits, such as the Hall of Cultures.

This is essentially a museum dedicated to the region’s indigenous peoples, and it’s a great educational outlet for cultural learning.

Ready to learn more about Alaska travel?

For more Alaska info, read our articles about the towns of Talkeetna, Fairbanks, and Chicken. Here’s a guide to the small airports of Kotzebue, King Salmon, and Gustavus.

Also see our articles about budgeting for an Alaska trip, visiting the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, a collection of 88 photos of Alaska life, the experience of landing on a glacier in Denali National Park in a small plane, fun facts about Alaska, and frequently asked Alaska questions.

Do you have any other recommendations for things to do in downtown Anchorage?