We arrived in Anchorage Alaska about 12:30, checked into The Historic Anchorage Hotel, and by 1:30 were ready to undertake three priorities:
- Find and enjoy a pleasant lunch of fresh local seafood;
- Select restaurants for two dinners (tonight and three days from now, when we would be back in town); and
- Explore the city before dinner, since we were leaving the next morning.
After identifying potential restaurants, we walked to each and, in our usual process, looked at the menu and the atmosphere. We selected and made reservation at one for lunch and two for dinner; then we ate. (See our blog on Anchorage restaurants.) By 2:45, we were off to explore the city.
The Anchorage Museum
First, we made some quick stops at a number of galleries and then headed straight to the Anchorage Museum. After a quick scan of the Art of the North exhibit, we joined a number of kids to experience some entertaining learning at the fun, educational and highly interactive Imaginarium Discovery Center.
We spent most of our museum time in the Alaska History Gallery. The gallery profiles and shows life in Alaska from the original Indian civilizations, through the Russian and later British fur trading days, through the United States’ purchase of the territory, the gold rush, development, and the oil boom.
Then we roamed through a review of rare cultural artifacts from a wing of the museum that houses the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center and a final gallery with a fascinating collection of photos documenting the gold rush. Although the museum also had a temporary Mammoths and Mastodons exhibit, we decided to pass on this for the sake of time since we had recently seen many of these pieces at the Chicago Field Museum (which developed the exhibit).
Anchorage Streets, Shops and Bars
We would have liked to spend more time in the museum, but we had places to go and things to see. We strolled the streets of downtown for a while, stopping in unusual stores, such as for native Alaskan art galleries, smoked meats (from halibut to reindeer), and a surprising number of fur stores that carried wide selections of pelts from virtually every imaginable animal (think, for example, wolf, fox, bear and musk ox). We also couldn’t pass up a brief stop at the Dog Mushing Hall of Fame or a look inside 100-year old saloon.
The Anchorage Market
We were there on a Saturday, a market day in Anchorage, We found all types of native foods, arts, crafts sold out of tents. It was a very pleasant 45 minutes and a nice introduction to local crafts and culture.
A Slice of Urban Nature
Unfortunately. we did not have time (or access to a car) to get out of downtown to a number of neighboring trails (especially Tabletop Mountain), nature centers, or even Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Headquarters (although our fortuitous discovery of the Dog Mushing Hall of Fame did help compensate for some of the disappointment of missing the Sled Dog Headquarters).
Although we weren’t able to leave the city to find nature, we were able to find some nature in the city. First there were the beautiful gardens and sod roof of the Visitor’s Center in front of City Halls. Then there was the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail which is a biking, jogging, and walking path that runs 10 miles along the coast of Cook Inlet. Even more interesting, we managed to find all types of wildlife in the city—bear, moose, musk ox—the whole nine yards. And we didn’t once seriously fear for our lives as they were all stuffed.
But all this sightseeing is hard work. We needed a break before dinner. Where better than a restaurant (Snow Goose) with its own brewing company (Sleeping Lady) and an outdoor deck with an overview of Cook Inlet.
Although we enjoyed our time in Anchorage, we were glad we didn’t spend more time there. But, we had one big disappointment—we weren’t unable to see Russia. Guess it wasn’t quite clear enough.