Anchorage, Alaska: Just the Tip of the Iceberg

If I were to write about everything there is to do and see in this eye-popping tourist state, this would not be a travel article.  It would be a book!  The entire state is a tourist’s dream and no matter how diligent you are, there’s always something more amazing around the corner to experience.


I had been to Anchorage many times before, but I just couldn’t bare another Alaskan winter.  Once on a short visit to Fairbanks, I can remember how bitter cold it was walking across the street from the lodge to Burger King.  So bad was it, that my food was too cold to eat when I got back to my room (I ate it anyway).  So, with a quarter of a million frequent flyer miles on Delta at the time, off to Anchorage I went (the next summer of course).

Arrival:

We landed in Anchorage at an odd time which prevented us from checking into our bed and breakfast upon arrival.  Our rental car wasn’t ready, nor were we.  Dead tired, we were able to set up camp in a corner of the airport and sleep for hours in our sleeping bags without being bothered.  It was just what we needed as we were traveling from Virginia and were jetlagged like crazy.  After reaching the bed and breakfast, we slept some more.

Eating:

I then insisted on going to Wings and Things on 4th street in downtown Anchorage.  I’ve eaten fried chicken from Alaska to Indonesia but Wings and Things undoubtedly has the best and spiciest.  This is evident by all the awards and accolades on the billboard as soon as you walk in the door.  F.Y.I., do NOT get the nuked wings!   Just thinking about them makes me cry to this day.  Make no mistake now this is not fine dining.  The counter is small, the ordering area is crowded (mainly takeouts) and the inside eating area is cramped.  There are two outdoor eating areas that are more accommodating, but just try eating outside during the winter!  No matter when you go, it will probably be crowded.

Things to do in Anchorage:

Downtown has an interactive children’s museum/activity center that shouldn’t be missed, even for adults.  Further down the street are art galleries that have the most amazing displays of whalebone carvings, native drawings and indigenous art.  There are also furriers with boots, jackets and hats.  They range from the not-so-expensive, to articles you can mortgage your house for.  An array of restaurants with seafood to die for, a large indoor mall, ice carving competitions, a laundry mat at the far end of town (important for hikers and backpackers) and almost anything you can imagine are there for the taking.   The food court on the top floor of the mall has the usual Panda Express and pizza places on the cheap.  In the summer, trust me; you will crave the air conditioning.  I don’t know if it’s a result of global warming, but on some days it reached a sweltering 96 degrees, ouch!

One note, there is a post office downtown, but it is so expensive to mail to the lower 48 that it may be more feasible to pay for an extra bag through the airlines.

Glaciers:

Just outside of Anchorage about 30 miles or so is Portage Glacier.  Be sure to wear a jacket if you are going to take a ferry out to see this bad boy.  It’s might chilly on the water and you don’t want to miss the experience.  The glacier cannot be seen from the boat dock and the further from the dock you get, the colder it is.  Oh, and don’t forget the binoculars.  It was a spiritual experience to see the mountain goats perched high up on the bluffs on one side and a piece of ice fall off the glacier on another side.  The tour boat doesn’t get too close to the glacier for obvious reasons.  There’s outside seating on the boat and inside seating for the cold and faint hearted.  There are many other glaciers in Alaska to see, but not all of them can be reached by boat, where you can see the full awe of these monstrosities.

Keep in mind; this is only a brief introduction to Anchorage.  There’s much more to see once you get outside the city.  You might say, it’s only the “tip of the iceberg”.

August 3, 2010