Having traveled 21 countries independently in the past decade, I am always happy to come home to Alaska. It is truly a one-of-a-kind place in the world. I am often asked “where would you live if you can pick anywhere in the world,” and honestly, Alaska is exactly where I want to be. Here are five things you can’t miss doing using Anchorage as your basecamp:
Portage Lake Trail
It doesn’t matter how many times I drive through the Whitter tunnel, it’s still a cool experience. It was exciting the first few times, then it became a meditation drive for me. The Portage Lake Trail is a fast ascent trail (I call it the most “cost-benefit” trail in Alaska). Within an hour of hiking, you will get above 800 feet in elevation and have a view of the Whittier harbor on one side and glacier lake on another side. On the way down to the lake, you will get to see a full view of the glacier itself. Kayaking (bring your own packable ones) on Portage Lake to the glacier is incredible.
Winter northern light viewing
For eight months of the year (mid-August to end of April), chances of seeing the northern lights in the Anchorage area is very high. (We can’t see it in the summer months because the daylight is longer.) Be sure to check these two sources for the best odds of seeing this magical light display: University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute’s world-class forecast, and the weather report. If the level of forecast is high and the sky is clear, the northern lights are waiting for you! Anchorage proper has too much city light for best viewing opportunities, so it is best to drive at least an hour outside of the town to increase your chances. It doesn’t matter how many pictures you’ve seen – until you experience it in person, you won’t understand how amazing Mother Nature is.
Helicopter glacier tour
I know this is not an activity people just get up and go, but if budget allows, both visitors and residents should all do it once! The view of flying over glacier blue walls and standing in front of crystal blue water are forever engraved in my memory. Make sure to choose an excursion that includes a glacier landing option. Hint, hint: this is an incredibly romantic proposal idea!
Day trip to Katmai National Park & Preserve
Again, this is not something we just say, “let’s go.” Planning a day trip to this iconic national park takes advance planning and a decent budget. Katmai National Park’s waterfalls are world-famous for watching brown bears catch salmon. This is as close as you will safely get to the wild, without being in the wild. Another once-in-a-lifetime experience!
Enjoy tax-free shopping
Besides the shopping centers around Anchorage where you can find big brand names, I also enjoy shopping at local boutiques like Blush Boutique in downtown Anchorage. Even if the price is the same, you are saving tax dollars here in Anchorage!