Anchorage Travel Information

United States > US City Index > Anchorage > History

Anchorage at nightA mix of the familiar and unusual, metropolitan and wilderness, it's not uncommon to see moose walk through the parking lots of skyscrapers in downtown, or to be stuck in traffic while sled dogs fill the road to begin the Iditarod. Built at the edge of the Knik Arm, which is part of the Pacific's Cook Inlet, this largest city in Alaska is at sea level, and cradled east and west between the Chugach Range rising to 13,000 feet, and the always snow-capped Alaska Range rising beyond 20,000 feet from the west side of the Knik Arm.

Government Hill
This oldest of districts and the northernmost part of Anchorage was one of many places that felt the destruction of the 1964 earthquake, when 400 feet of its bluff collapsed, destroying a school and dropping the raiload yard and shipyard by 30 feet. Only partially rebuilt, its shipyard has six fuel ports, that handle approximately 15 million barrels of petroleum each year and the Alaska Railroad operates daily with freight and passenger service. You'll find The Sourdough Motel in this district, along with several restaurants, small businesses and gas stations. The residential area here is home to railroad and shipyard employees as well as off-base military personnel.

Ship Creek
Selected as the original tenting site of pioneers arriving to build the railroad, in 1914-1915, they filled the area down by Ship Creek first, then spread north up to Government Hill. During summer, join the fun of amusement rides, car races and the Saturday Market. Ship Creek is a great place to be when the salmon are spawning, and provides excellent salmon fishing (approximately 9000 king salmon spawn here yearly). The large parking lots used by fishermen in summer host the ice sculpting contests during the February Fur Rendezvous Festival.

Teeming with activity and filled with high-rise buildings, businesses, restaurants and hotels, you can see the historic 4th Avenue Theatre, lunch at the Downtown Deli, and check out the Club Paris restaurant and nightclub. From the log cabin that houses the visitor's center, view 20 storied hotels, such as the landmark Captain Cook Hotel, a brand new Marriott, and the downtown Hilton. Several blocks away are glass walled skyscrapers of the multi-billion dollar oil industry offices and other business firms. Nearby, the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts, offers local and international opera, theatre, dance, chorus and symphony performances. From its second floor, take the Fifth Avenue skywalk to overlook the town square, while walking to the Egan Convention Center. Here also, is the Anchorage Fifth Avenue Mall, containing The Gap, Nordstrom, and others, as well as housing the Sullivan's Steakhouse Restaurant, and Alaska State Troopers' Museum.

Don't miss Captain Cook's Resolution Park platform, at the Inlet's edge. With the telescope available, you can close the 120 mile gap between yourself and Mt. McKinley and see why, this mountain, of 20,320 feet, is referred to as the "Great One".

In this "practical district" you'll find schools, gas stations, and grocery stores spread across an alluvial plane. You can find any type of food here from Chinese, Italian, Greek, and Japanese as well as a selection of busy nightclubs. Shopping here includes the R.E.I. outdoor store, Barnes & Noble Bookstore, and more while the Northern Lights Hotel, the Hampton Inn, and SpringHill Suites welcome guests to this area. At the west edge of Midtown and on the waterfront, find the sumptuous Knik and Turnagain Arm homes, many still owned by the founding families of this state.

Spenard District - Central,West
Once considered the "red light district" due to the heavy presence of massage parlors and escort services, a revitalization program has cleaned up the area and brought in many new businesses. The closest thing to "bohemia" in Anchorage, there are new cafes and juice bars here, like the Organic Oasis, and Q Cafe, and a recent addition, the Doggie Diner and Coffeehouse (a dog cafe, with coffee for humans, & 30 kinds of "cookies" for dogs). Some of the older Anchorage flavors remain, like Chilkoot Charlie's Nightclub, (dirt floor and stump seating), and The Fly By Night Club (with music and comedy acts), and Gwennies, an Alaskan restaurant. Brand new hotels like the Holiday Inn Express, and the Longhouse Alaskan Hotel, as well as seasoned hotels like the Regal Alaskan, and the Best Western Barratt Inn are near the airport and fill this area.

Near here is a fantastic viewing spot by the airport, named Pt. Woronzof. Because Anchorage grew out from the water's edge, and the Turnagain Arm is a semi-circle, Pt. Woronzof's view from atop an 80 foot bluff, is directly across the water to the Anchorage downtown skyline. This is also near Lake Hood's floatplane runway with an average of 225 takeoffs and landings daily. Several flying services provide fishing, hunting, or sightseeing adventures located on the shores of this lake.

South District
This trail-filled district, begins at Dimond Blvd, location of the Dimond Mall Shopping Center with more than 200 shops. The Siam Cuisine restaurant, and the Southside Bistro provide some of the first-class, yet casual dining in this district. Pockets of business areas dot the residential areas made up of wide yards and quiet neighborhoods. Campbell Creek Greenbelt winds its way through the South and Midtown districts beginning at Dimond Blvd and stretching three miles to the east next to salmon spawning streams and several small lakes. Another three mile trail is the Connors Lake trail for hiking and cross-country skiing. Here, residential areas circle several small lakes, such as Campbell Lake, which is also a float plane runway, and many of its residents park their floatplanes in their back "yard." Also in this district, from the far west end, is the Kincaid Park. It is home to the Blues on the Green music festivals, and hosts many special events and races in 40 miles of beautiful, wild, woods teeming with moose. The Kincaid Park may be accessed by traveling from the downtown, Tony Knowles Coastal Trail to its southernmost point, which ends at Kincaid.

University District - Central
Tucked between Midtown and Muldoon, this district of the University of Alaska, Anchorage and the private Alaska Pacific University, together swallow up nearly a mile square that includes two small lakes and a multitude of walking and biking trails. In these casual campuses, professors are nearly always referred to by their first names, by students who sometimes cross-country ski to class. Many sky bridges and buildings joined by hallways help in avoiding the elements. Across the street from the Providence Medical Center, the UAA campus is home to the popular Seawolves Hockey Team which recruits international and local players, and, drawing from the vast expanse of Alaska, their student body's second highest ethnicity is Alaskan Native. APU draws students from around the nation for their Christian liberal arts program and both schools have busy schedules of music, drama and dance performances.

Muldoon - East
This blue collar neighborhood, in addition to its residential pockets, contains the Northway Mall, the Alaskan Native Heritage Center, the Botanical Gardens, the attention grabbing Saint Innocent Orthodox Cathedral with its 12 "onion" shaped domes, the Totem Cinemas Theatre and restaurants such as the vegetarian friendly, Thai Kitchen, or the Club 210 East, and the hotel, Ramada Limited. The 10 mile Muldoon/Tudor trail winds its way from the Centennial Camper Park east to the Spenard Recreation Center for the biker or hiker in you, to enjoy.

Hillside - Far East
Hillside, east of Muldoon is strictly a residential area of huge, beautiful homes, built up the lower hills of the Chugach Range which provide exceptional views of the city, Inlet, and the Alaska Range. These homes are constructed to withstand the 40-100 mile per hour winds that are not infrequent in this location.

Mountain View - Northeast
Just across the Glenn Hwy from Muldoon, and a mile east of downtown, is the home of the busiest noncommercial runway in the United States. The Merrill Field Airport averages 567 takeoffs and landings daily and was the first recognized runway in the Alaskan Territory back in 1930. This district is one of the earliest residential areas, and is community oriented, with many small businesses and a community health center, that provides no-cost medical treatment. The Mountain View community has built a Recreation Center completely outfitted with a dance studio, martial arts room, gameroom and more, for the benefit and use of its locals. Acting as the northeastern boundary of Anchorage, beyond it lies Fort Richardson and Elmendorf Air Force Bases and the city of Eagle River.


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