Alaskans sometimes deride Anchorage as being “only 30 minutes from the real Alaska,” and it’s true that for decades Anchorage was not much more than the gateway to the vast natural beauty that is “America’s Last Frontier.” But with about 50 percent of Alaskans—nearly 400,000 people—now living in the Anchorage metro area, there is more to Anchorage than just the nature that surrounds it.
This young but rapidly growing city has come a long way from its beginnings in 1915 as a temporary railroad camp. Today, Anchorage is one of the wealthiest cities per capita in the United States. Be sure to visit the Anchorage Museum downtown for an overview of Alaskan history, anthropology and art both traditional and modern.
Although Western civilization is new here, Alaska Natives are likely the oldest of human civilizations on the American continent, with a culture possibly the best preserved. Alaska Natives make up 20 percent of the state’s population, and 22 indigenous languages are still spoken in homes here. The Alaska Native Heritage Center, easily accessible by free shuttle from downtown, is ground zero to learn more about the diversity of these ancient cultures.
Summers are gloriously mild here, with up to 20 hours of sunlight per day—and winter, though harsh, is full of exciting festivals such as the world-famous Iditarod dog sled race in March. With the world’s busiest seaplane port and North America’s last full-service railroad operating here, it’s easy to plan wilderness excursions of every kind right from downtown Anchorage. And because natural wonders are so close, you can easily venture out by day and be snugly back in the city in time for a four-star dinner and lively bar scene.