I’m posting this after completing a short, weekend trip to Anchorage, Alaska as part of a mileage run to hit the American Airlines Executive Platinum Status Challenge. Anchorage is a great place to spend a day, and obviously a fantastic hopping off point to explore more of Alaska, including Denali, the Kenai Peninsula, or even an Alaskan cruise. If you haven’t been, I highly recommend you actually spend some time in Alaska – certainly more than 24 hours. I’ve been fortunate enough to take two cruises to Alaska, so I’ve been able to experience the majestic scenery of the Last Frontier. I also spent a couple days in Anchorage last summer for a quick, weekend trip.
With that said, there’s no shortage of things to do if you have a short time in Anchorage – whether it’s a free day after a cruise, a hopping off point before or after a fishing trip, or if you find it amusing to fly almost 10,000 miles in a weekend, like me.
Anchorage’s Ted Stevens International Airport is situated a short distance from downtown. You can reach downtown by cab for about $20, or you can take the People Mover – the Anchorage city bus directly to downtown for $2 (bus 7A). The schedule is a bit limited, so some planning is needed for this option, but it’s a great way to save a few bucks.
The heart of Downtown Anchorage is spread over about 50 square blocks (~5 X 10) at the base of the Chugach Mountain Range and on the shore of the Cook Inlet and Turnagain Arm.
Where to stay
There are a number of hotels in downtown Anchorage, including Marriott, Hilton, and Sheraton properties. There are dozens of other hotels spread throughout Anchorage (downtown and uptown), the nicest of which is probably the Captain Cook hotel. On my last two trips to Anchorage, I’ve decided to forgo spending points or cash on a hotel, and instead opted to stay in a hostel – the Bent Prop Inn, Downtown. The Bent Prop Inn is located in the middle of downtown, directly next door to the Marriott. This small property features private rooms or dorm-style rooms for eight. The beds are fine, the shower is warm, there is a cozy public space with sofas, a television and a kitchen, and the staff is incredibly friendly. For $30 per night, it’s a steal considering most other hotels downtown regularly go for over $250 per night during the summer time. I highly recommend this option if you’re just looking for a place to rest for the evening.
Eating in Downtown Anchorage
When I think Alaska, I think crab, salmon and halibut. Luckily, in Anchorage, there is no shortage of either of these. For breakfast, THE place to go is Snow City Café. Probably the most popular breakfast spot in town, Snow City Café boasts a wonderful menu of traditional breakfast dishes with an Alaskan twist, such as Kodiak Eggs Benedict (crab cake), the Crabby Omelette, or multiple other dishes with crab or salmon. Yesterday morning I enjoyed the Kodiak Eggs Benedict, and it was absolutely delicious.
For lunch and dinner, there are a few places with fantastic halibut – both grilled and fish and chips – style (fried). Humpy’s is a favorite of mine. With a fantastic local beer selection, Humpy’s features great halibut fish and chips, and their grilled halibut is equally fantastic. My favorite fried halibut in Anchorage can be found at F Street Station – simply amazing. Other popular restaurants in Anchorage include the Glacier Brewhouse, and the Moosetooth for Pizza. More food pics from my last trip to Anchorage can be found here.
Day Trips / Getting to Girdwood and the Alyeska Resort
There are a multitude of day trip options if you only have a day in Anchorage. Many local companies offer day-long excursions to the neighboring Chugach Mountains, as well as wildlife cruises and seaplane flights to Denali and Mt. McKinley.
Another option for a day trip is a trip to Girdwood and the Alyeska Resort. A major ski resort in the winter time, Alyeska is a wonderful mountain paradise in the summer time, as well! Last summer, I took the Great Alaskan Railroad to Girdwood in order to experience Alyeska. This year, after waking up to perfect weather, I opted to rent a car ($40) for a drive up Seward Highway along Turnagain Arm to the Alyeska Resort.
And what a drive it was! The scenery speaks for itself.
I arrived at the Alyeska resort and hotel and briefly walked through the hotel before purchasing a tram ticket up the mountain for $25. The five-minute tram ride delivered me about 2/3 of the way up the mountain to a landing area with a few restaurants and observation decks. Again, I was here last summer, so I immediately wanted to hike up Mt. Alyeska further than I did last time.
The views on this clear day were incredible.
Finally, I reached the top of the hiking trail — the sign pretty much indicated that I was done with my hike!
After working up a bit of a sweat on the mountain, I relaxed in the comfortable lounge of the hotel before driving back to Anchorage for my flight back to Washington (via Dallas / Fort Worth). I’d wanted to grab a meal at the highly regarded Jack Sprat in Girdwood, but they didn’t start serving dinner until a little later than what worked for me. So instead, I hit the road for Anchorage. Again, the 45-minute drive back featured stunning scenery. En route back to Anchorage, I did stop by Indian Valley Meats to buy some elk jerky for a friend — trust me, it’s delicious!
I returned the rental car, proceeded through security, and made my way to the Alaska Airlines Boardroom to get some work done before my red-eye to DFW.
If you only have 24 hours, I highly recommend getting out of Anchorage for the day. While there are some great dining options in Anchorage, there’s simply too much else to do in the area surrounding Anchorage to just sit in a bar or hotel all day. I certainly packed in a bunch of stuff in my short time here. Alaska is a beautiful state, and the area surrounding Anchorage features some of the most stunning geography and views in the World. I feel incredibly lucky to have had the chance to spend the weekend there!