Great Ways to Spend Two Days in Anchorage, Alaska

Great Ways to Spend Two Days

IN ANCHORAGE ALASKA

Anchorage, Alaska, the gateway to visiting the 49th state, entices visitors to enjoy its offerings before venturing off to more far-flung destinations.  Here, we share our awesome two-day itinerary as we explored the northernmost state capital in the United States.

When we visited

We visited in early August 2021.  We had pretty typical weather for this time of year.  Generally the temperatures were in the 60s, the clouds were ever-present and low-lying, and we had a couple of rainy spells.  Anchorage lies right on the Gulf of Alaska, which directly affects its weather.

Where we stayed

Anchorage Marriott Downtown | Anchorage, Alaska

We were happy with our stay at the Marriott.  The location was great, walkable to a lot of places downtown, the valet was easy to drop off and pick up our car, and the concierge lounge is where we ate breakfast every morning.  We also ate dinner and lunch a few times right at the hotel in the lobby as it was a lovely setting.  The food and drinks were excellent!

We enjoyed our time in Anchorage, even though we were eager to explore further beyond the city.  We spent two days in Anchorage and it’s surrounding area and were happy with that amount of time spent here.

Biking the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail

Anchorage may be a major city but it definitely has a small town feel.  It also has an incredible amount of nature surrounding it, one being the coast.  The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail departs downtown Anchorage and leads cyclists and pedestrians on an 11-mile-one-way path.  The trail winds along the coast, meanders through beautiful forests, skirts a fault line, passes the airport with planes flying right over your head, and gives you an opportunity to spot moose or even black bear!  How’s that for a city biking trail!

We rented bikes from Pablo’s Bicycle Rentals, located on L Street.  We parked our car in the small parking lot across the street at the corner of L St. and 4th Ave.  The folks at Pablo’s were helpful in getting us bikes and helmets and soon we were on our way!

To enter the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail we walked our bikes down steep 5th Ave to Elderberry Park and then we were on the trail.

We started off going through a couple of tunnels, passing walkers and joggers, and sharing the trail with fellow cyclists. 

The beginning of the trail

We hugged the coastline of Cook Inlet where whales are often spotted.  The clouds were low-lying for us this day so we did not get the great views of the Chugach Mountains and Denali in the distance, but if you’re lucky enough to get a clear day the views will be phenomenal.

The trail hugs the coast when first starting out 

As we continued on, the crowds thinned out and we soon had the trail to ourselves.  We stopped at Earthquake Park at mile 5.1.  Here you will see a large sign with information about the most devastating earthquake to ever hit north America.  It happened on March 27, 1964, on Good Friday, and measured 9.2 on the Richter scale.  The land here is forever changed due to the earthquake with rippling hills, a direct cause right below the viewing area.

After a brief stop at Earthquake Park, we headed further down the trail until we came to the spot to watch planes take off from the Anchorage Airport.  We hopped off our bikes and took a rest break on a grassy knoll across the street from the airport.  Here you’ll get the chance to watch massive planes take off and fly directly over head.  It was exciting for sure!

The further onto the trail we got the more quiet it became and further away from Anchorage it felt.  We kept our eyes out for moose who are known to frequent the trail and also the occasional black bear.  We had high hopes to see some wildlife but with the exception of bear scat right on the trail we didn’t see anything.  

What a lovely trail

Once we reached mile 8 we turned around and headed back.  Going back was much faster because those hills we climbed on the way out were now all downhill!  We had a great time cruising back to town.  We had just biked 16 miles and loved it!

Tunnel view on the way back

The Anchorage Museum

We had plans to go on a flightseeing tour out of Anchorage, but in the morning the flight was cancelled due to low-lying clouds and fog.  We opted to visit the Anchorage Museum and enjoyed our time there.

The grounds are beautiful with a lovely garden area and walking paths.  The building is also aesthetically pleasing with its contemporary design.  

We walked in and purchased tickets.  Lockers are available for a quarter, at which the front desk is happy to loan out with the promise you’ll return it when done :). We stored our stuff and went off to explore.

We headed straight up to the third floor, the Northern Soundscapes.  This was really an intriguing exhibit where one stands in a half-booth while sounds play.  Listed on the interior of the booth are the location of the sounds and what you’ll hear.  Close your eyes and you’ll be transported to a northern location with intriguing sounds.

Listening in at the Northern Soundscapes Gallery

The Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center was incredible.  Aisles and aisles of native dress and artifacts from the First Peoples of Alaska were on display.  Braden especially loved the ceremonial masks.  There are also multimedia stations displaying contemporary native life as well as native storytellers.

This section was our favorite part

There is also a large section dedicated to Art of the North as well as the Alaska Exhibition.  For younger guests, there is a great hands-on area for kids to learn by play.

We highly recommend this museum!

Alyeska Resort

Once again we tried to get on the flightseeing tour the next day and once again the clouds were too low-lying and the fog too dense.  So instead we spent the day in Girdwood, about a 40 mile drive from Anchorage via Alaska Highway 1, visiting two great places.  First up was the Alyeska Resort.

The Alyeska Resort is a year-round resort, serving skiiers in the winter and hikers in the summer.  It is a beautiful property with multiple restaurants, walking paths, and a hiking trail up to the top of Mount Alyeska.  

The aerial tramway is another feature that draws guests in the summer months.  A quick 4 minute ride to the top of Mounta Alyeska at 2300 feet gives one incredible views in every direction.  As long as the skies are clear, that is! 

Ticket in hand to ride the tram up to the top of Mt. Alyeska

One can hike up the winding trail to get to the top, although another great option is take the tram up and hike down.

The aerial tram heading up to the top of Mt. Alyeska

We didn’t have our hiking shoes with us when we visited so we opted to just take the tram both up and down the mountain. 

Once we reached the top, the cloud cover was really thick.  We couldn’t even see a short distance below!  It was kind of a cool setting though, sort of ethereal.

We were IN the clouds!

The clouds were coming and going throughout our time here so we would wait patiently for the clouds to move out.  As soon as we got great views we would take in the scenery. 

Stopping to take in the views

We then kept climbing beyond the top of Mt. Alyeska as there was snow at the very top!   

Continuing on the trail from the top of Mt. Alyeska

It was warm and bugs were flying about yet we made it to the snow!  

Down below was the building at the top of Mt. Alyeska that held a bar and restaurant, gift shop that also shared the history of the resort, and plenty of indoor and outdoor seating.  

View looking down at the building at the top of Mt. Alyeska with Turnagain Arm in the distance

Looking down at the Alyeska Resort

After we had come down via the tram we took a lunch break at The Pond restaurant right at the resort.  We had a good meal with a great view.  This was a great way to spend our first day in Alaska.

The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

This is located about 15 miles from the Alyeska Resort via AK-1 so it was easy to add on to our day in Girdwood.  The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is a non-profit organization dedicated to education, research, and rehabilitation of Alaska’s wildlife.  While here, get great views of moose, stand face-to-face with grizzlies, visit a bald eagle with an amputated wing, and see many other animals getting rehabilitated.

Our favorite exhibit was the grizzlies.  We had hoped to see grizzly bears while in Alaska but did not necessarily want to see them while out and about!  The conservation center separates visitors and the bears with two fences, one being electric. 

Our first up close view with a grizzly

Even with that in place, we still felt our hearts beat fast when the grizzly stood up observing us!

Standing up to observe the onlookers

They are massive creatures and were amazing to see.  The grizzlies were walking about right along the fence line and at one point one dug at something in the dirt, jumped, and hurdled it’s huge body down the hill into the water.  It then sat in the water for a bit!

Relaxing in the water – I zoomed in so you don’t see the fence here, which made for an alarming photo I sent my family back home!

A metal walkway takes people above the large area where the bears live to observe from another safe point of view.

The raised walkway through the grizzly bear habitat

One can choose to walk the entire wildlife center or drive without getting out of the car.  We chose a combination, driving to the areas we wanted to see up close and walking up to the animals to observe closer.  We all appreciated the mission of the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center and were so glad to have visited.

We only had two days in Anchorage before venturing off to the Kenai Peninsula, but got a good feel for the city and immediate surrounding area.  Anchorage has some nice things to do even if the bigger appeal is far flung adventures throughout the state.  Hopefully this guide will give you a good start of things to do in Anchorage on your Alaskan adventure!

Read More!

While in Alaska, we also visited the Kenai Peninsula.  Read about our time there in our post, Best Things to do on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska.

Dietary Notes

As always, everyone’s needs are different.  At press time my husband is grain-free and two of our kids are allergic to nuts and eggs.  Although we encompass a fair amount of dietary restrictions, we can only offer advice as to what pertains to our own family, as that is where our expertise lies!

While in Anchorage, we dined out at 49th State Brewery and Moose’s Tooth Pub & Pizzeria.  Both had options available to those of us with dietary restrictions which was great.  We also ate breakfast daily in the concierge lounge at the Marriott Hotel we were staying at and also grabbed lunch and dinner here a couple of times.

On our day out in Girdwood, we ate at The Pond restaurant at the Alyeska Resort which also easily accommodated our restrictions.

For more on traveling with dietary restrictions, be sure to check out our guide:  On the Go with Allergies.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. hough ava

    this is awesome! that one girl in the flannel is so pretty!

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