Anchorage is the largest city in Alaska, with 286,000 residents, about 40% of the total population of Alaska. It lies at the upper terminus of Cook Inlet, an arm of the Pacific Ocean. As a major destination for tourism, the oil business, and international commerce, Anchorage has nearly every amenity imaginable for the traveler. The city is host to the University of Alaska Anchorage, and Pacific Alaska University. Despite being a large, modern city, it is just moments away from the wilds, in fact bears and moose are regular sights in city parks, not to mention backyards. The Kenai Peninsula, known as "Alaska's playground" lies to the south of Anchorage, the Matanuska-Susitna valley (or Mat-Su) is to the north. Chugach National Forest runs along the Southern end of the city, with Kenai Fjords and the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge beyond. Denali National Park, an International Biosphere Reserve that is home to an astounding variety of wildlife as well as the highest peak in North America, is about a five hour drive or train trip from the city. In short, there is no shortage of both educational and recreational opportunities in South Central Alaska.
Anchorage has everything you would expect in a modern city; public transportation, internet cafes, nightclubs and bars, 3D IMAX movie theaters, luxury hotels and resorts, and of course the ubiquitous drive-up espresso stands. For the more budget-minded there are hostels and campgrounds both in and near the city, and endless opportunities for backcountry exploration. The Alaska Railroad is a inexpensive and stress free way to explore the areas to the North and South of the city. There are also important cultural and educational sites such as the Anchorage Museum, which is both a history and art museum with a focus on Alaska's history, and the Alaska Native Heritage Center, which documents the history of Alaska's indigenous population and includes authentic native dwellings in a wooded outdoor setting. Anchorage is also host to more specialized cultural experiences such as the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum, which chronicles the significant history aviation has played in developing Alaska, the Alaska Zoo, whose collection consists of animals from around the globe that live in Northern arctic and subarctic climates, and the Alaska Botanical Garden which showcases the astounding variety of plant life found in Alaska.
Alaska's free-spirited attitude means a wide variety of nightlife is available for those who are way out of their time zones. Anchorage has every kind of eatery; you can get a sit down meal of fresh crab, salmon, or other Alaskan seafood, or just grab a burger and fries, and you can get pizza delivered anywhere at any time. Bars and nightclubs are only required by state law to be closed from 5 to 8 A.M. Anchorage exercises "local option" under state law and closes their bars earlier, but establishments in nearby Palmer and Wasilla are open to the legal limit. Coffee and espresso is available everywhere at all hours of the day and night. And it's all casual, Alaskans generally aren't real interested in wearing suits and ties. In high summer it doesn't really get dark at night, it just gets "dim" for a few hours, so outdoor activities of all sorts are viable at hours they would not be at other latitudes. In fact, visitors at that time of year often have to be reminded to get some sleep, as the midnight sun and the infectiously frenetic Alaskan attitude can be disorienting to a newcomer.
- w:University of Alaska Anchorage
- w:Pacific Alaska University
- w:Alaska Native Heritage Center
- w:William A. Egan Civic and Convention Center
- w:Dena'ina Civic and Convention Center
- w:Alaska Center for the Performing Arts
- Camping $10-$20
- RV camping $25.00-$75.00 depending on amenities
- Hostels $30-$50
- Hotels $85-$200 on average in summer season, with luxury hotels and lodges as much as $250-$500
- Possible use of student housing at UAA is being explored, no cost estimates as yet