Anchorage’s downtown offers shopping options, tourist attractions and a range of restaurants and bars. It’s conveniently compact for visitors who are ready to explore on foot.
Of the roughly 732,600 people who live in Alaska, nearly 292,000 people call Anchorage home. While the town proper sprawls across 1,706 square miles, the downtown core is neatly compressed, the oldest developed part of the city. Its sensible street grids render it pleasantly walkable and easily navigable, a bonus for tourists who are lodging downtown or visitors who build an Anchorage stop into itineraries.
Start your urban adventure at the central Log Cabin Visitor Information Center at the corner of F Street and Fourth Avenue. Staffed year-round by well-versed hosts, you’ll find information about Anchorage history, general visitor guides and access to out-of-town excursions and city tours. Also of note, across the downtown corridor, interpretive sidewalk signs tell stories of Anchorage’s earliest days and signal important landmarks.
While the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake destroyed many of Anchorage’s older buildings, significant historic structures remain. Next to the visitor center sits the two-story cast concrete Historic City Hall, which first opened in 1936. Its lawn is often fronted by summer vendors selling ever-popular reindeer hot dogs and sometimes hosts outdoor public concerts.
Nearby, a handful of charming circa-1915 cottages on Third Avenue are among the city’s original homes. Just below downtown in Ship Creek, the Alaska Railroad Anchorage Depot, built in 1942, still serves the state’s rails today.
The circa-1915 Oscar Anderson House Museum at 420 M St. today is surrounded by a charming park, a quiet corner of downtown where kids can burn off some energy. The house, which in past summers has opened to tourists, is a peek back in time to the pioneer days, when namesake Anderson claimed to be the 18th settler to arrive in “Tent City.” His widow donated the property to posterity in 1976.
Other downtown stops for the historically curious include the Anchorage Museum, at 625 C St., packed with historical, arts and cultural exhibits, and the Fraternal Order of the Alaska State Troopers Alaska Law Enforcement Museum, boasting the state’s only collection of historical law enforcement memorabilia.
The Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery, established in 1915 by President Woodrow Wilson, is the final resting place for some of Anchorage’s most significant pioneers and historical figures, including Alaska Native leaders, politicians and artists. The 22-acre cemetery covers a nine-block area and offers contemplative space for walking along its footpaths.
Downtown’s shopping options help pass the time too. The Anchorage 5th Avenue Mall has lost many retailers in recent years, though it still has local and chain stores of interest, and a food court with affordable dining options.
Seeking authentic Alaska treasures? Venture beyond the mall and wander downtown’s streets, lined with tourist shops selling reasonably priced T-shirts, hats and trinkets. More valuable Alaska mementos like fur, ivory and Alaska Native art are sold at higher-end boutiques.
A couple spots to not miss: the Sevigny Studio (314 G St.) sells locally crafted jewelry, pottery and artwork, including work by its namesake Katie Sevigny; and The Kobuk (504 W. Fifth Ave.) is a charming shop selling locally made collectibles and global crafts, foreign foods, gourmet candies and a wide range of tea.
Anchorage dining and nightlife
Anchorage’s nighttime pursuits range from sporty pubs to higher-end cocktail bars to no-frills Alaska dive bars. A hot ticket during Anchorage’s long-lit summer days is to score a patio or deck seat and soak in the novelty of late-day sunshine.
For pub-crawling, begin at the corner of F Street and Sixth Avenue, across from the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts, where a nexus of bars includes Humpy’s Great Alaskan Alehouse (610 W. Sixth Ave.). The menu covers the gamut of Alaska pub grub, like fried halibut and king crab nuggets with garlic aioli, and its expansive beer selection is top-tier. Next door to Humpy’s is Flattop Pizza + Pool (600 W. Sixth Ave.), featuring a laid-back urban vibe.
Across the street, Williwaw Social (601 F St.) boasts a rooftop bar that opens on nice summer days and is unparalleled for its sun-soaked views of Anchorage’s Town Square. A second option for open-air patio time is 49th State Brewing Co. (717 W. Third Ave.), whose deck overlooks Cook Inlet and even the tip-top of Denali during favorably clear conditions.
For a fancier evening, several fine-dining restaurants downtown have similarly delicious cocktail creations and extensive wine selections.
Ginger (425 W. Fifth Ave.) serves Pacific Rim-influenced cuisine with a modern, warm aesthetic and a chic bar. Crush (328 G St.) features wine flights from an impressive cellar presented by competent staff, alongside shareable small plates and seasonally sourced entrees.
Haute Quarter Grill (525 W. Fourth Ave.) boasts upscale American cuisine, featuring Alaska seafood and home-grown produce whenever possible. This is a great spot on a warm summer night when the bar opens up its front-facing accordion walls and diners can enjoy patio seating.
Looking for a view? Check out Simon & Seafort’s, and enjoy craft cocktails and Alaska seafood while staring out at pretty Cook Inlet. Or head to the top floor of the Hotel Captain Cook where dining or the bar at Crow’s Nest promises impressive views of downtown and the Chugach Mountains.
For a more laid-back dive-bar experience, and a chance to mingle with friendly locals, try Darwin’s Theory (426 G St.) or Pioneer Bar (739 W. Fourth Ave). Both share commonalities: long legacies, personable bartenders, and affordable drinks.
Mad Myrna’s (530 E. Fifth Ave.) is downtown’s lively and welcoming gay club, recently remodeled. With drag shows, cabaret performances, karaoke nights and dancing, Myrna’s is a true standout with a high-energy vibe and a long tradition of inclusive entertainment in the Last Frontier.