Awesome Anchorage

Jul 1, 2019
Destinations / North America

ANCHORAGE THRIVES as the center of commerce for the state of Alaska. A number of improvements on the horizon and already in the works will further enhance the city as a center for business and leisure travel.

“Anchorage is a great destination for business travelers, but some of the city’s future plans could make this great destination even greater,” says Christopher M. Schutte, director, Office of Economic & Community Development, Municipality of Anchorage.

While Anchorage struggled with job loss for the last three years, 2019 is projected to see a trend reversal, with 0.2 percent job growth.

“Anchorage remains an exciting place to do business as the effects of the Alaska recession have slowed. Our average hourly earnings are now ranked 10th in the nation, and we project job growth in the visitor industry, construction employment and health care-related fields,” Schutte says. A record number of cruise ship passengers in 2019 will boost the leisure and hospitality industries.

Many travelers first interact with Anchorage through its Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, serving more than 5.6 million passengers annually. The airport ranks No. 2 in the United States for landed weight of cargo aircraft and among the top five in the world for cargo throughput, with more than 2.79 million metric tons of air cargo moved each year. The airport is a powerful economic engine for Anchorage, generating 15,577 jobs at the airport itself and throughout the wider community — amounting to one in 10 jobs in Anchorage. All told, the airport generates more than $1 billion in annual earnings.

Among the most exciting leisure upgrades in the works is the popular Campbell Creek Trail, which will improve wayfinding signage to help users navigate the city. Other updates are planned for several popular parks, including Elderberry Park downtown, Dave Rose Park in east Anchorage, Cuddy Family Park in midtown near “hotel row,” and Tikishla Park near the University-Medical District.

Business travelers will have more lodging choices as new hotels come online. Two new additions in Midtown are the $15 million, 148-room Hyatt Place Anchorage- Midtown near the edge of Cuddy Family Park and the 144-room Hyatt House Anchorage. The city is also renovating its downtown Transit Center and an as-yet unbranded 120-room boutique hotel attached to an existing eight-story public parking garage.

Heralding exciting dining changes at the Anchorage Museum, Laura Cole will be overseeing the kitchen at Muse, the museum’s full-service restaurant and café. Cole, a Top Chef alumna, is a 2019 James Beard Award semifinalist for her work at 229 Parks Restaurant and Tavern outside of Denali National Park. Anchorage eagerly anticipates her contributions to the local dining scene.

On a neighborhood level, a number of additions make Anchorage’s enclaves more enticing than ever. South Anchorage’s neighborhoods in particular are experiencing a renaissance, driven in large part by a boom in craft breweries. Longtime favorite King Street Brewing Co. opened a larger facility with a restaurant recently, and Turnagain Brewing opened as the 12th brewery in the Municipality of Anchorage. The newcomer focuses on Belgian-style beers, with a lineup ranging from an Alaskan raspberry lambic to a saison and Flanders-style red.

Bear Tooth Theatrepub exterior

Bear Tooth Theatrepub exterior © THEATREPUB

Anchorage’s Spenard neighborhood recently opened Writer’s Block Bookstore, intended as a gathering place for the city’s literati. And a new food hall is in the works from the owners of neighborhood favorite Bear Tooth Theatrepub.

This spring, the Alaska Public Lands Information Center unveiled its remodel. The renovation adds new permanent exhibits on Alaska’s flora, fauna, geology and history, and tells visitors about outdoor opportunities. The additions simulate walking across a glacier, with lifelike recreations of the landscape. Travelers can stop by for guidance on planning outdoor adventures from National Park Service rangers who staff the information desk.

Also new: tour options around Anchorage for land and water exploration. This past winter, Snowhook Adventure Guides added new snowmobile and fat tire bike tours to its lineup of dog mushing excursions. On Prince William Sound, Phillips Cruises and Tours expanded with a new vessel, Bravest, offering day cruises from the port town of Whittier. The high-speed catamaran, the company’s third vessel on the sound, can carry 285 passengers. Lazy Otter Charter also has a new boat in Voyager, a 46-foot, 30-passenger catamaran sailing out of Whittier on half- and full-day cruises.

SCENIC DRIVES

Head north to a string of worthwhile stops including the Eagle River Nature Center, with interpretive programs and hikes to suit all abilities. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife, including moose, beavers and spawning salmon — all visible from the boardwalks. From there, track back toward town for a stop in Arctic Valley, a secluded area in the Chugach Mountains with short day hikes sporting views of the city skyline, Denali and the Eagle River Valley. In late summer the area is popular for wild blueberry picking.

Opt for a road trip south of the city on the Seward Highway, along Cook Inlet. The route, both an All-American Road and a National Scenic Byway, offers plenty in the way of mountain and water views. As you hug the edge of Turnagain Arm, look for beluga whales, Dall’s sheep and bald eagles. You might stop in Girdwood for a walk on a paved trail through the temperate rainforest to hidden waterfalls, or opt for a flightseeing tour above the glaciers. Glacier trekking tours are also a possibility here. Continuing to Portage, try the Trail of Blue Ice for easy access to glacier views, and visit the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. Out of Whittier, you can book a cruise on Prince William Sound.

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