Things to do in Anchorage, Alaska: A three minute guide

WHY 

Alaska is still the "last frontier", as its number plates claim, and Anchorage (anchorage.net) is the gateway to its wilderness by land or cruise; some nature trails start just 20 minutes beyond the city. But don't just pass through this splendidly located city. The raw, remote nature of Anchorage is nicely balanced by terrific museums, friendly people and interesting native arts and crafts shopping. It also, remarkably, boasts three of the US'  top 10 neighbourhoods for ethnic diversity. 

VISIT

Anchorage Museum (anchoragemuseum.org) is world class, with wonderful displays of native clothing and tools, recreations of gold miner and early settler cabins, and absorbing exhibits on Alaskan history and the oil industry. Also excellent is the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum (alaskaairmuseum.org) on the shores of the world's busiest seaplane base. Alaska Zoo (alaskazoo.org) has low-key charm and native wildlife such as musk ox, wolves, otters and bears; watching the polar bears swim underwater is marvellous.

EAT 

Don't miss breakfast or brunch at cosy Snow City Cafe (snowcitycafe.com), which has great salmon cakes and a half-dozen varieties of eggs benedict, and is perennially packed with locals. South (southak.com) has hearty soups, salads and sandwiches to fuel you  if you're heading to Flattop Mountain. For dinner, Jen's Restaurant (jensrestaurant.com) has creative Alaskan fare and an impressive list of wines by the glass, while Orso (orsoalaska.com) tempts with seafood, steaks and locally grown vegetables.

LOOK

The cultural heritage of Alaska's 11 major native groups – including Athabascans, Cup'ik and Haida – is on show at the Alaska Native Heritage Centre (alaskanative.net) on the outskirts of town. Regular performances of traditional dance, sport and storytelling are interspersed with informative explanations; there are also handicraft demonstrations. Expansive grounds are dotted with native dwellings, where eager cultural hosts answer questions about house building and traditional life, providing an excellent overview of native heritage  before exploring Alaska.

MUST

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Wilderness is remarkably accessible from Anchorage. Head into the Chugach Mountains (dnr.alaska.gov/parks/) for hiking and mountain biking; the most accessible walk is the five-kilometre Glen Alps Trailhead loop around Flattop Mountain with panoramic views over city, snow peaks and ocean. Tony Knowles Coastal Trail (anchoragecoastaltrail.com) is a water-hugging, 11-kilometre cycle or walking path straight from downtown. Don't miss the late-afternoon, high-tide salmon run at Ship Creek, a favourite spot for local fishing enthusiasts.

SLEEP

Though somewhat tower-block bland, Anchorage Marriott Downtown (marriott.com.au) is appealing for its convenient location, swimming pool and great views over the city or bay; it appeals to tourists and business people. There are numerous other national brands at a range of prices from Sheraton Anchorage Hotel (sheratonanchorage.com) to Quality Suites Historic Downtown (choicehotels.com). A good choice of small inns or B&Bs provide more budget alternatives, and Alaska Backpackers Inn (alaskabackpackers.com) will satisfy the wallet-constrained wanderer.

TIP

Summer evening baseball games at Mulcahy Stadium see the Anchorage Bucs (anchoragebucs.com) battle with the Glacier Pilots (glacierpilots.com) and various college teams. It provides a great way to meet the locals and get an intimate, small-venue look at the on-field baseball action. 

The writer travelled courtesy of Visit Anchorage and Ponant.