By far Alaska's largest and most sophisticated city, Anchorage is situated in a truly spectacular location. The permanently snow-covered peaks and volcanoes of the Alaska Range lie to the west of the city while part of the craggy Chugach Range is within the eastern edge of the municipality; the Talkeetna and Kenai ranges are visible to the north and south. Two arms of Cook Inlet embrace the town's western and southern borders, and on clear days Denali looms on the northern horizon.Anchorage is Alaska's medical, financial, and banking center, and home to the executive offices of most of the Alaska Native corporations. The city has a population of just over 301,000, with another 100,000 residing in the metro area, accounting for more than 50% of the people in the state. The relative affluence of this white-collar city—with a sprinkling of olive drab from nearby military bases—fosters an ever-growing range of restaurants and shops, first-rate entertainment, and sporting events.Dena’ina Athabascan people have lived in this area for more than 1,000 years. Their fish camps once dotted the shores of Cook Inlet, only a short distance from Downtown Anchorage. And yet Anchorage is a young city, incorporated in 1915. Nearly everything has been built since the 1970s—an Anchorage home dating from the 1950s almost merits historic status. The city got its start with the construction of the federally built Alaska Railroad, completed in 1917, and traces of its railroad heritage remain today. The city's architecture is far from memorable—though it has its quirky and charming moments—but the surrounding mountains make up for it.Boom and bust periods followed major events: an influx of military bases during World War II; a massive buildup of Arctic missile-warning stations during the Cold War; reconstruction following the devastating Good Friday earthquake of 1964; and in the late 1960s the biggest jackpot of all—the discovery of oil at Prudhoe Bay and the construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. It is no surprise that Anchorage then positioned itself as the perfect home for the pipeline administrators and support industries, and it continues to attract a large share of the state's oil-tax dollars.
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Things You Can't Miss
A Smithsonian-affiliated Arctic Studies Center focuses on the region’s native peoples, and well-designed exhibits interpret Alaska’s colorful history.
Dancing, music, crafts and stories at the Alaska Native Heritage Center help share the diverse experiences of the state’s major indigenous groups.
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The Public Lands Information Center features excellent exhibits on Alaska wildlife and regional history, with a variety of fascinating videos.
Compact but highly enjoyable, Anchorage’s Alaska Zoo hosts a fine diversity of species from bears to moose to musk oxen, many of them orphaned or rescued.
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Alaska and other top places to see — from the sea.
Stroll the boardwalk at Potter Marsh to watch swans, geese, moose, muskrats and spawning salmon. Look for bald eagles nesting in the tall cottonwoods.
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Tips to help you book the sweetest spot on the boat.
The 1.5-mile trail up Flattop Mountain in Chugach State Park provides a panorama of distant peaks with Cook Inlet and Anchorage spread below.
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