It's hard to believe that not even a century ago, Alaska's most sophisticated city was simply a collection of tents. Founded in 1914 during the construction of the Alaska Railroad, Anchorage has since blossomed into the Last Frontier's financial and commercial hub and now houses a massive 40 percent of the state's population. But while you're sure to find all the amenities of a cosmopolitan American city, that's not what draws tourists. Most people only catch a glimpse of this major northernmost U.S. city on their way to discovering the snow-capped peaks of the surrounding mountain ranges or the vast wilderness that lies beyond.
Sure, Anchorage is a paradisiacal home base for skiers, hikers, fishermen and wildlife watchers, but that doesn't mean the city itself should be ignored. Alaska's metropolis boasts a plethora of attractions, including museums, shops, nightlife venues and a fantastic zoo. And if nature is your true calling, bear in mind that you don't have to skirt the city limits to get your fill: Visit during the summer to experience the City of Lights and Flowers (home to about 80,000 flowers throughout 460 flower beds) in full bloom or during any other season to be dazzled by the sparkling Northern Lights.
Summer is the best time to visit Anchorage, as you'll find the nicest weather, clear skies and roughly 460 flower beds in bloom. The views alone are well worth a trip, but don't expect swimsuit weather; the average summer temperature stays in the low 70s. For bearable temperatures and fewer crowds, consider visiting during the pleasant (albeit brief) spring or fall. If you can brave the cold, wintering in Anchorage isn't so bad. Winter sports opportunities here are phenomenal, and you'll surely see the Northern Lights.
Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center
The best ways to get around Anchorage are by foot or car. You'll find that the compact downtown area is easy to navigate without wheels. However, if you plan to explore the outskirts or to get out of town altogether, a rental car is your best bet. The city operates a public bus system known as the People Mover, but buses only come about once every half hour or once an hour, depending on the route. To reach downtown from the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC), consider taking a taxi to avoid inflated fees at the airport car rental agencies. Cab fares from the airport to downtown Anchorage generally cost between $20 and $30. Some hotels also offer free shuttle service to and from the airport, so check ahead with your concierge.See details for Getting Around
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