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Why Go to Anchorage

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.

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Anchorage Travel Tips

Best Months to Visit

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.

Weather in Anchorage switch to Celsius/mm

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Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center

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What You Need to Know

  • No off-roading Most rental agreements restrict the use of cars to paved roads only. Make sure to avoid gravel routes like McCarthy Road and the Denali Highway.
  • Dress in layers If you're heading out of town for some outdoor activities, bear in mind that temperatures are known to fluctuate dramatically. Be prepared for all weather scenarios by wearing layers.
  • Beware the bears Prime wildlife habitats (including those for black and grizzly bears) surround Anchorage, and sometimes animals make their way into town. Keep your distance. For more safety information, check out the National Park Service website.

How to Save Money in Anchorage

  • Book all at once Reserving your flight and your hotel at the same time is a great way to ensure availability and the lowest room rates possible. For a summer trip, book at least a month in advance.
  • Rent a car in town Airport concession fees can significantly increase the price of renting a car. While you can expect expensive taxes at any Alaskan rental agency, you can avoid the extra 10 percent by renting in the city.
  • Take the bus If you're not planning to leave the city, consider relying on the People Mover. With 14 different routes, People Mover buses stop at major attractions and are cheaper than a rental car.

Getting Around Anchorage

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.

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