Anchorage is a gorgeous and sprawling city with around 300,000 residents, set between Alaskan peaks and a saltwater inlet teeming with enormous whales and king salmon. Nearly the size of Delaware, the vast municipality is centered around an urban district which is surrounded by majestic wilderness that attracts visitors from around the world. Adventure seekers journey to this remote metropolis to experience the beauty and outdoor activities that make Alaska so special. Seaplanes, cruise ships and the Alaska Railroad are on hand to take visitors to attractions farther afield, but the city itself has its own allure thanks to plenty of outdoor splendor, top cuisine, shopping and culture. Thankfully, all of this beauty can be enjoyed with cannabis because recreational weed was legalized in 2014 and the city boasts a raft of marijuana dispensaries that carry some of the highest quality weed and marijuana-based products in the country.
The municipality of Anchorage encompasses a massive swath of territory, but the city center is a compact and walkable district filled with gift shops, chic bars, eclectic eateries and marvelous museums. There are interpretive signs sprinkled throughout the streets that point out historic markers and events and help to guide visitors from landmark to landmark. The Alaska Center for the Performing Arts is here, along with quaint cottages from the early 1900s, craft breweries such as 49th State Brewing Company and the Anchorage Museum (see below).
Midtown is mainly residential but also has several of Anchorage’s top food, shopping and entertainment options. The Bear Tooth Theatrepub serves up movies (first-run, indie, classics) along with great food and beer brewed on site and Title Wave Books (see below) is the largest bookstore in Alaska. Midtown is also home to Anchorage’s REI, the ever-popular Middle Way Café and the Alaska Rock Gym, which is a fantastic alternative to outdoor climbing if the weather is prohibitive.
Chugach State Park is the third-largest state park in the country and is easily accessible from Anchorage’s city center. It would be difficult to find such a diverse range of flora and fauna so close to any other major metropolitan area. The vast park contains nine distinct ecosystems and is home to around 50 different species of mammals. Hikers and campers enjoy glaciers, coastal wetlands, marine waters, forests, alpine tundra and a 200-foot waterfall. Over 110 trails traverse the park and it is so close to Anchorage that visitors can kayak, canoe or hike and still be back in town for dinner.
Rising majestically above Anchorage to 3,200 feet, Flattop Mountain is located within Chugach State Park, but deserves its own listing due to its popularity and remarkable vistas. There is a viewing platform at the base that provides a wonderful panorama of downtown, Cook Inlet and the Alaskan Range that extends to Denali National Park. A relatively easy 1.5-mile hike (it gets a bit steep at the end) to the top will only enhance those views, as well as provide the opportunity to pick wild berries, rock climb and paraglide if you’re feeling adventurous. Don’t expect solitude, though; Flattop is the most-climbed mountain in the state.
The past and present of Alaska are defined by its native population. Ethnic groups like the Aleut, Yupik, Tlingit, Inupiat, Tlingit and Haida have and continue to impart their culture on this part of the world and one of the best places to learn and experience their customs and way of life is to visit this museum. There are indoor and outdoor displays and exhibits and performances such as traditional dance, sport and music are regularly scheduled throughout the day. If you get hungry, the Heritage Nanvaq Café serves tasty breakfast and lunch items. A free shuttle to the museum departs at scheduled intervals from several locations around town.
This lovely public trail begins at the west end of 2nd Avenue downtown and follows the waters of Knik Arm and Cook Inlet for 11 miles. It’s the easiest way to engage with the outdoors in Anchorage and the paved path is ideal for walking, jogging or biking. Moose and bear are common sights as the trail winds through beautiful parks, forests and tidal flats. The views of the Alaska Range are excellent and the trail terminates at scenic Point Campbell in Kincaid Park.
This wonderful facility is the largest museum in Alaska and houses the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center that is filled with native Alaskan art, household items, masks and tools. It offers an informative introduction into native culture and traditions and provides an understanding of the history of the people who have been in Alaska and northern Canada for thousands of years. The shimmering structure also holds the 11,000-square-foot Discovery Center that features interactive installations, aquariums and artwork that educates visitors on the local environment as well as other northern climes. Conde Nast Traveler named the museum store as one of the world's 10 best and the on-site restaurant gets high praise for its organic options and locally sourced ingredients.
Late summer is the best time to head to this prime wildlife-viewing zone just steps from downtown and overlooking Ship Creek. The sight of pink, coho and king salmon heading up the creek to spawn is a remarkable glimpse into the natural world that surrounds Anchorage. Anglers line the banks in hopes of catching one of the tagged fish that can bring in big prize money. If you plan to fish, you’ll need an Alaskan fishing license and fishing for king salmon requires an additional stamp. The best times to cast are two hours before and after the tidal change.
Great Northern’s location on 4th Street could not be more convenient for those checking out downtown Anchorage’s attractions by foot. The sleek shop has a modern yet comfortable layout and is known for its top-shelf flower and regular discounts and deals. Great Northern carries items from independent Alaskan producers such as GOOD and Lady Gray, as well as several in-house strains and products. The dispensary is open 9 a.m. to midnight seven days a week.
Address: 541 W. 4th St. Anchorage, AK
Cannabaska is a hip spot located in Midtown with a fun and enthusiastic staff and some wonderful weed. The dispensary maintains its own hydroponic grow house and is incredibly meticulous with its flower. Don’t stop there, though – be sure to grab a pack of the delicious small-batch cookies from local outfit MoMo's Bakery to make that trip up Flattop Mountain extra special.
Address: 521 W. Tudor Rd., Anchorage, AK
The delicious shatter is the big draw at AK Frost but the dispensary’s flower and tinctures should not be overlooked. The shop sells some of the finest Alaskan herb and employs patient and well-educated employees who are ready to steer customers to the best strains. The Winter Solstice and Alaskan Thunder Fuck come highly recommended. Address: 5200 A St., Anchorage, AK
Raspberry Roots is located a bit south of the urban core but is a local favorite due to the deli-style service, spacious bud room, friendly staff and wide range of cannabis products. The selection of Canamo products is impressive; shatter, sugar wax, CBD isolates, budder and caviar are all kept in stock and Raspberry’s kief options are a step up from most of the other Anchorage dispensaries. Address: 501 Raspberry Rd Suite #101, Anchorage, AK
300 vendors spread over seven acres make this market a must-visit when in Anchorage. Food, hand-stitched clothing, Alaskan arts & crafts and live music mean a wander through this bustling commercial hub is an intense but pleasant blitz on the senses. You can even purchase an ulu; that’s the all-purpose knife traditionally used by local Native American women to do everything from cut food and hair to clean animals to construct igloos. If you purchase one, be sure to put it in your checked luggage! The market runs weekends from early May to early September.
Dos Manos is the top gallery in Anchorage for all types of beautiful and provocative local art. There is a fine selection of jewelry, paintings and pottery crafted by Native American artists and transplants, as well as affordable clothing and quirky gifts. The outdoor photography is particularly excellent. Although the shop is tiny it makes the most of its limited space across three compact levels. The staff is friendly and thoughtful and eager to guide customers to artwork that is available at a variety of price points. Dos Manos is a great place to find a unique souvenir to take back to the Lower 48.
Not only is Title Wave the largest bookstore in Alaska, but it also carries a huge selection of used DVDs, CDs and vinyl records. It is a 25,000 square foot playground of well-curated and top quality literature and music at affordable prices. From Manga to sports, from cooking to history, Title Wave has it all. As you might expect, the selection of literature about Alaska and the greater northern region is extensive.
This is the type of distinctive shop that makes a visit to Anchorage so special. It’s an Alaskan cooperative made up of around 250 Native Alaskan women from small coastal villages who make all of the items for sale by hand. The scarves, hats, tunics and more are all made out of Qiviut (the soft underwool from the Arctic Musk Ox) that never shrinks and isn’t scratchy like wool. Certain items contain signature patterns from their village of origin that are derived from aspects of village life or traditional culture. Drop by the converted house on H Street, pick up a hat or scarf and hit the trail.
This unassuming trailer near the water on the west side of downtown serves up burritos, tacos and some of the best Mexican breakfast options in the state. Everything is locally sourced, organic and packed with flavor. There are vegan and veggie options and the eatery prides itself on creating, “Food With a Conscious Design.” A trip to El Green Go’s to start the day will leave you satisfied and ready to hit the town, mountains and trails. Open Monday – Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Seafood is in order when visiting Alaska and The Bubbly Mermaid serves it with gusto. The nautical-themed space is tiny and cozy and provides a welcome retreat from the variable Anchorage weather. Belly up to the snug bar shaped like a ship, get to know your fellow diners and indulge in some of the finest produce that Alaskan waters provide. The “bubbly” in the name refers to the impressive selection of champagne that flows freely to accompany oysters served hot, cold and with several sauce options, along with other delicious seafood like shrimp and crab cakes.
Owners and lifelong Alaskans Janis Fleischman and Jerry Lewanski opened this temple of baked goods in 2009 in the South Addition neighborhood and rapidly expanded to add two additional locations in the city. The bread is lovingly prepared with sourdough starters and the scones and sandwiches are delicious and filling. Fire Island is a special family-run company that does everything the right way.
Crow’s Nest is a high-end restaurant at the top of Hotel Captain Cook on 5th Street in downtown. Most visitors go for the expansive 360-degree views but the food (and especially the cocktails) more than hold their own. The wood-paneled bar and dining room exude a sophisticated coziness and dishes like king crab bisque, salmon belly crudo and Kodiak scallops are divine. If the prices are a deterrent, smoke a pre-roll, head up for an evening cocktail and watch the sun go down over the water.