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The atmosphere of Anchorage is relaxed. There is less of a feeling of urgency than in many other metropolitan centers. Perhaps it is the majestic beauty of the mountains, or the profusion of flowers throughout the city or the pink and lavender light that reflects on the winter snow that consistently draw the attention of resident and visitor alike away from the press of business at just the right moment and toward the true heart of Anchorage.
Anchorage sits on a high bluff at the base of the Chugach Mountains along the coast of Cook Inlet in south central Alaska. It is as far north as Helsinki, Finland, and as far west as Honolulu, Hawaii. Protected by the mountains and warmed by Japanese currents of the Pacific Ocean, Anchorage has a temperate, maritime climate. Spring through fall, Anchorage's climate is similar to San Francisco's spring weather, with temperatures that can reach into the 70's with an average of 65 degrees.
Winters bring snow with high temperatures dipping into the 20s, creating a climate very much like ski resorts in the Rocky Mountains, Canada, or Europe. Low humidity also contributes to Anchorage's comfortable climate.
The Chugach, Kenai, and Alaska ranges can be seen from Anchorage. Mount McKinley, 130 miles north of downtown, can also be seen on clear days. This 20,320-foot peak is the tallest mountain in North America.
There are approximately 100,000 glaciers in Alaska. Portage Glacier, just 45 miles south of downtown Anchorage, is one of the most visited attractions in Alaska.
Anchorage is Alaska's largest city and is home to over half of the state's residents.
Traffic from the city's busy international airport, served by more than 15 international and domestic airlines, lends a cosmopolitan air, yet Anchorage retains the spirit of a frontier town. Sled dog races are still major events, and moose and bear sightings in downtown Anchorage or on the Coastal Trail that rims the water are not uncommon. The rugged countryside is just a short drive away.
In Anchorage you can enjoy a casual lunch of reindeer sausage and dine in the evening at an elegant restaurant. The fresh fish is extraordinary. One could spend two weeks in Anchorage eating only salmon and halibut and not tire of it as there are so many delicious variations employed in the preparation of each seafood dish. There is a wide range of choice in cuisine. Chinese, Greek, Mexican, Thai, Indian, Korean, German, Cajun, Nouvelle cuisine, and vegetarian offerings are among the possibilities. In addition, many coffee shops and brew pubs (featuring locally brewed beers) are scattered throughout the city.
Chose a clear day for travel, try for a land-side seat, and "flightsee" a glacier. This is the mode of travel offering the best views both during flight and when landing on the glacier. Take time for a side trip to Denali Park via the Alaska Railroad and stay a day there for a park tour. It is wise to start the tour early in the day as clouds roll in during the afternoons and block even the view of Mount McKinley.
Every season of the year offers never to be forgotten experiences for the whole family. Be sure to pack a pair of binoculars for each of the children, and a camera with a telephoto lens for the family photographer.
In May the salmon run upstream, and it is said that they are so numerous that it would be possible to cross the river on a solid bridge of salmon. Each summer, Anchorage comes alive with big, bright flowers. The extended summer daylight makes possible impressive floral displays and an abundance of fresh vegetables.
The city plants 311 flowerbeds with 54,000 plants at 52 sites. Businesses and residents add their own hanging baskets and flower beds. In all, there are an estimated 100,000 hanging baskets! Visitors can ride around downtown in a horse-drawn carriage.
Summer also brings long hours of daylight. After dinner it is not unusual to decide to go out for a hike. Darkness does not occur until 3:00 or 4:00 AM! During the day there are opportunities to visit wildlife preserves, shop for Native Alaskan handicrafts, or take a hike in the surrounding Chugach Mountains or along the paved Tony Knowles Coastal Trail.
Winter days are very short, but are filled with activity. Winter is the time for skiing, sledding, ice-skating, dog mushing, and ice fishing. It also is the time for the display of the Northern Lights. They appear late at night, when it is darkest, during fall and winter, and are best seen north of Anchorage in Fairbanks.
Anchorage's downtown is ideal for walking. The grid plan was laid out with military precision by the Army Corps of Engineers, with streets and avenues running exactly east-west and north-south. The municipal People Mover bus system covers Anchorage, costs nothing within the central city, and only a dollar one-way outside the downtown area.
Anchorage has its own symphony orchestra, opera company and concert association, as well as numerous independent performance groups. The larger venues include the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts, George M. Sullivan Area, the Egan Convention Center, and University of Alaska Anchorage's Wendy Williamson Auditorium.
In the last decade, Anchorage has become an increasingly important focus of travelers to Alaska. The central location, relatively mild climate, and excellent transportation system make it a natural place to begin or end a trip. When planning a vacation in Alaska, be sure to allow enough time. Distances are vast, and there is so much to see and enjoy. Try to schedule a minimum of two weeks in Anchorage and the immediate area for the vacation of a lifetime.