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Anchorage, Alaska's biggest city, has a population of 260.000 people, almost half of all inhabitants of this American state. Bearing in mind that Alaska is enormous, you can imagine the state is mostly empty, rough and untouched. Anchorage is not - as many people think - the capital of Alaska, Juneau is.
Anchorage was founded in 1914 and wasn't much more than a tent camp at the time. After a fierce earthquake in 1964 a large part of the city disappeared in the water and another part was rebuilt. Thus, it is a modern city, with little historical sites. For most tourists, Anchorage is the base for trekking through the rugged landscape.
There is a large IMAX movie theater in the city in which a movie about Alaska plays. If you have only just arrived in Alaska this movie gives you a great preview of what to expect. In the little museum Alaska Earthquake Exhibit you can find out more about what damage the 1964 earthquake caused. There's a film about that earthquake which even features vibrating chairs. A little phony, but perhaps a nice experience for children.
On the location where a part of Anchorage disappeared in the water due to the earthquake, now lies the Earthquake Park. On a very clear day you can see the top of the highest mountain of North-America, Mount McKinley.That mountain is more than 200 kilometers to the north, but over 6 kilometers high.
The Alaska Native Heritage Center covers the eleven most important cultures of Alaska. You can see utensils and art objects here, but dance shows are regularly given here as well.
You can make beautiful trips from Anchorage. The Seward Highway (to the southern coastal town of Seward) is considered one of the most beautiful routes in North America. Just outside Anchorage near Potter Marsh is the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge. This is a stunning marshland, breeding ground for many bird species, but salmon too. Sometimes you can see thousands of salmon that swim from the Turnagain Arm to the Refuge to mate. The transition from low tide to high tide in the Turnagain Arm can be downright spectacular at times; the seawater then comes in the bay as a flood wave. The days when this happens will be announced at the tourist office. Drive a little further south and you can try to catch a salmon at Bird Creek. Beluga Point is also near, where often whales can be seen.
Even a little further south is the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, the only nature park in Alaska which you can drive through by car. You might encounter brown and black bears, moose and buffalo.
East of this nature park lies one of Alaska's biggest attractions: the Portage glacier. You can only reach the ice mass by boat. Demonstrations and movies about the impressive power of glaciers can be viewed in the visitor center.
There is so much to see in the relatively short Seward Highway. And you thought you've arrived? Nope, you're only halfway en route to Seward!
The highway from Anchorage to the north is called Glenn Highway. Just a stones throw away and you'll encounter the Eagle River Nature Center, the gateway to the Chugach State Park. Here, you can make hikes here through the stunning nature and ski in the winter. A little further north lies the Eklutna Lake, a popular recreational area for the residents of Anchorage. You can't reach the Knik Glacier (which flows into the Knik Arm) by car. But there are several other options to see the glacier up close: with a canoe, ultra light airplane or air balloon.
Significantly further to the north lies another big attraction of Alaska, Denali National Park & Preserve, with as its literal highlight the aforementioned Mount McKinley (6194 m high). You can't drive your own car in this park, but there are shuttle buses that bring you to places deep in the park. Many outdoor sports are practiced just outside the park: rafting, mountain biking and trips with ultra light airplanes.
There is a wide range of accommodation in Anchorage. Whether you are looking for a budget motel, a mid-range hotel or a five-star getaway, Anchorage has got it. It is advisable however, to book your hotel well in advance in the summer months.
Anchorage is just like any other big American city: it is difficult to find a parking place. This applies even if you travel with a 'regular' rental car, let alone a big camper. So use the car to explore the surroundings, but visit the center with public transport.
Anchorage airport, Ted Stevens International Airport, lies in the west of the city. Did you know that this is one of the most important airports in the world for freight flights? A 'runway' in the sea for water airplanes is part of this airport.