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- Our Favorite Free Things to Do in Anchorage
- Stop by the Anchorage Alaska Public Lands Information Center
- Learn about Animals at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
- Climb the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail
- Hike up Mount Alyeska
- Visit the Roundhouse at Alyeska Museum
- Explore the Chugach Mountains
- Hike Thunderbird Falls Trail
- Go Birding at Potter Marsh Bird Sanctuary
- Explore Kenai Fjords National Park
- Learn about Alaska at Campbell Creek Science Center
- Explore the Eagle River Nature Center
As a remote state with abundant wildlife and wilderness, Anchorage Alaska is the last frontier in North America. Free things to do in Anchorage include enjoying Denali National Park, wildlife, outdoor activities and the Northern Lights.
As Alaska’s largest city, there’s a lot to see and do in Anchorage. But it’s not your typical city. The city’s 300,000 human residents share space with a large population of wildlife. These include about 1,500 moose, bald eagles, bears, beavers, Dall sheep and the occasional lynx. King and silver salmon fill Ship Creek all summer long.
In addition to wildlife, Alaska has sparkling glaciers, national parks and hiking trails. And from late August to April you can see the dazzling northern lights. There’s certainly no shortage of things to see and do in Anchorage. Depending on your family’s interests, day trips may include hiking, biking and other outdoor activities. Or maybe museums and wildlife sanctuaries are more your family’s style.
Thrilling excursions include the Alaska Railroad, seaplanes, floatplanes and kayaking. But you don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a good time. There are plenty of free things to do in Anchorage, Alaska.
Our Favorite Free Things to Do in Anchorage
Stop by the Anchorage Alaska Public Lands Information Center
Located in downtown Anchorage, the visitor center has educational videos, programs and travel guides. Also, pick up self-guided walking maps at the Anchorage Log Cabin Visitors Information Center on the corner of Fourth Avenue and F Street.
Learn about Animals at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
Free animal programs take place at the center, which is a sanctuary for orphaned or injured animals. While there is paid admission to tour the center, the free animal programs introduce visitors to the animals. These include bears, coyotes, elk, deer, reindeer, wood bison and many more.
Climb the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail
The 11-mile trail, which runs from downtown Anchorage to Kincaid Park, is a great place to see wildlife. For example, you can spot moose, beluga whales and birds. Not only that, you may even see a bear! But one thing is for sure. You’ll have panoramic views of six mountain ranges that surround Anchorage.
Hike up Mount Alyeska
Hiking up Mount Alyeska can be challenging. However, there are some easy to moderate hiking trails that start at the Alyeska Hotel. But note they may require riding a chairlift before hiking. A popular hike, the moderate, 4.2-mile trail begins beneath the tram station at Girdwood’s Hotel Alyeska. This trail is primarily used for hiking, nature trips and bird watching.
Visit the Roundhouse at Alyeska Museum
Sitting at 2,280 feet above sea level, the Roundhouse at Alyeska Museum is accessible by aerial tram or ski lift. Built in 1960, the Roundhouse was placed on the National Historic Register in 2003. Today, it’s a museum and interpretive center and an educational pick among free things to do in Anchorage. The building first served as a warming hut and later as a popular mountain gathering place.
Explore the Chugach Mountains
You can see the Chugach Mountain skyline from Anchorage. But nothing compares to actually spending a day or two in Chugach State Park and the Chugach National Forest. Together, they form 9,000 miles for hiking, rafting, biking, kayaking and fishing. With over 280 miles of maintained trails, there’s a hiking trail for every level. A great day hike is Flattop Mountain. In addition, Chugach State Park contains miles of coastline, numerous lakes and massive glaciers and ice fields. Best of all, some of the top trailheads and access points are just 20 minutes from downtown.
Hike Thunderbird Falls Trail
Situated in Chugach State Park, the one-mile Thunderbird Falls Trail is a fun and easy family hike. The trail leads to a viewing deck. But you can also take the trail closer to the falls. In winter, the falls freeze creating ice sculptures.
Go Birding at Potter Marsh Bird Sanctuary
Love bird watching? Visit the Potter Marsh Bird Sanctuary where you can see more than 220 bird species. Bring binoculars for bird watching on the 1,150 foot wooden board walk in the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge. From late April through September, Canada geese, northern pintails, canvasback ducks and red-necked phalaropes may be seen. Also, keep your eyes open for horned and red-necked grebes and northern harriers. Look for eagle nests in the cottonwoods near the base of the bluff using binoculars or a spotting scope.
Explore Kenai Fjords National Park
Join a park ranger-led or program to learn about the 669,984 acre-national park, where nearly 40 glaciers flow from the Harding Icefield. Things to do in the national park include boat tours to see fjords, kayaking and hiking. Kids can also earn a Junior Ranger badge, an educational free thing to do in Anchorage.
Learn about Alaska at Campbell Creek Science Center
Run by the Bureau of Land Management, the center is dedicated to outdoor science education. Exhibits showcase Alaska’s wide variety of unique ecosystem. The center offers free, all-age activities in the evening.
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Explore the Eagle River Nature Center
Take a scenic drive through the Eagle River Valley to the log cabin nature center. Operated by a non-profit organization, the center has nine miles of hiking trails and nature studies for children and adults. $5 parking fee.
Camp in Anchorage Alaska
Not only is camping a great way to get in touch with the outdoors, but it is also one of the free things to do in Anchorage. Anchorage offers campgrounds including Bird Creek, Eklutna, Eagle River in Chugach State Park and more. Check out campgrounds in Anchorage and surrounding areas.
Worth the Cost
- The Alaska Native Heritage Center shares the heritage of Alaska’s 11 major cultural groups.
- Anchorage Museum. Located in the heart of Anchorage, the museum’s exhibits showcase art, history, ethnography, ecology and science.
- Alaska Botanical Garden is a 110-acre botanical garden located inside the Far North Bicentennial Park.
- Anchorage Trooper Museum: The small museum contains historical items like a gun collection, original paintings and a vintage office.