What to do for a day in Anchorage with no car?
March 23, 2023 9:27 AM   Subscribe

I will be in Anchorage for about a day and a half in early April for work, with no car.

I don’t know how much time my work duties will take up, and probably won’t know when they’re occurring until I get there, so I don’t know for sure how much time I have and will have to be flexible.

I’m interested in eating the best seafood possible, seeing some nature/parks, buying some cool local art. Always appreciate a good bakery/breakfast place suggestion. I’m staying in the downtown area on W 3rd Ave. I want to check out the Potter Marsh viewing boardwalk but I don’t have a great grasp of scale so I don’t know if taking an Uber there and back is feasible. I found some decently reviewed 4ish hour tours where they drive you out to see glaciers/nature, but because of work I won’t be able to book any of these ahead of time.

I also have no idea how I should dress. Snow boots specifically? Or just decent boots?

posted by skycrashesdown to Travel & Transportation around Anchorage, AK (4 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Maybe snow boots-- it depends on your snow boot vs. rain boot vs. waterproof walking shoes situation. Personally, my snow boots are too hot for right now so I've switched to waterproof hiking shoes. The pattern for a couple weeks now has been down to 20's overnight, up to 40's during the day, so the existing snow melts a little and refreezes slick overnight... there are ankle-deep icy puddles at corners and patches of slick ice on many sidewalks right now. Whatever you choose, ICE CLEATS! Ice cleats or YakTrax are what you need.

It'll probably be more melted and rainy when you get here, but surprise ice into early May is normal. Trails and parks are still covered in packed snow, and usually stay snowy/icy a little longer than the rest of town. Since you'll be walking, expect to get splashed by cars and try to position yourself out of the major splash zone at the curb.

Nature: you'll be in walking distance of the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail (and to a lesser extent, the Chester Creek Trail via walking south on A St.) The Coastal Trail has good views. Chester Creek follows a cute little creek and connects you to the Coastal Trail at Westchester Lagoon. April is not a great time to see nature in town (plants might be sprouting but haven't really grown back yet and all the litter that was buried in the snow is revealed.) You can probably get an Uber to Potter Marsh but I wouldn't swear to it. I am not especially outdoorsy so this is not my area of expertise, but I'll ask around and see if anyone has a good suggestion.

Fire Island Bakery at K St is very good.

You probably know about bears and moose already but please be safe.
posted by blnkfrnk at 10:28 AM on March 23, 2023 [1 favorite]

Best answer: OK I asked my partner who has been here way longer than me.

The train depot is walking distance from where you are. You can get the train to Seward, which is gorgeous on its own, but there's also the Sealife Center and access to short cruises from there, which might work for you if you have a whole day? I'm told the Resurrection Bay cruise from Seward is awesome.

I've been to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center and it's great-- I am pretty sure you can get an Uber out there and back. They used to have a shuttle but I don't think they do any more. if you can get to Girdwood, for sure you can get the rest of the way with Uber.

For sure you can get an Uber and back to Potter Marsh-- she confirmed it and while I'm looking at the map I'm confident you can do it that way.

You can rent a fat tire bike, which makes the trails faster and more fun. It'll be fine in snow and slush but take it easy if it's icy. Downtown is full of bike rental places and they're all pretty good. Lock the bike up and take anything detachable with you if you park it somewhere.

I don't know from seafood but the shmanciest dining experience I've had in Anchorage was Simon & Seafort's which is walking distance from you. Pel'meni at 5th and L if you like pel'meni. Pho Lena is always good pho. Humpy's is the classic choice for beer.

There's burlesque sometimes at the Broken Blender. Kaladi Brothers is killer for coffee and will always beat Starbucks for quality hands down-- I think the closest one to you is across from the transit center near the 5th Ave mall. You can't really walk around downtown without finding excellent souvenir options but do check out the Kobuk at 5th and E. The Ulu Factory near the train depot is sort of cheesy but fun. Wild Scoops for ice cream-- there's a walk up window near Peratrovich (say the tro like toh) Park at 4th and E that might be open when you get here. The Captain Cook hotel has an athletic club in the basement with an OK pool-- you can get a guest pass, I think. Other than that, I don't know downtown very well.
posted by blnkfrnk at 12:05 PM on March 23, 2023

Best answer: Early April is shoulder season and, unfortunately, the worst time of year in Anchorage- sorry in advance (come back in late May or June orrrrr....literally any time of year that's not early April through early May, even our wet falls aren't quite as gross) . Expect mud, 5-6 months of trash and road sand melting out of snow and slush/wet- I'd bring some kind of a waterproof shoe or boot option with a warm sock as my go-to for walking around.

The trains to Seward won't be running yet and Wild Scoops downtown location doesn't open until much closer to tourist season.

Downtown bakery/breakfast: Fire Island is indeed very good. Snow City Cafe probably won't be swamped by tourists yet and is a great option for a full breakfast, the bar is free seating if it is busy. Get your hash browns extra crispy. The most consistent coffee in town is at Steamdot (there's one in midtown and one southside if you happen to be there), but I also like Kaladi on a good day and there are more of them.

Downtown fish: Glacier Brewhouse has a huge open walk-in bar section on the right as you walk in and does fish carefully. Simon's, imo, has been hit or miss post-pandemic (although I usually only eat off their happy hour bar menu, so it's possible their regular stuff has been more consistent) but they do have good views if you can get the right table. F Street Station has good oysters and clams but the owners have terrible anti-trans politics and I have stopped going there as a result. The White Spot (diner-y, old-school, crowded) has a very good halibut sandwich.

I am extremely outdoorsy and, once the snow rots, April is the one month I exercise consistently inside. You are very near the Coastal Trail, which would be my go-to for a walk or run. If it's still freezing overnight running or walking in the morning might still be on a surface that's decent (but probably slippery); otherwise you might be in 6-12" of slush.

If stuff is more melted-out but not entirely melted (very likely) there's a good loop you can walk/run around Lake Hood (get dropped off at the Lakefront hotel) that's about 4 miles that dries out quickly and it's fun to see all the little planes and the world's largest float plane base. That's nearish the Coastal Trail as well- you can go to the end of Postmark drive on the water where it connects to the grail and get a really nice view of Denali if it's out, and of the curve of the shore to downtown.

If you can make friends with someone at work who will drive you down to Girdwood, it's a gorgeous drive and you could have dinner at Jack Sprat, which also does really great...everything.

Local art: I like Tiny Gallery and Sevigny Studio downtown, or Dos Manos in Spenard about 2 miles away (which is also across the street from a good used book store- Title Wave books). If you want local Native art, the best and most ethical place to get it if you don't know the artist personally is generally considered to be the gift shop at Alaska Native Medical Center on the east side of town.

Message or post if you have other questions you need answered! I wish you got to see the city in a month when it's fun to be here!
posted by charmedimsure at 1:55 PM on March 23, 2023 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm not from Anchorage but I visited without a car. Just walking around downtown Anchorage was pretty interesting! The fur stores! The bear proof trash cans. The hotel Captain Cook lobby is a trip. It's a pretty different downtown. I took the rail to seward where there's lots of stuff. The train was awesome but is on a schedule so maybe not for you.
posted by jennybento at 9:54 PM on March 23, 2023

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