Anchorage, Alaska

Alaska's largest city is the hub of the state, and its central position, comparatively mild temperatures and outstanding transport system to and from the rest of the country, have made it an important destination for travellers.

Perched on the edge of a vast beautiful wilderness, Anchorage is encompassed in scenic splendour, surrounded by mountains, forest, rivers and tundra; a short drive in any direction offers an abundant variety of wilderness experiences.

The city started out in 1915 as a tented camp for the workers on the Alaska Railroad, and with the later discovery of oil at Prudhoe Bay and the construction of the trans-Alaska pipeline, Anchorage's development was fast and furious. Today this sprawling city is full of life, with an array of dining options, a thriving music scene, theatres, and museums.

Its conservative, transient character is due in part to the fact that many of its residents are from other parts of the US, working for a few years and then moving on. The rest of the population is made up of Alaskan indigenous peoples, oil workers, gold seekers, loggers, and fishermen, together with the moose and occasional bear that wander into town. As a cosmopolitan urban area, it has similarities with other small American cities, but still retains a uniquely Alaskan feel.

Anchorage is a priceless travel hub for many visitors to Alaska, but the appeal for tourists is rooted firmly in the good transport networks and the glorious wilderness on the city's doorstep. Anchorage itself is not a renowned tourist destination. Having said that, the city retains a sort of pioneer charm as it is still a gathering point for Americans and foreigners looking to make their fortune in various trades. Within the city, the most popular sightseeing attractions include the Alaska Native Heritage Center and the Anchorage Museum of History and Art. Downtown Anchorage also hosts the fantastic Anchorage Market & Festival every weekend in the summer, which is a great attraction for visitors. The market offers an array of locally made goods including clothing, paintings, handmade jewelry and babushka dolls (Russian nesting dolls), as well as a great selection of food from all over the world. There are also entertaining music and dance performances to enjoy, and a special Kids' Market where children sell their hand-made items to raise money for charities and other organizations.

Most visitors quickly exit the urban sprawl to enjoy the wonders just beyond the city, like Prince William Sound, Chugach National Forest and Flattop Mountain, the most climbed mountain in Alaska. The Denali National Park is one of the top attractions in the state and encompasses many of the most beautiful landscapes Alaska has to offer. Those in need of some information or advice should pop into the Anchorage Log Cabin Visitor Information Center, situated at 524 West Fourth Avenue.

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Travel guide by wordtravels.com © Globe Media Ltd.