Known as the city on the edge of the wilderness, Anchorage is all about the great outdoors. You can hike through wooded forests searching for one of the 1,000 moose that call the area home, or try to glimpse brown bears catching salmon in cascading rivers. Take a day cruise off the coast to see beluga whales and porpoises, as well as puffins and sea otters. Back in town, plan hikes out to Chugach, Kenai and Talkeetna over a beer at one of the growing number of craft breweries.
Making the most of your surroundings is the number one priority for hostels in Anchorage. You'll find options with vast backyards where you can watch the sun set before retreating to your dorm room or tent and ones with organic vegetable gardens that you can raid for dinner. To unwind after a day hiking, choose an Anchorage hostel with a wood-burning sauna. Some places rent out clothing and equipment if you need to top up your outdoor gear. Expect to find coin-operated laundries, luggage storage rooms and even bear spray available.
Running from the central area of the city down to the shores of the Knik River, downtown Anchorage has a grid system that is easy to navigate. Browse the shops on 4th Street, try a reindeer hotdog from one of the street stands or sample some local homemade ice cream. In Midtown you’ll find a strip mall and plenty of chain restaurants, as well as the largest bookstores in Alaska (where you can pick up maps or a hiking guide for inspiration).
The Alaska Native Heritage Centre offers an insight into the traditions and language of the local indigenous people, who have been living in the region for 10,000 years. You can watch traditional performances and songs, take handicraft workshops and see typical dwellings around a picturesque lake. Hire a bike and head out on the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, where you can look for moose in the middle of scented forests or watch eagles soar over the mudflats. From September to April, you could even be treated to a dazzling Northern Lights display.
People Mover bus company runs across metropolitan Anchorage, including an hourly service to Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. There's also a daily service from downtown to the trailhead of Flattop Mountain, Anchorage’s most popular peak. The Downtown Transit Center has buses to destinations like Talkeetna, Denali National Park and Seward. Anchorage also continues to serve as the hub for the iconic Alaska Railroad.