Off-season Anchorage appeals to a wide audience

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Anchorage celebrates the 85th anniversary of the Fur Rendezvous Winter Festival from Feb. 28 through March 8.
Anchorage celebrates the 85th anniversary of the Fur Rendezvous Winter Festival from Feb. 28 through March 8. Photo Credit: Brian Adams
Renee Brincks
Renee Brincks

With a major airport, regular rail and cruise tour connections and convenient proximity to Alaska's outdoor adventures, Anchorage stays busy as a summer tourism destination. 

Visit Anchorage reports that the city recorded a 90% occupancy rate from June through August 2019 and welcomed several new hotels over the past 18 months.

Winter tourism, however, is also on the increase in Alaska's largest city. Guided snowshoe tours and heli-biking outings on studded fat-tire bikes are attracting new audiences, while aurora viewing and traditional winter sports remain popular, as well.

Travelers looking to round out a winter-season stay in Anchorage will find additional options in and around the downtown corridor.

Culture

Anchorage celebrates the 85th anniversary of the Fur Rendezvous Winter Festival from Feb. 28 through March 8. Fur Rondy, as it's known to locals, features carnival rides, a snowshoe softball tournament, the Open World Championship Sled Dog Races, fat-tire cycling, snow sculpture competitions, music, the annual Running of the Reindeer event and more. 

Polar Nights programs at the Anchorage Museum, including after-hours gallery events and live music, take place on Friday nights through April, from 6 to 9 p.m. The facility's "What Why How We Eat" and "Alaskans and Salmon" exhibits are open through mid-January, while the "Aslaug Magdalena Juliussen: Intersections" exhibition showcases installations inspired by the artist's life in northern Norway through March 15. Snow Flyers, which explores how northern residents navigate and enjoy winter weather, is open through April 5.

The Alaska Public Lands Information Center reopened in November, on the heels of a $1.7 million renovation that updated exhibits exploring the state's natural, cultural and historical riches. Interactive maps, landscape murals, wildlife displays, video clips and other components spotlight what to see and do across Alaska. Visitors can also purchase parks passes and gifts at the facility.

Coffee

Travelers can warm up with a cup of local roast from Kaladi Brothers Coffee, which started as a single downtown Anchorage espresso cart launched in 1984. Today, the company has more than a dozen Anchorage locations, plus shops in Wasilla, Soldotna and Seattle.

Dark Horse Coffee pairs its caffeinated drinks with granola, pastries, panini-style sandwiches and other small bites, welcoming guests at an F Street location near the Dena'ina Civic and Convention Center. SteamDot serves a similarly themed menu in a modern space down the street, while the cash-only locals' favorite Side Street Espresso occupies a cozy G Street nook outfitted with eclectic signs and Alaska art. 

Lights

The Alaska Botanical Garden's Holiday Lights celebration transforms eight acres of gardens and nature trails with glowing bulbs, ice sculptures, model train displays and seasonal decorations on display through Jan. 11. The winter wonderland also features live music, warm drinks and bonfire gatherings. 

Zoo Lights at the Alaska Zoo glows each Thursday to Sunday through March 1. The custom animated and animal-themed displays line trails and light trees throughout the zoo grounds.

Pints

The Alaska Railroad and Big Swig Tours are partnering on the Hops on the Rail tour, a roundtrip tasting adventure that spotlights breweries in Anchorage, Talkeetna and the surrounding area. The excursion also includes a trip north from Anchorage on the Aurora Winter Train.

Palmer-based Matanuska Brewing Co. opened a downtown Anchorage location this summer. The West Third Avenue outpost pours a wide selection of draft beers and frequently hosts live music. Just down the block, 49th State Brewing offers house brews and an extensive Alaska-focused food menu along with smoked marzen caramel popcorn snacks.

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