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Ultimate 3 Day Anchorage Itinerary for First Time Visitors

With its enchanting winter landscapes and bustling summer adventures, Anchorage is unlike any other American city. Offering snowy retreats and sun-drenched trails teeming with wildlife, it’s an ideal destination for those seeking a unique U.S. getaway.

Many visitors are drawn to Alaska, renowned for its breathtaking natural beauty. Anchorage stands out with its harmonious mix of wild terrains and contemporary attractions, positioning it on the must-see list.

This comprehensive 3 day Anchorage itinerary provides an overview of the diverse attractions, activities, and experiences available, ranging from insightful museums and cultural landmarks to the surrounding untouched wilderness.

Things to Book in Anchorage Before You Leave Home
Few things are more frustrating on vacation than missing out on that amazing hotel or tour because it is sold out. Here are my top things to book in Anchorage before your vacation.

🏔️ Most Popular Tours in Anchorage:
1. Northern Lights Tour from Anchorage– if you’re determined to see the Northern Lights this is your best chance (I did)
2. Helicopter Tour with Glacier Landing – unforgettable bucket list experience
3. Glaciers and Wildlife – two Alaska highlights together
4. Ride the Alaska Railroad for jaw-dropping scenery

🛏️Where to Stay in and around Anchorage:
1. Marriott Downtown – surprisingly stylish and great location
2. The Lakefront – stunning location on Lake Spenard and great food
3. Alyeska Resort – luxurious accommodation in beautiful Girdwood just one hour from Anchorage

3 Day Anchorage Itinerary

Here’s a rundown of the perfect 3 day Anchorage itinerary that will have you experiencing the best of Anchorage as well as some of the best wildlife and nature experiences near Alaska’s biggest city.

3 Day Anchorage Itinerary: Day 1

On the first day of your Anchorage itinerary, you’ll immerse yourself in the city and get a feel for the landscape.

Breakfast at Snow City Cafe

Snow City Cafe is an Anchorage institution and the perfect place to kick off any Anchorage itinerary all year round. It is a light, bright cafe with a buzzy atmosphere.

snow city cafe

When I visited, I ordered the biscuits with sausage patties, gravy and hashbrowns, which was absolutely fantastic. Their fresh orange juice was also excellent.

Walk the Tony Knowles Trail to Earthquake Park

Tackle the 17 km Tony Knowles Coastal Trail for a truly breathtaking experience. Access the trail from Elderberry Park and get ready to see some genuinely majestic sights.

Stop and admire the views at Rock and Bronze Girl before passing the massive Orca Sculpture. You’ll then pass some more sculptural wanders at Eagle Wind Vein before heading to the famous bird-watching spot Audubon Wayside.

The trail finishes up at Earthquake Park. A devastating natural disaster hit this hilly landscape in 1964. After the entire neighborhood slid into the ocean, the municipality left the area to be reclaimed by nature. 

earthquake park view

Today, the aptly named Earthquake Park is home to an interpretive side trail with informative signs about why the ground failed and its environmental impact. But don’t get me wrong, walking through Earthquake Park is not all doom and gloom.

This 134-acre park surrounded by woods has great places to relax and enjoy a picnic with lovely views. Speaking of scenery, Earthquake Park lies along the popular Knik Arm, giving you dramatic views of the Cook Inlet and Anchorage on the horizon.

Walking can take over five hours so why not look at taking a three-hour Tony Knowles Biking Tour instead? That way you can kick back and enjoy the view and let the guide lead the way.

Have a Reindeer Dog for Lunch

If you can still fit food in after breakfast at Snow City Cafe, head to the International House of Hot Dogs (a van, not a house) and try a reindeer dog. I found my reindeer dog very tasty. The texture is chewier than a standard hut dog but not quite at the cured meat level. I added onions, mustard and ketchup to mine, making for a great light meal.

reindeer hot dog

Take the Anchorage Trolley Tour

If you don’t have much time in Anchorage, taking the trolley tour around the city is the best way to see its top attractions and landmarks. 

This one-hour tour takes you to highlights like Lake Hood, and the Alaska Railroad. While your guide shares the unique history of Anchorage, you’ll also get a chance to spot wildlife, like moose, along the way.

Walk Through the Anchorage Museum

Situated in the city’s heart, Anchorage Museum is a lively cultural hub with a massive art, history, anthropology, and science museum. The museum’s modern glass facade adds to its appeal, but what’s inside is even more jaw-dropping.

anchorage museum

Take a walk through the Anchorage Museum and leisurely peruse its over 27,000 artifacts, including ethnographic pieces from all the native Alaskan cultures and historical works from the Russian-American era. 

anchorage museum art

Northern Lights Tour OR 49th Street Brewery

If seeing the Northern Lights was a key reason you decided to visit Anchorage, I would highly recommend booking a Northern Lights Tour for your first night in Anchorage. Without question, the best way to see the Northern Lights in Anchorage (which I have written a separate article about) is on a tour.

27 Best Places to See Northern Lights in Anchorage Story Poster Image (1)

Northern Lights Tours only run when the weather indicates a high chance of seeing the Northern Lights. If the tour doesn’t go ahead, your position will get “bumped” to the next evening. Therefore, book the first night so you have a second opportunity to see the Northern Lights if you get bumped.

49th state brewery

If you’re not interested in seeing the Northern Lights head to 49th Street Brewery for drinks and dinner. The Brewery has a couple of large outdoor decks and has great views of the Anchorage sunset. The food is also really good – make sure you try the yak burgers.

➡️ Book Your Northern Lights Tour Now

Anchorage Itinerary: Day 2

Explore the Alaska Botanical Garden

Next, it’s time to explore Alaska’s indigenous and imported flora at the Botanical Garden. This 110-acre green space aims to enhance plants’ natural beauty and value through education, preservation, recreation, and research.

Alaska Botanical Garden is mainly covered by spruce and birch forest. You’ll find over 1,100 species of perennials, a herb garden, and a rock garden dotted with about 350 species of alpine flowers. The gardens feature wildflowers and are suitable for spring and summer hikes.

Visit Alaska Zoo

Drawing in nearly 200,000 visitors a year, Alaska Zoo is one of the best places to spend time in Anchorage. You’ll see many wildlife here, from native fauna to exotic animals. The zoo is home to over 100 bird species and 50 types of mammals. 

zoo polar bear

But that’s not all the Alaska Zoo has in store for you. You’ll also get to see animals from as far as Tibet — home to one of the most beautiful mountains in the world. You can expect to see yaks, Bactrian camels, and Amur tigers.

zoo muskox

Take an Anchorage Food Tour

I was so pleasantly surprised with how good the food was in Alaska! And the best way to get a real taste of Anchorage’s culinary diversity is on a Downtown food tour. While the main event will be the food, you’ll also hear stories of the frontier families that made the cold hard trek to Anchorage in the late 19th century.

yak burgers

Allow your tastebuds to run wild with various flavors, from Russian dumplings to reindeer sausages. Don’t worry. Alaskan classics, such as fresh salmon and halibut, are also on the menu. 

You can wash all these tasty flavors down with some Anchorage special craft beers. What’s there not to love about this tour?

➡️ Book Your Downtown Anchorage Food Tour Now

Take a Tour of the Alaska Aviation Museum

Take a step back in history and see the evolution of Alaska’s aviation from as far back as World War II. The Alaska Aviation Museum aims to honor and shed light on the country’s aviation industry by conserving and exhibiting historic planes, artifacts, and memorabilia.

aviation museum

You’ll find over 30 aircraft on display, two theatres, and a Hall of Fame. In addition to the plenty of exhibits you can enjoy, watching seaplanes land from the tower is a particularly unforgettable experience. It is a great fun, quirky museum.

aviation museum

Grab a Bite at the Bear Tooth Theatrepub

What better way to end your Anchorage itinerary than with a delicious pizza and a movie? At Bear Tooth Theatrepub, you’ll get an authentic experience of life in Anchorage. 

This retro, indie movie house boasts a pub-style eatery serving pizzas, tacos, and craft beers. You’ll also find a classic theatre where you can catch the latest movies.

3 Days in Anchorage: Day 3

It’s time to get out of town! There are some fantastic nature and wildlife experiences to be enjoyed within one-two hours drive of Anchorage. Hire a car or join a guided tour to experience the day three Anchorage itinerary.

Drive Along the Turnagain Arm

The Turnagain Arm is said to be one of the most beautiful stretches of highway in America and I can see why. The Turnagain Arm is the name of the waterway into the northwestern Gulf of Alaska. Seward Highway runs alongside it.

turnagain arm

I went back and forth along the Turnagain Arm twice when I visited Anchorage in February. Each drive was different thanks to the ever-changing Alaskan weather and it was almost always stunning.

Read more about Anchorage and Alaska:
2 Day Anchorage Itinerary
Anchorage Itinerary 4 Days
Best Time of Year to Visit Anchorage Alaska
Facts about Alaska
How to see the Northern Lights in Anchorage
Things to do in Downtown Anchorage
Ice Caves near Anchorage

Meet some Locals at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Centre

The Turnagain Arm will take you to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. As a conservation center, it looks after injured and orphaned animals to take them back into the wild.

wildlife centre moose

During my visit, I saw moose, bison, bears (hibernating when I visited), reindeer, caribou and even porcupines. The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center has a 200-acre park and some fantastic views.

wildlife centre oxmusk 3 day anchorage itinerary

Enjoy lunch with a view at the Seven Glaciers Restaurant

Head to the Alyeska Resort and hop in the cable car. At the top of the cable car is the stunning Seven Glaciers. It is an impressive upmarket restaurant and the food is fantastic. However, the highlight is the amazing views to be head from the floor-to-ceiling windows covering all the restaurant’s walls.

seven glaciers restaurant

After lunch, take the short walk to the Roundhouse where you should, weather dependent, be able to see the Seven Glaciers for which the restaurant is named.

seven glaciers restaurant

Kayak, Snowmobile or Spa

This afternoon, you will need to make a difficult choice. If you visit in winter, head out to Spencer Glacier on a snowmobile. Or, if it is summer, head out to Spencer Glacier on a kayak. If those activities sound like they will take more energy than you have head to Alaska’s first Nordic Spa at the Alyeska Resort.


Multiple circuits are possible throughout the spa with a mix of steam rooms, saunas, and multiple pools at different temperatures (including an ice cold plunge pool).

alyeska nordic spa

Bring your bathers with you and the spa will provide a cute tartan robe, towel and rubber shoes. There is a restaurant within the spa area eg you can wear your bathrobe. No mobile phones allowed.

➡️ Book Your Guided Day Trip to Girdwood

Stay the Night at Alyeska and have dinner at Jack Sprat

Change things up a bit with a night at the lovely Alyeska Resort. Alyeska is set up to provide fantastic experiences in both winter and summer. The rooms at the resort are large and very comfortable.

alyeska lobby

For dinner head to Jack Sprat, Girdwood’s most well-known and popular restaurant. The food is great so make sure you book ahead of time. It is particularly lovely at night as the restaurant is lit up with loads of little fairy lights.

jack spratt
jack spratt halibut cheeks
Alaskan Halibut

Where to Stay in Anchorage

Marriott Anchorage Downtown

🌟Rating: 7.6/10 I 📍Location: Downtown Anchorage I 🏩View on

I really enjoyed my stay at the Marriott Anchorage Downtown. Normally I am all about boutique hotels but there weren’t many boutique hotel options in Anchorage and I was getting a special media rate at the Marriott so I decided to give it a go – and I loved it!

marriott bed

The Marriott Anchorage Downtown has a fantastic location in the middle of downtown. All the main things to see and do in downtown Anchorage can be accessed on foot even in the snow (as you might imagine Anchorage is very good at shoveling sidewalks etc).

My room was on the eighth floor and I had beautiful views of Anchorage and the surrounding mountains – most of the rooms at the Marriott have great views but make sure you request this so you don’t end up on one of the lower floors.

marriott lounge

The rooms are a great size and decorated in a modern style with calming stone blues and greys. My room had two huge queen size beds with mattress toppers and many many pillows. It was extremely comfortable.

The room also had a lovely chaise lounge by the window with a light where I got some work done. The room also had a desk but it was under the television and faced the wall.

I was delighted to find power sockets and USB charge points in multiple places across the room. And even better the coffee in the room was actually quite good quality which was a welcome surprise.

marriott view

There is a large room service menu for in room dining and a QR code makes ordering easier. I only had room service on one evening and it was delicious. It is also possible to order wine and bring it to the room.

The ground floor has a stylish and very comfortable bar with many different seating options. The bar has high ceilings and lots of windows, which gives it nice lighting.

Check Prices and Availability at the Marriott Anchorage Downtown

The Lakefront Anchorage

🌟Rating: 7.2/10 I 📍Location: Anchorage I 🏩View on

I also stayed at The Lakefront Hotel which is near Anchorage Airport and of course on a lake. The weather was pretty awful the one night I stayed so I wasn’t able to get a clear view of Lake Spenard – I am sure it is beautiful. Apparently, Lake Spenard is the busiest lake in the world for seaplanes.


This is a large hotel, and my room was a good size. The hotel has a strong taxidermy theme so if you don’t like wall-mounted animals, this might not be the best choice of accommodation for you. My room was absolutely fine but fairly plain and the decor was a bit dated.

The Lakefront has a couple of restaurant options. An outdoor restaurant was closed when I visited in February but I imagine it is wonderful in the summer. I had a fantastic meal of halibut at the Fancy Moose Lounge.

Check Prices and Availability at The Lakefront Anchorage

Anchorage 3 Day Itinerary: FAQs

Here are a few frequently asked questions about visiting Anchorage that you may be unsure about.

How Many Days Do You Need in Anchorage?

You need at least two days to explore the most popular cultural and natural treasures in Anchorage. If you can extend your trip by a day or two, I recommend doing it. You can also take several day trips to explore hidden wonders outside of Anchorage.

What Is the Best Month To Go to Anchorage, Alaska?

The best time to visit Anchorage depends on what you are looking for. But overall, travelers favor the months of May through to September. During this time, temperatures are still warm and outdoor activities like hiking, biking, and fishing are not yet uncomfortable. 
However, if snowy ski slopes and hot chocolate are your ideas for a perfect Alaskan holiday, you’ll probably want to visit in winter.

Can You See the Northern Lights in Anchorage, Alaska?

Absolutely. The Northern Lights actually appear in Anchorage all year round. But the longer days of sunlight in summer make it nearly impossible to spot the aurora borealis at night. 
So you have a better chance of spotting the Northern Lights in winter. The limited sunlight leads to darker nights with clear skies — perfect for stargazing.

What Is the Best Month To See the Northern Lights in Anchorage?

The best months to see the aurora borealis are between mid-August and April. This is when the skies are just dark enough for you to see the Northern Lights, and the temperatures are not too cold either. 
Keep in mind you have more chances of seeing the aurora on moonless and cloudless nights. And also try to avoid areas with a lot of light pollution, like city centers and residential neighborhoods.

What Is the Coldest Month in Anchorage, Alaska?

The coldest month in Anchorage is January, which is smack-jab in the middle of winter, which runs from November to March. Overnight average temperatures in January tend to drop to -12,61°C (9,3°F).

wildlife centre

Anchorage Itinerary In Conclusion

Mention “Alaska” and images of majestic snow-clad peaks and vast glacial expanses instantly spring to mind. However, this remote state offers layers of beauty and experiences beyond its iconic landscapes.

Though Anchorage isn’t the state capital, it stands proud as Alaska’s largest city, showcasing an impressive tapestry of its cultural and natural legacy. Immerse yourself in the picturesque Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, offering breathtaking vistas of Kincaid Park, or embark on an adventure—be it wildlife watching, hiking, or cycling—at the renowned Chugach State Park.

Recognized as one of America’s most picturesque cities, Anchorage offers an unparalleled blend of summer and winter outdoor pursuits. So, why hesitate? Dive into this Anchorage guide, curated to ensure every traveler finds their own slice of Alaskan magic.


I paid for my flights to and from Alaska. I paid a media rate for my hotel but many of my meals and excursions were covered by Visit Anchorage through the GoWest Summit. As always, my opinions are my own. This article on things to do in downtown Anchorage also includes affiliate links. That means if you click through on some of the links in the article and end up making a purchase I may receive a small commission.

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