Introduction to Anchorage, Alaska
The city of Anchorage is located in the south-central part of Alaska at the base of the Chugach Mountains. The largest city in the state, Anchorage encompasses an area of nearly 2,000 square miles, about the size of the state of Delaware. The city sits on a triangular peninsula surrounded by the Cook Inlet, which is the northernmost reach of the Pacific Ocean. The Chugach, Kenai, Talkeetna, Tordrillo, Aleutian and Alaska mountain ranges are all visible from the city, and on clear days so is Mount McKinley, North America's tallest mountain, which is located 130 miles north of Anchorage.
Roughly twice the size of Rhode Island, Anchorage encompasses an area of nearly 2,000 square miles. In terms of population it is Alaska's largest city, comprising over 40% of the state's population. The city's Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport is the center of airline activity for the state, and is served by many interstate, national, and international airlines. There is one officially designated Interstate Highway in Anchorage: Alaska State Highway 1, which runs through the city. Anchorage is a major port city, receiving the bulk of all freight entering Alaska. Major industries in the city include government (military), oil, and tourism (summer being a prime tourist season).
Although Russian explorers had established themselves in southern Alaska during the late 18th-century, English explorer Captain James Cook is credited with first exploring and describing the Anchorage area in 1778. The area retained a heavy Russian cultural influence during the next hundred years owing to a large volume of trading throughout the Russian possession of Alaska. Things began to change in 1867 concurrent with the sale of "Russian America" to the United States for a sum of $7,200,000. Although the sale was mocked at the time and known as "Seward's Folly" (referring to U.S. Secretary of State William Seward who pushed for the purchase of the territory), the subsequent major discovery of oil in the territory helped change this perception. In 1915 construction of the Alaska Railroad began and Ship Creek Landing in Anchorage was selected as headquarters for this effort, transforming Anchorage into a bustling frontier town. Anchorage was incorporated as a city in 1920, a good 39 years before Alaska would attain statehood. A setback occurred on March 27, 1964, when Anchorage was hit by the Good Friday Earthquake. This natural disaster, which registered 9.2 on the Richter Scale (the largest ever recorded in North America), caused tremendous destruction from which the city ultimately recovered and was able to continue prospering. Anchorage today serves as the hub of the state's transportation, communication, finance and trade industries, and is in every sense a modern city housing a thriving business district and a bustling international airport.
Anchorage Points of Interest
Downtown Anchorage is home to the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts, a facility which hosts numerous performing arts events each year. As the host site of eight resident performing arts companies, the center is a thriving visitor attraction which also hosts the International Ice Carving Competition as part of February's Fur Rendezvous Festival. The city is also home to several cultural venues, including the following:
- Anchorage Museum of History and Art: A world-class museum dedicated to collecting, preserving, interpreting the history, art and culture of Alaska.
- Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum: Presents Alaskan aviation history with vintage aircraft, memorabilia, photographs, films and artifacts.
- Alaska Botanical Garden: Nature trail and rock, herb and perennial garden.
- Alaska Native Heritage Center: The premier cultural center of its kind in the state.
- Oscar Anderson House Museum: Chronicles early history of Anchorage and features guided tours.
- Russian Orthodox Museum: Presents the history of Russian Alaska.
- Imaginarium: Science Discovery Center
- Fire Department Museum
Recreational sites in and around Anchorage include Chugach State Park, a half-million acre park rich in recreational opportunities such as hiking, skiing, camping, and snowmobiling; Denali National Park & Preserve, located near Mount McKinley and featuring rafting and mountain biking; the Alpenglow and Hilltop Ski Areas; the Alyeska Resort; and the H2Oasis Indoor Waterpark. One of the city's most popular attractions is the Northern Lights. Also known as Aurora Borealis, the lights appear in the sky as glowing swaying ripples which fold and unfold when the sun's electrically charged particles react to the earth's magnetic field. Fall, winter and spring are the prime seasons for viewing the lights, which most often appear near midnight.
Pro sports in Anchorage can be found at the Sullivan Arena, home to the Alaska Aces of the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL). The city's only other professional franchise is the Alaska Wild, an indoor football team in the Intense Football League (IFL), which is scheduled to commence play for the first time in April 2007.