Gateways to Alaskan Cruises: Anchorage

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Amid the wild countryside that crowds around it on all sides, Anchorage has grown into a vigorous, spirited, cosmopolitan city---by far Alaska's largest and most sophisticated. You'll find plenty to do year-round here, though most visitors, particularly first-timers, might be happiest in June, July, or August, when the days are longer and the temperatures warmer. There's plenty to keep you occupied---here are a few suggestions for making the most of a quick visit.

24 Hours in Anchorage

If the weather is cooperating, start your morning with a blood pumping walk along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, a pathway that curls along Cook Inlet for approximately 11 miles. You may encounter active locals along the way---including in-line skaters, runners, and bull moose.

Head back into downtown Anchorage to spend the early afternoon browsing its shops and galleries before grabbing a quick bite to eat. Stop by Alaska's largest independent book store, Title Wave Books, to pick up a good cruise read. If you're lucky to be visiting on a summer weekend, stroll to the Saturday Market (photo,right) for a delicious mix of fresh oysters, Russian fare, and local produce.

For an interactive introduction to Alaskan Native history, board a free downtown shuttle to the Alaska Native Heritage Center, a ten-minute ride away. If you're pressed for time, stick to the downtown area and venture instead to the Anchorage Museum of History and Art to browse both historic and contemporary Alaskan art.

At the dinner hour, head to the Marx Brothers' Caf , a fine dining restaurant housed in an unassuming frame house. Kachemak Oysters, a selection of game dishes, and their famous table-side prepared ceaser salad are just a few highlights from the weekly-changing.

Several places are open late if coffee and dessert sound like the perfect nightcap, but true night owls will want to make a bee-line to Chilkoot Charlie's, a raucous mega-club with sawdust floors, an ice bar, and multiple dance rooms.

Smart Travel Tips

Getting to the Port
Anchorage is the starting (or ending) point for many Alaskan cruises but most passengers actually board or disemabark their ships from Seward (125 miles sounth on Resurrection Bay). Seward is three-hour bus ride or four-hour train ride from Anchorage. Princess Cruises now stops at Whittier (59 miles southeast of Anchorage), on the western shore of Prince William Sound. Transportation to these ports is sometimes included in the price of the cruise. The few ships that do dock at Anchorage proper are within a short taxi ride from dowtown.

Airport Transfers
Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport is 6 miles from downtown. There is an Alaska Railroad station at the airport that offers trips downtown, as well as direct service to Seward or Whittier. A taxi ride downtown runs about $17, not including tip. Alaska Shuttle (907/338-8888) offers transport to downtown for $12 for one to three people.

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