photo by Paxson Woelber
Anchorage, Alaska, isn’t like other U.S. cities. It’s farther north than Helsinki, and its winter days shorten to only five and a half hours. However, the city shifts to the opposite over the summer, with about 19 hours of daylight per day in July. Unlike most Alaska towns, it didn’t spring up because of mining or fishing—it happened to be the location of a railroad construction port and has become the largest city in the state. More than 40 percent of Alaska’s residents call Anchorage home. Most of the vacationers who visit Alaska come through Anchorage, and it’s full of entertaining history and odd facts. Here are ten fun facts to know about the city that will make you sound like a real local.
- Legend has it that Turnagain Arm, the long, narrow fjord south of Anchorage, got its name because when Captain Cook explored the area in 1778, looking for a “Northwest Passage” to connect to Prince William Sound, he was disappointed when his teams of scouts returned to say it only led to a river. It was his second dashed attempt to find the passage through that area, and he named it “Turn Again” in frustration.
- Anchorage is as far west as Honolulu.
- Anchorage residents are serious about their Nordic skiing—they even have a Nordic skiing association, and the city boasts 130 miles of groomed Nordic ski trails.
- Sure, Anchorage seems far north, but it doesn’t get as cold as you might imagine. The ocean moderates the area’s climate, so winter days are typically between 5 and 30 degrees Fahrenheit.
- The Lake Hood Seaplane Base in Anchorage is the busiest seaplane base in the world, hosting more than 1,000 takeoffs and landings on the most hectic days of summer—and it’s only three miles from downtown.
- On a clear day, you can see six different mountain ranges from Anchorage: The Alaska, Aleutian, Chugach, Kenai, Talkeetna, and Tordrillo ranges.
- Bears, moose, wolves, beavers, foxes and all sorts of other wildlife live within Anchorage’s city limits or its adjacent areas. It’s not odd to have traffic stop for a moose crossing the road.
- The City of Anchorage stretches almost 2,000 square miles, larger than the entire state of Rhode Island.
- One of the highest tidal variations in the world—32 feet—occurs at Turnagain Arm, the fjord just south of Anchorage.
- Anchorage enjoys life without sales tax—so it’s a great place to pick up souvenirs.
With these facts in your back pocket, your guests will think you’ve lived here your whole life, even if you just got off the plane to work in Anchorage for the summer. And the city’s full of even more humorous history and jaw-dropping geology. The more you research, the more gems you’ll find to make yourself sound like the ultimate tour guide.