The final stop on our Alaska cruise was the city of Anchorage. Established in 1914 as the terminus of the newly established Alaska Railroad, Anchorage is the largest city in Alaska, with over 40% of the state’s population living in the city.
On Good Friday in 1964, much of the city was destroyed by the second strongest earthquake ever recorded. Downtown Anchorage sustained much of the damage, but many areas of the city were destroyed. The Turnagain neighborhood was destroyed when the land it was built on dropped seven feet and then slid into Cook Inlet. The destroyed area was turned into Earthquake Park and can be seen from the Anchorage Trolley tour.
While we’re on the subject of the Trolley tour, our tour guide had an interesting account of the earthquake. Her husband, a kid at the time, was at the dentist on the day of the earthquake. When the earthquake happened, the dentist grabbed the child from the chair and they climbed out the first floor window. The young boy, having never been anesthetized before, thought the shaking was the result of the novacaine.
Despite the extensive damage, Anchorage was quickly rebuilt and today is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever visited. Monuments and art, including several totems, are everywhere.
There are murals everywhere in Anchorage, even in back alleys. The largest and most beautiful is Alaska’s Marine Life, the 54th of artist Robert Wyland’s Whaling Walls. Other standouts are the Iditarod mural on the side of the Alaska Experience Theater and a small mural on the side of Kobuk Coffee.
We had roughly a day in Anchorage and we made the most of it. We like to research restaurants we’d like to visit before we visit a place and the place we chose for dinner was Glacier Brewhouse. The place was packed when we stopped and we had to wait more than an hour to be seated but it was worth it. The food, the beer and the service were all great.
The next morning we took a walk to Snow City Cafe for breakfast. Another popular spot with both locals and tourists, we had about a half hour wait. While we waited we wandered across the street to Resolution Point and the Captain Cook monument. Resolution Point gave us a great view of “the Sleeping Lady”, Mount Sisitna.
After a wonderful breakfast at Snow City we wandered back to the Anchorage Visitors Center for the Trolley Tour. The Visitors Center is a cute little “cabin” with a sod roof. The Trolley Tour took us on a very informative tour of the city. We visited Earthquake Park, Lake Hood, some of the oldest neighborhoods in Anchorage and saw Engine No. 1, the first locomotive of the Alaska Railroad.
Lake Hood was interesting. We learned that 1 out of every 60 Alaskans have a pilot’s license (the national average is 1 out of 400). This makes sense when you find out that roads reach only 30% of Alaska. We also saw the iconic de Havilland Beaver airplane. Only 1,600 of these airplanes were built between 1948 and 1967. Despite the last Beaver rolling off the assembly line 50 years ago, hundreds are still operational and are so popular in Alaska that they pass down from family member to family member.
After the Trolley Tour we took a leisurely walk back through town, eventually stopping at Town Square Park for a reindeer sausage. The weather was great and the park was a wonderful little place to enjoy the day.
Eventually it was time to get to the airport. Ted Stevens Airport was pretty interesting with a lot of art. The ducks and geese were quite striking.
So, after twelve days, it was time for the flight home. We enjoyed everything about the trip and will always look back on it as a trip of a lifetime.