Although it may seem crazy to think about a trip to Alaska right now if you’re in a cold climate city (as I write this, it’s 14 degrees F in Chicago), there is something about Anchorage, Alaska, that beckons a visit. Aside from the cold, its openlands almost seem like extended arms wanting to bring you in and try its miles of trails or enjoy its local scene.
What most people may not know about Anchorage is its busy year-round with activities for both local residents and visitors. Below are just a few things happening this year:
1. Great Alaska Beer & Barley Wine Festival, January 18 & 19
Stout, pale ale, amber or nut brown are just a few of the beers to be found at this annual showcase of suds. You’ll be able to try beers of the Northwest and beyond with special attention to Alaska’s brews. The whole weekend is a celebration of beer, mead and barley wine and gives everyone the opportunity to meet local brewers and try something new.
2. Fur Rendezvous, February 22-March 3
Celebrating winter like nowhere else, Alaska’s largest and oldest winter festival features tons of fun events. Rated the best winter carnival in the world by National Geographic Traveler, there’s something for everyone. Running of the Reindeer is a mass dash with sprinting caribou and Yukigassen is a snowball fight like no other. Locals also like to dress up and push outhouses and strap on snowshoes to play softball. These are just a few of the delights in store at Rondy in 2013.
3. Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race® Ceremonial Start, March 2
World-class mushers and their dog teams race toward the Bering Sea coast through rugged mountains and snowcapped forests in the “Last Great Race.” The Iditarod’s 1,049 miles of pure adrenaline begin in downtown Anchorage the first Saturday in March. The restart is held the next day in Willow, north of Anchorage.
4. Tour of Anchorage, March 3
Strap on the cross country skis and take a tour of Anchorage by trail. Hundreds of skiers take part in the event which offers a 25K, 40K and 50K route. Designed for all abilities, this point-to-point amateur ski marathon is part of the American Ski Marathon Series, North America’s longest running and largest citizen’s racing and touring series.
5. Alyeska Spring Carnival and Slush Cup, April 19-21
Elvis navigating downhill and skimming the surface of a brutally cold, slushy pond is an image that stays with onlookers a long time. Usher in spring with the costumed insanity of the Slush Cup, great spring skiing and snowboarding, kids races, live music and more.
6. USS Anchorage Commissioning, April 25-May 4
Celebrate a first for the United States Navy and Alaska when the newest ship, Anchorage (LPD 23) is commissioned on May 4, 2013. Events and ship tours take place in the week preceding the commissioning. Maritime tradition will be on display in Alaska’s largest city as the command is given to “man our ship and bring her to life.”
7. Anchorage Market and Festival, May 11-September 8
Browse for crafts, sample the summer flavors of Alaska and enjoy free entertainment every Saturday and Sunday all summer long. Local farmers and artisans sell their goods in a festival atmosphere. This open-air market is a great place to get a bite to eat, soak up the sun and mingle with the locals.
8. Slam’n Salm’n Derby, June 14-23
“Fish on!” is a phrase anglers hope to hear during the annual Slam’n Salm’n Derby. Running through downtown Anchorage, Ship Creek is an urban fishing spot home to runs of king and silver salmon. Locals and visitors alike drop a line into the creek hoping to hook a king salmon and win cash and prizes. The event is a benefit for the Downtown Soup Kitchen.
9. Summer Solstice Celebration, June 22
Alaskans celebrate the longest day of the year from sunup to sundown, a tall order on a day with 22 hours of functional daylight. From running in the Mayor’s Marathon & Half Marathon and dancing to live music in Town Square to cheering on police, firefighters and members of the military in the Hero Games and climbing a local peak to snap some stunning views there is plenty to see and do in Anchorage.
10. Big Wild Life Runs, August 17 & 18
Lace up your running shoes and hit the trails for a weekend of fun as the summer winds down. The kids 2K is great for toddlers and tweens. People of all abilities are encouraged to take part in the 5K, half marathon, marathon and marathon relay.
11. Alaska State Fair, August 22-September 2
A large state fair, visitors come see the monster veggies, view the spectacular Chugach Mountains, experience a thrilling ride and devour dozens of Alaska delicacies like reindeer hot dogs (who knew?). Just an hour north of Anchorage in the Matanuska Valley the Alaska State Fair is a great way to wrap up a busy summer.
12. Carrs/Safeway Great Alaska Shootout, November 26-30
Turkey and hoops go hand-in-hand in Anchorage. Many of the nation’s top collegiate basketball teams have gathered here over Thanksgiving weekend throughout the years to compete in the annual Carrs/Safeway Great Alaska Shootout tournament. In between games there is plenty to see and do in Anchorage, including the annual tree lighting ceremony, Nutcracker Ballet, Anchorage Museum’s Crafts Weekend and more.
13. NECA/IBEW Fire and Ice Extravaganza, December 31
The city of Anchorage lights up the night with a big, wild celebration for the whole family. Live music, fire performers, skating in Town Square and fireworks cap 2013 and welcome the New Year.
Is Anchorage, Alaska, on your travel itinerary this year or have you been?
Megy Karydes is founder of Wandering Tastes, a lifestyle and travel site that is meant to inspire adventure and exploration through traveling and food. She’s also a regular contributor to 10best.com which is part of the USA Today Travel family and TravelingMom.com as Foodie TravelingMom among other print magazines and online media outlets.