Many visitors never make it beyond the downtown area, the old-fashioned grid of streets at the northwest corner of town where the high-rise hotels and gift shops are located. Street numbers and letters work on a simple pattern, and navigation is easy. Beyond downtown, most of Anchorage is oriented to commercial strips, and you'll need a map to find your way. It's easy to orient yourself, because you can always see the huge Chugach Mountains on the east side of the Anchorage bowl. Some parts of greater Anchorage are in distinct communities outside the bowl, including Eagle River and Eklutna, within half an hour on the Glenn Highway to the northeast, and Girdwood and Portage, on the Seward Highway, 45 minutes to the south. The suburban Matanuska and Susitna valleys (known as Mat-Su) lie an hour north of the city on the Glenn and Parks highways.
The Anchorage Convention & Visitors Bureau, 524 W. 4th Ave., Anchorage, AK 99501-2212 (tel. 907/276-4118; fax 907/278-5559; www.anchorage.net), offers information on the city and the entire state at its centers and extensive website (the site even has a feature to allow visitors to ask questions of staffers by e-mail). The main location is the Log Cabin Visitor Information Center, downtown at 4th Avenue and F Street (tel. 907/274-3531; open daily June-Aug 7:30am-7pm, May and Sept 8am-6pm, Oct-Apr 9am-4pm). If it's crowded, go to the storefront office right behind it. You'll also find visitor information desks at the airport: one tucked under the main escalators on the baggage claim level of the domestic terminal and in the international terminal.
The Alaska Public Lands Information Center, located at 605 W. 4th Ave. (across the intersection from the log cabin at 4th and F), Ste. 105, Anchorage, AK 99501 (tel. 866/869-6887 or 907/644-3661; www.alaskacenters.gov; open daily 9am-5pm in summer, Mon-Fri 10am-5pm in winter), can help anyone planning to spend time outdoors anywhere in Alaska. Exhibits in the grand room with high ceilings -- the building was a 1930s post office and federal courthouse -- orient visitors to Alaska's geography and outdoor activities and make an excellent starting point for your trip. The center is well worth passing through the federal security checkpoint at the entrance. Free walking tours are at 11am and 2:30pm daily.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.