Some of the most interesting shops are mentioned in the walking tour of downtown, where most galleries and gift shops are located.
Native Arts & Crafts
Many downtown shops in Anchorage carry Alaska Native arts and crafts. Before making major purchases, know what you're buying. Don't miss the 4th Avenue Market Place if you have any interest in Native Art. The mall at 4th between C and D streets contains several shops, including a Native-owned nonprofit, and stages demonstrations and performances during the summer. Right next door, in a bright yellow building, the Rusty Harpoon, 411 W. 4th Ave., has authentic Native items, Alaskan jewelry, less expensive crafts, and reliable, longtime proprietors who only buy direct from Native artists they know. Locals shop here.
The Alaska Native Arts Foundation Gallery, at 6th Ave. and E St. (www.alaskanativearts.org), is a nonprofit promoting the best work of indigenous artists, in both traditional and contemporary forms. The gallery hosts shows dedicated to individual modern artists in a light, open space; the front area features a mix of well-made traditional crafts, including dolls, clothing, and jewelry. The website is well worth a visit and has an online shop.
Nowhere else will you find another business like the Oomingmak Musk Ox Producers' Co-operative (tel. 888/360-9665 outside Alaska, or 907/272-9225; www.qiviut.com), located in the house with the muskox on the side at 6th Avenue and H Street. Owned by 250 Alaska Native women living in villages across the state, the co-op sells scarves and other items they knit of qiviut (ki-vee-ute), the light, warm, silky underhair of the muskox, which is collected from shedding animals. Each village has its own knitting pattern. They're expensive -- adult caps are $130 to $180 -- but the quality is extraordinary. The website contains the women's fascinating correspondence and links to a few of the rural knitters' own pages. When we bought a piece a few years ago, one of the knitters sent a thank-you card. As an aside, if you are driving north from Anchorage, you may also want to stop at the Musk Ox Farm (tel. 907/745-4151; www.muskoxfarm.org), just north of Palmer on the Glenn Highway, where you can see the strange-looking creatures close up (summer daily 10am-6pm; admission $8 adults, $7 seniors, and $6 ages 5-12). Muskoxen also are at the Alaska Zoo and are easy to see in the wild near Nome.
Anchorage also has several small shops and local secret places to find authentic Native artwork. Boreal Traditions, in the lobby of the Hotel Captain Cook, at 5th Avenue and I Street, is perhaps the best source for museum-quality artwork by modern Alaskan artists working in traditional Native media. At the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, at 6th and C streets, check out the large, light-filled gift shop for a beautifully displayed array of excellent Alaska Native art, both expensive pieces and affordable smaller items.
If you can get beyond the downtown area, you can shop at among the best places for Native crafts in Alaska, the Hospital Auxiliary Craft Shop in the Alaska Native Medical Center, off Tudor east of Bragaw (tel. 907/729-1122), where everything is made by the indigenous people eligible to use the hospital (who come from all over the state) and where the staff are all volunteers. Proceeds go to the artists and to provide support for patients and a scholarship fund. The work you find here is all authentic and entirely traditional, and it's possible to stumble on artistic masterpieces. The shop is open Monday through Friday from 10am to 2pm and the first and third Saturday of each month from 11am to 2pm. They don't accept credit cards. There's exceptional Native art to see on the walls of the hospital, too; take the elevator to the top floor, then walk down the stairs.
If you're in the market for a fur, Anchorage has a wide selection and no sales tax. David Green Master Furrier, 130 W. 4th Ave. (www.davidgreenfurs.com), is an Anchorage institution. Others are nearby.
There are lots of places to buy both mass-produced and inexpensive handmade crafts other than Alaska Native items. If you will be in town on a weekend during the summer, be sure to visit the Anchorage Market and Festival street fair, in the parking lot at 3rd Avenue and E Street, with food, music, and hundreds of miscellaneous crafts booths. You won't have any trouble finding gift shops downtown, but an excursion to Alaska Wild Berry Products, 5225 Juneau St., well off the beaten path, should not be missed. They have what must be the town's biggest selection of tourist T-shirts and souvenir items, but also wonderful candies, jams, salmon, and sausage gift packs. "The world's largest chocolate fountain" is only one of the attractions. An adjacent theme village offers shows, espresso, and the chance to have your picture taken with a reindeer.
Downtown has several galleries in the 4th Avenue Market Place. Openings are coordinated to happen on the first Friday of each month, allowing for an evening of free party hopping and art shopping. The International Gallery of Contemporary Art, 427 D St. (www.igcaalaska.org), is a nonprofit space dedicated to artists. Come here for an in-depth look at work by some of the state's most adventurous artists. Since it's run on contributions by volunteers, hours are short and changeable; currently Tuesday through Sunday noon to 4pm, closed Monday. They're also open for first Friday, 5:30 to 7:30pm.
Artique, 314 G St., is Anchorage's oldest gallery and has a large selection. Half of the gallery is given over to big oils and other impressive originals; the other half is chock-full of prints, less-expensive ceramics, and some mass-produced stuff. At 5th and G, Aurora Fine Arts carries pottery, prints, and gifts. Directly across G is a gallery showing only glass sculpture.
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.