While the Alaska State Ferry does not actually sail to and from Anchorage, boats do stop at Homer and Whittier, from which two ports travelers can use either bus or train to reach Anchorage. The ferry system’s Lower 48 port is Bellingham, Washington; 800-642-0066.
The Alaska Railroad not only provides scheduled passenger service between Seward and Fairbanks (Anchorage is about a quarter of the way from Seward to Fairbanks), it is one of the great scenic rail routes in North America. Owned by the state, the railroad is also a practical transport venue used by both tourists and Alaskans, especially in winter when weekend “snow trains” take skiers into the woods. There are stations at Anchorage International Airport, and adjacent to downtown along Ship Creek; 907-265-2494 or 800-544-0552.
Bus service between Anchorage and Fairbanks is offered by Alaska/Yukon Trails, with daily service between the state’s two biggest cities; the fare is $99 one way. The company also offers scheduled and charter trips to Denali National Park, Whitehorse and other points in Alaska and the Yukon; 800-770-7275.
Ted Stevens Anchorage International (ANC) is a user-friendly small-city airport, with spacious, airy concourses, few lines at check-in counters and security checkpoints, and uncrowded shops and services. A huge bonus is the upstairs gallery of Alaska Native artworks, such as carved whalebone, ceremonial masks and jewelry, in Concourse C—one of the best such exhibits anywhere. The dominant carrier, by far, is Alaska Airlines, for whom this is a major hub. Virtually all flying in Alaska goes through Anchorage, and the great majority of travel in Alaska is by air. Other carriers include Air Canada, United, Delta and American. The airport is named for former U.S. Republican Sen. Ted Stevens, longtime Alaska political powerhouse, who was convicted of misconduct in 2008 but had his conviction overturned. Wi-Fi is free throughout the airport. Concessions on the concourses are adequate, though uninspired (McDonald’s, cheesy gift shops). Taxi fare to and from downtown hotels is about $25; allow 25 minutes during busy traffic times.
Like most small cities, travelers hoping to hail a cab may have little luck simply standing on a street corner in Anchorage—it’s best to call for a cab (Yellow, 907-222-2222 or Checker, 907-276-1234) or ask the hotel, restaurant, etc. to call you one. Cabs are easily found at the airport; the fare to and from downtown is about $30, and the trip takes 20 minutes.
How much is the travel freedom afforded by a rental car worth to you? Anchorage visitors in peak season (June-September) must ask themselves that question. Rentals can approach $1,000 for a week. It’s entirely possible to enjoy the city for many days without a car: Rent a bike and get on the peerless trails system and you can see almost everything, and several outlying attractions such as Alaska Zoo and the Native Heritage Center have shuttle service to and from downtown. That said, you’ll want a car to reach Girdwood, and to undertake side trips to Denali, Seward, Homer and other nearby destinations. Our suggestion: Reserve a three-day rental and when the tab is totaled, grin and bear it.
Hey, this is Anchorage—not the sort of high-density metropolis that supports great mass transit. The Anchorage bus system is called the People Mover; it bisects the city north/south and east/west, with service averaging once an hour on most routes. One-way fare is $1.75. It’s basically not a practical option for tourists—for instance, you cannot get to the Alaska Native Heritage Center or Alaska Zoo on the bus, so both those attractions offer free summer-season shuttles from downtown. There is a half-hourly People Mover bus between the airport and downtown from 6:15AM to 10:40PM.