Top 12 Free Things to do in Anchorage

Anchorage is Alaska’s largest city and an exciting place to explore. While some activities can be pricey, there are plenty of free things to enjoy in Anchorage.

ActivityDescription (Summarized)
Anchorage MuseumFree first Thursday each month, exhibits on Alaska’s history and culture.
Flattop Mountain TrailPopular hike in Chugach State Park with stunning views.
Tony Knowles Coastal Trail11-mile trail offering scenic views and wildlife sightings.
Anchorage Lightspeed PlanetwalkOutdoor solar system model with educational displays.
Alaska Native Heritage CenterCultural center with free admission for children and cultural demonstrations.
Scenic Seward Highway125-mile drive with breathtaking views and wildlife spotting opportunities.
Town Square ParkDowntown park hosting free events and a playground.
Lake Hood Seaplane BaseViewing area for seaplane activities.
O’Malley Peak TrailHike in Chugach State Park with panoramic views.
Weekend MarketsMarkets featuring local produce, crafts, and live music.
Alaska ZooFree admission for residents on Wednesdays; wildlife viewing.
Earthquake ParkPark with historical displays about the 1964 earthquake.

From scenic trails and parks to museums and cultural attractions, you can experience the best of Anchorage on a budget. Here are the top 12 free things to do in Anchorage:

Visit the Anchorage Museum

Name and Location: The Anchorage Museum is located in downtown Anchorage, Alaska.

History and Significance: The Anchorage Museum first opened in 1968 and has since become Alaska’s largest museum, with exhibits covering Alaskan art, history, and culture. It houses a significant collection of indigenous artifacts.

What to Expect: The museum has exhibits on Alaska Native heritage, fine art galleries, a discovery center for kids, and immerse experiences using virtual reality technology. There are rotating visiting exhibitions as well.

Visitor Information: The museum is open daily from 9am to 6pm, with extended hours on Thursdays. Admission is $18 for adults, discounted for students, seniors, and children.

The Anchorage Museum is a world-class facility with exhibits covering Alaska’s diverse history, art, and culture. General admission to the museum is free for everyone on the first Thursday of every month. On other days, admission is $15 for adults, but free for children 12 and under. The museum’s collections include Alaskan Native artifacts, paintings, photography, and traveling exhibits. Be sure to stop by the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center to see Alaska Native tools, masks, and more. The museum also hosts events and programs throughout the year that are free and open to the public.

Hike Flattop Mountain Trail

Name and Location: Flattop Mountain Trail is located in Chugach State Park just outside Anchorage, Alaska.

History and Significance: Flattop Mountain is one of the most popular hiking trails near Anchorage, offering spectacular views from the 1,500 ft summit. The trail was constructed in the 1950s.

What to Expect: This is a steep 3 mile hike with an elevation gain of 1300 feet. The well-maintained trail has handrails and stays relatively wide until the final push to the summit.

Visitor Information: The Flattop trailhead is accessible year-round. Bring proper hiking gear and emergency supplies. Parking requires a daily or annual recreation pass.

For incredible views over Anchorage and the surrounding mountains, head to Flattop Mountain Trail in Chugach State Park. This popular hike is 3.4 miles roundtrip and gains 1300 feet in elevation on the way to the overlook at the top. While this trail can get crowded, it’s worth braving the other hikers for the sweeping views at the summit. Be sure to wear sturdy shoes for the rocky sections of the trail. Flattop Mountain Trail is free and open year-round, though winter hiking requires proper gear and experience.

Stroll the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail

Name and Location: The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail is an 11-mile paved trail along the coast in Anchorage, Alaska.

History and Significance: Named after Anchorage’s former mayor, this trail offers scenic views of Cook Inlet and the Alaska Range. It’s popular for walking, running, biking, and skating.

What to Expect: The multi-use trail has several access points and passes beaches, parks, artwork, and local attractions. Certain sections close seasonally to protect wildlife.

Visitor Information: The trail is free to use and open year-round. Some parts are wheelchair accessible. Be prepared for changing weather conditions along the coast.

Stretching 11 miles from downtown Anchorage to Kincaid Park, the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail offers walkers, runners, and bikers breathtaking views along Cook Inlet and the Alaska mountain range. The multi-use trail has several access points and you can walk or bike as little or as much as you want. Spring and summer offer excellent views of the snowy mountains, while fall has brilliant colors. You may even catch beluga whales migrating along the coast in early summer. The trail is free, family-friendly, and open year-round.

Visit the Anchorage Lightspeed Planetwalk

Name and Location: The Anchorage Lightspeed Planetwalk is located along Ship Creek in downtown Anchorage, Alaska.

History and Significance: This unique scale model of the solar system stretches for over a mile. The planets are displayed proportionately using spaced markers.

What to Expect: Walking the planet trail gives visitors a grasp of the immense scales of outer space. Placards provide facts about each planet. The path ends with models of spaceships.

Visitor Information: The planetwalk is freely accessible year-round. It starts at the Alaska Railroad depot off 2nd Ave and ends near the Alaska Native Heritage Center.

Combining art, science, and the outdoors, the Anchorage Lightspeed Planetwalk is a unique way to visualize and understand our solar system. This walking trail has scale models of the planets spaced along the path at a ratio of 1 inch = 900 miles. Pluto is over 1.5 miles from the sun model located in downtown Anchorage! Interpretive signs explain facts and science about each planet. The Planetwalk is free, family-friendly, and gives kids and adults a hands-on way to explore the solar system.

Tour the Alaska Native Heritage Center

Name and Location: The Alaska Native Heritage Center is situated in Anchorage and celebrates the diverse cultures of Alaska’s indigenous peoples.

History and Significance: Founded in 1999, this cultural center provides insight into the traditions of Alaska’s native groups through exhibits, art, demonstrations, films, and more.

What to Expect: Guests can explore replica traditional dwellings, experience traditional dances, listen to storytellers, browse the gift shop, and more. There are also walking trails on the grounds.

Visitor Information: The Heritage Center is open May through September and has an admission fee. Guided tours are available for groups.

Celebrating and educating visitors about Alaska Native cultures, the Alaska Native Heritage Center offers free admission every day for children 12 and under. Adult admission is $25, but if you time your visit for the daily 1:30pm opening dance (free for everyone), you can experience storytelling, dancing, and other cultural demonstrations at no cost. The Center also has an outdoor exhibit with examples of traditional Native dwellings that can be explored for free. It’s a great way to learn about Alaska’s indigenous peoples and experience their traditions.

Drive Scenic Seward Highway

Name and Location: The Seward Highway is a scenic drive that runs 125 miles from Anchorage down the Kenai Peninsula to Seward, Alaska.

History and Significance: Completed in 1951, this National Scenic Byway offers incredible views of mountains, glaciers, ocean, forests, and wildlife as it hugs the coast.

What to Expect: Driving the Seward Highway allows you to take in the dramatic landscapes of Chugach National Forest and Kenai Fjords National Park. There are also access points for hiking trails.

Visitor Information: The road is open year-round but subject to closure due to weather conditions. Watch for wildlife crossing the highway. Allow plenty of time for stopping at scenic viewpoints.

Stretching 125 miles from Anchorage to Seward, the Seward Highway offers stunning mountain vistas, glaciers, and ocean views. Rated as one of the most scenic drives in the U.S., the highway runs along Cook Inlet and Turnagain Arm with free pullouts and overlooks along the way. Don’t miss scenic Beluga Point, where you may spot whales; Windy Corner with panoramic mountain views; and the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, where you can view Alaska’s wildlife up close. Entry to the conservation center has a fee, but you can stop to take photos and enjoy the coastal scenery for free.

Stroll Through Town Square Park

Name and Location: Town Square Park is a small urban park located downtown in the heart of Anchorage, Alaska.

History and Significance: For over 100 years, this has been a gathering place for Anchorage residents. The park has an off-centered gazebo, flower gardens, and a performance pavilion.

What to Expect: Benches, lawns, and walkways allow visitors to relax, people watch, or enjoy free summer concerts. A holiday tree and ice rink are set up in winter. The weekly market happens here.

Visitor Information: Town Square Park is open year-round and free to visit. It spans two city blocks between E Street and F Street.

Right in the heart of downtown Anchorage, Town Square Park is a lovely green space surrounded by historic buildings. The central lawn area often hosts free concerts, art fairs, and community events during summer months. You can pack a picnic lunch and people-watch, let the kids run around the playground, or simply stroll the walking paths and enjoy the flowers and fountains. Benches and tables offer seating for taking a break. Stop at the log cabin visitor center for area info. Town Square Park is open daily with free admission.

Watch Planes at Lake Hood Seaplane Base

Name and Location: Lake Hood Seaplane Base is the world’s busiest seaplane airport, located next to Lake Hood in Anchorage, Alaska.

History and Significance: In use since the 1920s, this is the world’s busiest floatplane base with over 190,000 takeoffs annually. It serves as a hub for transportation and recreation.

What to Expect: Spectators can watch planes take off and land on the lake from two public viewing areas located along the Lake Hood side. The seaplane base is open year-round.

Visitor Information: Free viewing areas are accessible from Lake Hood Road and off Aircraft Drive. Be prepared for plenty of noise from plane engines and activities.

The world’s busiest seaplane base, Lake Hood provides an up-close view of takeoffs, landings, and general aviation. Located just a few miles from downtown Anchorage, the seaplane base is home to over 300 aircraft with over 100 takeoffs and landings each day during summer. There is a free observation area and viewing platform along the shore of the lake. You’ll see floatplanes taxi and take to the skies, with the Chugach Mountains as a backdrop. The best time to watch is mid-morning to early afternoon during summer. No admission fee or permit required.

Hike O’Malley Peak Trail

Name and Location: O’Malley Peak Trail is located in Chugach State Park just outside of Anchorage, Alaska.

History and Significance: O’Malley Peak is one of the most accessible mountain trails near Anchorage, offering panoramic views from its 2,800 ft summit.

What to Expect: This 6 mile out-and-back hike has an elevation gain of 2,200 ft. The steep trail has switchbacks and rocky sections with some exposure.

Visitor Information: O’Malley Peak Trail is only recommended for experienced hikers. Proper footwear, gear, and emergency supplies are essential. A state recreation pass is required to park.

For gorgeous panoramic views just minutes from Anchorage, hike O’Malley Peak Trail in Chugach State Park. This 3-mile out-and-back trail climbs through forest and above tree line to the rocky summit overlooking Anchorage and Cook Inlet. You can see all the way to the Aleutian Islands on a clear day. The moderate hike has an elevation gain of 1,300 feet. Be sure to wear sturdy footwear and bring a windbreaker since it can be windy at the top. O’Malley Peak Trail is completely free and usually not crowded.

Browse the Weekend Markets

Name and Location: Anchorage has several popular weekend markets selling local goods and produce, mainly downtown at Town Square Park.

History and Significance: These lively markets showcase Alaskan food, crafts, and talent while fostering community.

From May through September, Saturdays and Sundays come alive in Anchorage with dozens of weekend markets selling fresh local produce, meat and seafood, arts and crafts, prepared foods, and more. The two biggest markets are The Saturday Market and Sunday Market downtown, but smaller neighborhood markets abound. Open from around 9am to 5pm, these markets offer live music, food trucks, arts and crafts booths, and a lively community atmosphere. There’s no admission fee; just wander around the stalls sampling items and enjoying the local vibe.

See Animals at the Alaska Zoo

Name and Location: The Alaska Zoo is located in downtown Anchorage, featuring animals from Alaska and other northern regions.

History and Significance: Founded in 1969, the Alaska Zoo provides a home for orphaned, injured, and captive-born animals. It promotes conservation, education, and research.

What to Expect: Visitors can see Alaska native animals like bears, moose, Muskox, caribou, foxes, and porcupines. There are also special exhibits and seasonal activities.

Visitor Information: The zoo is open daily May through September, with limited days the rest of the year. Admission fees apply.

Home to moose, bears, caribou, muskox, porcupines, and other Arctic and subarctic species, the Alaska Zoo gives you an opportunity to see Alaska’s wildlife up-close. Located just south of downtown Anchorage, the zoo sits on 25 acres and includes large enclosures modeled after the animals’ natural habitats. General admission is $20 for adults and $10 for kids ages 3-12, but there are several ways to visit for free. Anchorage residents get free zoo admission on Wednesdays through September 30 simply by showing ID or a utility bill. Alaska Zoo members, active duty military, veterans, and their family also get in for free year-round.

Tour Earthquake Park

Name and Location: Earthquake Park is located in Anchorage, commemorating the massive 1964 Alaska earthquake.

History and Significance: This park marks the area where tectonic plates shifted up to 30 feet during the 1964 quake, causing massive damage. Interpretive signs explain the geology.

What to Expect: Visitors can walk along the turnagain fault line, see remnants of sunk land, and learn about earthquakes. The park offers dramatic views of Cook Inlet.

Visitor Information: The park is open daily year-round, free to access. A small parking area is available off Northern Lights Blvd.

At Earthquake Park, see evidence of the power of nature at the place where Anchorage was most devastated by the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake. This 4-acre park has picnic tables, walking paths, and informational displays that explain how the earthquake shaped local geology and created new land. Point Woronzof, a former small island, was thrust upwards over 30 feet and is now connected to mainland Anchorage. The park provides incredible views of the surrounding mountains and Cook Inlet. Earthquake Park has free admission and offers an interesting look into how this natural disaster transformed Anchorage.


Anchorage has so much to see and do for free. From urban green spaces like Town Square Park to the stunning overlooks along the Seward Highway, you can experience the best of Alaskan culture, history, wildlife, and scenery on a budget. Rent bikes and cruise the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, get up close with animals at the Alaska Zoo, watch the planes take off over Lake Hood, or sample treats at weekend markets. Hiking trails like Flattop Mountain and O’Malley Peak reward you with phenomenal views that money can’t buy. With fascinating museums, cultural centers, scenic drives, and outdoors adventures, Anchorage offers an unforgettable visit full of free things to do.

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