Do you want to get off the beaten path on your Alaskan vacation? Seeking out overlooked gems is a great way to connect with a new destination.
At Alaskan Sights & Bites, we’re born and raised Alaskans. We’ve used our local expertise to make our guided food tours in Anchorage truly authentic experiences.
And because we know our home city and the surrounding region so well, we’re perfectly placed to share some recommendations for Alaska’s best-kept secrets.
So join us on a tour around some of our favorite spots in and near Anchorage that often go under the radar of visitors.
If you have any questions for the Alaskan Sights & Bites team, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Bird Treatment and Learning Center, Anchorage
Location: 15510 Old Seward Hwy, Anchorage, AK 99516, United States
Located in South Anchorage, near the birding hotspot of Potter Marsh, the Bird Treatment and Learning Center has a mission that’s as clear as it is worth celebrating: to care for Alaska’s wild birds through a combination of education, rehabilitation, and community outreach.
When it comes to rehabilitation, Bird TLC takes in ill, injured, or orphaned wild birds from across Alaska. The expert team cares for these animals before releasing them back into the wild.
Bird TLC also presents youth and adult education programs (featuring the Ambassador Birds that they cannot release) that help to raise community awareness about wild birds.
Their hard work has helped to make people more aware of and knowledgeable about the wild birds we share our home with.
The Bird TLC clinic isn’t open to the public, but the service they provide makes them an unsung hero of Anchorage life.
Make sure you make the most of your time here by reading our 10 Alaska travel tips to enhance your adventure.
Burial Spirit Houses, Eklutna
Location: Eklutna Village Rd, Chugiak, AK 99567, United States
The Eklutna Spirit Houses are in a graveyard outside of the St Nicholas Orthodox Church in the village of Eklutna, around 30 miles north of Anchorage,
Here, you will find colorful spirit houses that represent a unique blend of two belief systems—that of the Dena’ina (a Native Alaskan Athabascan people) and the Russian Orthodox Church.
As the Dena’ina converted to Russian Orthodox in the early 19th century, they were forbidden from performing their traditional cremation ceremonies.
Instead, they had to bury their dead. According to Russian Orthodox beliefs, the deceased person’s spirit will make their journey from the grave within 40 days.
The Dena’ina wanted to provide shelter for these spirits, so they built houses to cover the graves. The bright hues are said to represent the deceased’s family colors.
Nike Site Summit, Anchorage
Location: Ski Bowl Rd, Anchorage, AK 99505, United States
In a list of Alaska’s best-kept secrets, we have to include Nike Site Summit! This remarkable place only came into existence because of the secrecy, paranoia, and threat of the Cold War.
Indeed, Nike Site Summit was a last line of defense against Soviet bombers armed with nuclear weapons.
The US Army developed the Nike-Hercules missile as the first nuclear-capable anti-aircraft missile. These missiles were designed to destroy formations of nuclear-armed bombers approaching the United States.
Sitting on the peak of Mount Gordon Lyon, the US Army activated Nike Site Summit in May 1959. It stood guard until it was closed down in 1979. Along with a site in Florida, it was one of the last two Nike missile sites operating in the US.
Due to its national significance, the Nike Site Summit was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.
Girdwood, Home to North America’s Northernmost Temperate Rainforest
Location: 36 miles southeast of Anchorage
The small Alaskan mountain town of Girdwood is nestled in North America’s northernmost temperate rainforest, along the edge of the Turnagain Arm.
What’s more, it’s also surrounded by the stunning peaks of the Chugach Mountain Range!
Of course, a rainforest needs rain to grow, so Girdwood sees its fair share of precipitation. However, most of it falls in winter and fall, with May to August considered the drier season.
The area surrounding Girdwood is lush with prehistoric-looking ferns, mossy Sitka spruce trees, and wildflower meadows. And with all that rain comes waterfalls too!
If you’re looking to disconnect from everyday life in spectacular natural scenery, Girdwood is calling your name!
After you’ve worked up an appetite exploring Girdwood, why not try one of our tips for five dishes that you have to eat in Alaska?
Veilbreaker Sky Bridges at Alyeska Resort, Girdwood
Location: 1000 Arlberg Ave, Girdwood, AK 99587, United States
Girdwood is also home to the Alyeska Resort, which in turn is where you can find the incredible Veilbreaker Sky Bridges!
Consisting of Christmas Bridge (177ft long) and New Years Bridge (233ft long), the two sections that make up Veilbreaker Sky Bridges span a total of 410ft. The bridges are connected by the peaks of Alyeska Mountain, Mighty Mite, and Glacier Bowl.
And as you might expect from a “sky bridge”, they are suspended 2,500ft above the valley floor!
If you’re brave enough to ascend to these heights, you’re rewarded with jaw-dropping views of the expansive Alaskan landscape, including the Chugach boreal forest, gigantic glaciers, and Turnagain Arm.
Please note that the Sky Bridges are only open during the summer months. For more useful insights like this, check out our guide What is the Best Season to Visit Alaska?
Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop, Chugach National Forest
Location: Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop, Chugach National Forest, Seward, AK 99664, United States
Even further south, you can find the extraordinary Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop. When we say this is a remote wilderness area, we mean it! This place is only accessible by train.
When you arrive, the station area has restrooms, a roofed shelter, and the trailhead for the 1.3-mile path to the Spencer Glacier overlook on the shore of Lake Spencer.
From this spot, you can take in the awe-inspiring views of one of the Railbelt’s most visible glaciers.
The sight of this huge wall of ice inching its way down the mountains to the lake is truly unforgettable.
For an even more immersive experience, you can join guided excursions to learn more about the glacier and the surrounding area.
Alaska Aviation Museum, Anchorage
Location: 4721 Aircraft Dr, Anchorage, AK 99502, United States
For our final best-kept secret in Alaska, we return to Anchorage and the Alaska Aviation Museum!
This fascinating museum sits on the shores of Lake Hood, the world’s largest and busiest floatplane base, a testament to Alaska’s rich aviation history. The state boasts more bush pilots than any other, is home to the largest float plane airport, and also the most active regular small plane airport in the US. Intriguingly, in Alaska, individuals can obtain their pilot’s license even before they can get their driver’s license, provided they pass the required tests – aviation is a central part of Alaskan life!
The Alaska Aviation Museum houses four hangars filled with vintage aircraft and engaging exhibitions. These include interactive displays, films, memorabilia, photographs, and personal artifacts from pioneering aviators. In the Cecil Higgins Restoration Hangar, visitors can witness the meticulous care and dedication of volunteers restoring a WWII Curtiss P-40.
From the museum’s vantage point, it’s also possible to observe some of the 87,000 landings and takeoffs that take place here annually.
For anyone with a passion for the skies, the Alaska Aviation Museum is an absolute must-visit.
Join Our Anchorage Food Tours for Even More Authentic Alaskan Experiences!
We hope this guide to some of Alaska’s best-kept secrets has inspired you to take your adventure off the beaten track.
If you want to explore Anchorage like a local while you’re here, our guided food tours in Anchorage are exactly what you need!
We’ve created authentic, immersive experiences that showcase the very best of our city’s booming culinary scene.
For more information about our Anchorage guided tours, please get in touch.