Everyone I talked to–Alaskans and friends who have visited–had only one thing to say when I threw out the possibility of spending a week in Anchorage on our tour of Alaska: Why?
Anchorage is the big city. Over 40% of the state’s population lives in the metropolitan area. It should probably be the state’s capital. In the late ’70s, they actually looked into moving the capital from Juneau (in the remote Southeast) to either Anchorage, Fairbanks, or some neutral location (there’s a fierce rivalry between Anchorage and Fairbanks), but nixed the idea as too expensive.
Well, we got a brief preview of Anchorage after we disembarked the ship in Seward. The cost of a one-way car rental out of Seward with a drop-off in Anchorage was science-fictional, so we hopped on a bus, rode the 127 miles to Anchorage, spent the night in a hotel, picked up a round-trip rental car, and returned to Seward to begin our exploration of the Kenai Peninsula.
We liked Anchorage. With a population of just over 400,000, it’s a big city in a small-city kind of way. It’s clean, the people are friendly, and it doesn’t look at all like the Disneyland of cruise-ship Alaska. They actually have stores here that sell something other than souvenirs. Breath of fresh air!
Note: There appears to be a rivalry between Alaska and Texas over the size thing, although Texans are conspicuously quiet on the subject from what I’ve observed. I think Texas deserves to be razzed a bit about being #2, especially given that Texas congressmen (Lyndon Johnson was one of them) did not want to cede Texas’s claim as the largest state and voted against statehood for Alaska in the 1950s.