Anchorage, Alaska, for Planners: Myth vs. Fact

Visit Anchorage

We attended a stopover near Smart Meetings’ offices by Visit Anchorage, the DMO for Alaska’s largest city (pop. just under 300,000). Here are key takeaways for planners.

Myth: It’s too cold and too far. In fact, the average high temperature in July is 65 degrees; in January, it’s 22 degrees. There are 240 daily flights to Anchorage on major airlines; from Chicago, flight time is 6 ½ hours; Seattle is just over 3 hours away by air. Downtown from Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC) is a 15-minute ride.

Reality: 1,500 moose wander the city and surrounding area. In the vicinity are approximately 310 black and brown bears, 300 beluga whales, 2,400 Dali sheep and 150 beavers. Never fear: Visit Anchorage representatives will show up at your prior year’s event to overcome moose anxiety, and they can even bring along an Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race musher with puppies (!) to promote record attendance.

Where to Stay

There are 8,700 hotels rooms in Anchorage, with 3,000 near newly renewed William A. Egan Civic & Convention Center (45,000 sq. ft. of flexible meeting, exhibit and prefunction space) and Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center (nearly 200,000 sq. ft.).

Where to Meet

Major meeting hotels are Anchorage Marriott Downtown (392 guest rooms, 14,729 sq. ft. of meeting space); Hotel Captain Cook (546 guest rooms, a 9,000-square-foot ballroom and 14 meeting rooms) and Sheraton Anchorage Hotel & Spa (370 guest rooms, 23,317 sq. ft.).

For smaller gatherings and incentives, check out The Lakefront Anchorage (248 guest rooms, 9,000 sq. ft. of meeting space), a Millennium property situated on Lake Hood within the city; the lake is the world’s busiest float plane base, for flightseeing and fishing trips, and the hotel is headquarters of the Iditarod race.

Forty miles south of Anchorage, Alyeska Resort (300 guest rooms, 9,000 sq. ft. of meeting space plus 15,000 sq. ft. of special events space) is tucked in the Chugash Mountains and excels as a luxury base camp for summer and winter excursions. In ski season, it offers the longest continuous double-black diamond ski run in North America.

Unique meeting and event spaces include Anchorage Museum (24,000 sq. ft. of new exhibit space) and Alaska Native Heritage Center, which celebrates the state’s 11 major cultural groups on 26 acres just outside downtown.

What to Do

Seasonal outdoor activities abound. These include glacier cruising on boats that carry from 70 to 240 passengers, whale watching, Northern Lights viewing, salmon fishing, gold panning, hiking, biking and skiing in the Chugach Mountains and national parks.

Cultural options include concerts and dance at Alaska Center for the Performing Arts, and summer music festivals and other events round out the year. A lively craft brewing scene and more coffee shops per capita than anywhere in the United States are available anytime. Anchorage has no sales tax, so shopping for Alaska Native art becomes even more enticing.

An online meeting planning toolkit for planners can be accessed at anchorage.net.

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