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Skyline of Anchorage, Alaska on a clear day
Frank Flavin | Visit Anchorage

7 Unique Events in Anchorage, Alaska Worth Planning a Trip Around

Anchorage, Alaska is a beautiful destination to visit any time of the year. However, for a truly special trip, time your vacation around one of these unique events for an “only in Alaska” experience. 

From famous snowy sporting events to lively summer festivals, Anchorage offers a reason to visit every season.  Mark these dates on your calendar and plan an unforgettable adventure to Alaska. 

Editor’s Note: This story is sponsored by Visit Anchorage.

Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race

Ceremonial Iditarod Sled Dog Race Start in downtown Anchorage
JodyO.Photos | Visit Anchorage

For a classic Alaska experience, plan to be in Anchorage on the first Saturday in March when the iconic annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race kicks off. The approximately 1,000-mile-long course kicks off with a ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage before winding through the state and ending in western Alaska.

Join the spectators lining the street to cheer on the dogs and mushers as they begin their bid for victory. There will be many fun events before and during the race, along with opportunities to visit the sled dogs at kennels and even the chance to bid to ride along in a sled during the ceremonial start. 

Fur Rendezvous Festival

Running of the Reindeer at Fur Rendezvous Festival in Anchorage, Alaska
JodyO.Photos | Visit Anchorage

Alaskans know how to make winter fun, and there’s no better example of this than Anchorage’s Fur Rendezvous Festival. Held in late February through early March, this annual celebration rejoices in the cold weather with fun competitions, Alaska Native arts and culture events, and family-friendly activities. 

Fly high on the Blanket Toss, where blankets become makeshift trampolines, strap on metal snowshoes and a themed snowsuit and try running the bases in Snowshoe Softball, or see if you’re faster than a reindeer in the Running of the Reindeer—you won’t find these unique events anywhere else in the world other than in Anchorage. 

Anchorage International Film Festival

Movie-goers watching a film at Anchorage International Film Festival
Bear Tooth Theatrepub | Visit AnchorageVisit Anchorage

Billed as “films worth freezing for,” the movies at the Anchorage International Film Festival (AIFF) will entice you out of your cozy hotel room. Alaska’s largest film festival is held every December, with over 100 selections showcased. 

Don’t miss the presentation of the Golden Oosikar Awards (cheekily named after the Oscars and a portion of walrus anatomy), which honor the best feature, documentary, short film, animation, and super short shown. 

Bear Paw Festival

Salmon race at Bear Paw Festival in Anchorage, Alaska
Visit Anchorage

Think you can compete in an obstacle course? What about doing it while carrying a salmon and an open bottle of soda (without spilling or dropping either)? Test your skills (or watch others attempt it) at Eagle River’s annual Bear Paw Festival in mid-July.

Held 15 minutes from downtown Anchorage, the festival has plenty of unique events to entertain you, including a teddy bear picnic, a human foosball tournament, and goat yoga. 

Slam’n Salm’n Derby

Woman fishing in Slam'n Salmon Derby at Ship Creek in Anchorage, Alaska
JodyO.Photos | Visit Anchorage

Being able to fish in the heart of a major city is rare, but you can do just that at Ship Creek in downtown Anchorage. This fully-stocked waterway is home to the annual Slam’n Salm’n Derby, one of the only urban fishing derbies in the country. 

Locals and visitors compete to pull the biggest king salmon every June. The derby is free to enter, and some serious prizes (including thousands of dollars) are on the line. The lively derby is fun to watch, even if you’re not a fisher. 

Downtown Summer Solstice Festival

Runners participating in Anchorage's Mayor's Marathon
Roy Neese | Visit Anchorage

The longest day of the year, when Anchorage gets 22 hours of functional daylight, is an occasion worth celebrating. Join in the party at the Summer Solstice Festival, held every June when artists, musicians, and performers spill into the streets for day-long revelry.

During the festival, you can run the most scenic race of your life at the Anchorage Mayor’s Marathon & Half Marathon (which also offers options for a five-miler), join in the informal sunset celebrations atop Flattop Mountain, or catch live music in Town Square Park.

AK Beer Week

Beer sampler at 49th State Brewing in downtown Anchorage, Alaska
Wayde Carroll

Anchorage’s thriving wildlife population draws visitors hoping to see bears, but the city’s beer scene is also worth planning a trip around—there are 13 breweries in Anchorage to sample. Time your visit around AK Beer Week (which now officially lasts for an entire month), when there will be many sudsy events celebrating the city’s craft breweries. 

See how your favorite drink is made on a brewery tour, create a memorable souvenir at a sip and paint, or simply enjoy a tasting flight at a downtown bar. 

Don’t miss the Alaska Craft Brew & Barley Wine Festival, a two-day event hosted by The Brewers Guild of Alaska, which serves up drinks, local food, live music, and a good time. 

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