go wild

Unleash your wild side: An Anchorage adventure with bears, brews & biking

(from left) Elly Maurer and Frankie Dashiell, co-owners of Alaska Trail Guides in Anchorage, Alaska.
(from left) Elly Maurer and Frankie Dashiell, co-owners of Alaska Trail Guides. Photo courtesy of Alaska Trail Guides.

We curve around a bend on the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail on the outskirts of Anchorage, Alaska, finally catching a break from the overcast skies. It’s easy to understand how this is considered one of the country’s most beautiful urban coastal trails. On our bikes, we pedal along quiet stretches under the dappled sun that gives way to the wide harbor and downtown skyline vistas. 

Suddenly, our Alaska Trail Guides leader pauses our ride and whispers the words we’d hoped to hear: “There’s a mama black bear up ahead with her cubs.”

A bear sighting on a paved, urban trail—a curiously common event here. Our guide reminds us, “We’re in their space, so just let them do their thing.” The two cute cubs sniff around the path for a minute before their mother swiftly ushers them back into the woods.

Welcome to Alaska, where wildlife and humans overlap even in the state’s largest city. While capital-city Juneau or coastal Sitka are progressive towns well worth a visit, savvy queer travelers are smart to start in Anchorage. This unassuming, unexpectedly gay-friendly city on the south-central Alaskan coast sparkles with things to do. It’s also the launchpad for road-tripping a few hours north to Denali National Park and Fairbanks, Alaska’s Northern-Lights hub city. Queerty hits the trails and beyond for the best of Anchorage and beyond.

Mad Myrna’s

Mad Myrna's, Anchorage, Alaska.
Mad Myrna’s, Anchorage, Alaska. Photos by Kelsy Chauvin.

You would never know the magic happening inside from the understated exterior of Mad Myrna’s. Beyond that purple brick wall is a small wonderland of nightlife serving up something for everyone.

Named for a local drag queen and open since 1998, Mad Myrna’s underwent a major refresh in 2020 that put modern glamor center stage. Today, it’s the hot lounge in town for upscale cocktails and tasty food, with a dedicated dance room that turns up the club vibes on weekends. But the real surprise is its 220-seat cabaret theater, which stages drag shows by local queen Gigi Monroe and others, the annual Rocky Horror Picture Show live show each fall, and other performances and memorable year-round fundraisers for local charities like the Alaskan AIDS Assistance Association.

A gay stroll around Anchorage

If you feel like laid-back brews around the bar, patio, or pool table, head to neighborhood tavern, The Raven. For something spicier, see what’s on at Cafecito Bonito in East Anchorage. The café is a proud, safe, and fun space for the LGBTQ+ community, serving coffee and food daily. On the last Friday and Sunday of each month, Cafecito Bonito hosts the zesty, all-ages Drag Lotería, with performing queens and rounds of bingo and prizes.

Pedal power

Alaska Trail Guides' Alaskan Coastal Cruise Bike Tour, based in Anchorage, Alaska.
Alaska Trail GGuides’Alaskan Coastal Cruise Bike Tour. Photo courtesy of Alaska Trail Guides.

Adventure-seekers can go big in aren’t, but for those who aren’t quite up for heli-skiing, Alaska Trail Guides has you covered. Join its 10-mile Alaskan Coastal Cruise Bike Tour through the urban wilderness of Kincaid Park and Westchester Lagoon, where you might spot eagles, moose, or the occasional black bear. Founders (and couple) Elly Maurer and Frankie Dashiell and their team of expert guides will show you the best of Anchyou’refrom two wheels. If you’re ready to pedal harder, join a spectacular mountain or winter fat-tire biking tour or customize your trip.

Get fishy

Seafood lovers have choices galore in Anchorage, but one favorite is Spenard Roadhouse. Local restaurateur Laile Fairbairn has made this the best spot for fresh salmon and other seasonal ingredients, along with creative cocktails and Alaskan brews—all while making a point to “contribute positively to our community.” For something deliciously fancy with a harbor view and old-school vibes, Simon & Seafort’s Saloon & Grill has been the go-to eatery downtown since 1978.

All aboard

Alaska Railroad Glacier Discovery Train outside of Anchorage, Alaska.
Alaska Railroad Glacier Discovery Train. Photo courtesy of Michael W. Sullivan.

Climb aboard the century-old Alaska Railroad in downtown Anchorage for its Glacier Discovery coastal day trip. Along this historic train route, travelers admire mountain and bay views, then visit bears, moose, wolves, reindeer, porcupines, and other wildlife on the mend at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center animal sanctuary. Join an incredible raft float cruise from the base of Spencer Glacier through the Chugach National Forest for a final fantastic chapter to the outdoor adventure.

In June 2023, Anchorage Pride marked its 44th year—an outstanding accomplishment that says a lot about this city’s enthusiastic LGBTQ+ community. Look for year-round events and fundraisers supporting and leading up to the big Pride parade (organized in 2023 by Alaskans Together Foundation)

In June, catch events like Native Movement’s annual Diversity in the OUTdoors Solstice Party at Goose Lake Pavilion and the Pride Block Party at Writer’s Block Bookstore & Café. In July, don’t miss Underground Pride at the Alaska State Fairgrounds in nearby Palmer, a family-friendly festival for queer folks and allies of all ages, organized by local community group the Queen’s Guard.

Broadway, the Alaskan way

Just when you thought you were too far away from the lights of New York City to catch a high-caliber musical, enter Broadway Alaska. As a partnership between the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts and theater powerhouse Nederlander, Broadway Alaska has brought top-tier musicals like Hamilton, Come from Away, SIX, and other shows to Anchorage for more than a decade. Bonus: Catch touring cast members’ exclusive performances at Mad Myrna’s, usually as (affordable) fundraisers, and expect more budget-friendly pricing for touring shows compared to Broadway’s premium seats.

Five tips for your Alaskan road trip

Northern Lights, Alaska
The Northern Lights as seen from Fairbanks, Alaska. Photo courtesy of Travel Alaska/Chris McLennan.

Anchorage can keep a visitor busy for a week or more. But considering most travelers come so far to reach Alaska, it’s worth adding time for a mini road trip northward. A few key stops are sure to make the added days unforgettable. Here are five can’t-miss recommendations sure to make the added days unforgettable.

Quirky Talkeetna: An adorably eccentric (some say hippie) town, Talkeetna is a two-hour drive north of Anchorage, where you can enjoy a bite at Denali Brewing Company, buy local art, and do an overnight that may yield Northern-Lights sightings.

Majestic nature:  No trip to Alaska is complete without time in Denali National Park. Join a Natural History Tour with exclusive interior access via the park’s only road. Lodge at Alaskan-owned Grizzly Bear Resort, with rustic accommodations on the Nenana River.

Lofty views: Look down on the continent’s tallest mountain peak—Denali, at 20,400 feet—aboard a truly awestriking “flightseeing tour” with locally owned Northern Alaska Tour Company.

Soak it up: Head just outside Fairbanks for a soak in Chena Hot Springs, one of Alaska’s few natural mineral hot springs open to travelers.

Northern Lights chasing: Fairbanks is the state’s best locale for viewing the Aurora Borealis. For the best shot at seeing the heavenly spectacle, drive yourself to Aurora Pointe’s observation center or join a 10 p.m.-3 a.m. Alaska Aurora Adventures driving tour to “chase” the lights.

Alaska Resource Guide



Gay Anchorage: Anchors away

Mad Myrna’s

Premier gay entertainment 530 E 5th Ave · Anchorage, AK 99501
(907) 276-9762

The Raven

Neighborhood tavern 708 E. 4th Ave. · Anchorage, AK 99501
(907) 276-9672

Cafecito Bonito

Friendly and cozy cafe 6307 DeBarr Rd · Anchorage, AK 99504
(928) 502-0388

Spenard Roadhouse

Upscale neighborhood eatery 1049 W Northern Lights Blvd · Anchorage, AK 99503
(907) 770-7623

Simon & Seafort’s Saloon & Grill

Stunning harbor views 420 L St · Anchorage, AK 99501
(907) 274-3502

Alaska Center for the Performing Arts

High-calibur Broadway shows 621 W 6th Ave · Anchorage, AK 99501
(907) 263-2900
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