Note: The State of Alaska released its phased re-opening plan on May 6, 2020. In all phases (currently), interstate travel requires a 14-day quarantine upon arrival in Alaska. If you do not already have reservations, DO NOT BOOK NEW TRAVEL THIS SUMMER.
Formerly called the Anchorage Saturday Market, the Anchorage Market & Festival is a weekly open-air market in the heart of downtown Anchorage. Each weekend, vendors from around the state set up stalls in a large parking lot. There, they sell wares from artistic and authentic to kitschy and touristy. There are also fantastic food options.
The Anchorage Market is widely recommended for good reason. The Market is a representative capsule of the unique gifts and experiences you can find in Alaska, and it’s easily accessed for anyone staying in the downtown area.
By growing up near Anchorage, I have visited the Anchorage Market many times, and always make a stop when I’m back visiting. Here’s my local’s guide to the Anchorage Market, with everything you need to know.
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How to Get to the Anchorage Market
If you are staying in downtown Anchorage, it’s easy to walk from most major hotels to the Market. In fact, if you’re staying at the Anchorage Hilton, it’s across the intersection of 3rd Avenue and E Street. From other popular accommodations like the Captain Cook or Westmark hotels, it’s an easy 10-minute walk.
If you drive to the Saturday market, be advised that parking near the market is tricky. It’s best to park somewhere in downtown, such along one of the lettered streets of 4th Avenue, and walk to the market from there. Parking is available primarily in two-hour spots, and you can pay for parking using an app – plus pay for additional hours.
When visiting, I parked along I Street and walked along 4th Avenue until I got to E Street. From there I turned left (north) and walked one block to the Anchorage Market.
The Anchorage Market is accessible for wheelchairs. Additionally, the lot where the market takes place is pretty flat and easy to navigate for visitors with difficulty walking.
The Anchorage Market is enjoyable in any weather!
What to Do at the Anchorage Market
There are three great activities to enjoy at the Anchorage Market:
- Listening to live music.
- Shopping for souvenirs.
Live Music at the Anchorage Market
Throughout the day on Saturdays and Sundays, bands and artists perform on the main stage near the 3rd Ave./E St. entrance to the Market. These bands range from local youth rock bands to traditional Alaskan music performances, and are free to enjoy.
You’ll also find some musicians and other artists who set up in empty stall spaces and perform (busk) during the Market. These artists often have music for sale or accept tips; others are just playing to add pleasant music to the air.
Eating at the Anchorage Market
Personally, eating is the most exciting part of the Anchorage Market. You can find a huge range of distinctly Alaskan casual food options, from salmon quesadillas to Halibut fish and chips to elk and bison burgers. There are also great ethnic food options from around the world, including Hawaiian, Pan-Asian, and Russian/Eastern European.
By far my favorite food at the market are the corn fritters with honey butter. I’m not sure where the corn fritter tradition in Alaska originated, but the crispy dough balls are deep fried and served with a sweet/salty butter that melts perfectly over them.
Souvenir Shopping at the Anchorage Market
If you’re in Alaska for a short time, such as before/after an Alaska Cruise, the Anchorage Market is the perfect spot to grab souvenirs from your trip. Here are some of the top Alaskan souvenirs you can find at the Anchorage Market:
- Antler/horn, bone, and wooden carvings. Artists create beautiful carvings of Alaskan scenes and animals that range in size from mantlepiece displays to pocket-sized tokens.
- Ulu knives. In addition to the nearby Ulu Factory (down the hill near the Anchorage Train Depot), you can find beautiful hand-made Ulu knives in the Market. These traditional kitchen items are a perfect gift for the cook in your life.
- Alaskan art and photography. Paintings and photography are a common souvenir on display at the market; you’ll find some of Alaska’s most talented artists come sell their works at the Anchorage Market. Personally, I enjoy seeing the northern lights photography and have invested in a set for my own home.
- Alaskan food products. Local honey, produce, and meat products are available for purchase. Try some fresh Alaska cherries in the middle of summer, or buy smoked salmon or reindeer to bring home and enjoy after your trip.
- Fur products. If you are not morally opposed to fur products, you can get great ones at the market. These are sold in accordance with Alaska law regarding the harvesting of furs based on animals, and are usually sold by Alaskan Native companies or individuals.
How Long to Spend at the Anchorage Market
In my experience, you can spend anywhere from 2 hours to a half-day at the Anchorage Market. I recommend showing up in mid-morning, and staying through lunchtime (2-3 hours). The best plan is to walk through the market once or twice, then head back to the stalls where you found objects you might want to buy. Making your purchases at the end will mean you don’t have to carry them the whole day as you walk around, and you’ll find exactly what you want to purchase.
Bonus: Save Room for Reindeer Sausage
No matter what time of day you visit the Anchorage Market or how long you stay, I recommend making a post-Market stop at Tia’s Reindeer Sausage stand on 4th Avenue (usually between E and F Streets). Tia’s distinctive yellow umbrella makes her easy to find, as she is one of several reindeer sausage vendors along the street.
Reindeer sausage might seem like a strange snack (poor Rudolph!), but it’s a common meat in Alaska, and a unique culinary experience. Add grilled onions and pineapple sauce too!
Check the Anchorage Markets website for the seasonal dates and hours of the Anchorage Market. For other questions, let me know in the comments!
This post was originally published in September 2014, and was updated in July 2017.