One part adventure, one part 21st-century convenience and one part pure enchantment, Anchorage, Alaska, is hands down a 100-percent remarkable destination for meetings and events.
“Anchorage is a modern city with all the facilities and amenities that meeting planners are looking for,” says Julie Dodds, convention sales director for Visit Anchorage. “Combine those comforts with Anchorage’s wilderness setting, and delegates will find all the nature, beauty and magic of Alaska just steps from their hotel door.”
June through August is peak season for tourists, so booking early will be necessary to ensure you obtain the space your group requires. Visit as early as May or as late as September and you’ll reduce costs and avoid the crowds.
Where to Meet
Anchorage offers a variety of meeting, event and convention spaces, including two downtown civic and convention centers: the William A. Egan and Dena’ina.
The Egan Civic and Convention Center was first built in the 1980s and in 2009 completed a $3 million makeover. It offers more than 85,000 square feet of versatile meeting space, including the 19,306-square-foot Explorers Hall. The center can provide banquet seating for up to 1,440 guests and exhibit space for up to 132 booths.
The Egan Center’s sister venue, the Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center opened in 2008, increasing Anchorage’s award-winning convention space by 300 percent. With nearly 200,000 square feet of meeting space, the center has incorporated every technological and design engineering advantage available and can accommodate groups as large as 4,000.
Additional meeting and event venues in the city include the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts, a multivenue center that includes the Evangeline Atwood Concert Hall, the Elvera Voth Hall, the plush Discovery Theatre and the dramatically stylized Sydney Laurence Theatre. The center offers a total of 176,000 square feet of event space and has hosted everything from concerts to sit-down dinners.
If you prefer your space with a story, the Anchorage Museum and the Alaska Native Heritage Center can both add an ample supply of Anchorage history and character to your event. The Anchorage Museum showcases Alaskan-centric art and artifacts, while the Alaska Native Heritage Center, located on 26 acres 7 miles from downtown Anchorage with views of Lake Tiulana, pays tribute to Alaska’s indigenous people. The museum has space for up to 400 guests in the atrium, and the heritage center can accommodate up to 750 during the summer months for an indoor outdoor tented event and up to 200 for an indoor standing reception during the off-season.
Where to Stay
The hotels of Anchorage have created their own stylish, sophisticated meeting spaces with dedicated convention-service professionals to tend to every detail of your group’s needs.
Approximately one block west of the Egan Center is the 200-room Westmark Anchorage Hotel with nearly 5,700 square feet of meeting space, accommodating up to 100 for a reception. The Anchorage Marriott Downtown is a four-minute walk to Dena’ina Center and offers 14,000 square feet of meeting space, including the Grand Pacific Ballroom, which can accommodate up to 888 guests.
A 10-minute drive from Ted Stevens International Airport is the Hilton Anchorage, a 606-room hotel with 20,000 square feet of meeting space. Boasting the largest ballroom in the state is the Sheraton Anchorage Hotel and Spa. The hotel features 370 guest rooms and more than 25,000 square feet of meeting space, including the 9,400-square-foot aforementioned ballroom, which can accommodate 720 banquet-style. The hotel is also home to the Ice Spa, with a menu of services ranging from haircuts to facials to the lovely Jet Lag Massage.
Where to Relax
The main challenge Anchorage presents to event planners is how to narrow down extracurricular activities to a manageable timetable. Your guests still need to sleep, after all, and Alaska is a lot to take in. If you choose to visit in the off-season, you and your group may be able to experience one of Alaska’s most captivating natural phenomena: the shimmering curtains of the night sky’s aurora borealis, which is at its peak when the days are shortest. While the bears are hibernating, your group can also head 27 miles outside of Anchorage to ski, snowboard, and snowshoe on Mt. Alyeska’s 54 feet of annual snowfall.
For in-season activities, head to the water. Lisa Kruse, director of sales and marketing for Phillips Cruises and Tours, says, “Nothing can give visitors a more complete Alaskan experience while networking with their group than a day cruise on Prince William Sound.” As the ship floats by the vast grandeur of the Alaskan wilderness, guests can sip glacier ice margaritas. They may just spy a sleepy harbor seal basking on a crystalline iceberg, and they’ll know there was nothing else in the world they were supposed to do that day.
The duffers in your group will want to head to the 18-hole Anchorage Golf Course, framed within the surreal beauty of the Alaskan wilderness and offering picture-postcard views of Mt. McKinley and the Cook Inlet. As Jeri Cunningham, golf operations manager, points out, “The common occurrence of watching fox cubs play hide-and-seek between the range dividers or waiting to make a birdie because a moose meanders onto your putting green is nature-made entertainment that brings folks back time and time again.”
And don’t forget to pick up some souvenirs for those back at home. Jack Bonney, public relations manager for Visit Anchorage, recommends heading to the shops on Fourth Avenue for T-shirts or fun novelty gifts. For Alaskan Native art, he suggests stopping by Alaska Native Arts Foundation. And if you’re looking to bring home a taste of Anchorage, he says 10th and M will pack and mail seafood like jumbo Alaskan red king crab legs, fresh halibut or salmon fillets. In addition, Alaska Wild Berry Products sells handmade candies and jams and, according to Bonney, has the largest chocolate waterfall in the world at its Anchorage store.
As your guests prepare to leave the Land of the Midnight Sun rejuvenated and inspired, they will remember it was you who had the brilliant idea of turning your conference or event into a lifetime of memories.