Some of the most interesting shops are in the walking tour of downtown, where most galleries and gift shops are located.
Native Arts & Crafts
Several shops in Anchorage carry Native Alaskan arts and crafts. Before making major purchases, know what you're buying.
Nowhere else will you find another business like the Oomingmak Musk Ox Producers' Co-operative (tel. 888/360-9665 outside Alaska or 907/272-9225; www.qiviut.com), located in the house with the musk ox on the side at 6th Avenue and H Street. Owned by 250 Alaska Native women living in villages across the state, the co-op sells only scarves and other items they knit of qiviut (ki-vee-ute), the light, warm, silky underhair of the musk ox, which is collected from shedding animals. Each village has its own knitting pattern. They're expensive -- adult caps are $130 to $180 -- but the quality is extraordinary. The website contains the women's fascinating correspondence and links to two of the rural knitters' own pages.
As an aside, if you are driving north from Anchorage, you may also want to stop at the Musk Ox Farm (tel. 907/745-4151; www.muskoxfarm.org) just north of Palmer on the Glenn Highway, where you can see the strange-looking creatures close up (open summer 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily; admission $8.50 adults, $7 seniors and ages 13-18, $5.50 ages 6-12). Musk oxen also are at the Alaska Zoo and are easy to see in the wild near Nome.
Anchorage has several small shops and local secret places to find authentic Native artwork. The Yankee Whaler, in the lobby of the Hotel Captain Cook, at 5th Avenue and I Street, is a small but well-regarded shop carrying Native arts. In a bright yellow shopping center, The Rusty Harpoon, at 411 W. 4th Ave., has authentic Native items, Alaskan jewelry, less expensive crafts, and reliable, longtime proprietors who only buy direct from Native artists they know. Locals shop here. Next door to the yellow building to the east on 4th is a deep brown one that has been converted to a collection of Native-oriented shops, including one representing the Alaska Native Heritage Center. Artists sometimes work in the central common area. At the Anchorage Museum of History and Art at 7th and A streets, check out the gift shop for a tastefully selected and beautifully displayed array of Alaska Native art.
If you can get beyond the downtown area, you can shop at the best place for Native crafts in Anchorage, the Hospital Auxiliary Craft Shop in the Alaska Native Medical Center, off Tudor east of Bragaw (tel. 907/729-1122), where everything is made by those eligible to use the hospital. The work you find here is all authentic and entirely traditional. The shop is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the first and third Saturday of each month from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. They don't accept credit cards. There's exceptional Native art to see on the walls of the hospital, too.
If you're in the market for a fur, Anchorage has a wide selection and no sales tax. David Green Master Furrier, at 130 W. 4th Ave. (www.davidgreenfurs.com), is an Anchorage institution. Others are nearby.
There are lots of places to buy both mass-produced and inexpensive handmade crafts other than Alaska Native items. If you can be in town on a weekend during the summer, be sure to visit the Saturday/Sunday Market street fair, in the parking lot at 3rd Avenue and E Street, with food, music, and hundreds of miscellaneous crafts booths. You won't have any trouble finding gift shops on 4th. Our favorite is the relatively classy Cabin Fever, at 650 W. 4th. The Kobuk Coffee Company, at 5th Avenue and E Street, next to the town square, occupies one of Anchorage's earliest commercial buildings; it's a cozy candy, coffee, and collectibles shop, with a tiny bakery and eatery in the back. Midtown, on International Airport Road between the Old and New Seward highways, Alaska Wild Berry Products is a fun store to visit. There's a chocolate waterfall and a big window where you can watch the candy factory at work. The owners have turned the grounds into a visitor complex, with buses regularly stopping.
Downtown has several galleries. Openings are coordinated to happen on the first Friday of each month, allowing for an evening of free party hopping and art shopping. The International Gallery of Contemporary Art, 427 D St., is a nonprofit space dedicated to artists. Come here for an in-depth look at just a few artists' work and to meet people who really care about art. Since it is run on contributions by volunteers, hours are short: Wednesday through Thursday noon to 2 p.m., Friday through Sunday noon to 4 p.m., and Tuesday 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.; closed Monday.
Artique, at 314 G St., is Anchorage's oldest gallery and has a large selection. Half of the gallery is given over to big oils and other gorgeous originals; the other half is chock-full of prints, less-expensive ceramics, and some mass-produced and/or corny stuff. At 5th and G, Aurora Fine Arts carries pottery, prints, and gifts. Directly across G is a gallery showing only glass sculpture.
For a complete listing of what to see and do in Anchorage, visit the online attractions index at Frommers.com.
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