The downtown historic area offers shops, cafes, the Seward Community Library and Museum (in a new building), and the Alaska SeaLife Center, Alaska's only aquarium ($20; $15 for ages 12-17, $15; $10 for 4-11).
Chamber officials don't recommend hiking the city's famed Mount Marathon, site of an annual July Fourth mad scramble up and down the 3,022-foot mountain. A runner disappeared during last year's race and several were injured. Instead, if you want to hike, try Jeep Trail. Locals say it's not too strenuous, and offers a view of the Anchorage Bowl.
Chances are you won't spend much time in Whittier. Chamber officials say 90 percent of cruise passengers leaving their ships immediately head to Anchorage, about 40 miles north.
But passengers beginning their Alaska cruises here arrive about 1 p.m. and have a few hours to spend in town before departure. Also this year, one company is making a port call here every other Monday, giving passengers a chance to look around town.
It's probably unlike any other they've seen. Whittier is the gateway to the fjords of Prince William Sound, but the U.S. Army once saw another purpose. It saw Whittier's almost constant cloud cover as a perfect way to hide a nearly ice-free port. The Army left in 1960, and most of the town's 180 year-round residents live in one of two former garrisons converted to condos.
There are a couple of souvenir shops, a few restaurants and cafes, a hot dog stand when lots of people are in town and a museum. Several fantastic hikes can be done in two or three hours. The Horsetail Falls hike doesn't disappoint, and offers views of waterfalls above the tree line. The Portage Pass hike affords views of Portage Glacier.
No cruise ships are scheduled to sail to Anchorage this year, but many passengers wind up here by bus or train, if for nothing else but to fly home.
With nearly 300,000 residents, Anchorage offers attractions found in many big cities, as well as some that aren't. Think wildlife. Moose and bear coexist throughout the municipality, and moose are a common sight around town.
Downtown, you can rent bikes and enjoy a leisurely spin on the city's 135-mile trail system. That includes the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, good for a bike ride, hike or run. It's accessible from many points downtown, but parts will be closed for renovation this summer. If that sounds like too much work, you can rent a Segway.
And if you prefer to see wildlife in a more secured setting, a free shuttle at Fourth and E streets downtown goes to the Alaska Zoo ($12; $6 for kids 3-17). The shuttle will also stops at the Alaska Native Heritage Center, a cultural center and museum ($25; $17 for kids 7-16).
The Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center downtown features art, history and science ($15; $7 for kids 3-12). A timeline exhibit of Alaska history includes a cross-section of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and a twisted beam from the 1964 earthquake. The magnitude-9.2 quake was the biggest ever recorded in North America.
If you want to go fishing, there's no need for a charter. Heck, you don't even have to leave town. A downtown bait shop at Ship Creek will rent you all the equipment you need to land a fish.
There are also plenty of restaurants, cafes, coffee shops. And here's your chance to eat Rudolph: Several vendors offer reindeer dogs.