Made up of five distinct regions and twice the size of Texas, the last frontier of Alaska boasts spectacular natural beauty consisting of magnificent glaciers, verdant alpine forests, and deep, tranquil lakes, making it a paradise for outdoor lovers and recreational enthusiasts. Whether you’re heading into the great wide yonder going alone or with kids, you’ll find a wealth of fun adventures, attractions and activities to enjoy from panning for gold at one of several gold mine museums and centers and strolling around St Paul Harbor and watching the fishermen work their trade to celebrating winter at the Willow Winter Carnival.
1.Indian Valley Mine
© Indian Valley Mine
Indian Valley Mine is a historic quartz mine and popular tourist attraction in the community of Indian on the north shore of Turnagain Arm. Discovered in 1910 by Peter Strong, who came to Alaska during the 1898 Klondike Gold Rush in search of gold, Indian Valley Mine is now a major tourist attraction just outside Anchorage that offers fun for the whole family, seven days a week during the summer season. The mine features three collapsed mine shafts, a hand-dug gully that carries water to the site, a rustic cabin selling souvenirs and recreational gold panning where visitors can try their hand at finding gold.
27301 Seward Hwy, Indian, AK 99540, Phone: 907-444-6898
2.Crow Creek Historic Gold Mine
© Crow Creek Historic Gold Mine
Established in 1896, Crow Creek Historic Gold Mine is a gold-mining camp and tourist attraction that offers recreational gold panning and a family-friendly summer concert series. Set in a picturesque valley high in the Chugach Mountains less than an hour from Anchorage, the operational mine run by a mining family was once one of Alaska’s largest mines and boasts beautiful historic grounds with original buildings and an outdoor museum. Visitors to the attraction can try their hand at panning gold, running a creek-side sluice box, exploring turn-of-the-century mining equipment in the museum, enjoying guided tours of the site led by third-generation miners, and exploring the mine’s 400 acres and its hiking trails, one of which is the Historic Iditarod Trail.
601 Crow Creek Rd, Girdwood, AK 99587, Phone: 907-229-3105
3.Glacier Gardens Rainforest Adventure
© Glacier Gardens Rainforest Adventure
Nestled within the lush Tongass National Forest, Glacier Gardens Rainforest Adventure is a unique Alaskan botanical garden that offers a one-of-a-kind experience. The vast gardens are home to 50 acres of temperate rainforest - the largest national forest in the US, spectacular hanging gardens falling from 15-foot-tall upside-down trees called Flower Towers, and the 600-foot Thunder Mountain with amazing cliff-side panoramic views of Juneau. Visitors can explore the gardens on guided tours that follow two miles of winding trails through the beautifully designed and manicured gardens, soaking up breathtaking views of Douglas Island, the Gastineau Channel, the Mendenhall Valley, and the Chilkat Mountains.
7600 Glacier Hwy, Juneau, AK 99801, Phone: 907-790-3377
4.Alaska Centennial Center for the Arts
© Alaska Centennial Center for the Arts
The Alaska Centennial Center for the Arts showcases local and regional arts and crafts. Designed and built in 1967 to resemble a southeast Alaska tribal hall complete with exterior masks that represent animal spirits. The Alaska Centennial Center for the Arts features several rotating art exhibitions, including solo shows, traveling exhibits, group exhibits, and three annually juried exhibits, all of which are housed in the Bear Gallery. The center is also home to a 368-seat full production theater, a two-story Exhibit Hall with an open mezzanine level which houses a gallery filled with old photographs of early Fairbanks. The center also has a kitchen, a conference room and several offices of the Fairbanks Arts Association.
2300 Airport Way, Fairbanks, AK 99701, Phone: 907-459-1087
© Hammer Museum
The Hammer Museum is an art museum and cultural center that showcases a permanent collection of edgy contemporary art and historical works. Founded in the early 90s by industrialist Armand Hammer to house his art collection, the museum has grown into an important artistic and cultural institution that is renowned for its endless array of exhibitions and public programs. The museum hosts critically acclaimed shows of contemporary and modern art by historically over-looked and emerging artists, along with rotating and special exhibits and over 300 programs throughout the year, ranging from lectures and symposia to poetry readings, music concerts and film screenings. The Hammer Museum offers free admission and is open year-round.
10899 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024, Phone: 310-443-7000
6.Willow Winter Carnival
The Willow Winter Carnival is an annual celebration of winter in Alaska that is held at the end of January and beginning of February each year. Established over 50 years ago, the carnival features a variety of events that take place on Willow Lake and in the nearby Willow Community Center, where the celebration kicks off with a dinner on the first night. Other exciting happenings at the carnival include sled dog races, foot races and fat-tire bike races, talent contests, $1,000 bingo cash pots, and the state’s biggest winter fireworks display. The second weekend features the “Talent or Not” competition in which jugglers, dancers, singers, and fire twirlers take to the stage to showcase their skills or lack thereof.
69 Parks Hwy, Willow, AK 99688, Phone: 907-495-6633
© Alutiiq Museum
The Alutiiq Museum, also known as the Alutiiq Museum and Archaeological Repository, is a museum and cultural center that celebrates the cultural traditions of the Alutiiq tribe of the Alaska Native people who were the original inhabitants of the Kodiak archipelago. The museum was established to preserve the precious native heritage of the Koniag Alutiiq branch of the Sugpiaq ~ Alutiiq people whose population was decimated during the 19th century. The museum features fascinating exhibits that showcase 1000-year-old petroglyphs found in the archipelago, harpoons and tools, masked dancing exhibits, and details about the Alutiiq language, which is now being taught in local schools again.
215 Mission Rd # 101, Kodiak, AK 99615, Phone: 844-425-8844
8.Gold Rush Museum and Skagway Park Service Visitor Center
The Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park is a national historical park that commemorates the Klondike Gold Rush of the late 1890s. The park is divided into four sections – including three in Skagway Alaska and one in Seattle’s Pioneer Square National Historic District. The areas in Skagway feature beautifully preserved historic buildings and a modern visitor’s center located at the former White Pass, and Yukon Railroad Depot that was built in 1898 and was once was a significant part of Skagway life until 1969. The center features a variety of informative exhibits showcasing the history of the area and visitors can explore the park on ranger-led guided and self-guided tours.
291 Broadway, Skagway, AK 99840, Phone: 907-983-9200
9.Kodiak Maritime Museum (KMM)
© Kodiak Maritime Museum (KMM)
Kodiak Maritime Museum (KMM) is a small museum that preserves the history and heritage of Kodiak’s rich maritime culture. Established in 1996 by a group of commercial fishermen, the museum is one without walls and celebrates the island’s maritime history with a variety displays that include three rotating satellite exhibits at the bank and college and 14 interpretive signs at St. Paul Harbor. Exhibitions include large, full-color panels that showcase the work of local fishermen, such as a photographic retrospective of king-crab fishing’s boom years and the Coast Guard. The museum also offers walking tours, live performances and other interpretive activities.
500 Alimaq Dr., Trident Way, Kodiak, AK 99615, Phone: 907-486-0384
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10.Museum of the Aleutians
© Museum of the Aleutians
The Museum of the Aleutians is a cultural center that documents the history and heritage of the community of Unalaska and the Aleutian Islands. Opened in 1999, the museum features stimulating permanent and rotating exhibits that include collections of art, artifacts from Russian fur traders, and items and objects from World War II. Other notable things to see include interactive displays, videos and dioramas showcasing the lives of the hardy and inventive Unangan people dating back 9,000 years, and collections of ancient tools, baskets, skin clothing that were used in their daily lives. The Museum Store sells a range of souvenirs such as apparel, stationery, local artwork, and unique book titles relating to the Aleutian land, its people and their history.
314 Salmon Way, Unalaska, AK 99685, Phone: 907-581-5150
11.Russian Bishop's House
© Sitka National Historical Park
Located in the Sitka National Historical Park, the Russian Bishop's House is a historic house museum and one of the oldest surviving buildings of Russian America. Built in 1843 as a home to the Bishop Innocent of the Russian Orthodox Church and a Russian Mission Orphanage, the spacious, two-story building featured a school, chapel, formal reception hall, and seminary. Situated at Lincoln and Monastery Streets in Sitka, the now National Historic Landmark building features exhibits showcasing items from life in Russian America, including samovar teapots, sea otter pelts, and a replica of a Russian possession plaque found in Old Sitka, and visitors can explore the house on ranger-led tours.
501 Lincoln St, Sitka, AK 99835, Phone: 907-747-0110
Sitka is a vibrant, energetic town that hosts a wealth of noteworthy events throughout the year, ranging from jazz and classical music concerts to food and wine events and multi-day summer festivals. The historic town on the outer coast of Alaska draws artists, musicians, craftspeople, locals, and tourists alike who gather to enjoy celebrations of light, love, music, dance, food, wine, and more. Festivals include the Sitka Jazz Festival in February; the Arti Gras Festival; the Sitka Seafood Festival; Sitka Summer Music Festival which features performances by a variety of professional string musicians; the Alaska Day Festival, which commemorates the purchase of Alaska; the Sitka Whale Fest, and the Homeskillet Music Festival.
104 Jeff Davis St, Sitka, AK 99835, Phone: 907-747-6774
13.Skagway Museum & Archives
Housed in the town's magnificent City Hall that dates back to 1898, the Skagway Museum documents the history of Skagway and the vital role it played as a critical transportation corridor and gateway to interior Alaska and the Yukon. The historical museum features an array of fascinating exhibits showcasing artifacts, photographs and historical records from the past century, including a WP&YR locomotive and caboose, a Portland Cutter sleigh, a Tlingit canoe, Bering Sea kayaks, and a 1931 Ford AA truck. The museum also displays items used in everyday life in Skagway such as gambling equipment, tools and supplies used in the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898 and collection of baskets, beadwork and carvings of Alaska Native heritage.
700 Spring St, Skagway, AK 99840
14.Soldotna Homestead Museum
© Soldotna Homestead Museum
The Soldotna Homestead Museum is a local history museum that features a collection of homestead artifacts and photos that document the life and times of Soldotna’s homesteaders who arrived in 1947 and settled in the area. The museum consists of a log village with several quaint buildings, including a former schoolhouse and last territorial school built in 1958; early homestead cabins; and Damon Hall, a large building constructed for the Alaska Centennial. The museum also showcases Alaska Native artifacts, handmade utensils and pioneer objects, boats, and an outstanding display of wildlife mounts in Damon Hall. Visitors can explore the gardens and ground which are filled with flowering plants and meander along pathways that lead to the Centennial Campground and the Kenai River
461 Centennial Park Rd, Soldotna, AK 99669, Phone: 907-262-3832
15.St. Paul Harbor
St. Paul Harbor is a charming port in the historic town of St. Paul that is famous for its salmon-fishing boats, crabbers, and long-liners that bring in daily catches of fresh fish. Home to more than one-third of the boats in Kodiak with over 250 slips, the harbor is also home to many guide-operated sport-fishing boats offering private fishing trips and personal sailboats. Visitors can watch fishermen working their trade as they chop bait, mend nets and get ready for heading out to sea.
403 Marine Way Kodiak, AK 99615
16.Talkeetna Historical Society Museum
© Talkeetna Historical Society Museum
Housed in a quaint, little red schoolhouse in the heart of the rural town of Talkeetna, the Talkeetna Historical Society Museum is a community museum that was established in 1972 to preserve the rich heritage and historical sites of Talkeetna. The museum is also housed in several old railroad buildings and features a fascinating collection of artifacts and objects relating to the town’s history, including old bear traps, original trappers' cabins, old photographs and newspaper clippings, native artifacts, and a room-sized sculpted model of Denali (Mt McKinley). The museum is often frequented by climbers looking at the scale model of Mt McKinley before ascending and visitors can enjoy daily talks by interpretive rangers.
22248 D St, Talkeetna, AK 99676, Phone: 907-733-2487
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© Michael DeFreitas Danita Delimont/stock.adobe.com
Whale Park is a pubic park managed by the City of Sitka that offers visitors an opportunity to watch humpback whales between September and January. Located about six miles south of downtown Sitka, the park has a short boardwalk trail, a small sheltered picnic area, a short boardwalk trail that winds through the park to a viewing platform with free viewing scopes, and several ADA accessible facilities. The main shelter area has a hydrophone which plays the ‘songs’ of humpback whales, and the park is home to over a diverse array of more than 50 species of waterfowl, seabirds, shorebirds, sea ducks, and eagles.
2500 Sawmill Creek Rd Sitka, AK 99835
18.Hatcher Pass Scenic Drive
Nestled between the towns of Willow and Palmer in the Talkeetna Mountains, Hatcher Pass is a 60-mile-long scenic drive with plenty of places to stop and explore. The scenic drive takes in some spectacular scenery and offers a variety of things to see and do along the way, ranging from visiting Independence Mine Historical State Park and hiking in beautiful alpine tundra dotted with wildflowers and ptarmigan, to skiing in fresh deep-powder snow and enjoying relaxing picnics at 4,000 feet. Visitors can take in spectacular views of the Chugach Range, Alaska Range, and Palmer’s Pioneer Peak and see soaring falcons, and golden eagles.
Willow, AK 99654
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19.Alaska Native Heritage Center
© Alaska Native Heritage Center
The Alaska Native Heritage Center is a museum and an educational and cultural institution that explores the culture and heritage of Alaska Natives and Alaskan Native life. Located in Anchorage, the center focuses on the legacy of Alaska's 11 major cultural groups with a variety of interactive displays in which visitors can get involved such as storytelling, dancing, wood carving and exploring replicas of winter dwellings. The dynamic museum also features life-sized traditional native residences like a Southeast Alaska Longhouse that once housed several families with no windows and just a smoke hole at the top, and a Supiaq, a semi-subterranean home built by the Alutiiqs. There are also exhibits of artifacts like birch bark baskets, tunics made from seal hide, and beautifully adorned moose hide boots.
8800 Heritage Center Dr, Anchorage, AK 99504, Phone: 907-330-8000
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20.Alaska State Fair
The Alaska State Fair is an annual state fair held in Palmer for a week-and-a-half at the end of August. Held on the Alaska State fairgrounds in a picturesque spot at the foot of the Chugach Mountains in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley an hour north of Anchorage, the annual fair draws crowds from all over the country who come to enjoy great food, live performances, amusement rides, carnival games, and competitive exhibits. The Fair is world-renowned for its record-setting giant vegetables and fun, family-friendly carnival atmosphere.
2075 Glenn Hwy, Palmer, AK 99645
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21.Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
© jon manjeot/stock.adobe.com
The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is dedicated to the conservation and protection of Alaska's wildlife and educating the public about the importance of preserving their natural habitats. The center offers a variety of tours and presentations throughout the year, ranging from tours of the Conservation Center itself to feeding tours of the resident wildlife. Tours are run in the summer and are narrated by professional guides with vast experience in the field of conservation and tourism. Tours include ‘Moose & Musk Ox Calf Bottle-Feeding,’ where visitors can watch the calves being bottle-fed several times a day, and ‘Sven the Rambling Reindeer,’ which involves taking Sven for a walk around the grounds of the Center. ‘Prickly Points about Porcupines’ teaches you all about the life and habits of a porcupine, while ‘Fox and Lynx Feeding’ sees resident baby foxes and lynx kittens being bottle-fed and cared for.
Mile 79, Seward Hwy, Girdwood, AK 99587, Phone: 907-783-0058
22.Potlatch Totem Park
© Linda Harms/stock.adobe.com
Potlatch Totem Park is one of two parks that celebrate and preserve the ancient native craft of Native American totem poles. Located ten miles north of Ketchikan, the privately-owned Potlatch Totem Park is located next to the Totem Bight State Historical Park and features several clan houses with fascinating exhibits and historical dioramas showcasing the livelihoods of local tribes through the 1800s. Intricate hand-carvings illustrate the way tribes lived in a communal setting, and a totem carving shed displays resident carvers practicing the ancient art of crafting totem poles. Visitors can watch the master craftsmen at work and learn how they transform massive cedar logs into beautifully carved, stacked family histories. The park features several totem poles, the tallest of which stands at the height of 42 feet, and information boards provide information about the culture and heritage of the Tlingit tribe.
9883 N Tongass Hwy, Ketchikan, AK 99901, Phone: 907-247-8574
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© Thawatphong Bunsoemm/stock.adobe.com
The Mendenhall Glacier, also known as Sitaantaagu, is a 13.6-mile-long glacier in the Juneau Icefield in the heart of the Mendenhall Valley that forms part of the federally protected Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area. Located approximately 12 miles from downtown Juneau and ending at Mendenhall Lake, the glacier is a popular tourist attraction and can be seen from the Forest Service's historic visitor center. The modern visitor center features interactive exhibits and displays about the glacier, including a movie every 20 minutes, viewing telescopes offering spectacular views of Mendenhall Glacier and icebergs floating in the lake, and a variety of children’s activities and ranger talks.
8150 Mendenhall Loop Rd Juneau, Alaska 99801
24.Talkeetna Ranger Station
© Alaska National Parks
Located south of the Denali National Park and Preserve in the town of Talkeetna, the Talkeetna Ranger Station is the center of mountaineering operations for Denali (Mt. McKinley). The rustic and beautiful station features interpretive programs and videos that offer a wealth of information about the mountain, particularly for climbers aiming to head up its slopes, who can also stop here for an orientation to the mountain and to purchase their climbing permits. The station is also home to a fascinating collection of stunning photographs of Denali's glaciers and mountains taken by explorer and adventurer Bradford Washburn. Talkeetna Ranger Station is open year-round.
Talkeetna, AK 99676, Phone: 907-733-2231
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25.Sitka National Historical Park
Sitka National Historical Park is Alaska’s oldest National Park and is packed with things to see and do. The 113-acre park commemorates the rich history of Sitka and the epic battle between the Tlingit tribes and Russians in 1804. Main attractions in the park include a beautiful coastal rainforest that can be explored on ranger-led interpretive walks or self-guided hiking trails and over 20 totem poles and ethnographic displays. Other interesting sites include the Russian Bishop’s House, a modern Visitor Center designed to replicate a traditional clan house offering a short film on the park’s history, maps of the park and area, carving demonstrations, and Southeast Alaska Native regalia.
103 Monastery St, Sitka, AK 99835, Phone: 907-747-0110
25 Best Things to Do in Alaska with Kids
- Indian Valley Mine, Photo: Indian Valley Mine
- Crow Creek Historic Gold Mine, Photo: Crow Creek Historic Gold Mine
- Glacier Gardens Rainforest Adventure, Photo: Glacier Gardens Rainforest Adventure
- Alaska Centennial Center for the Arts, Photo: Alaska Centennial Center for the Arts
- Hammer Museum, Photo: Hammer Museum
- Willow Winter Carnival, Photo: Rebecca/stock.adobe.com
- Alutiiq Museum, Photo: Alutiiq Museum
- Gold Rush Museum and Skagway Park Service Visitor Center, Photo: jefwod/stock.adobe.com
- Kodiak Maritime Museum (KMM), Photo: Kodiak Maritime Museum (KMM)
- Museum of the Aleutians, Photo: Museum of the Aleutians
- Russian Bishop's House, Photo: Sitka National Historical Park
- Sitka Festivals, Photo: Urupong/stock.adobe.com
- Skagway Museum & Archives, Photo: OlgaOni/stock.adobe.com
- Soldotna Homestead Museum, Photo: Soldotna Homestead Museum
- St. Paul Harbor, Photo: Voyagerix/stock.adobe.com
- Talkeetna Historical Society Museum, Photo: Talkeetna Historical Society Museum
- Whale Park, Photo: Michael DeFreitas Danita Delimont/stock.adobe.com
- Hatcher Pass Scenic Drive, Photo: wakr10/stock.adobe.com
- Alaska Native Heritage Center, Photo: Alaska Native Heritage Center
- Alaska State Fair, Photo: Travis/stock.adobe.com
- Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, Photo: jon manjeot/stock.adobe.com
- Potlatch Totem Park, Photo: Linda Harms/stock.adobe.com
- Mendenhall Glacier, Photo: Thawatphong Bunsoemm/stock.adobe.com
- Talkeetna Ranger Station, Photo: Alaska National Parks
- Sitka National Historical Park, Photo: wildnerdpix/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Jonathan/stock.adobe.com