Built in 1968 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the purchase of Alaska from Russia, the Anchorage Museum’s mirrored skin now holds an immense collection of exhibits that celebrate Alaska’s history and innovations in art and science. Using grants awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts and other organizations, Anchorage Museum was able to devote four floors and a small but well-appointed fourth dimension to art, cultural history, natural history, and science and technology—all represented by more than 25,000 objects.
Through a series of permanent exhibits, visitors embark on a cultural and geological voyage. More than 600 Alaskan Native artifacts on loan from the Smithsonian Institution join miniature dioramas of indigenous lifestyles in illuminating the cultures that first shaped the area, while other collections peer into the gold rush era, World War II, and the process of becoming a state. Itchy hands find relief in the Imaginarium Discovery Center, a playground for DIY discovery where visitors of all ages can touch sea stars, shoot air cannons, and learn more about what makes a volcano erupt or the aurora borealis cast its eerie glow.
The most popular films at the Alaska Experience Theater covers a monumental moment in area history: the devastating Good Friday Earthquake of March 27, 1964. After learning about the quake's massive power in the adjoining museum, viewers enter an earthquake simulator, shaking along with hydraulic tremors as a brand new documentary drives home the quake's destructive scale.
The Alaska Earthquake Experience is just one of the various short documentaries on Alaskan history and lifestyle screened at the theater throughout the year. In the 96-seat main theater, a 40-foot screen commands attention. The theater displays longer documentaries along with cult classics, independent films, and wide release blockbusters. In addition to hosting these screenings, the theater can also be rented out for use in weddings, conventions, or other memorable events.
The Alaska Experience Theater's dedication to lively historical learning also extends outside of its walls. Out in the marketplace, two permanent exhibits reveal more information about the earthquake and display the full collection of prints by Alaskan artist Fred Machetanz.
Supporting education. Building a stronger community. Creating accessibility. Alaska Junior Theater aims to do all that and more. The nonprofit organization hosts youthful audiences at educational and entertaining performances, which address subjects such as geography, social studies, and history. Dedicated to bringing the arts to the community at large, the organization also partners with villages and rural school districts throughout Alaska and includes bus transportation in its youth ticket sales.
It can be hard to tell the difference between a beautiful dream and an actual tour from Alaska's Finest Tours & Cruises. Participants enjoy surreal experiences such as taking a boat cruise right up to the face of Portage Glacier, or heading to an active mine to learn gold-panning techniques superior to just yelling "Gold!" and hoping it comes when called. Tours also traverse across Alaska's wildlife, giving guests an up-close look at belugas, eagles, and bears.
Anchorage City Trolley Tours introduces visitors to multifarious attractions in the City of Lights and Flowers, including the world's busiest floatplane base on Lake Hood, the monuments at Earthquake Park, and the waves of Cook Inlet. While Alaskan-raised trolley drivers dish out useful info and fascinating history about each part of the city, riders will smell Anchorage’s famous flowers and spot majestic moose eating grass and debating their retirement options. Be sure to show up 15 minutes early to nab a seat next to the large, photo-friendly windows inside the heated, enclosed apple-red trolley. Potential passengers should fill out the online seat reservation page to secure a spot.