The non-profit Alaska Native Heritage Center honors the diverse indigenous peoples of our 49th state by chronicling Native cultures, languages, and traditions and instilling pride in Native communities. Alongside a serene lake, a wooded path winds through six life-size dwellings in the center's outdoor facilities. These re-creations of ancient homes showcase Alaska's 11 cultural groups, and at each site, cultural representatives perform Native dances, demonstrate games and art, and tell stories about life in the past. The Alaska Native Heritage Center utilizes education and celebration to spread knowledge of Alaska's unique Native cultures across the globe, while also preserving and perpetuating indigenous traditions. Inside the museum, a collection of tools, artwork, and drums provides a tangible representation of contemporary Native people’s lives. The museum covers all native cultures in exhibits such as the Inupiaq exhibit and the Athabascan exhibit, which features a hand-woven birch-bark basket and moccasins made of moose hide and beads. To supplement the interactive displays, the Heritage Center conducts cultural outreach through a variety of programs, including the Walking in Two Worlds program, which connects 6th- through 8th-grade students with their cultural roots. The Alaska Native Playwrights Project helps Native people to find an outlet for their stories through theatrical productions and eloquent playbills.:
Growing up in Chicago Heights, Illinois, Kelly Lee Williams was more focused on crossing the finish line at high school track meets than crafting the perfect punch line. In fact, it wasn’t until he took the stage of a Chicago-area comedy club in 2001—after stints as a soldier, an IT worker, and a DJ—that Kelly truly immersed himself in the world of professional comedy. In the years since his life-changing career shift, Kelly has honed his comedic chops with performances for audiences from New York to Montego Bay, coaxing forth laughs with witty self-penned songs. His plunge into the entertainment business has taken him across the country and earned him diverse gigs that include serving as a member of the Chicago Bulls’ Incredibulls squad to gracing the big screen with a speaking role in the recently released Drew Barrymore film Big Miracle. After making the move north to Anchorage with his family and pet rubber chicken in 2008, Kelly branched out again, adding the role of teacher to his expanding arsenal of occupations.
Since 1999, The Marx Bros. Café and chef de cuisine Jonah Cotter have joined forces at Muse to assemble Pacific Northwestern dishes spiced with influences from Asia and Europe. This culinary team drizzles bright, citrusy sauces over fresh coastal seafood, sears high-quality steaks and cuts of venison, and bakes decadent desserts in-house. Servers shuttle each carefully crafted plate to the vibrant, contemporary dining room, where floor-to-ceiling windows and candy-red pillars surround mod crimson chairs. This dramatic design is no doubt influenced by Muse’s location in the Anchorage Museum, where art, history, and science exhibits are designed to instill a deep understanding of the human experience. The restaurant encourages diners to schedule reservations that coordinate with museum events, or to rent the dining room for private parties and games of pin the tail on the Picasso.
With its craggy mountains, monochrome tundra, and verdant valleys, Alaska itself stands as a monument to the beauty and power of nature. Focusing on the state's prehistory, the Alaska Museum of Science and Nature's sprawling collection of artifacts educates the public with engrossing and educational dioramas and displays. Among the museum’s notable exhibits is its newest installation, Ice, which delves into the profound geological changes wrought by the last Ice Age. Likewise, the Schmidt Mine exhibit lets visitors touch and pick up craggy specimens from the collection, including meteorites and fluorescent stones. Ancient mammoth bones and fearsome saber-tooth tiger jaws show patrons the fauna encountered by Alaska's first human inhabitants, whereas fully assembled dinosaur skeletons transport viewers even further back in time, way before the Jurassic Park movie came out.
Within the historic 4th Avenue Market Place is the Alaska Experience Theater, a time capsule of state history and a portal for cultural exploration through film. The curators perennially screen four short documentaries on Alaskan history, projecting one about the devastating Good Friday Earthquake of March 27, 1964, in an earthquake simulator that rocks on hydraulic lifts designed to soothe Zeus in his infancy. A 40-foot screen commands attention in the 96-seat main theater, where the documentaries are relayed in vivid detail by a 3-D Christie Digital Projection System along with cult classics, independent films, and wide-release blockbusters. Out in the marketplace, dancers perform native Alaskan dances to the beat of drums, and two permanent exhibits reveal more information about the earthquake and display the full collection of prints by Alaskan artist Fred Machetanz.
In a steady procession, waves rear up to 4 feet high before collapsing and delighting waders with blasts of spray. Unlike ocean waves, these aren’t governed by the moon, and they don’t crash against a beach. Instead, they rhythmically rise and fall in the wave pool at H2Oasis Indoor Waterpark, which stays open year-round and is the state’s only indoor water park.
Outside of the wave pool, park visitors can find watery solace floating down the 575-foot lazy river with its gentle current. For a higher-octane experience, the Master Blaster water coaster rockets riders through a splash-filled adventure much safer than riding a scooter into the shower. And when it comes to entertaining the younger set, the four cannons on the park’s pirate ship evoke intrigue on its waters, and the placid children’s lagoon gives tentative youngsters a haven for safe play.