Southern hospitality dictates that guests be taken into the home, fed, and kept cozy for the night. But up north, the Alaska Travel Adventures team warmly welcomes visitors by urging them to veer far from their front door. They help guests explore the landscape by designing whitewater-rafting adventures, kayaking tours, nature-trail walks, or panning for gold and sharing bits of history. For lunch, riverside campfires grill fillets of wild salmon and inspire stories from the Klondike gold rush. To complete the day, Alaska Travel Adventures keeps a fleet of 2012-model RVs for guests to sleep in so they don't have to set up tents or convince a bear to share its cave.
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In the late 1960s, Anchorage's grocers held a contest to see who could sell the most toilet paper. One of two first-place prizes was $3,000, but the victor chose the other—a baby Asian elephant. He quickly realized he couldn't take care of her, so he put her up in the heated barn of local horse rancher Sammye Seawell. Sammye fell so in love with this small pachyderm that she began housing other abandoned creatures—enough to fill a zoo. More than 40 years later, The Alaska Zoo's keepers and staff continue this simple but powerful mission: to rescue orphaned, injured, and captive-born animals of the Arctic, sub-Arctic, and similar regions.
Today, the zoo’s habitats house more than 110 animals from 53 cold-loving species. In semiaquatic zones, polar bears nap, harbor seals swim, and river otters attempt to solve calculus equations. In terrestrial environments, amur tigers play with a ball attached to a zipline, and black bears lounge in a hammock made from recycled fire hoses. Other habitats house residents such as snow leopards, reindeer, and wolves.
In addition to caring for these animals, staffers conduct Iditarod-focused educational events in March and use animal-themed light displays to celebrate both the summer solstice and approaching winter holidays. They also raise awareness for wildlife through educational programs, such as seasonal adventure camps and zookeeper shadowing, and join in conservation efforts, such as serving as ambassadors for Polar Bears International and the Toupees for Bald Eagles Project.
Alaska Junior Theater is a private, nonprofit organization that has been bringing the best in professional theater from around the world to Alaska's young audiences for 30 years. Each year, more than 40,000 students attend a variety of live performances, which share the common educational goal of "bringing learning to life.
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 Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum takes visitors on a flyby of the the state's aeronautical history. The vast facility—composed of five hangars of planes and exhibits, a restoration hangar, and three theaters—covers aviation history from the early days of flight to modern military aviation. More than 20 vintage aircraft can be found throughout, including a 1931 Fairchild Pilgrim 100B, a 1943 Grumman G44 Widgeon, and a 1981 Boeing B737-290C. Meanwhile, the museum's spot on the south shore of Lake Hood—the busiest seaplane base in the world—gives visitors a glimpse of modern planes in action.
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.: