Determined to help visitors not just see but experience the majestic beauty of Chugach National Forest and Chugach State Park, Alaska Backcountry Access's guides offer day trips and multiday wilderness outings all yearlong. Come summer, the landscape springs to life as plants bloom and migratory animals return to the area. It is during these months that the guides lead outings exploring the region by land and by water. On whitewater rafting and kayaking trips, they traverse the surrounding waterways as snowmelt streams down the mountainsides, and their hikes journey throughout the canyons and forests while occasionally stopping to explore gold-panning sites or noteworthy natural features.
But their excursions don't stop for the winter?the guides simply change their approach. Snowmobiles, snowshoes, and portable snow-cone machines become the equipment of choice as the guides continue to lead trips throughout the area's frozen landscape.
Dedicated to studying and rescuing the animals of Alaska?s unique marine environments, the keepers of Alaska SeaLife Center facilitate encounters with marine life at an array of exhibits. Integrating the terrain of Resurrection Bay, the exhibits give guests an up-close view of animals at their most natural. Harbor seals sun themselves on the rocks, 2,000-pound steller sea lions glide ballerina-like through the water, and a giant Pacific octopus gestures with all eight arms during a solo rendition of ?Y.M.C.A.? Alaska SeaLife Center?s veterinarians also work behind the scenes at the I.Sea.U, a refuge for rescued marine mammals that has helped rehabilitate otter pups, walrus calves, and beluga calves.
At Seward Helicopter Tours a dog team escorts visitors on summer and winter tours preceded by helicopter flights. Guests can trek among the icebergs of Bear Glacier, soar above the whales, sea lions, and harbor seals of Resurrection Bay, or rest in a sled as dogs power it through Godwin Glacier. Seward Helicopter Tours' pilots can also drop guests off on half- to multiday kayaking trips or two-hour guided excursions through an ice field's moulins, moraines, and vacationing zambonis.
South Pacific—a story originally brought to life by Broadway greats Rodgers and Hammerstein—presents a titillating and tangled web of love lines, country allegiances, and tetherball death matches, set against the backdrop of World War II. Power-ballad seeking patrons will swoon as they're swept away by the melodies of "Bali Ha'I," "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair," and "Some Enchanted Evening," resounding within the sonically engineered Discovery Theatre. With its two-tiered seating area, swooping curved walls, and a ceiling of silver-saucer acoustic disks, the theater treats earthbound ears to an out-of-body experience unknown since Killer Klowns From Outer Space: The Musical .
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 veterenarians 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.
Racing enthusiasts Travis Beals, set to run the Iditarod this year, and Sarah Stokey care for the energetic and high-speed pups of Turning Heads Kennel. Together they lead dog-sled tours in winter and summer, giving tourists an authentic glimpse into a sled dog’s life before setting them loose on the trails of Seward on unique, custom-build dog sleds. Tours are designed to be easygoing enough for beginners, giving them time to stop for a snack, enjoy the scenery, and take pictures.