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.
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 .
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.
Alaska Center for the Performing Arts augments the cultural landscape of Anchorage with a schedule of entertaining events throughout the year. The non-profit organization welcomes audiences to take in musicals, concerts, ballets, and comedy shows in four stunning venues. The spacious Atwood Concert Hall features a dramatic starburst ceiling that mimics the aurora borealis, while the smaller Discovery Theatre sports saucer-shaped discs to aid in acoustics.
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.
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.