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From the world-famous Iditarod spurring on one of the longest winter celebrations in North America, to a tropical botanical garden with quirky upside-down trees near Juneau and close-up encounters with native wildlife and marine animals, there are plenty of attractions to behold in the great frontier of Alaska.
Let nature be your inspiration as you travel up and down the coast to idyllic seaside towns that offer rich culture and are dotted with fine restaurants, art galleries and wildlife refuges. Girdwood, just an hour’s drive from Anchorage in the Southcentral region of Alaska is a popular destination for sightseeing, rafting, skiing and snowboarding. This picturesque town on Cook Inlet is situated at the base of Mount Alyeska offering seasonal fun all year-round.
For a more remote seaside port, Kodiak on Kodiak Island in the Southwest region of the state, offers cultural explorations of its first inhabitants, the Alutiiq people and of the Russian Colonial era at Alutiiq Museum and the Russian American Magazine. Home to the Kodiak Maritime Museum and Fort Abercrombie State Historical Park, there are plenty of scenic vistas and native wildlife, including the large Kodiak bear, to view on the island.
Homer, Alaska on Kachemak Bay, sets itself a part, having earned the distinction of being the ‘art capital of Alaska’. On Pioneer Avenue, you can find plenty of art galleries with local and contemporary art at the heart of this charming seaside town. Homer is also home to the Alaska Islands and Oceans Visitor Center, which provides rehabilitation for marine animals, allowing you to get up close to seals, otters, and many fish species that are native to Alaska’s Southcentral region.
The Anchorage Zoo, the only zoo in the state, is home to many of Alaska’s big 5, those animals being grizzly bears, moose, caribou, wolf, and Dall sheep. The zoo is great for family adventures and offers close encounters where you can shadow a ZooKeeper during the day or assist in the behind-the-scenes care of wolves or other large cats.
Alaska wouldn’t be Alaska without the famous dog sledding or mushing that has helped transport people over winter terrain for centuries. Today, hailed as the official state sport, you can learn how to musch at one of many training facilities where you’ll learn about sleds and dog teams before they offer you the reigns.
Right outside of Juneau, you can experience a lush tropical garden amid glacier touched forests that includes the odd, yet aesthetically pleasing phenomena of upturned trees. Glacier Gardens Rainforest Adventure offers 50-acres of gorgeous foliage in the Tungass National Forest boasting bald eagle sightings, guided tours, and brilliantly designed landscapes.
Alaska’s State Capital building was originally the Federal and Territorial Building. Funds appropriated by Congress in 1911 didn’t amount to the purchase of the whole site, so in a show of solidarity, the citizens of Juneau raised the rest of the money for the building and it was formerly dedicated to Alaska in 1931. The concrete reinforced building is faced with Indiana limestone and marble from Alaska’s Tokeen quarries. Sculptures adorn the lobby depicting local scenes like ‘Harvest of the Sea’ by Joan Bugbee Jackson amid other carvings that portray the rich natural resources like oil and minerals that are found in the state of Alaska. The State Capital is open for tours to the public from mid-January through mid-April during the time when the State Legislature is in session.