Explore a vibrant world of arts and culture in Anchorage

Whether you’re culturally curious, into the arts, or into history, Anchorage’s arts and culture scene has you covered. Museums and galleries throughout the city showcase perspectives, experiences, treasures and truths that offer insight into Alaska’s past, its contemporary landscape and the world beyond as seen by artists, pioneers and others.

For many, the journey begins at the campus of the venerable Anchorage Museum (625 C St.), an easy walk for downtown tourists. Permanent installations include Living Our Cultures, Sharing Our Heritage: Alaska’s First People. This interactive gallery showcases Alaska Native history, art, and culture with more than 600 Smithsonian objects selected and interpreted with advisors from Alaska Native groups.

From traditional garments made of hides and skins, intricate beadwork and basketwork, and hand tools dating back to ancient times, this is an impressive collection highlighting the resilience, originality and beauty of Alaska’s native cultures.

The Alaska exhibit highlights the ingenuity, technology and connection to place that have allowed Alaskans to thrive, touching on areas such as aviation research, the Alaskan military and significant industries such as mining and oil. Nearby, the Art of the North exhibit fills impressive gallery bays with sculptures, videos, photographs and paintings, including the timeless works of Sidney Lawrence, Alaska’s most beloved romantic landscape painter.

Current exhibits are presented on the museum’s website. Two that run until September 3 are Visits: From Greenland to Iceland to Alaska in Boundless Arctic Seas by Bryndís Snæbjörnsdóttir and Mark Wilson, which explores how polar bears interact with humans in the face of climate change; and “Pass the Mic,” which celebrates contemporary Alaskan musicians and sound artists by inviting interactive participation in creating and listening to the sounds and songs of Alaska today.

Other featured exhibits in the summer of 2023 include the Alaska Biennial, which celebrates the place through the lens of contemporary art. The Blacks in Alaska exhibit is the result of a collaboration between the Rasmuson Foundation and black leaders to discuss critical issues for the black community in Alaska.

The museum shop sells unique items, with proceeds benefiting educational and community programs and exhibitions; items are also available for purchase online. A cafe in the atrium sells coffee, tea and snacks.

On summer Wednesdays, don’t miss the museum’s popular Lunch on the Lawn for live music and family activities in a beautiful green space. Fun food trucks, live local music, science activities and family-friendly games are included.

Alaska Native Heritage Center, Native Art, Wells Fargo, Art

For cultural tourism dedicated to Alaska’s First Nations, the Alaska Native Heritage Center (8800 Heritage Center Drive) offers a comprehensive celebration of the history and experiences of Alaska Natives.

The Local Heritage Center is an indoor and outdoor facility that encompasses approximately 26 scenic acres located northwest of the Glenn Highway and Muldoon Road. Its mostly Alaska Native staff educates visitors about the enduring legacy of Alaska Natives, including their resilience, unique traditions and shared experiences. Includes exhibits, demonstrations, cafe and gift shop.

Many visitors will be surprised by the wide range of Alaska Native cultures and traditions, and the Heritage Center provides an outstanding opportunity to see it all in one place. Located next to a picturesque lake, the center features recreated village sites, a glimpse into more traditional ways of life, which visitors are free to explore.

The Heritage Center reopens for the summer season on 17 May 2023 and is open seven days a week during the summer.

The Anchorage Museum and the Alaska Native Heritage Center are the best-known of their kind in the region, but many other cultural centers and museums deal with both broad themes and niche interests.

In downtown Anchorage, visitors will find the Fraternal Order of Alaska State Troopers Alaska Law Enforcement Museum (245 W. Fifth Ave., Suite 113). Admission is $5 or $3 for military, law enforcement, youth and seniors, and the museum is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays.

This specialty museum houses the state’s only collection of historic law enforcement memorabilia, including an authentically restored 1952 Hudson Hornet. The Trooper Museum also features antique radios, handcuffs and irons, early wiretapping equipment, old photos and documents, and police uniforms of Alaska. Exhibits showcase Alaska’s women in law enforcement, and one room contains a remarkable collection of law enforcement stickers. There’s even a gift shop with Alaska State Trooper memorabilia and memorabilia.

Also downtown is the Oscar Anderson House, a 1915 home in legendary Bootleggers Cove that was home to the 18th settler to arrive in “Tent City.” The charming cottage, now surrounded by parkland and overlooking the waters west of Anchorage, is a National Trust for Historic Preservation “distinguished destination.” For current opening hours, check its website.

In east Anchorage, the Alaska Museum of Science and Nature (201 N. Bragaw St.) is a hidden gem showcasing Alaska’s unique science from prehistoric times to the present day. The museum is designed to take visitors of all ages on an educational adventure exploring Alaska’s unique geological, cultural and ecological environment. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.

Another unique stop on Anchorage’s museum list is the Alaska Aviation Museum (4721 Aircraft Drive), on the shores of the Lake Hood Seaplane Base west of Midtown Anchorage, billed as the busiest seaplane base in the world. Lake Hood alone is worth a stop and a photo or even a walking tour around the lake complex to enjoy watching the landings and takeoffs and photographing its colorful planes.

Alaska Aviation Museum's 21st Annual Fly-By Festival at Lake Hood Seaplane Base

The Aviation Museum is among Anchorage’s top attractions, with artifacts and relics from Alaska’s remarkable aviation history that will delight aviation enthusiasts. There are more than two dozen vintage aircraft on display in four hangars as well as outdoor exhibits. The Aviation Museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, closed Sunday; admission is $17.50 for adults, $14.50 for seniors and veterans, $10.50 for children 3-13 and $48 for a family of up to two adults and three children.

And before you leave Alaska, there are more arts and culture opportunities to be found at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.

First, on the lower level is the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame. This ever-growing exhibit celebrates Alaska athletes, sporting events and moments, paying tribute to some of the state’s greats.

A few names will be ringing bells for visitors from the Lower 48, such as Olympic cross-country skiing gold medalist Kikan Randall and NBA player Mario Chalmers. Those admitted offer interesting glimpses into Alaska’s unique sports culture and arctic pursuits. The Hall of Fame celebrates the dog’s achievements, mountain climbing and other athletic endeavors, and the magnificent portrait hall includes fascinating captions and context.

The main airport after security features a life-size bronze statue of the late US Senator Ted Stevens, for whom the airport is named. The statue depicts “Uncle Ted,” as he was fondly called by Alaskans, sitting on a bench with his hand outstretched, as if in mid-sentence, making a point. It’s an interesting point for fans of Alaskan politics and history, in which Stevens played a key role for decades.

Finally, the airport offers a fine display of Native Alaskan art. The Art in Public Places gallery spans two areas, with the main collection on the C Concourse mezzanine level and additional light-sensitive pieces in the Northern Lights Corridor, which connects the main terminal to rental cars and rail facilities. This is one last chance for visitors to enjoy beautiful creations unique to the 49th state before their Last Frontier adventure comes to an end.

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