Continuing down the Seward Highway, visitors will eventually find themselves on the Kenai Peninsula. The Kenai area's growing reputation as a place of creative expression is well deserved as it develops visitor-friendly sites and centers. The Kenai Fine Arts Center, located in Old Town Kenai, provides studio space for members of the Peninsula Art Guild and the Kenai Potters Guild. The guilds host monthly art exhibitions, maintain an artist sales gallery and offer a variety of art workshops for adults and children. The region is also rich in Gold Rush history. Visitors can raft down Sixmile Creek and see evidence of mining operations from days past.
Upon reaching the end of the road in Homer, visitors will arrive in a cultural mecca of sorts. The tight-knit, artsy community of Homer prides itself on its beatnik image. Galleries and small artisan shops can be found everywhere in this oceanfront community.
Interior Alaska Home to an Amazing Museum
Heading north from Southcentral Alaska is the Interior, a region rich with culture. Fairbanks is the hub of Interior Alaska and home to The University of Alaska Museum. The museum is the state's primary repository of natural and cultural history and is internationally recognized for its comprehensive northern collections.
Alaska's Far North A Culture Tied to the Land and its Resources
The Far North region of Alaska encompasses the communities of Nome, Kotzebue and Barrow. North of the Arctic Circle, these towns offer cultural attractions that are closely tied to the rich Native heritage of the area. Nome has a special combination of traditional Eskimo culture and a gold rush past. Travelers may want to rent a car and tour the 300-plus miles of road system surrounding Nome. Nome also marks the finish of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, the longest such race in the world. The town of 4,000 swells to many times that size every March with the arrival of the much-anticipated race finish.
Located on a three-mile spit of land on the Chukchi Sea, Kotzebue has much to offer cultural travelers. Among its attractions is the NANA Museum of the Arctic, local history and cultural films at the park service and the Senior Center Cultural Center.
Barrow is located at the tip of the Far North region, situated on the coast of the Arctic Ocean. A walking tour of the town includes a visit to the Cape Smythe Whaling and Trading Station, built in 1893. This is the oldest frame building in the Arctic. Also, visitors can see the Birnirk archaeological site, a group of 16 dwelling mounds representing the Birnirk culture (A.D. 500-900). Guests can witness the unique whaling culture of the Eskimos every spring when the annual bowhead whale hunt and festival gets underway.
Southwest Alaska Rich in History, Diversity
Alaska's expansive Southwest region is home to the communities of Bethel, King Salmon, Unalaska, Dillingham, Kodiak and the Pribilof Islands. The area is as diverse as it is big. Unalaska, located on the Aleutian Island chain, is home to Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Ascension and the Bishop's House. The church hosts one of the largest collections of religious artifacts and icons in the United States.
Kodiak Island, known primarily for its mammoth brown bears, boasts many cultural attractions in addition to housing one of the world's most legendary mammals. The Baranov Museum, a warehouse built in the 1790s by Alexander Baranof to store furs, is the oldest remaining Russian structure in the state. Kodiak is also rich with Alaska Native culture. The Alutiiq Museum and Archaeological Repository reveal 8,000 years of Alutiiq history through artifacts and archeological digs. A new archaeological excavation gets underway every summer and volunteers are invited to participate.
Culture in Alaska is vast and varied as the land itself. The true cultural traveler could spend a lifetime in the state and never experience it all.