What’s Doing in Alaska
Of all the states in America, Alaska is perhaps the one that is the most well-preserved, pristine, and untouched by human hands. The state today is an oasis of untamed wilderness perched atop the North American continent, a contrast to the bustling commercialism of the lower 48. This part of the country is best known for its salmon fishing and logging industries, wildlife, national parks, glaciers, and native Alaskan villages, traditions, and artwork.
Alaska was first settled in the 17th century by Russia and was used primarily as a fur trading and missionary post. After U.S. Secretary of State William Seward purchased the territory from Russia in 1867, critics skeptical about the area’s economic value famously referred to it as “Seward’s Folly.” In 1896, however, the Klondike Gold Rush brought a new influx of settlers and trade into Alaska, as thousands of prospectors moved through the territory to look for gold in the neighboring Klondike area in Canada. Alaska officially became an American state in 1959.
Today, Alaska is a popular tourist destination for outdoors enthusiasts and wildlife watchers; a mostly rural state bereft of major metropolitan areas, Alaska’s main features are its wilderness preserves. The state is home to several of the country’s most famous national parks, including Denali National Park and Glacier Bay National Park, and is also the location of the annual Iditarod Sled Dog Race.
As you travel through this cold northern state, you will come across many memorable natural and cultural attractions that are definitely worth a closer look.
WHAT TO DO
Alaska is home to many small, quaint settlements, with one major exception: Anchorage. Located in south-central Alaska, Anchorage is a major port city and hub through which 95% of the state’s commercial goods are delivered. The city is bordered on the west by the Knik Arm, a waterway that runs into the Gulf of Alaska, and on the east by the Chugach Mountains.
Although it is the most populated city in the state of Alaska with roughly 300,000 inhabitants, Anchorage has the ambience of a small fishing village. Its downtown area is packed with seafood restaurants, bars, shops selling nature-themed souvenirs, and a market open on Saturdays where visitors can buy local handicrafts and homemade food.
Also located in the city are several cultural centers and wildlife refuges. Anchorage is home to the Alaska Native Heritage Center, which documents the history of 11 native Alaskan cultural groups; the Alaska Zoo, which contains over 50 species of birds and mammals native to the state; and the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge, which stretches over 16 miles (26 kilometers) of coastline and includes a popular wildlife viewing spot, Potter Marsh.