A wide range of trips throughout Southcentral Alaska.
Anchorage: 45°/64°/Partly sunny
Fairbanks: 49°/77°/Partly sunny
Juneau: 45°/69°/Partly sunny
You've already spent a bundle to get to Alaska. And you plan to spend plenty while you're here - eating out, visiting a few museums, a rafting or flightseeing trip.
Does everything have to drain the wallet?
Here's a list of free or nearly free activities in the Anchorage area. (Of course, hiking or biking or birding or animal viewing are also free, but those seem obvious.)
- Alaska Public Lands Information Center: For many, it's a trip-planning spot. For the budget-conscious, it's several hours of free fun.
In addition to stuffed animal displays and Alaska videos playing throughout the day, the APLIC has a pair of highlights. There are one-hour programs presented at 2 p.m. daily. They include a variety of speakers talking about dog sleds, the Bird Treatment and Learning Center and the Alaska Zoo, among others.
"It's pretty exciting when the zoo brings in a baby musk ox or something," said Ranger Ryan Smith. "It's a great to come in and learn about Alaska."
To learn about Alaska through the eyes of Capt. James Cook, join a guided walk to Resolution Park in downtown Anchorage at 11 a.m. daily. Smith said the guide takes visitors past the totem poles in front of the courthouse, past a large whale sculpture and on to Resolution Park, with views of Cook Inlet, Mount Susitna and the Alaska Range. The center, 605 W. Fourth Ave., is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. (271-2737, www.nps.gov/aplic)
- Alaska Heritage Museum at Wells Fargo: The museum has more than 900 Alaska Native artifacts and baskets that are hundreds of years old. Also on display is artwork by Sydney Laurence, Fred Machetanz, Ted Lambert and others. New at the museum last year was a 46-troy-ounce gold nugget. The nugget is 5 inches long and is the largest nugget on display in Alaska.
Additionally, there is a noncirculating reference library of more than 2,600 books on Alaska subjects.
The museum, 301 W. Northern Lights Blvd., is open noon to 5 p.m. Mondays to Fridays from Memorial Day to Labor Day
- Anchorage Light Speed Planet Walk: Visit the sun and the planets of the solar system - including Pluto - on a walk or bike ride through downtown Anchorage and along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail.
The Planet Walk is a good reason to get out on the trail and enjoy some of the outstanding views of Knik and Cook inlets, the Alaska Range and Mount Susitna. If you walk the path and take one step per second, you'll travel the equivalent of the speed of light. There are informative signs at all the locations. Mercury is at Fifth Avenue and H Street; Venus is in front of the Hotel Captain Cook on Fifth Avenue; Earth is at Fifth Avenue and L Street; Mars is in Elderberry Park; Jupiter is at the Westchester Lagoon dam; Saturn is at Lyn Ary Park; Uranus is at the top of the Point Woronzof hill; Neptune is along the trail; and Pluto is near the Kincaid Park chalet.
- Earthquake Park: On the Planet Walk, you'll pass this park. Otherwise, you can drive to it on West Northern Lights Boulevard. In 1964, the park was part of a community of homes. When the Good Friday earthquake struck, the homes were destroyed. Today, the peaceful park has a trail system with interpretive signs to help visitors understand the destructive power of the earthquake. On clear days, the view of the Alaska Range is outstanding.
- Potter Marsh: If you like birds, this is the place. More than 130 species of birds have been sighted in the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge, and Potter Marsh is the most accessible part of the refuge. A boardwalk takes visitors into the heart of the wetland for easy bird watching. There are interpretive displays of the refuge's animals and plant life. Some birds likely to be viewed include arctic terns, Canada geese, trumpeter swans, grebes, gulls, ducks and other waterfowl. Salmon also return to the area.
Potter Marsh is at Mile 115 Seward Highway, just outside Anchorage. - Ship Creek Center: Dancers from the Alaska Native Heritage Center perform at 11 a.m. and 1:10 p.m. daily. The center is at 333 W. Fourth Ave.
- Peratrovich Park: Music in the Park is presented at noon Wednesdays and Fridays from June through August. Music for kids is presented at noon Mondays in the park. The park is at Fourth Avenue and E Street. -Anchorage Market & Festival: It'll cost you to buy something, but it's free to look around and enjoy the scene. The market is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays at Third Avenue and E Street.
Special sections editor Steve Edwards can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 257-4316. Visit his Alaska travel blog at www.alaska.com/alaskology.