Alaska Excursions

Alaska Excursions

A wide range of trips throughout Southcentral Alaska.

Iditarod 41

Photos and stories from the last great race.

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Mat-Su valley: Independence Mine, animals and the state fair

Scott Robb kneels with a couple of his giant cabbages. The cabbages were headed to the Alaska State Fair in Palmer, where gigantic vegetables get top billing.

Scott Robb kneels with a couple of his giant cabbages. The cabbages were headed to the Alaska State Fair in Palmer, where gigantic vegetables get top billing.

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2012 Alaska Visitors Guide - Front

Alaska Live Steamers

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Erik Hill / Anchorage Daily News
Fall colors frame Matanuska Glacier in a view from the state recreation site viewpoint along the Glenn Highway.

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EVAN R. STEINHAUSER / Anchorage Daily News archive
Veronica Younack of Palmer touches the nose of Papaya, a bull musk ox, at the Musk Ox Farm in Palmer.

Ride a scale-model railroad over about 112 miles of track that includes a high trestle, bridges and a tunnel. Enjoy the new depot and comfortable seats. The trip is about 25 minutes.

Where: Next to the Wasilla Airport, Wasilla

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends, mid-May to mid-September

Cost: $4, free for age 3 and younger

Phone: 345-2885

Web: alaskalivesteam.org

Alaska State Fair

It's not often that a huge cabbage is a highlight, but the fair is home to some of the world's biggest vegetables. Other highlights include Alaska arts and crafts, food, flowers, concerts, fireworks, livestock exhibits, a lumberjack competition, rodeo, sprint-car races and a demolition derby. The Alaska State Fair parade in downtown Palmer is Aug. 29.

Where: Alaska State Fair grounds, Palmer

When: Aug. 27 to Sept. 7; hours are noon to 10 p.m. Mondays to Fridays, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekends and Labor Day

Cost: Adults: $12 weekends, $10 weekdays; Youth and seniors: $7 weekends, $6 weekdays

Phone: 745-4827

Web: alaskastatefair.org

West Coast / Alaska Tsunami Warning Center

The center monitors seismic and tsunami activity worldwide. The center's area of responsibility includes Canada, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands and all of the coastal United States except Hawaii. The center opened in 1967 after the 1964 Good Friday earthquake and a subsequent tsunami that killed 114 people; it added personnel after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

Where: 910 S. Felton St., Palmer

When: Tours at 1, 2 and 3 p.m. Fridays

Cost: Free

Phone: 745-4212

Web: wcatwc.arh.noaa.gov

Colony House Museum

Take a trip back to the mid-1930s at the museum and follow a band of pioneers from the Midwest who traveled to Alaska to begin a farming community during President Roosevelt's New Deal era. The museum is in one of the original farm homes built by the pioneers and is furnished in period decor and artifacts. Many of the items were donated by the original settlers.

Where: 316 E. Elmwood Ave., Palmer

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays to Saturdays, May 1 to Aug. 31; special openings are available

Cost: $2 adults, $1 younger than 12

Phone: 745-1935

Dorothy Page Museum and Historic Townsite

Get a glimpse of Alaska and Wasilla's history and take a walk through time in historic homes and buildings at the museum. A variety of permanent displays focus on local history, gold mining, Alaska wildlife, homesteading and the Iditarod race. Summer traveling exhibits include "Alaska Positive: A Photographic Exhibit" (through June), "Instruments as Art" (July and August) and "New Harmonies: A Celebration of American Roots Music" (August through October). A farmers market is 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays beginning in May.

Where: 323 Main St., Wasilla

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays through Sept. 30

Cost: $3 adults, $2.50 seniors, $2 military, free for children 12 and younger

Phone: 373-9071

Web: www.cityofwasilla.com/museum

Friday Flings

Find just what you're looking for at the Friday Flings -- a combination farmers, crafter's and landscaper's market. There also is live music, entertainment and food vendors.

Where: Palmer Picnic Pavilion

When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays, May 15 to Aug. 14

Cost: Free

Phone: 745-2880

Web: www.palmerchamber.org

Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Headquarters

You needn't endure snow and cold to enjoy the Iditarod. The race takes place in March, but summer visitors to race headquarters can see Iditarod race displays, souvenirs and videos. Sled dog rides with a wheeled cart are available. A musher is on hand with sled dogs and puppies; rides are available 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Where: Mile 2.2 Knik Road, Wasilla

When: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, mid-May to mid-September

Cost: Free; $10 for sled dog rides

Phone: 376-5155, ext. 108

Web: iditarod.com

Independence Mine State Historical Park

Take a trip back to Alaska Gold Rush history with a visit to this scenic mine. The state has refurbished many of the buildings at the Hatcher Pass site. The park has handicapped-accessible walkways, paved paths, a pavilion and more than 30 interpretive panels. Guided historic-building tours of the park are offered several times a day. The pass is named for Robert Lee Hatcher, who discovered gold in Willow Creek Valley in 1906. The mine, on the National Register of Historic Places, closed in 1951.

Where: Mile 17 Hatcher Pass Road, off Fishhook Road

When: Park is open 24 hours a day from early June to Labor Day; visitors' center is open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily starting in early June

Cost: $5 per vehicle or a $40 seasonal pass

Phone: 745-3975, 745-2827

Web: www.dnr.state.ak.us

Mat-Su Governor's Picnic

Join local residents for a picnic that includes a barbecue, live music and games.

Where: Iditapark, Wasilla

When: July 17

Cost: Free

Phone: 376-1299

Web: wasillachamber.org

Mat-Su Visitor Center

The center, which affords visitors outstanding views of the Chugach Mountains, is a great starting point for vacationers in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. Visit with local Alaska staff members who can provide information about things to do in the Mat-Su area, including free guidebooks and brochures. There is information about last-minute accommodations and activities. The center houses a gift shop with Alaska maps and souvenirs and offers free Wi-Fi.

Where: 7744 E. Visitors View Court at the Trunk Road exit, Mile 35.5 Parks Highway

When: 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. daily, mid-May to mid-September

Cost: Free

Phone: 746-5000

Web: alaskavisit.com

Museum of Alaska Transportation and Industry

The 20-acre museum has a huge collection of artifacts from Alaska's history in the railroad, fishing, mining, farming, logging and oil industries. Indoor and outdoor displays feature boats, tractors, trains, aircraft and construction equipment.

Where: 3800 W. Museum Drive, off the Parks Highway, Wasilla

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, May 1 to Sept. 30

Cost: $8 adults, $5 students and seniors; $18 family

Phone: 376-1211

Web: www.museumofalaska.org

Musk Ox Farm

Get up close with these fascinating animals that are native to the harsh Arctic. The Musk Ox Farm is a nonprofit corporation and home to a unique domestication project that started in 1954. Regular tours are offered. There are interpretive exhibits in the museum and a gift shop where visitors can purchase garments made of musk ox under-hair, called qiviut, from Oomingmak, Musk Ox Producers' Cooperative. The farm will host its seventh annual Running With the Bulls 5-K run on Aug. 2

Where: Mile 50.1 Glenn Highway, Palmer

When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., May 10 to Sept. 30

Cost: $8 adults, $7 seniors, $6 children ages 5-12, free younger than 4

Phone: 745-4151

Web: muskoxfarm.org

Nova rafting

The company offers several day trips in Alaska, including both white-water and river floats on the Matanuska River outside Palmer and Six Mile Creek near Hope. The company has guided oar rafting with paddle assistance or paddle rafting. It also offers multiday trips on the Talkeetna, Copper, Chickaloon and Tana rivers.

Where: Hope and Chickaloon

Cost: Varies

Phone: 1-800-746-5753

Web: nova-alaska.com

Palmer Colony Days

The annual three-day festival honors the colonists who arrived to establish a farming community in 1935. The festival includes a car rally, bed races, craft fairs, carnival, children's games, bike rodeo and live entertainment. There is a parade at 11 a.m. June 13 and a fun run at 11 a.m. June 14.

Where: Downtown Palmer

When: June 12-14

Cost: Free

Phone: 745-2880

Web: palmerchamber.org

Palmer Visitor Information Center

The log cabin in downtown Palmer is the starting point for many adventures in the Valley. The center includes the Colony Showcase Garden, which features annual and perennial flowers and Alaska's famous giant vegetables. The visitor center also is home to the Palmer Museum of History and Art, which features artifacts from early 1900s pioneer life. Exhibits include dairy farming, mining, the Colony project, homesteading, mushing and trapping. A historical walking tour begins at the center.

Where: 723 S. Valley Way, Palmer

When: Hours vary

Cost: Free

Phone: 746-7668

Web: palmermuseum.org

Reindeer Farm

Visit with Rudolph and about 140 of his friends at the Reindeer Farm outside Palmer. The farm is one of the original Colony farms from the 1930s. In the wild, reindeer are called caribou. At the farm, the tame animals can be petted, hand-fed and photographed. Also at the farm are moose, Sitka blacktail deer, Rocky Mountain elk and a young bison.

Where: Bodenburg Loop Road, off Old Glenn Highway

When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, May 1 to mid-September

Cost: $6 adults, $4 children ages 3-11

Phone: 745-4000

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