The Great Land, Land of the Midnight Sun State
Alaska is the largest state in the United States. Separated from the rest of the country by Canada, it lies on the Arctic Circle. About half of Alaskan residents live within the Anchorage metropolitan area. It includes many islands. Winter in Alaska is strongly recommended, because it's the season of the northern lights, local festivals, wildlife viewing (wolves, whales, moose and bears) and outdoor activities including dog mushing (a transport method powered by dogs). Some of the most popular destinations in this massive state include Glacier Bay National Park and the entire Inside Passage, Mt. McKinley and Denali National Park, Kenai Peninsula, Kodiak Island and the Pribilof Islands. Alaska is famous for their Alaskan King Crab legs. As the state is huge, most cities and villages in the state are accessible only by sea, air or train. One of the best ways to see Alaska is by cruise ship. For additional attractions and points-of-interest, follow this link: travelalaska.com.
Jump to: Historical Sites & Tourist Attractions | Arts & Culture | Sports & Recreation | Outdoor Activities | Food | Local Festivals | Housing Resources | Transportation | Health & Safety | Help Your Community
Historical Sites & Tourist Attractions
Add some local history to your cultural exchange experience by visiting a nearby historical site or tourist attraction when living and working in the U.S.
The Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage is a cultural center for Alaska’s indigenous cultures and the state’s 11 major cultural groups. Visitors are able to see traditional songs and dance, storytelling, artist demonstrations, traditional dwellings and more. Classes, lectures and workshops are also available at the center.
The Alaska State Museum in Juneau and Sheldon Jackson Museum in Sitka focus on the many cultural groups of Alaska and the history of the state, displaying collections of artifacts, artwork, Alaska Native material and natural history objects.
Aleutian World War II National Historic Area is located on the former site of the U.S. Army base Fort Schwatka on Amaknak Island. The fort was once used to protect the U.S. from Japanese invasion in World War II in a largely forgotten campaign in the Pacific.
Anchorage Museum displays art, history and science exhibits about Alaska, its history and heritage. The museum also offers many workshops, classes for children, young adults and adults, and guided tours.
Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park focuses on the thousands of travelers who came to Alaska in the late 19th century in search of gold. Local museums, tours of the historic district, nature trails and other outdoor activities are available at this historical site.
The University of Alaska Museum of the North in Fairbanks has five exhibit galleries on topics like Alaska wildlife, native peoples, traditional and modern art, and more.
- Arctic Wild
- Alaska Backcountry Adventure Tours
- Classic Tours
- Great Alaska Adventures
- Northern Alaska Tour Company
- Riverboat Discovery
- Salmon Berry Tours
Arts & Culture
The United States offers a wide variety of cultural learning opportunities through the arts. Dance, music, theater, opera, art museums and festivals are just some of the options available to international visitors who wish to experience the U.S. and its culture.
- Alaska Dance Theatre, Anchorage
- Anchorage Opera, Anchorage
- Anchorage Symphony Orchestra, Anchorage
- Fairbanks Symphony Orchestra, Fairbanks
- Ilanka Cultural Center, Cordova
- Juneau Symphony, Juneau
- Kenai Fine Arts Center, Kenai
- Maxine and Jesse Whitney Museum, Valdez
- North Star Ballet, Fairbanks
- Opera Fairbanks, Fairbanks
- Palmer Museum, Palmer
- Perseverance Theatre, Juneau
- Pratt Museum, Homer
See a full list of art, history and cultural museums in Alaska.
Sports & Recreation
Many Americans are passionate about sports – and not just baseball and football! Get a glimpse into this part of American culture by watching or participating in a favorite U.S. sport or recreational activity in your local area.
There are no professional sports teams in Alaska, but several minor league and semi-professional teams play in Alaska, especially in Anchorage.
- Alaska Aces (hockey)
- Anchorage Bucs (baseball)
- Anchorage Glacier Pilots (baseball)
- University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolves
- The Great Alaska Shootout is an annual college basketball tournament with multiple teams from across the United States. It is held on Thanksgiving at the University of Alaska Anchorage.
The United States is home to a variety of landscapes and climates to suit all types of outdoor activities. The courageous traveler can find extreme sports and outdoor adventure tours, while others may want to keep both feet on the ground in a national park or forest. Whatever your interests, take advantage of the many outdoor activities available during your time in the United States.
Denali is a 6 million-acre park and wildlife reserve and also home of Mount McKinley, the tallest mountain in Alaska. There are many outdoor activities at Denali for people with varying levels of experience in the outdoors, including backpacking, hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling. Visitors can take buses to and around the park.
Ski or snowboard at Eaglecrest Ski Area in Juneau. Nordic trails, which include snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, are also available at the ski area.
Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve in Alaska’s Inside Passage has fjords, glaciers, mountains and rainforests within one location on 3.3 million acres of land, providing many different opportunities for outdoor activities. Visitors can cruise Glacier Bay and look for whales, sea lions, moose, wolves and bears, try camping, hiking, rafting, mountaineering, sea kayaking or other wildness adventures, take a ranger-led walk or even visit a beach.
Katmai National Park & Preserve allows visitors to see bears in the wild, try sport fishing, go hiking, canoeing and kayaking within the four million acres of land in the park. The park rangers also offer cultural walks and evening programs for visitors.
View the Northern Lights, a beautiful natural phenomenon also known as aurora borealis, from August to April in northern Alaska. Some tour companies offer trips to see the northern lights during the aurora season.
Ice climbing is an exciting and challenging sport. Beginners can try it out with Mica Guides on an ice climbing tour during the summer about two hours north of Anchorage.
There are many glacier and wildlife cruises in Alaska in locations like Glacier Bay, Stephens Passage, Denali and Kenai Fjords National Park. Many cruises allow visitors to see wildlife like humpback whales, bald eagles, sea lions, otters and puffins. See a full list of cruise operators in Alaska.
One of the best ways to experience cultural exchange is through food and cooking. Visitors will enjoy exploring the regional specialties and local cuisine during their time in the United States.
Alaskan cuisine showcases the natural resources of the region, including foods like salmon, Alaskan king crab, halibut, wild berries, and game meat like caribou, elk, reindeer and moose.
Browse a directory of farmers’ markets in Alaska for fresh fruit, vegetables and homemade goods from local farmers and artisans.
- Kodiak Crab Festival, Kodiak, May
- Slam’n Salm’n Derby, Anchorage, June
- Fishermen’s BBQ, Haines, June
- Copper River Wild Salmon Festival, Cordova, July
- Taste of Mardi Gras, Anchorage, September
For a unique and local perspective on American culture, be sure to check out festivals and events near your cultural exchange program location. These events are a fun and interesting way to interact with locals and to learn more about American culture by experiencing it firsthand.
The Alaska Folk Festival (AFF) in Juneau is an annual event each April. The festival features nine concerts throughout the event, with an average of 15 musicians playing at each concert. The AFF encourages both professional and amateur musicians to sign up and perform. Dance performances and workshops are also included in the event.
Celebration is a cultural event in Juneau that celebrates the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian tribes, and the traditions and customs of Southeast Alaskan natives. Held every two years, the event includes traditional music, dance, costumes, arts and crafts, lectures, parades and an art competition.
The Last Frontier Theatre Conference is a weeklong event with various activities, such as a Fringe Festival, evening play performances and workshops. The event is held each June in Valdez and includes many local Alaskans along with some national and international participants.
Many areas of Alaska celebrate the summer solstice each year on June 21st (or June 20th if it’s a leap year). In Fairbanks, the Midnight Sun Festival celebrates the longest day of the year with arts and crafts, many food vendors, cook-offs, races, dancing, music and other fun events during the 20+ hours of sunlight.
Golden Days is a popular family event in Fairbanks with parades, food, car shows, cultural performances, dancing, live music, a street fair and other community events over five days in July.
The Alaska State Fair is an annual summer event in August/September in Palmer, an hour north of Anchorage. The event features food, rides, concerts, live entertainment, films, native cultural events and many other activities.
Employers may be able to assist with housing during your time in the United States, but this is not always possible for all participants. When looking for housing during your cultural exchange program, consider the cost of the accommodation, the distance to your work place and the amount of time you will be in the United States.
It's also important to avoid fraudulent housing. It is highly recommended that you secure short-term housing upon arrival (e.g. in a hostel) and conduct your housing search once you are in the U.S. Never give your financial information to a stranger over the Internet. Browse the Housing Information guides for InterExchange participants below for more tips and advice.
General Housing Information
- Housing information for Work and Travel USA participants
- Housing information for Career Training USA interns and trainees
Alaska Housing Resources
Some examples of housing and accommodation resources for Alaska participants include:
- Craigslist - Alaska
- American Homestay Agency
- Hostelling International
Public transportation options can be hit or miss, depending on your location in the United States. Buses are a common transportation option for short and long-term travel in the U.S., while some areas will also have trains, subways and other options.
If you are driving in Alaska, browse a Transportation Guide for information on driving times and mileage.
Public Transit Systems
In Anchorage, use the People Mover bus system to travel around the area.
The Fairbanks bus system operates nine bus routes in the Fairbanks and North Pole area.
Juneau’s Capital Transit System (CTS) operates three bus routes in the Juneau area with stops in downtown Juneau, Douglas Island, Mendenhall Valley, Lemon Creek and Auke Bay.
For other local public transit options in Alaska, visit the American Public Transportation Association website.
Alaska Park Connection travels between Anchorage and Denali or Seward twice a day in the summer.
Alaska/Yukon Trails provides daily shuttle buses in Anchorage, Talkeetna, Denali and Fairbanks. Tours are also available between Alaska and Yukon, Canada.
Interior Alaska Bus Line provides shuttle service three times a week between Anchorage, Fairbanks, Tok and Northway.
Seward Bus Lines provides winter and summer bus services between Anchorage, Seward, Whittier and Anchorage Airport. The company also runs sightseeing tours in the summer.
Three companies offer train service between Seward and Fairbanks:
- Alaska Railroad – Five routes: Coastal Classic, Glacier Discovery, Denali Star, Aurora Winter Train, and Hurricane Turn. The company also has special train services during events.
- Gray Line of Alaska
- Princess Rail Tours
Air travel is available within Alaska on Alaska Airlines, including service to smaller rural communities.
The Alaska Marine Highway System is a ferry service operating throughout 35 coastal Alaskan communities. A ferry service also operates from Bellingham, Washington to Ketchikan.
Health & Safety
Participants in Alaska can use the following resources in case of an emergency or extreme weather event in their area:
Emergency Management Agencies
- Alaska Emergency Management
- Ready Alaska: Disaster Preparedness
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA): www.fema.gov and www.ready.gov
- Alaska FEMA updates on Twitter: @femaregion10
Help Your Community
Interact with others and expand your skill set by volunteering in your local community. Volunteer organizations are often looking for short-term volunteers or for individuals to help with a single event, making it a great option for InterExchange participants who wish to add to their cultural exchange experience during their time in the United States.
Volunteermatch.org, Idealist.org and Serve.gov are three general volunteer websites that match local organizations with volunteers in their communities.
Help build housing for families in need with Habitat for Humanity. Find a local affiliate in locations like Homer, Anchorage and Fairbanks and sign up as a volunteer – no experience required!
Volunteer with the Alaska Center for the Environment (ACE) for a few hours or for more long-term projects. Volunteers are needed at events like the Alaska State Fair and for environmental projects in the local community.
Help fight hunger at the Food Bank of Alaska. Individuals and groups can help with tasks like food drives, sorting donations, packing food boxes and more.
Help out at the Mayor’s Marathon and Half Marathon in Fairbanks – no running required! Volunteer opportunities are available at first aid stations, refreshment tables, the starting line and other areas of the race.