Have you ever wondered how the magnificent Mat-Su Valley came to be what it is today? Well, now’s your chance to find out! There are so many incredible Mat-Su Valley Museums that will draw you in with unique artifacts, and let you dive into remarkable stories. Whether you’re touring historical structures, listening to compelling lectures, or browsing original artwork, you’ll find yourself getting lost in the wonder of the Last Frontier. Take a look at the destinations below, and get started on your journey through our timeline. Just don’t forget to explore our free Vacation Guide to discover even more museums and attractions nearby!
Explore the Rich History of the Last Frontier at These Mat-Su Valley Museums
Alaska Native Heritage Center
Most trips to Alaska are centered around the great outdoors. But, if you encounter a rainy day, you might want to head inside! The Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage is a great place to escape the rain and delve into unique histories. When you walk through the doors, your journey begins as you discover the story of Alaska’s indigenous populations. These feature 11 major cultural groups, including the Athabaskan, Eyak, Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian, Unangax, Alutiiq, Yup’ik, Cup’ik, Siberian Yupik, and Inupiaq people.
Inside, you can learn about games, dances, and fascinating stories as well as view movies that explain the unique cultures of Alaska natives. You can even purchase artwork at the Hall of Cultures and take it home as a one-of-a-kind souvenir! As you make your way outside, you’ll find six villages showcasing the living areas of several fascinating groups. It’s all situated around the shimmering water of Lake Tiulana!
You’re welcome to enjoy these exhibits and activities from May to mid-September. Admission is $25 for adults and $17 for children. For an additional fee, you can explore the Center with a private tour guide who is happy to answer any questions you might have. Feel free to purchase a Culture Pass for $32 and enjoy a complimentary shuttle to browse the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center as well!
(Photo courtesy of the Alaska Native Heritage Center.)
Originally called the Dorothy G. Page Museum, the Wasilla Museum has been showing fascinating exhibits to the public since 1967. Inside, you can explore a variety of artifacts detailing the history of Wasilla and the surrounding area.
Peruse their temporary exhibit area to see seasonal exhibits which change monthly. Next, make your way down an old mine into the downstairs gallery to learn about Alaska’s mining history with dioramas and contemporary equipment. The history lesson doesn’t stop there. You can also head to the upstairs gallery and learn the history of Wasilla from the railroad construction to the first post office and even the Iditarod. Afterward, take a walk outside to the Historic Townsite and marvel at eight different historical structures. Don’t forget to check out Wasilla’s 1917 schoolhouse while you’re there!
The Wasilla Museum is open Tuesday to Thursday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission only costs $3, with discounts for seniors and members of the military. Children ages 12 and under can enjoy the exhibits for free!
Palmer Museum of History and Art
Situated in a log cabin in downtown Palmer, Alaska, the Palmer Museum of History and Art attracts thousands of visitors each year. Here, you can admire impressive collections, rotating art exhibits, and outdoor gardens that focus on Palmer’s history and culture. One afternoon at this museum will provide you with a wealth of information about the Mat-Su Valley.
Some of their collections will take you on a journey through the Palmer Colony Project, Palmer’s sister city of Saroma, Japan, and the contemporary artwork of residents. Agriculture has always played a significant role in the story of Palmer, and you can explore a piece of it when you stroll through the Mat-Valley Agricultural Showcase. Here is where you’ll find a beautiful array of colorful flowers.
While the garden is open year-round to the public, the Museum’s hours change seasonally. From October through April, it’s open Wednesday to Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Then, from May through September, they expand their hours to seven days a week from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
National Tsunami Warning Center
Did you know that Alaska suffered a magnitude 9.2 earthquake and tsunami waves in 1964? Today, it remains the second largest earthquake ever recorded. After this natural disaster, the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center was created to improve detection and warning systems to the region. It has since changed its name to be the National Tsunami Warning Center, and you’re welcome to take a tour of the Center right here in Palmer. Check it out on Fridays at 1:00, 2:00, and 3:00 p.m. and get an inside look at how this vital facility operates.
Independence Mine State Historical Park
Many people might think of California as the primary destination of the Gold Rush, but did you know that gold mining also played a significant role in Alaska’s history? When you visit, be sure to check out Independence Mine State Historical Park, which is a treasure in itself! You can find this magnificent park sitting atop Hatcher Pass in Wasilla, AK, and encompassing over 270 acres of land.
During its peak, you would’ve seen over 200 workers and 16 families living here. Before Independence Mine was shut down during World War II, the miners uncovered over 140,000 ounces of gold! Now, you’re welcome to explore the museum, view old mining machinery, see what it was like in the mining camp, and take a hike along scenic trails.
To immerse yourself in the rich history of Alaskan gold mining, feel free to borrow pans from Alaska Garden Gate and try your luck panning for gold along the Little Susitna River in the park! The Park is usually open from mid-June to Labor Day and is well worth the trip from Palmer.
(Photo Courtesy of Visit Anchorage | Jack Bonney)
Colony House Museum
If you make your way to downtown Palmer, you can explore an incredible story taking you back to the year 1935. The Colony House Museum is a well-preserved home of a family that traveled to Palmer seeking a better life during the Depression era. Irene and Oscar Beylund built this structure, and today, you can step inside and get a glimpse of what it was like during their time.
As you walk from room to room, you can see furniture from the 30s and 40s, including some original pieces to the home! One of these is the large piano, which the Beylunds used to transport their clothes since they didn’t have luggage. You may also come across old games, books, and photographs.
Tours are available May through August, Tuesdays through Saturdays, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. And, it only costs $2 to explore this incredible piece of Palmer’s history. Be sure to check out their open houses and events during Colony Days and Colony Christmas!
Return to Alaska Garden Gate and Unwind
After your adventure through Mat-Su Valley’s history comes to an end, make your way back to Alaska Garden Gate for luxurious lodging nearby! Our exceptional accommodations and service provide the perfect atmosphere for relaxation in Palmer, AK. Whether you’re looking for elegant, private cottages or more economical rooms, you can find them here. Either way, you’ll wake up to delicious breakfasts and be able to enjoy our beautiful property nestled in the Chugach Mountains. Book your stay today and get started on a truly memorable adventure in Alaska!
Photo Courtesy of Visit Anchorage | Jack Bonney (Header Image of the Alaska Native Heritage Center)