To fully immerse yourself in Alaska, you need to check out the state's wildlife, local food and unique museums. We're talking about sites and artifacts that you will only find in the Last Frontier, which has been home to indigenous peoples, Russian settlers, gold miners and many others over the course of the state's rich history.
Here are five museums that capture Alaska's unique past and inspiring present.
1. Aurora Ice Museum
Just outside the city of Fairbanks, you'll find the Chena Hot Springs Resort, which is home to one of the coolest attractions in Alaska: the Aurora Ice Museum. Built in 2005, the museum features frozen sculptures created by champion ice carver Steve Brice, which include jousting knights, a playable xylophone, a four-poster bed shaped like a polar bear and more
The museum also offers classes in ice sculpting from pros on site. And you can get cocktails served in martini glasses made of ice. Here's how they're made.
2. Totem Bight State Historical Park
If you want to see a real totem pole up close, head to the southeastern city of Ketchian, where you'll find Totem Bight Historical Park. The site features a recreation of a 19th century Native American village - including original totem poles and traditional structures that have been restored since the site was abandoned in the early 20th century.
When you visit, you'll see the clanhouse - which can house up to 30-50 people - and a collection of totem poles featuring ravens, eagles, orcas and other creatures from Alaskan mythology.
3. Sitka National Historical Park
History buffs who like to exercise while they learn should check out the Sitka National Historical Park on Southeast Alaska's Baranof Island. The site captures the cultural clash between the land's indigenous people and Russian fur traders who tried to colonize the area in the 19th century. Tour guides will take you on a walk through history while you discover totem poles and other artifacts preserving the state's history.
And if you walk an extra half mile, you can also tour the Russian Bishop's House - a walk-in relic of Alaska's Russian past.
4. Last Chance Mining Museum
For a different trek through Alaska's past, head to Juneau and check out the Last Chance Mining Museum. This historic site preserves a mining camp from the gold rush that swept through the state's capital city in the early 20th century. After hiking through the wilderness, you can check out rail lines, compressors and other industrial machinery used by the 1,000 plus miners who worked in the hundred miles of tunnels in the site.
5. The Salty Dog Saloon
This historic watering hole in Homer, Alaska is the perfect museum for tourists who like to have a beer while enjoying history. The site of the saloon is about as old as the city itself. Built in 1897, the building has served Homer over the years as a post office, railway station, grocery store and school house before becoming a saloon in the 1950s.
You'll know when it's open because the light in the faux lighthouse crowning the saloon will be on. It's a handy signal for local fishermen who want to know if they can catch a pint after coming ashore at the end of the day.
When you go, make sure to leave a buck on the wall - a local tradition that allegedly began when a patron nailed a dollar to the bar so that his friend could buy a drink when he finally arrived.