With sweeping exterior curves and graceful lines that evoke glaciers, mountains, and the fluke of a diving whale, this don't-miss museum has some of Alaska's most distinctive architecture. Inside, two-story viewing windows look out on the Alaska Range and the Tanana Valley. Otto, the 8-foot, 9-inch brown bear specimen, greets visitors to the entrance of the Gallery of Alaska, also home to Blue Babe, a mummified steppe bison that lived 36,000 years ago during the Pleistocene
epoch. "Please touch" items include the molars of a mammoth and a mastodon, animal pelts, replica petroglyphs, and a massive quartz crystal found in Alaska's Brooks Range. The gallery also contains dioramas showing the state's animals and how they interact, and the fantastic collection of Native clothes, tools, and boats provide insights into the ways that different groups came to terms with climatic extremes.
Another highlight of a museum visit is the Rose Berry Alaska Art Gallery, representing 2,000 years of Alaska's art, from ancient to modern. Also worth checking out is In the Place Where You Go to Listen, a mesmerizing, ever-changing light and sound installation composed by the real-time movements of the sun, moon, aurora, and seismic activity. The gift shop's Alaskana selection is among the best in town.