Must-See Museums on Alaska Cruise Excursions

by Margaret Adsit

The story of the last frontier is artfully told through the regional museums that you'll visit on Alaska cruise excursions. Taking time to visit these museums will give you unique historical insights into the often idiosyncratic aspects of Alaska's history and culture. Make your next cruise to Alaska more meaningful by adding these museums to your must-see list.

The Anchorage Museum

The Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center provides visitors with an eclectic combination of Native Alaskan arts and culture, Alaskan history, and an ever-changing gallery of contemporary works by artists such as Mariam Ghani and Erin Ellen Kelly, Ashley Lohr, and Mariano Gonzales. While you're there, you can observe a section of the famed trans-Alaska Pipeline and learn more about its history. The Anchorage Museum also features permanent exhibits focusing on Alaska Native culture and the initial Russian exploration and settlement of the state.

Dolly's House Museum

Alaska's frontier history was not without its more colorful aspects. Miners and explorers were off seeking fortune in the cold north, and many sought out brothels for entertainment and companionship. This gave rise to the red light district on Creek Street in Ketchikan, which thrived from the 1920s–1950s.

Dolly's House, one of the area's original brothels, stands in its historic location as a museum. Formerly owned by madam Dolly Arthur, this offbeat museum will transport you back through time, chronicling some of Ketchikan's lesser-known history. Make sure you stop by on a excursion in Ketchikan, Alaska's "First City."

University of Alaska Museum of the North

Exhibits at the University of Alaska Museum of the North, located in the city of Fairbanks, run the gamut from 2,000 years of Alaskan art to the largest display of gold on display in the state. Patrons love Blue Babe, the 36,000-year-old mummified Ice Age bison, not to mention the museum's stunning light and sound installation, which displays the moon, sun, seismic activity, and aurora in real time.

The Hammer Museum

The first museum in the world dedicated to the history of the hammer, Haines' Hammer Museum is run by a group of volunteers dedicated to researching, identifying, exhibiting, and preserving the history (and use) of hammers. With roughly 1,500 hammers on display, you can experience the triumphs, failures, variability, and evolution of one of the world's first tools. Delight in hammer history when you visit the Hammer Museum as part of Alaska cruise excursions.

Red Onion Saloon

Ketchikan isn't the only Alaska town with a sordid history. Skagway's Red Onion, built in 1897, was among the most popular bordellos during the area's Gold Rush days. Today, the Red Onion Brothel Museum is home to a vibrant assortment of antiques that once helped breathe atmosphere into this lively saloon. Take a walking tour through the Red Onion with one of the museum's madams to learn more about historic Skagway and its storied history.

Make your next Alaska vacation more meaningful by spending time at some of its quirkiest and most fascinating museums, and you're sure to come back with enriching memories that will last a lifetime.

On a quiet stretch in Ketchikan, Alaska, you'll find Creek Street — former home of the red light district and current home of Dolly's House Museum, which offers visitors a peek into Alaska's more colorful past.
Creek Street, former home of the red light district and current home of Dolly's House Museum, offers visitors a peek into Alaska's more colorful past.