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University of Alaska Museum of the North and Large Animal Research Station, Fairbanks
Concierge.com's insider take:
The best museum in Alaska is the University of Alaska's Museum of the North, located at the center of the university's Fairbanks campus. Huge mammoth tusks, a 36,000-year-old mummified steppe bison, and a stuffed grizzly bear nearly nine feet tall welcome visitors to the world's most extensive collection of Alaskan Native artifacts, including clothes and boats from every corner of the state. An ongoing display of photographs by Michio Hoshino—perhaps the greatest wildlife photographer ever to live—leads to a sound-and-light exhibit that translates Alaska's geography into music, reflecting minute-by-minute changes in northern lights, seismic activity, and weather patterns. In summer, the Northern Inua Games held outside the museum give you a taste of the events at the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics, such as the high kick, knuckle hop, and ear pull. Check with the museum for the schedule.
At the university's Large Animal Research Station, about five miles north of the main campus, walking tours introduce visitors to the inhabitants—musk ox, reindeer, and caribou—and explain how these animals survive in the Arctic. Musk ox may have a tough exterior (they can weigh up to 800 pounds and are known for their defensive formation, shoulder to shoulder against threats), but their shaggy underwool, called qiviut, is 30 times stronger than sheep's wool, 8 times warmer, and soft enough to make cashmere feel like a scrubbing pad.—Edward Readicker-Henderson
Museum of the North open daily 9 am to 9 pm, mid-May through mid-September; Mondays through Saturdays 9 am to 5 pm, mid-September through mid-May. Closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
Large Animal Research Station open daily for tours at 10 am, 11 am, noon, and 1, 2, 3, and 4 pm, Memorial Day through Labor Day.
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