Ultimate Guide to Exploring the Alaska Native Heritage Center

Published: May 29, 2024

Alaska Native people are the cultural heartbeat of the state’s past, present and future. To best understand Alaska, it’s important for visitors to learn about Alaska Native culture. The Alaska Native Heritage Center is the perfect starting point. A key cultural destination in Alaska, and a vibrant, immersive hub, ANHC celebrates the rich history and cultures of Alaska’s indigenous peoples.

Marking its 25th anniversary in 2024, the Center hails itself as “the premiere cultural center representing all Alaska Native cultures, peoples, and ways of life. More than a museum, we are a place to learn, discover, and share.” For visitors of this vast “place to engage and learn, ask questions to discover,” it lives up to the billing.

The Alaska Native Heritage Center has been a longtime partner with Alaska Tours, which offers enhanced visitor experiences as part of Alaska Cultural Tours. The partnership facilitates truly memorable visits.

In this comprehensive guide to the Alaska Native Heritage Center, potential visitors will learn what to expect from its fascinating exhibits, dynamic cultural performances, educational programs, planning a visit, getting tickets, information on special events, Center photos, reviews and more. You’ll also better understand what makes the Alaska Native Heritage Center a must-visit destination and feel inspired to explore this remarkable cultural site with expert guidance from Alaska Tours.

Alaska Native Heritage Center, Anchorage

Where is the Alaska Native Heritage Center?

The Center is located in the tranquil wooded outskirts of Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city and tourism hub. It’s a 10-mile drive, ANHC shuttle ride, or public transportation trip north from downtown to the Center, which is set on the traditional territory of the Native Village of Eklutna. For drivers, it’s an efficient departure from downtown on 6th Avenue, which turns into the Glenn Highway. Remain on the Glenn until a turnoff at Muldoon Road, then turn left at a stoplight onto an overpass. Follow signage to Golden Bear Dr. and Heritage Center Dr. Parking is easy, even on busy days.

What to Expect When Visiting the Alaska Native Heritage Center – An Overview

The Center promises a visit “that will take you on a journey through 10,000 years of Alaska Native history and culture through art, dance, Native Games demonstrations, exhibits, traditional Native dwellings, films and more.” It is a vibrant place with staff and guides who love engaging and teaching, passionate and talented Alaska Native artists and performers, as well as Native art exhibitions. The Center’s space is breathtaking, spotlighting Native Alaskan culture. These unique aspects distinguish the Center from other Alaskan cultural museums and Native American heritage sites

The Center’s mission to “preserve and strengthen the traditions, languages, and art of Alaska’s Native People through statewide collaboration, celebration, and education” complements its vision that “thriving Alaska Native people and cultures are respected and valued.” ANHC’s Board has 18 directors, each representing different Alaska areas and cultural groups.

The Center’s leadership states that it is “honored to be guests in the traditional territory of the Native Village of Eklutna, a Dena’ina Athabascan Tribe.”

The Center is open year-round, but the best times to visit for cultural events, activities and exploration is during summer. It’s quieter, though still captivating, during the winter. Later in this blog, we’ll detail easy access to tickets and planning a visit.

Tours and Activities Available

Cultural tours in Alaska don’t get more authentic, educational and exciting than a visit to ANHC. There are many ways to experience it: guided and self-guided tours, special events and seasonal activities. 

Alaska Tours’ Alaska Native Traditions guide is a perfect primer before an ANHC visit. It features stories about Alaska Native people and Native Alaskan tribes, their history on this land, traditional practices, and other Center activities.

Exhibits and Artifacts to See

The Center houses Alaska Native exhibits and Indigenous artifacts in its Hall of Cultures. Unique and dynamic exhibits, including amazing traditional Alaska Native tools and art, teach visitors about Alaska’s five major cultural groups and lifestyles. In the wooded outdoor Village Sites, visitors walk among six authentic life-sized Native dwellings around Lake Tiulana. A Center guide, known as a Culture Bearer, explains the traditional lifestyles of Alaska’s Dene, Iñupiat, Sivuqam Yupigi, Yupiit, Cupiit, Unangax̂, Sugpiat, dAXunhyuu, Łingít, Xaadas, Ts’msyen peoples.

Visit Anchorage to see and learn about Native Alaska art and traditions.

Planning Your Visit

At a place so vast, many wonder how long to spend at the Alaska Native Heritage Center? It’s important to allocate time effectively by planning ahead: explore maps of the grounds, read about exhibits, and find schedules of events and activities. A half-day itinerary is recommended for a balanced experience, allowing for other special attractions and adventures. It’s also a perfect pairing with a remote Alaska Lodge Vacation.

The average visit duration varies by the visitor, available time, and interests. Some are satisfied with a quick overview; others love deep dives into activities and exhibits. Guided tours offer efficient exploration. Alaska Tours can personalize itineraries for individuals and groups.

Other conveniences include a Gathering Place and resting area for breaks, and onsite food and drink from Café Di’eshchin, which translates from the Dena’ina Athabascan word for “I’m Hungry.” The café is closed in winter.

During its summer season, beginning in mid-May, the Center is open all week. It includes daily guided tours, dance performances, Alaska Native Games demonstrations, Alaska Native artists selling their work, and more. In the winter season, starting in mid-September, it’s open Monday through Friday but no longer offers guided visits and regular activities.

A vehicle parked in front of a log cabin a a lodge on Sheep Mountain in Alaska

Day 9: Drive the scenic Glenn Highway (Ashley Heimbigner/Visit Anchorage)

Securing Your Tickets

Since opening on May 1, 1999, the Center has welcomed over 1 million visitors; it’s easy to be among the next million. Alaska Native Heritage Center tickets can be procured in advance online, on-site at the newly remodelled admissions area, or as part of an exciting Alaska Tours package that includes Center admission and visit. Benefits to purchasing tickets and guided tours through Alaska Tours include the best access to exhibits and activities, a friendly, expert guide providing insights at each stop, and admission in advance. You can also combine a visit to the Center with additional adventures with our tailored Alaska Driving Tours packages.

Ticket pricing ranges by person, season and experience. Summer admission rates run are $29 for adults, $25 for seniors (65+) and $19 for youth (4-17). There are discounted rates for Alaskans, students, military and others; indigenous people receive free access with proof of tribal enrollment. Private tours start at $150 for 20 people. Winter dates and rates vary. 

Upcoming Events & Workshops at the Alaska Native Heritage Center

Another unique aspect of the Center is its cultural and educational community events, workshops, performances and classes. These experiences and the Center’s staff encourage visitor participation as a way to engage with Alaska Native culture deeply.

Events and workshops include artist galleries, Indigenous Awareness Workshops, master artist workshops, weekly sewing classes, community Native Youth Olympics practices, special film festivals and concerts, and more. There are field trips for youth groups and schools. Stay up to date on classes, workshops and events at the Alaska Native Heritage Center here and work with Alaska Tours staff to discover events that overlap with your visit.

A native village host at the Alaska Native Heritage Center

Hear From The Visitors: Alaska Native Heritage Center Reviews 

What do visitors generally love about the Alaska Native Heritage Center? Everything! Common themes praised by visitors include engaging exhibits and events, the educational experience, and friendly staff. It’s no wonder the Center is renowned and award-winning, including the recipient of the 2023 International Guardians of Culture and Lifeways Awards. In 2020, the Ford Foundation named the center one of America’s Cultural Treasures, complemented by a $3 million grant. In 2022, it was honored by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Word of mouth and customer experiences are equally important. New visitors are encouraged to leave Alaska Native Heritage Center reviews of their experience; feedback can strengthen or improve experiences and services.

The Center has a 4.5 score out of 5 on Tripadvisor, with more than 1,700 reviews.

SueJ114 from Florida wrote, “There is much to see and learn here. We joined a guided tour of the outdoor loop of houses led by young Native Alaskan volunteers. They were very informative, and really seemed to enjoy what they were doing. … Inside we watched Native Alaskan dancers, and also some athletes demonstrating their games/sports.”

Jacks Q. from Chicago added, “Very impressive & well-designed with outdoor and indoor exhibits, live presentations by old and young, but also take-your-time exhibits. … We 4 adults expected to spend 60 to 90 minutes but stayed for almost 4 hours.”

And Amelia A wrote, “My favorite part was the magnifying sections to show the intricacies of the basketry on display. I also viewed a demonstration of Native song and dance, which was really fun and quite interactive.”

Post your reviews on sites like Tripadvisor or your social media, along with pictures. Center staff say the best photos come at the whale bones at the Iñupiaq area of the outdoor Village Sites.

Top Tips For Your Trip to the Alaska Native Heritage Centre

Excited about an ANHC visit? Here are top tips to enhance the experience, including best practices for engaging with exhibits, participating in activities, and supporting the Center beyond your visit.

  • Plan Your Visit Strategically: Work in advance with Alaska Tours for itinerary customization, and peruse the Center’s website for events, programs and exhibits.
  • Utilize Visitor Resources: Center resources maximize visitors’ time, with maps, a mobile app and a digital guide that includes audio tours. 
  • Engaging with Exhibits: Interacting with exhibits and staff bring new levels of understanding and appreciation. Don’t be shy: ask questions, dance to drums, and have fun!
  • Dress Appropriately for the Climate and Activities: While most time is casually spent indoors, a visit also includes exploring the outdoor Village Sites. Prep for the Alaska weather before going.
  • Respect Cultural Sensitivities: As a visitor, it’s crucial to learn about and experience Alaska Native culture directly from Alaska Native staff. Engaging respectfully enhances the quality of your visit and ensures meaningful interactions.
  • Support the Center’s Mission: Sustain this thriving place by touring the extensive gift shop and online storefront, or contributing via donation.

Discover The Alaska Native Heritage Center with Alaska Tours

A visit to the Alaska Native Heritage Center provides a rare opportunity to experience one of America’s cultural treasures and immerse yourself in Alaska Native culture in a welcoming, exciting, and educational place. The insights and benefits gathered from a visit make traveling Alaska more fulfilling and fun. Access to and highlights of a Center visit are best when crafted by Alaska Tours, the state’s longtime travel experts. 

A unique and special experience awaits visitors at the Alaska Native Heritage Center. Start making plans today by contacting Alaska Tours and learn more about many packages that include ANHC visits.

Find more information about Alaska Native culture and lifestyles by exploring other blogs and resources on Alaska Tours’ engaging website.