If you ever get the chance to visit our 49th state, be sure and head outside Anchorage toward Wasilla, Alaska. This friendly small city has scenic mountains and lakes and its own unique history. You might even spot some grizzly bears.
We’ve put together a top 10 list to help you discover the charms of Alaska’s sixth-largest city. Let’s go!
What Is Wasilla, Alaska Known For?
Just 40 miles north of Anchorage in southern Alaska, little Wasilla has a couple of big claims to fame. The first one is dog sledding — Wasilla serves as the home base of the world-famous Iditarod races.
Additionally, the city of around 12,000 people has enjoyed more time in the spotlight since the 2008 presidential race. It’s the hometown of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, candidate John McCain’s running mate.
However, the real star of Wasilla, Alaska, may just be the amazing natural beauty. You’ll find stunning mountain peaks and lakes and rivers of the Mat-Su Valley.
10 Best Things to Do in Wasilla, Alaska
We’ll get off to the races with a look inside the iconic dog sledding event that celebrates Alaska’s heritage. Then we’ll spend plenty of time outdoors, too, to experience the incredible wonders that first drew settlers to this magnificent area.
You can find so many things to see and do in this scenic town, and here are the 10 best.
1. Visit the Iditarod Headquarters
There are some common misconceptions about the origin of the annual Iditarod dog sled race, which began in 1973. Back in the day, gold miners used Alaskan huskies and sleds to haul gold from their mines. They ran along a historic route called the Iditarod.
Race founder Joe Redington felt that people forgot the dogs’ important role in Alaska’s history. He wanted to restore and secure their place in the state’s culture.
By visiting the headquarters’ museum, you can learn more about the event and the major myths that surround it. You can watch videos of historic races, see trophies and photographs, and even take a ride on a dog sled.
2. Check Out the Alaska Museum of Transportation and Industry
Wasilla, Alaska, started as a mining town, but agriculture was important to its growth. The state built the railroad here in 1917, allowing the community to get its farm products to market. The old train depot has become part of the museum, but you’ll find many more artifacts spread out over the sprawling grounds.
You can see historic trains, cars, planes, and old farm machinery and model trains. You and your family can also take part in interactive exhibits related to dog mushing and gold mining.
3. Book a Breathtaking Sightseeing Flight
Some people call it “flightseeing,” and it’s maybe the best way to get a comprehensive view of the incredible scenery. You can book a flight at the municipal airport and hop aboard a small plane for unforgettable bird’s-eye views.
Pro Tip: Looking to book an RV for your Alaskan adventure? We found the 6 Best RV Rental Companies in Anchorage, Alaska.
4. Visit the Dorothy G. Page Museum to Learn Wasilla History
This quaint museum on Main Street traces the entire rich history of the area. It’s named for a woman who was active for many years with the library and loved sharing her knowledge.
The namesake museum engagingly tells the story through written accounts and family keepsakes handed down through the generations.
5. Take the Kids to Alaska Live Steamers
This miniature train ride for adults and children leaves the station every hour. The 45-minute trip takes you through an expansive wooded area filled with downsized delights.
The landmark features include miniature replicas of actual places in Alaska and fanciful characters. A team of train hobbyists runs it. They want everyone to have fun and learn a little more about the railroad heritage.
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6. Stroll the Wasilla Creek Wetlands Trail
At just under a mile, this easy hike on an elevated boardwalk offers a great view of beautiful wetlands in Wasilla, Alaska. The area has distinctive birch trees and some local wildlife.
Toward the end, you’ll get a great view of what’s called the Palmer Hay Flats and the 6,386-ft Pioneer Peak. This flat 30-40 minute walk has no elevation gain. It also has no guardrail, though, so watch where you go.
7. Enjoy the Great Outdoors at Nancy Lakes Recreation Area
A 40-minute drive along Parks Highway (State Highway 3) takes you to one of the most popular recreation areas near Wasilla, Alaska. This 22,685-acre state recreation area has RV sites and cabins for rent.
Its main draw is the interconnected lakes. Kayakers and canoeists enjoy the clear waters of the many lakes while hikers take in the forests around them.
Pro Tip: If you want to explore Alaska, but don’t know what the best travel option for you is, join our debate on Alaska Cruise or Land Tour: Which Should You Do?
8. Take a Bear Viewing Tour with Alaska Adventure Unlimited
Have you ever heard of a photo safari? Take an opportunity to see brown bears in their natural habitat in one of two national parks in the area.
There’s no guarantee that you’ll see any, but it will be from a close but safe distance if you do. The adventure takes place inside a small airplane that accommodates up to five people.
This trip to Lake Clark National Park is a 6.5-hour experience that includes a hearty pack lunch. The pilot also serves as your tour guide, and the flight includes views of glaciers and active volcanoes.
It’s one of two ways you can get the chance to see these wild bears interacting with their cubs. The other is with a self-guided tour to Brooks Falls at Katmai National Park.
You can stand on one of several elevated platforms and hopefully capture views (and photos) of them feeding on salmon. This 10-hour tour also involves an airplane ride, and you can also look for beluga whales, moose, and thinhorn sheep.
9. Visit Meadow Lakes Market
While visiting Wasilla, Alaska, you may want to pick up some local arts and crafts or specialty food items. They make great gifts or keepsakes. It has jewelry, art, and even jams and jellies, all locally made. The market is right on the main highway and is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
10. Experience the Wasilla Farmer’s Market
This is the place to grab some locally grown fruits and vegetables fresh from the fields during the summer. Besides fresh produce, you can also pick up some handmade craft items and foodstuffs.
The Farmers Market is at the corner of Nelson and Weber streets, on the west end of Iditapark. It’s only open one day a week, so plan your visit between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. on a Wednesday.
Best time of Year to Visit Wasilla, Alaska
You’ll want to make your trip to Wasilla, Alaska, during the summer months when the weather’s not brutally cold. The conditions are more comfortable, and all of the attractions are open for business. Many have to shut down during the winter because of snow and ice.
Learn the best time to visit Alaska before planning your trip.
Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau may be bigger and better known, but Wasilla, Alaska has a lot to offer. As you move about the Last Frontier, make time for this special place on the north end of Cook’s Inlet.
Have you ever been to this part of Alaska? If so, what were your favorite memories? Drop a comment below!
We Love Alaska
In 2019 we traveled to Alaska for a 6-month tour in a truck camper. We documented our adventure in a video series called Go North.
Some of our other favorite places were Seward, Valdez, and driving the Dalton Highway. If you’re interested in more Alaska content, from salmon fishing to dog sledding, consider subscribing to our newsletter for more content about the Last Frontier.
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