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The Short Version: No visit to Anchorage, Alaska, is complete without a stop at the Anchorage Museum, which welcomes about 200,000 visitors each year. The 247,000-square-foot museum features recently expanded gallery space for its impressive permanent collection and exhibitions of Alaska’s art and culture. Throughout the year, the museum hosts special festivals, educational workshops, and even after-hours fun. The Anchorage Museum is a cool date spot that’s full of activities that can warm up a conversation.
Considered the gateway to some of the most enchanting wilderness in the United States, the city of Anchorage, Alaska, sits between the majestic Chugach Mountain Range and the Cook Inlet, leading out to the Gulf of Alaska. The surrounding natural landscape is a highlight of the area — but it’s not the only way to appreciate the beauty of Anchorage.
In fact, nearly every visitor to the city stops into the Anchorage Museum to experience the art, history, and feel of the region. Whether arriving by cruise ship or plane, visiting friends and family, or just passing through as a tourist, guests discover that the Anchorage Museum is an affordable and fascinating place that tells the rich history of the people and customs of the region.
With rooms full of interesting exhibits, both temporary and permanent, as well as a newly expanded Art of the North Gallery section — the museum houses hours of enjoyment perfect for a romantic afternoon in Alaska. You’ll be greeted by the warmth of gallery staff and surrounded by art and artifacts that can keep the conversation between you and your partner going all day.
“I’ll see couples sitting on a bench, staring at a piece of art and having a quiet talks,” said Adam Baldwin, Director of Community Partnerships and Outreach. “It really does spark conversation, and, for a first or second date when you’re getting to know that person, you can learn a lot through museums and art, people’s impressions, and how they feel about something. At the museum, you can get to know somebody better than you may have otherwise.”
In addition to its world-class collection of contemporary Alaska Native art, the museum organizes and co-presents comprehensive exhibitions that bring historical and contemporary context and voices. Among them is the “Unsettled” exhibition currently on view, which brings 200 artworks by 80 artists from the Greater West, including pieces that range from the Pre-Columbian period to modern day.
All mediums are featured at the museum, including photography. On view for the summer is an exhibit that focuses on the small community of Point Hope — a village in northwest Alaska. Mixed-media pieces in the Alaska exhibition and Art of the North galleries invoke the grand Arctic landscapes and the fluid concepts of the Alaskan environment. Other seasonal exhibitions focus on fossils and the power of everyday objects.
Mixed-media pieces invoke the grand Arctic landscapes and the fluid concepts of the Alaskan environment. Other exhibitions focus on fossils and the power of everyday objects.
The art doesn’t stop when you leave the 247,000-square-foot museum. Through the Municipality of Anchorage’s 1% for Art Program, 1% of the construction budget of all public buildings must go toward commissioned art. Thanks to the program, public art pieces can be found throughout the city, which is yet another incentive to take a stroll on a nice day.
The Anchorage Museum provides some fun ways to learn more about the Alaska and its people through a variety of educational activities that change seasonally, including talks by experts who provide context about the history, art, science, and culture of Alaska and the rest of the north. Interviews with local entrepreneurs, book signings with artists, and even lectures on the state of the petroleum industry will keep any date thoughtful and stimulating.
If you’re looking for something a little more interactive, sign up for a painting class at Muse Restaurant (located in the museum), or join the workshop on Urban Homesteading, which teaches traditional skills that encourage self-sufficiency for modern times. Get active with seasonal offerings like Yoga in the galleries or embark on a guided tour to learn even more about the current exhibitions in the museum.
The North by North Festival, which takes place in late April, is another popular event because it connects people, ideas, and fun.
“We like to think that we’re a gathering place to have important dialogue, and this is a way to bring people together,” Adam said.
The festival includes a range of important thought leaders, including artists, filmmakers, DJs, scientists, tech enthusiasts, and government officials. Listening to those thought-provoking discussions can be a great way to see how your date expresses his or her opinions — and what they think about different perspectives.
Your date at the Anchorage Museum can include an in-depth look at the first peoples of Alaska. The museum features the Alaska collection from the Smithsonian.
Thanks to the Smithsonian partnership, visitors are able to learn about the cultures and heritage of the peoples of Alaska through more than 600 artifacts, interactive touch-screen displays, and even a 3D art installation gallery space that approaches the vast subject from many angles. In the exhibit, you can view an 1893 Tlingit war helmet from the Alaskan village of Taku or a 1935 Inupiaq feast bowl from Wales along Alaska’s northwest coast.
The 10,000-square-foot center encourages research about Alaska Native cultures through an archaeology laboratory and a community room where Alaska Native elders, artists and scholars can study heritage objects up close.
No matter what the season, the Anchorage Museum has events for couples to enjoy. In the winter, the museum hosts Polar Nights, when the facility stays open well past its normal 6 p.m. closing time each Friday night. Not only is the museum open until 9 p.m., but admission is half price with special activities throughout the museum.
“There’s live music, and, sometimes we bring out games like giant Jenga, foosball, air hockey, and pool. It’s a great alternative for a date,” Adam said.
In the summers, there are live music performances in the planetarium, which also schedules 3D graphics shows reinterpreting the music of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. There’s always something new at the museum, which is why couples — both locals and visitors to Anchorage — keep coming back.
“Someone can always come back and take in something new. This venue is evolving all the time,” Adam said.