Outdoor Events

January 2017

Alaska‘s animal kingdom inspires group adventure

by Carolyn Blackburn

  • Running Reindeer Ranch


    Running Reindeer Ranch

    Running Reindeer Ranch
  • Prince William Sound wildlife


    Prince William Sound wildlife

    Prince William Sound wildlife
  • Alaska Raptor Center


    Alaska Raptor Center

    Alaska Raptor Center

Both spontaneous and planned encounters with wildlife of land, sea and sky await groups throughout Alaska.

If attendees keep an eye out, they may spot a bald eagle in a nearby tree, or a moose disrupting the flow of traffic on a main thoroughfare.

Or groups might set out to mingle with Alaska’s wild residents via whale- or bird-watching tours, fishing excursions, kayak adventures, sanctuary visits and more.

Wildlife is everywhere in Anchorage; the city is home to many critters, including moose, bald eagles and Dall sheep.  

According to Julie Saupe, president and CEO at Visit Anchorage, tours are aplenty in the area and offer a great way to see wildlife, but attendees should also keep their eyes peeled for wildlife sightings when they’re just wandering around the city.

Among the most popular tours for groups is a glacier/wildlife cruise in nearby Prince William Sound, where otters, sea lions, seals, and humpback, orca and minke whales are regular sights.

“Transportation to and from Anchorage is available by motor coach or aboard the Alaska Railroad’s Glacier Discovery Train,” Saupe said. “The ride to the dock itself is a good place to spot beluga whales in the waters of Turnagain Arm and Dall sheep on the rocky slopes of the Chugach Mountains.”

Located a few blocks from the Anchorage Convention Centers--home of the William A. Egan Civic & Convention Center and two event facilities, the Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center--is Ship Creek, a popular sport fishery that operates during the summer.

“King salmon run beginning in June, and silver salmon return later in July and August,” Saupe said. “Viewing platforms cross the creek, giving everyone a good view of the action. The Bait Shack has gear rental and licenses available on-site.”

In Fairbanks, groups are encouraged to hang out at Running Reindeer Ranch, where they can take a guided nature walk in the forest with reindeer.

According to Helen Renfrew, director of meetings and conventions at Explore Fairbanks, each walk is a unique experience depending on season, trail conditions and the mood of the reindeer, who may leap into the air a la Rudolph if the spirit moves them.

Groups may also choose to spend time with Mary Shields, an Alaskan dog musher and the first woman to ever complete the Iditarod race, and her huskies. During a visit, Shields tells tales of falling in love with sled dogs and experiencing some of the most beautiful places on Earth.

Juneau is a wonderful place for exciting, scenic whale-watching cruises.

“Humpback whales, orcas, sea lions and eagles thrive in our pristine seas and skies,” said Kirk Stagg, convention sales manager for Travel Juneau. “Excursion capacities range from six to a 100 people and within minutes of leaving the dock you can view these magnificent creatures within the legendary views of the Inside Passage.” 

At Macaulay Salmon Hatchery, located five minutes from downtown Juneau, groups will see 14 small aquariums as well as a 5,000-gallon aquarium stocked with 150 local species of marine life.

“Watch salmon return home to spawn by the hundreds,” Stagg said.

Tours are available year-round and space is available to accommodate group events.

Matanuska-Susitna Valley
Located about 35 miles north of Anchorage and extending all the way to Denali National Park, the Mat-Su Valley includes the towns of Palmer, Wasilla and Talkeetna.

For meetings in the Talkeetna area, according to Casey Ressler, marketing and communications manager for the Mat-Su CVB, a spectacular wildlife viewing opportunity entails flightseeing.

“Talkeetna is the hub for Denali adventures,” he said, and cited four flightseeing operators: K2 Aviation, Talkeetna Air Taxi, Sheldon Air Service and Alaska Bush Float Plane Service. “Their Otter-style airplanes seat 10, and in addition to potentially seeing wildlife, they can also land on glaciers in the Alaska Range. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience that is a perfect add-on to any meeting in the area.”

Those in the group who prefer staying on dry land can check out the Glenn Highway National Scenic Byway, which Ressler said is known as a birder’s paradise.

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