A visit to the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center should be on your list of things to do in Ketchikan! The Discovery Center has world-class exhibits, is an Alaska Public Lands Information Center providing expert information on most anything, and is a perfect place to spend time during your visit to Ketchikan (especially if it is pouring outside)!
The perfect place to relax, learn, and enjoy a bit about the natural and cultural wonders of Southeast Alaska -
AND stay dry!
I will never forget my first visit to the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center. I had just moved to Ketchikan and was looking for information about the area. I was just hired to be a tour guide and needed to learn everything I could about the area. Asking around on where the best place to get this information, everyone told me to try there first. As I walked up to the building, I was struck by how gorgeous it was on the outside. But that was nothing compared to what I found inside.
The Southeast Alaska Discovery Center
Walking through the front doors, I was immediately impressed with the three Totem Poles standing in the lobby. Each pole represents a different clan crest from the three tribes in Southeast Alaska: the Haida, Tlingit, & Tsimshian. The poles were specifically commissioned for the building and are hollow in the back to prevent the pole from cracking due to the dry indoor air. It is amazing to see these poles up close and to see both the similarities & differences between the three tribes. And it makes a great photo spot!
Totem Poles inside The Southeast Alaska Discovery Center
We paid our $5 admission for adults, children 15 & younger are free, and wandered through the incredible exhibits. By the way, if you are a National Park Service "America the Beautiful Pass" holder bring it with you - it gets you and three others in for free! Also, admission from October to April is no charge. What a deal! There are not many places to visit in Ketchikan that can be done so inexpensively!
Their Operating Hours during the summer (May - September) are 8:00am to 4:00pm every day. During the winter (October - April) they are open 10:00-4:00 on Thursday, Friday, & Saturday.
Chatting with the friendly & incredibly knowledgeable folks manning the information desk, we were given a scavenger hunt form for our little ones which made the visit so much fun for them! They had different forms for different ages and we got a kick out of searching for items in each section of the center.
But that's just the beginning!
Be sure not to miss the movie "Mystical Southeast Alaska" that is shown periodically during the day in a gorgeous 150 person theater, 32 foot screen. The movie is amazing - not only the scenes but also the music.
Update: Sadly, the Alaska Geographic Association bookstore has closed (though you can still purchase items online). The closest bookstore in downtown Ketchikan is Parnassus Books, located just up the street from the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center.
Inside is another place I consider one of my favorite places in town, the Alaska Geographic Association Bookstore that is stocked full of Alaska books, maps, toys, cards, guidebooks, clothes & souvenirs. I send many people to this bookstore as it is so spectacular! It is an incredible place to browse, sit by the fireplace, & shop! And if you choose to skip the Discovery Center you can still go to the Bookstore through a separate side door.
Last, and certainly not least, the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center is one of the best places to go for information on things to do in Ketchikan. Stop by the desk for literature on cabins, campgrounds, trails, kayaking, wildlife, botany, fishing, hunting and more! There is also an area you can browse through videos, books, & maps for all of Alaska. The Southeast Alaska Discovery Center is one of four Alaska Public Lands Information Centers which is a collaboration of 8 agencies including the Forest Service, National Park Service, Fish & Wildlife, Bureau of Land Management, and more.
There are a couple Ketchikan Tours that go to the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center, you can simply walk there, or take the Free Downtown Salmon Run Shuttle directly there. It is conveniently located at the corner of Mill and Main Street, just one short block from the Ketchikan Visitor Bureau and Cruise Ship Berths 1 & 2 and a short walk from Berths 3 & 4. Check out the Downtown Ketchikan Map for a better idea of the distance from the Cruise Ship Docks. It is about 2 miles from the Ferry Docks.
If you're looking for things to do in Ketchikan, The Southeast Alaska Discovery Center is definitely one of the best discount attractions if you're choosing to forgo any cruise excursions. There is so much to see & do inside and is a perfect place to learn all about Southeast Alaska. It is also a perfect place to go with little ones during those rainy days as there are lots to keep them busy!
Visitors to the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center page may also be interested in the following pages: