Where Are the Best Free Events in Alaska?
Alaska offers sweeping scenic views, 6,600 miles of coastline, 100,000 glaciers, and a wide selection of free events open to residents and visitors to the state. The lists of things to do in Alaska are long and varied, and these free events happen year-round.
Iditarod Sled Dog Race Start
The Official Iditarod Sled Dog Race Start happens on the first Sunday in March. The first Iditarod kicked off in 1973, a dogsled race from Anchorage to Nome. Since the 1970s, the race has gathered international recognition and continues to bring talented racers and their dogs to take on the challenge. On average, the race sees about 60 to 70 dog teams. While the Iditarod does begin in Anchorage, the “Official Iditarod Sled Dog Race Start” is open to visitors and happens in the town of Willow. Willow is part of the Anchorage Metro area, and it's free to view the race start.
Visit the Anchorage Market from early May to mid September for locally grown and sourced food plus handmade items and other artisan goods. It's the largest open-air market in the state with 300 vendors. Items may include but are not limited to:
- Alaskan grown meat: elk, bison, pork, poultry, beef
- Local produce
- Smoked and canned seafood
- Hand-stitched clothing
- Artisan jewelry
The Anchorage Market first opened in 1992, and today it spans two acres in downtown Anchorage drawing crowds from across the region. It's open on Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Visitors can find the Anchorage Market just off Salmon Run and north of West Third Avenue. There is no charge to stroll through the Anchorage Market.
Seward Fourth of July Celebration
Address: Seward, AK 99664
The spectacular Seward Fourth of July Celebration is an annual event that's free to the public. Discover Seward, on the Resurrection Bay, a port city in southern Alaska located near the Kenai Fjords National Park. Seward's Fourth of July Celebration can draw as many as 40,000 people for its festivities. Seward blocks off Main Street to all vehicular traffic, and it fills with residents and guests enjoying a stroll through various vendors and the historic downtown area. There is a parade, kids' activities, a wide selection of food vendors, and the Mt. Marathon Race. The event concludes with a fireworks display over the waterfront.
Girdwood Forest Fair
The Girdwood Forest Fair is an annual, free event that happens each year during the first weekend of July featuring Alaskan music, arts, and crafts. Girdwood is a resort town located south of Anchorage and accessed from Highway 1/Seward Highway. Artisans and performers from throughout the state come to participate in the festival that had its start in 1975. Today, the Girdwood Forest Fair runs through the first Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of July. It boasts three stages where bands play throughout the festival, plus a wide array of booths featuring artisan works. There are kids' activities and a special parade for them as well.
Alaska State Snow Sculpture Championship
The Alaska State Snow Sculpture Championship, presented by BP, is part of the Fur Rendezvous Festival (Fur Rondy) in Anchorage. The festival runs the last week in February through the first week in March. There are multiple events, but the State Snow Sculpture Championship is free and a must-see. Look for it on Ship Creek Avenue across from the Comfort Inn. Visitors can watch snow sculptures of all shapes and sizes built throughout the day of competition and view the final results after. The sculptures start as eight-foot by eight-foot by eight-foot compressed snow blocks. The winners of the competition win a spot on the state team.
The best free events in Alaska are the ones steeped in local history and offer an inside look at the region's diverse cultures.