Alaska Sealife Center

Aquarium in Seward

Image by Konrad Wothe Getty Images

A fitting legacy of the Exxon Valdez oil-spill settlement, this $56-million marine research center is more than just one of Alaska’s finest attractions. As the only cold-water marine-science facility in the Western Hemisphere, it serves as a research and educational center and provides rehabilitation for injured marine animals. Plan to spend the better part of a great afternoon here.

Kids will love the tidepool touch tank, where they can hold sea anemones and starfish, as well as the ship's helm and the massive two-story tanks where you can see seals, birds and more both above and below the water. An outdoor observation platform offers a fabulous view of the mountains ringing Resurrection Bay where you can watch salmon thrash their way up a fish ladder.

It’s worth including an Encounter tour (per person $75): you’ll get face to face with the creatures you normally only see behind the glass with deeper dives into the lives of octopus, puffins or marine mammals.