Housed in the lobby of the Wells Fargo bank in Midtown, and officially called the Alaska Heritage Museum at Wells Fargo (Northern Lights Blvd. and C St., 907/265-2834, www.wellsfargohistory.com , Mon.–Fri. noon–4 p.m. late May–early Sept., Mon.–Fri. noon–4 p.m. early Sept.–late May, free), this is one of the state’s largest privately owned collections of Alaskan artifacts and books. It will keep you spellbound for hours, if you have the time.
Be sure to check out the 3.2-pound (!) gold nugget found in 1963 near Ruby, Alaska. There are only a handful of the other highlights—many Native Alaskan baskets, parkas made from bird skins and walrus intestines, Sydney Laurence’s paintings, Nome and Fairbanks  newspapers from the early 1900s, and bookcases filled with rare books and maps. This little gem of a museum is not to be missed.
Located off Mountain View Drive on the northeast end of town, the Alaska Museum of Natural History (201 N. Bragaw St., 907/274-2400, www.alaskamuseum.org , Tues.–Sat. 10 a.m.–5 p.m., $5 adults, $3 ages 6–12, younger children free, $15 families) houses exhibits on dinosaurs, wildlife, rocks, and minerals.
The Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum (4721 Aircraft Dr., 907/248-5325, www.alaskaairmuseum.org , daily 9 a.m.–5 p.m. mid-May–mid-Sept., Wed.–Sun. 9 a.m.–5 p.m. mid-Sept.–mid-May, $10 adults, $8 seniors, $6 ages 5–12, younger children free) is off the Lake Hood exit from International Airport Road.
This unusual museum displays 25 vintage aircraft in three connected hangars—from a 1928 Stearman up to an old Alaska Airlines 737—as well as Japanese artifacts from the World War II Aleutian Island battles and historical photos. The theaters show videos on early Alaskan aviation, and the museum fronts on Lake Hood, the world’s largest seaplane base, where floatplanes take off and land almost constantly in the summer.
One of the nation’s busiest airfields is Merrill Field, on the east side of town along the Glenn Highway. There are more than 230,000 takeoffs and landings each year; overall, Alaska has 16 times as many aircraft per capita as the Lower 48 states (but it also has a far higher airplane accident rate).