Sitka Things to Do

  • Mt Verstovia on a windy day
    Mt Verstovia on a windy day
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  • Adult bald eagle
    Adult bald eagle
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Most Recent Things to Do in Sitka

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    St. Michael's Art & Architecture

    by starship Updated Feb 1, 2016

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    As previously mentioned in the proceeding tip, the original St. Michael's Russian Orthodox Cathedral was built by Finnish carpenters and destroyed by fire in 1966. In a heroic effort by over by 100 people of the town forming a human chain, over 95% of the original icons, pieces of Russian Orthodox art and religious objects were salvaged. These objects now adorn the Nave of the new church. Some thought has been paid here to remember those mariners who have lost their lives at sea.

    The exterior seems quite plain, however the inside is anything but! The building you see today has been built in a cruciform with 2 side altars. From the church's website: "The Cathedral has three chapels: one dedicated to St. Michael, one to St. Innocent and the third to “Our Lady of Sitka”. Adorning the iconostasis of this third Chapel is the wonder-working icon of the Sitka Mother of God." Similar to a Greek Orthodox church, a screen/or wall of paintings in this case separates the main altar from those in the pews. It's quite worthwhile seeing.

    A $2 donation is requested.

    6:00 PM Vespers Montday - Wednesday and Saturday
    9:00 AM Hours, 9:30 AM Divine Liturgy Sunday Morning

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    St. Michael's Russian Orthodox Cathedral

    by starship Updated Feb 1, 2016

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    St. Michael's Russian Orthodox Cathedral should be one of the stops you make on your walking tour of Sitka. St. Michael's is listed on the National Register of Historical Places. Because of its distinctive dome and spire topped by a gold Russian cross, it will be an easy to spot from almost anywhere in town. Upon entering a continuously playing tape describes the history and significance of the building and its many religious artifacts and icons which are certainly impressive.

    History~ Oddly enough, the cathedral was built by Finnish carpenters!! The original corner stone of the church was laid in 1844, and unfortunately the church burned to the ground on January 2, 1966. Thanks to over 100 Sitka residents who rushed to saved the cathedral's treasures, you and I can see these beautiful works of art today in the present-day building which was consecrated in 1976. The Cathedral is still an active church with at least 55 members, the majority of which are native Alaskans, mainly Tlingit. Services are held in English but many hymns and responses are sung in Slavonic, Tlingit, Aleut and Yupik Eskimo, and Greek.

    A donation of $2 is requested for admission (Ten years later, in January, 2016, the same donation of $2 is requested.) The church also operates a religious bookstore across Lincoln Street from the Cathedral.

    The cathedral welcomes summer visitors on weekdays from 9:00am to 4:00pm. Winter hours are by appointment only.

    Postcard

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    The New Archangel Dancers

    by starship Updated Feb 1, 2016

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    If you needed another reason to remember that Alaska (and Sitka) was once a Russian possession, stop in to see the delightful show by the "New Archangel Dancers." Performed by an all-woman dance troupe in quaint costumes, the New Archangel Dancers take their name from Sitka's original Russian name, New Archangel, which was then capital of Russian America.

    Wearing very colorful Russian costumes, these dancers who perform authentic Russian, Byelorussian, Moldovan and Ukrainian folk dances were organized in 1969 and do not have Russian heritage nor professional dance training. The dancers' repertoires consist of approximately 40 dances which are alternated to ensure variety. They have performed around the world. You are bound to enjoy the music, ethnic costumes, and lively dance during this 30-minute presentation.

    The day we arrived at Centennial Hall to see the museum housed there, the performance was already in progress and one of the kind ladies at the ticket counter waved us in without a charge. The show was very entertaining.

    Tickets are now $10 each up until the time of the performance. Proceeds go toward the support of performing arts in the community of Sitka, and promote and encourage tourism, but mainly hope to interest other in Alaska's Russian history and culture through the sharing of these ethnic folk dances and song.

    Please call for a performance schedule and location as their website does not seem to be updated at this time (Jan., 2016). Locations of performances may vary.

    Dancing troupe
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    Russian Bishop's House

    by starship Updated Feb 1, 2016

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    Located across from Crescent Harbor, the colorful Russian Bishop's House stands nearly as it has since 1842. This building is considered an example of Russian Colonial architecture. It is the oldest intact building remaining from Sitka's Russian period and was built by the Russian American Company as a residence for the Bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church in Sitka. Another interesting fact about the Russian Bishop's House is that it is one of only four Russian period buildings left in North America. Though I felt the exterior did not coincide with what I would have expected the architecture to be, the Russian Bishop's House continues to stand as a legacy of the time when the Russian Tsar ruled Alaska.

    [Note: At the time of the transfer or purchase of Alaska from the Russians, Alexander II was on the throne of Russia. He had accomplished much in his efforts to liberalize and modernize Russia, including the abolishment of serfdom in 1861. Unfortunately, he was assassinated in 1881, which I believe was at the spot of "The Church of the Spilt Blood" in St. Petersburg, Russia -- a place I had visited in 2005. So it seems interesting that I would have also visited a place in Alaska that had a historic connection to the time he was on the throne.]

    The Russian Orthodox Church closed its doors in 1969 when the building was in disrepair and even rotting. The National Park Service acquired the building in 1973, after which it embarked on a 16-year restoration which restored it to its 1850's time period. This property falls under the administration of the National Park Service and is part of the Sitka National Historic Park.

    The Russian Bishop's House is open daily, from 9:00 am-5:00 pm.

    From the park's website: ".... Self-guided tours of the first floor museum are free. "Tours of the bishop's quarters and Chapel of the Annunciation on the second floor of the Russian Bishop's House run every 30 minutes during the summer season. The tours are 30 minutes long and cost $4 per person. During the winter, tours are free but are by appointment only."

    Children under the age of 16 are free.

    Russian Bishop's House
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    Baranof Castle Hill State Historic Site

    by starship Updated Feb 1, 2016

    Though the official name is the "Baranof Castle Hill State Historic Park," it is most commonly referred to as just "Castle Hill." Designated as a National Historic Landmark, this historically significant park was land inhabited by Tlingit natives and where they built a stronghold. Later, between 1804-1867, Russians occupied this site. The Russian proceeded to erect buildings on this, of which the last one built in 1837, known was actually known as "Baranof's Castle." Unfortunately it was consumed by fire in 1898. This spot was chosen to be the site of the transfer of Alaska to the United States on October 18, 1867, and each year, Alaska Day is still celebrated Oct. 18. Today this land is managed by Alaska State Parks.

    We were able to walk up the hill and read several of the informative markers here, but otherwise there was not too much to see. However, it was nice to be standing on the spot where the transfer of land took place knowing that Alaska was to become the 49th state in the union.

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    Museums & Other Attractions Worth Visiting

    by starship Updated Jan 31, 2016

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    Sheldon Jackson Museum ~ This museum holds an extensive collection of Tlingit, Eskimo, Aleut, Athabaskan artifacts. Carvings, masks, sculpture, clothing and other pieces showcasing native peoples' art, culture & way of life are on view here. Founded in 1887 by Dr. Sheldon Jackson who served as the General Agent for Edu. in Alaska in the 1890s. Address: 104 College Dr., Sitka. Phone: 907.747.8981.
    SUMMER: (MID-MAY THROUGH THROUGH SEPTEMBER 20TH)
    Hours: 9am to 5pm daily. Closed holidays.
    General Admission (2016 posted fees): $5
    Seniors (65+): $4
    WINTER
    Hours: 10am to 4pm, Tuesday through Saturday (beginning September 22nd). Closed holidays.
    General Admission: $3

    Sitka History Museum, formerly known as the Isabel Miller Museum~ Located in Harrigan Centennial Hall (same bldg., this gem of a museum is a repository of Sitka history . Artifacts from Tlingit history to Russia's rule; from a minature replica of the town of Sitka, furniture & clothing from the Goldrush days to a film on the role that Sitka played in WW II. No charge for admission, but donations are very greatly appreciated. For a $1 donation gets you a nicely preserved Russian ruble from the days of Russian rule!! Giftshop on premises.

    The Harrigan Centennial Hall also houses the Sitka Historical Society which a separate museum. Address: 330 Harbor Drive, Sitka. PH: 907-747.6455. Website: http://sitkahistory.org

    Alaska Raptor Center~ A non-profit organization dedicated to providing medical treatment for birds of prey & educating the public about them. Amazingly, this center was started in 1980 in the backyard of 2 concerned Sitkans. It now sits on a 17-acre plot of land bordered by the Indian River. Staff will introduce you to appx. 25 "Raptors -in - Residence" including bald & golden eagles, hawks, falcons and owls.
    Open May thru Sept, Sun - Fri 8am to 4pm.
    Address: 1000 Raptor Way, Sitka
    PH: 1-800-643-9425
    Admission: check for up-to-date admission fees. Currently (Jan., 2016) there doesn't seem to be an admission fee posted. However, in 2006 it was: $12 Adult; Children 12 & under $6. Family memberships - $50; Individual memberships $35.

    The Raptor Center has an online shop from which profits go towards the operation of the Center. On the web at: www.alaskaraptor.org

    See Mt. Edgecomb!

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    Old Fort Block House

    by starship Updated Jan 31, 2016

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    Only a short distance from Castle Hill, we came upon the the "Old Russian Block House," located on an overgrown field and hill. The Block House standing today is a replica built in 1962, and represents what the original would have looked like. A plaque on the Block House reads: "Reconstructed on the site of an original by the National Park Service in 1962. It is a replica of one of the three Russian fortresses that guarded the stockade wall."

    From the Alaska.org website: "This stout structure is a re-creation of the guard tower that once stood here, part of the fortress enclosing the Russians during their time in Sitka, from 1804 to 1867. Fearful of the wilderness around them, and of Tlingit Natives, the Russians’ enclosed fort was open to outsiders only in the daytime. A massive fence, with three guard towers like this block tower, separated the fort from the rest of Baranof Island."

    I could not find much information available on the Block House at the site itself, and the area was fairly deserted when we visited it, so we decided to move on.

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    Pioneers' Home

    by starship Updated Jan 31, 2016

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    One of the sights that I saw for the first time during our July, 2006, stop in Sitka was the Pioneers Home.. I really didn't know what the building was when I first saw it. I was just attracted to the architecture which I thought seemed a little out of place for Alaska, especially the expansive lawn in front, the beautiful flower gardens and a bronze statue. My daughter and I walked close to the front of the building and that is when I saw the sign for the "Pioneers Home." After some research I found that the Pioneer Homes in Alaska have a history you will not find in any of the lower 48 states.

    The beginnings of the Pioneer Homes in Alaska are rooted in Alaska's beginnings itself. The event of the Gold Rush in Alaska between the years of 1896 and 1900 were just that .... a mad rush of prospectors, miners, and others who either came to find gold and stake a claim or "strike it rich" in various other ways. Some did, some died, some left and some stayed. Many of those who stayed were able to make a living in Alaska, but many were out of luck and destitute. Early lawmakers wished to make provision for these people, and had to come to grips with the state's lack of financial resources and lack of agreement on the details. The first Pioneer's home was established in 1913 in an abandoned U.S. Marines Barracks which had been built in 1892. The Pioneers Home opened September 2, 1913, with 5 residents and by the end of the year, there were 12 residents. The need still existed for a better facility.

    Recognizing this need, the state funded the building of the present home in 1934 through a tax on mining concerns and a poll tax. Since then the doors have been opened to some 3,000 Alaskans who were prospectors, miners, fisherman, and other workers because of physical disability or "other cause." Oddly enough it has also been called "home" by several former members of the Alaska State Legislature.

    The home has lovely gardens and out-buildings on the corner piece of property, but a significant 12 foot bronze statue of a pioneer takes a prominent place in front of the building. Look closely at the statue to notice the pick & shovel, the coffee pot & tin cup. This sculpture is by Alonzo Victor Lewis. It has been a matter of much speculation as to who the model for this sculpture was. In any case, I liked the sculpture very much and I regret not taking a closeup picture!

    Pioneers' Home - Sitka July, 2006 Postcard of Pioneers Home ~ Sitka
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    The Sitka History Museum

    by starship Updated Jan 31, 2016

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    NOTE: Currently closed for renovations until Spring, 2017. The reopening most likely will coincide with the "Sesquicentennial" celebration of Alaska becoming a US possession 150 years ago. Alaska officially became the 49th of the USA State on January 3, 1959.

    Formerly known as the "Isabella Miller Museum", the The Sitka History Museum, is operated by the Sitka Historical Society and is located in Centennial Hall near Crescent Harbor, is a little gem of a museum. It will probably only take you 30 minutes to an hour to see and will give you a glimpse into Sitka's historically rich & significant past. The museum features a scale model of the Sitka of 1867, Tlingit art and artifacts, furnishings and clothing from early settlement days including a display of Victorian parlor pieces which were donated to the museum.

    Something that makes this museum unique and which I found really interesting is the museum's efforts to exhibit and highlight the contributions of Sitka women, both native and settler! Tlingit women play a central role in their culture just as the clubs formed by the non-Native women played an important role in Sitka's turn-of-the-century history by addressing civic causes of the time.

    You will learn about the role Sitka played in the "Great Air Race of 1924." Did you know that 4 Army Corps bi-planes embarked on a round-the-world flight in 1924, three years BEFORE Lindbergh's flight? These daring young men stopped in Sitka for 3 days during their attempt. Don't forget to see the display called "A Secret on the Mountain" and the role Sitka played prior to and during World World II. History buffs will also appreciate some of the little known facts here.

    Admission is free, but donations are gratefully accepted. When we visited, a donation of a dollar or more made you the owner of a genuine piece of Russian paper currency once used in Alaska. This makes a nice souvenir! In 2006, for a $4 donation or more you could receive chocolate made by a Sitka chocolatier. This museum is very worth supporting!! The gift shop carries some unique items for sale which also benefits the museum of course.

    Check for any change in hours when the museum reopens in 2017.
    Hours:
    8:00am to 5:00pm Most summer days (call)
    10:00am to 4:00pm Tues-Saturday Winter days

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    Sitka National Historical Park

    by starship Updated Jan 31, 2016

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    The Sitka National Historical Park is an especially nice place to visit not only for its physical beauty but for the history which it represents. Established by President William H. Taft in 1910, Sitka National Historical park commemorates the Battle of 1804 between the Tlingit Indians and the czarist Russians. This 200th anniversary was being marked by special exhibits, and "Battle Walks" to provide visitors with more historical background of the battle. The park was once the site of the Kiksadi fort, however no traces of the fort remain today. The Battle of 1804 happened as a result of the Tlingit people forcing the Russians out of their settlement which was then known as "Redoubt St. Michael" which was located several miles north of what is now known as downtown Sitka. The Russians returned in 1804 to reclaim the area, but the Tlingit refused to surrender their position at the fort and were subsequently bombarded by the Russian ships. The Russian governor, Baranof was wounded in the battle. The Tlingits began a 'survival march' up the Indian River to regroup and plan subsequent battles.

    Today behind the Visitors Center there is a 'totem walk' or trail around a loop of gorgeous ground enhanced by the presence of magnificent totem polls where the National Park Service offers interpretive programs and walks. We had a lovely walk around this loop, and enjoyed this magnificent setting under towering trees to see these totems.

    Totem Hall in the Visitors Center houses the original totem poles brought to Sitka in 1905. The poles on the trail are replicas of some of the original poles which are now in storage to slow deterioration. However, a 35-foot totem carved only 6 years ago in honor of battle hero, Katlian, is located in a grassy clearing today.

    Special programs are planned throughout the summer. The park is open from mid-May to the end of Spetember, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Entrance to the trail is free, but an admission fee applies to the Visitors Center and other properties operated by the park such as the Russian Bishop's House.

    Sitka National Historical Park Colorful totem on park trail More totems on park trail Totem in front of museum
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    Side Streets of Sitka

    by WulfstanTraveller Updated Nov 16, 2015

    It is pleasant to walk along the streets of Sitka and look at the town. There are some older houses as well as some nice newer houses, the streets are generally quiet, and one can amble to and through the cemetery and see the old Russian graves as well as newer ones.

    Seward St Erler St Monastery St Seward St Katlian St
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    Russian Bishop's House

    by Agraichen Updated Jul 21, 2011

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    The first resident of the house was Bishop Innocent, Ivan Veniaminov.

    It is an example of Russian colonial architecture and is one of the last exisitng in North America.

    It is only open regularly in the Summer. By appointment it can be visited in the winter.

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    Sitka National Historical Park Visitor Center

    by Agraichen Written Jul 21, 2011

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    Most tourists arrive in Sitka via cruise ship. The "downtown" area is just to the left off the dock where the tender drop people. If you follow the streets along the coast in about 15 minutes you'll get to the Sitka National Historical Park entrance and the Visitor Center.

    The Visitor Center is a small building but contains lots of information about the town, it's culture and history.

    The park is the oldest federal park in Alaska, created in 1910. The location is historic due to the battle that took place in 1804 at the end of the peninsula. There is a memorial to the Russian invaders and the clearing in the woods which is all that remains of the fort that once stood at the entrance to the Indian River.

    Sitka Visitor Center entrance Totem in front of Visitor Center Historical Park wooded area Russian Memorial to battle of 1804 Totem at entrance to park
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    Alaska Raptor Center

    by Agraichen Updated Jul 21, 2011

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    The Alaska Raptor Center is located on Sawmill Creek Boulevard north east of "downtown" Sitka. The walk from downtown on streets takes about 30 minutes but by walking through the Sitka National Historical Park it can be done in about 15-20 minutes.

    The center is a full fledge hospital for raptors with many recovering enough to be released back to the wild. The center is open from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM and costs $12 for adults and $6 for children (2011 current price).

    Adult bald eagle This way to the vermin Owl Young female bald eagle
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    Raptor Center

    by MTrav Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    The Alaska Raptor Center is just off Sawmill Creek road, about 20 minutes walking from downtown.

    This is at the top of my list for anyone visiting Sitka. There is a visitors center that is open only in the summer (so Ive never been inside) and a short trail into the forest. Outside the visitor center and along the trail there are a few cages and aviaries with raptors in them, and some exhibits. Its well done and there are usually wild Bald Eagles hanging out in the trees.

    The raptors in the cages were injured and could not be rehabilitated enough for them to survive in the wild, so they became premanent residents of the Raptor center. These are impressive creatures. The Bald Eagles in particular are huge, intimidating birds, with talons as big as your hand that can grab heavy-duty Salmon from the water... really cool.

    The primary mission of the Raptor Center is to rehabilitate injured birds.

    You can get a very good close look at several species of eagles, hawks, falcons, and owls.

    I recommend walking from town via Totem park. Youll probably see a few eagles on the way to the Raptor Center.

    Falcon
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Sitka Things to Do

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