The locals in Seward, Alaska have known about the delights that can be found in the Alaska SeaLife Center since it opened over 25 years ago. Located in Railway Ave., the center is not just a place to enjoy interacting with the SeaLife, it’s a place to learn, and in some cases, even lend a hand.
We took a closer look at the many activities you can enjoy here.
The Tours and Encounters
The tours at the SeaLife Center are all conducted by well-trained animal care staff who enthusiastically pass on their knowledge of Alaska’s animals and marine ecosystems. The Center recommends you reserve your place on the tours well before you intend to visit as there are limited spaces on each tour.
Due to their popularity, the spaces fill up quickly, and children under 16 years must be accompanied by an adult.
Alaska SeaLife Center Encounters
- Mammal Encounter: the minimum age is 10 years old and there’s space for 5 people in this 60-minute tour. This encounter is available through the Summer and Fall months.
- Octopus Encounter: the minimum age is 6 years old for this tour which is open to 5 people at a time. You’ll watch the octopus being fed and can even shake hands with them during this 60-minute tour.
- Puffin Encounter: children must be 10 years old to attend this 4-person tour. You can help the guides to feed the Puffins and other birds for a duration of 60 minutes.
Alaska SeaLife Center Experiences
- Fish Feeding Experience: for this 30-minute tour, children must be over 6 years old, and up to 6 people can attend at once. There’s over 200 species of fish that you can help the guide feed, and this is available during the Summer months.
- Sea Bird Experience: available only in Summer, this tour can take up to 14 people with a minimum age of 6 years.
- Octopus Experience: during the Summer, you can meet the squid in this 30-minute tour, which can accommodate up to 14 people. This one is open to all ages.
- Sea Otter Experience: this 30-minute tour is also open to all ages and can take up to 14 people.
Behind the Scenes Tour
The minimum age for this 60-minute tour is 12 years old. A guide walks with up to 12 people through the back hallways of the Alaska SeaLife Center. Participants will get a chance to see where the scientific research is conducted and will learn more about Alaska’s marine science programs.
The Animals You Can See at the SeaLife Center
The center has a huge amount of birds, fish, and invertebrates that you can view, and for some, you can feed or interact with in other ways.
Here is a list of the fascinating creatures you might come across:
- Stellar Sea Lion
- Harbor and Ringed Seals
- Giant Pacific Octopus
- Red King Crab
- Alaska Skate
- Black Oystercatcher
- Rhinoceros Auklet
Education at the Alaska SeaLife Center
Teachers and scout groups can visit the center all year-round and participate in the educational programs. A nocturne sleepover includes dinner, breakfast, and two education programs. Students can spend the night next to the seabirds, harbor seals, and Stellar sea lions.
The nocturne program must be booked 30 days in advance and can take up to 60 students with 15 chaperones. The Center offers one chaperone free admission for every 10 students and there must be a minimum of 12 paying participants to book a sleepover.
Day programs are also available all year-round and the student to chaperone ratio is the same as the nocturne programs. A guide will meet the students and after a brief orientation the students can explore the aquarium for 60-minutes. After that, they can participate in one of the education programs including:
A multimedia presentation with role-playing dress up and hands-on sticker fun.
Beaks, Bubbles, & Burrows
Students learn while building their own clay tufted puffin.
Marine Mammal Adaptations
Students learn while building their own clay harbor seal.
Ocean Animal Perceptions
Hands-on activities that help students to understand how the animals use their senses underwater.
Students create bioluminescence and investigate the light-producers in the midnight zone.
Cephalopods - The Jet Set
Students learn about cephalopods through squid dissection.
Hands-on group activities teach the students to use scientific methods to research and watch walrus in the field.
Scientists in Action – Veterinarian
Students participate in groups to care for their animal patients. This gives them an inside view of how the Center’s Wildlife Response and Rehabilitation program operates.
The Scoop on Poop
Students will learn why the Stellar sea lions are declining using scientific research methods.
Volunteering at the Alaska SeaLife Center
As the Alaska SeaLife Center is a non-profit organization, it cannot function without a small army of dedicated volunteers.
Volunteers do not have to be experienced but they do have to fit certain criteria. They must be at least 14 years old or 16 years old for the husbandry and laboratory departments. Children over 9 years old can apply for the Parent-Partner Interpreter Program.
To volunteer, you must be able to commit to at least 4 hours per week for 4 months. You must be fit and be able to lift 50 pounds and continue to work in snow, ice, and rain. You also have to be comfortable with the use of animals for research purposes and be competent on the computer with Word, Excel, and Access programs.
In return for your hard work and enthusiasm, you’ll have an experience you’ll treasure for many years to come, discounts on merchandise from the gift shop, discounts at Haul Out Café, free or discounted admission to some hotels, restaurants, and state and local attractions.
The center offers its volunteers workers compensation benefits and free admission to the Alaska SeaLife Center. The free admission also extends to their spouse, children, parents, grandchildren, and grandparents.
Other Activities at the Alaska SeaLife Center
The center often has special features and exhibitions running, so it pays to keep an eye on the website or perhaps become a member to receive early information about what’s coming up at the center.
Other membership benefits include free unlimited admission to the center all-year plus discounts on guest admission. Discounts on center tours and encounters are included along with discounts at the gift shop and discounted admission to participating Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Children will also get Ocean Sciences Adventure Kits during their visits.
The Haul Out Café offers many dining options including a Sea Lion Latte. After your meal, you can visit the Discovery gift shop and get some handmade gifts from Alaskan craftspeople and artists. The Center has space available for private hire. The center can hold corporate events as well as weddings.
How to Get to the Alaska SeaLife Center
The city of Seward is located 125 miles south of Anchorage at Mile 0 of the Seward Highway. The Chugach National Forest and the Caines Head State Recreation Area are close by. You can get to Seward by train or road. The cruise ships run regularly during Summer.
Transportation to Seward from Anchorage is available during Summer by the Park Connection and the Seward Bus Line operated services all year-round. Also, a free shuttle runs from the rail and cruise terminals to the SeaLife Center, run by the Seward Chamber of Commerce. Taxis are also available.
Free parking is available throughout the year at the parking lot adjacent to the Center. The complex is wheelchair- and stroller-accessible and they also have a few wheelchairs and strollers available for use.
The Alaska SeaLife Center’s Open Hours
Reservations should be made to attend any of the tours, and group bookings may be eligible for a discount. The Center is closed on Thanksgiving day and Christmas day.
May 25, to August 19, 2018
The center is open from 9am to 9pm during the week, and 8am to 9pm during the weekends.
August 20 to September 30, 2018
The center is open between 10am and 5pm every day.
October 1, 2018 to February 24, 2019
The center is open daily from 12pm to 5pm.
Military (with ID):
3 and Under:
These prices are subject to change, so we advise calling the Alaska SeaLife Center to confirm or check the website.