Alaska's summer tourism season traditionally ramps up in May and peaks during the summer months as cruise ship visitors and independent adventure travelers descend upon the state.
While companies such as AdventureSmith Explorations and Alaskan Dream Cruises have been expanding their spring schedules, this time of year still provides a quieter opportunity to explore and engage in local events that celebrate everything from classical music to culture to king salmon.
The Alaska tourism office maintains a comprehensive event calendar featuring major festivals throughout the state, along with information on attractions, accommodations and transportation options. Here are a few spring event highlights taking place in Alaska this May and June.
May 4-19, Juneau Jazz & Classics: The 32nd presentation of this Southeast Alaska event brings blue, jazz and classical performances to diverse venues, including Centennial Hall, the chapel at the National Shrine of St. Therese, the Alaskan Brewing Co. Depot and sites at the University of Alaska Southeast's Juneau campus.
May 11-13, Valdez Fly-in and Air Show: Bush pilot competitions and airshow displays distinguish this annual fly-in celebration that drew more than 200 airplanes and 2,500 guests in 2017. Highlights include a Friday beach landing event and bonfire, plus various aerobatics demonstrations.
May 17-20, Little Norway Festival, Petersburg: Commemorating its 60th anniversary in 2018, this cultural gathering celebrates Petersburg's Norwegian heritage with a parade, Scandinavian pageant, traditional bunad style show, classic pastries and a herring toss, along with a salmon, halibut and black cod bake at Sandy Beach.
May 26, Prince of Wales Marathon: This official Boston Marathon qualifying event takes runners from Sunnahae Mountain, along the Klawock Channel and through the village of Klawock. A pre-race pasta feed features Alaska Native dance performances; volunteers hand out homemade cookies at the finish line.
June 5-July 1, Sitka Summer Music Festival: Founded in 1972 by violinist Paul Rosenthal, this four-week festival welcomes accomplished artists for casual lunch concerts and evening performances featuring music by Schubert, Tchaikovsky, Mozart and more.
June 6-9, Sealaska Heritage Institute's Celebration 2018, Juneau: The biennial festival of Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian cultures is among the largest Southeast Alaska Native gatherings, drawing more than 2,000 dancers plus artists, chefs and local language experts. This year's theme is "Respect: Weigh Your Words."
June 8-10, Colony Days, Palmer: This annual downtown gathering commemorates Palmer's history with a parade, games, arts and crafts vendors, food booths and other family-friendly fun.
June 9-16, Anchorage Salmon Derby: Locals and guests compete to land the biggest king salmon in Ship Creek during this lively, eight-day urban fishing derby that awards cash and prizes. Viewers settle in at Bridge Seafood Restaurant or the bridge spanning the creek to catch the action.
June 24, Midnight Sun Festival, Fairbanks: Fairbanks celebrates the summer solstice at this free Golden Heart Plaza gathering that brings some 200 vendors and local food purveyors, more than 30 live acts, and a selection of artists.