Your first impression of the Alaska SeaLife Center - a sprawling, $56 million facility built as part of the settlement of 1989's Exxon Valdez oil spill - will be a dramatic one. The facility sits on seven waterfront acres along the shores of Resurrection Bay, and the glass walls behind the ticketing booth allow light to pour in. Look up to see salmon and squid being chased by a pod of Dall's porpoises (which can swim at speeds of up to 35mph!). The porpoises aren't just for decoration - one of them was built as a time capsule.

The Center, too, does double duty: it's not only a museum, but Alaska's only permanent marine mammal rehabilitation unit - a haven for stranded and injured seals, sea lions, sea otters, and all different species of sea birds. And it makes its home in Seward, as this town was one of the major rehabilitation sites for animals affected by the oil spill. Its mission is "to generate and share scientific knowledge to promote understanding and stewardship of Alaska's marine ecosystems," and the lobby is just the first taste of that knowledge.

Getting There