Travel: Anchorage's Iditarod dog race

The "Last Great Race on Earth," kicks off in Anchorage, Alaska, on March 5.

Instead of fleeing to a warm-weather destination to avoid the cold and snow this year, why not run headfirst into the season’s embrace? Nothing quite says winter like a 1,851-kilometre sled-dog race spanning the mountains, forests, frozen rivers, desolate tundra and windswept coastline of the U.S.’s northernmost state. The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, dubbed the “Last Great Race on Earth,” kicks off in Anchorage, Alaska, on March 5 when thousands of people will line the streets to watch teams of 12 to 16 dogs embark on the 10- to 17-day adventure that will take them up to Nome on the western Bering Sea coast.

Statue of Balto
The statue marks the Iditarod starting line but also pays tribute to the famed lead dog of the 1925 “serum run” to Nome that helped prevent a deadly diphtheria outbreak, upon which the race is based. 4th Avenue & D Street

Anchorage Museum
The museum recently completed a major expansion to its building and collection, which includes a planetarium, the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center, natural history exhibits and contemporary art. 625 C St.

Helicopter tours
It’s one thing to witness Alaska’s natural beauty from the ground, but quite another seeing glaciers, the Chugach Mountains or Prince William Sound from the air. Visitors have plenty of choice in tours, such as the one run out of the Aleyska Resort, located 64 kilometres south of Anchorage, in the town of Girdwood.

Aurora Borealis
Otherwise known as “northern lights,” there are a variety of ways to enjoy this arctic phenomenon. Better viewed outside the city, there are train tours specializing in northern lights viewing as well as hotels that feature northern lights wake-up calls.

Alaska Zoo
If you like the idea of wildlife without actually venturing into the wild, the zoo is a must-visit. While perhaps lacking the variety boasted by some big-city zoos to the south, it’s well-known for an impressive collection of Arctic animals, such as polar bears, snow leopards, wolves, seals, otters and more. 4731 O’Malley Rd.

Alaska native heritage center
Built by Alaskan natives as an educational and cultural institution, the centre gives a look at the state’s variety of Native peoples and their history. First opened in 1999, the centre offers a number of interactive displays, performances and workshops. 8800 Heritage Center Dr.

You can’t go all the way to Alaska to watch a dogsled race without getting the opportunity to try it yourself. There are many dogsled tour operators located just outside the city, one being the Ididaride tour run by the Seavey family — including 2004 Iditarod champ Mitch Seavey. 185 E. Ship Creek Ave.