Located in the Matanuska Valley, Palmer is 42 miles northeast of Anchorage via the Glenn Highway.
Palmer Visitor Center & Museum & Matanuska Valley Agricultural Showcase Gardens, open May–September daily at 723 S. Valley Way; phone (907) 746-7668.
Palmer was established about 1916 as a railway station on the Matanuska branch of the Alaska Railroad. In 1935, Palmer became the site of the Matanuska Valley Colony, a federal relief program that moved American farm families from the northern counties of Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, to Alaska. Palmer is Alaska’s only community that developed primarily from an agricultural economy. The growing season averages 100 to 118 days a year, with long daylight hours.
Palmer has all visitor facilities including restaurants and dining, hotels, motels and B&Bs. There are several area campgrounds and RV parks to choose from and groceries/pharmacies available at a Fred Meyer and Carrs/Safeway; gas stations, fast-food outlets, banks, laundromat, auto repair and parts, shopping and galleries. Public restrooms are located next to the Visitor Center, across the street from the library. Post office is located at 500 S. Cobb St.
Palmer is extremely pedestrian friendly, with a downtown core for shopping that includes everything from original art to used books, all within walking distance of the Visitor Center. Also check out downtown’s Just Sew phone (907) 745-3649 to replenish your quilting supplies.
- Don’t miss the Showcase Gardens in summer, located adjacent the visitor center.
- Photograph and observe musk ox at the Musk-Ox Farm, open May to September.
- Visit the Colony House Museum phone (907) 745-1935, a restored example of one of the original homes of the Matanuska Valley Colonists. The restored Colony Inn, also on East Elmwood Avenue, was originally a teachers’ dormitory for the Matanuska Colony project in the 1930s.
- Rent a canoe at Matanuska Lakes State Recreation Park.
- Knik Glacier Tours, 10 miles south via the Old Glenn then 8.4 miles up Knik River Road, transports visitors to the face of Knik Glacier.
- Palmer Golf Course has 18 holes (par 72, USGA rated). It is one of the first Alaska courses to open in spring and is known for its spectacular setting.
- Baseball game featuring Palmer’s Mat-Su Miners, one of 5 teams in the Alaska Baseball League. Baseball schedules are published in the local newspapers or visit.
- Special events include Colony Days (in June); the Palmer Pride Picnic (July) and the Alaska State Fair (11 days from late August through Labor Day weekend). Agricultural exhibits, food booths, games, pony rides and midway rides. This is a very popular event: Be prepared for lots of traffic! But it’s worth the drive just to see the huge vegetables.
- Visit Scenic Hatcher Pass and Independence Mine State Historical Park, a half-hour’s drive from Palmer.