As Alaska’s famous poet Robert Service noted in his epic work, “The Cremation of Sam McGee:” “There are strange things done ‘neath the midnight sun.” Although Alaska has changed drastically since the Gold Rush days when Service lived and wrote, strange things remain very much in the picture in all parts of the Last Frontier. Following are just 15 of the unusual attractions you’ll find in the modern-day land of the midnight sun.
Gold wasn’t the only thing that drew adventurous souls north. Logging was big in the Alaska’s early days, and Ketchikan’s Lumberjack Show captures that time with a theatrical twist. It’s a real competition in which modern day loggers compete with their Canadian counterparts in log rolling, axe throwing, tree climbing, and more frontier fun.
Experience otherworldly beauty by visiting the Mendenhall Glacier and Ice Caves. Located 12 miles from Juneau, the glacier spans 12 miles and harbors a magical web of ice caves in its interior. The glacier is retreating quickly, so see it soon before it melts away.
The largest cave in Alaska, El Capitan Cave, is located deep within the lush rain forest of Prince of Wales Island, located due west of Ketchikan about 50 miles. Black bear fossils dating back over 10,000 years have been found in this cave.
Petroglyphs are symbols and designs carved by indigenous peoples into rocks near the tidelines. See thousands of them at Petroglyph Beach in the small Southeast Alaska community of Wrangell.
Explore the first tool ever created with a visit to the Hammer Museum in the community of Haines located on the northern part of Alaska’s panhandle. You’ll see hammers dating back to ancient times as well as modern marvels. They are open from May to September but accept visits by appointment only during the off-season.
Filled with ghostly icebergs floating in some of Earth’s purest waters, Glacier Bay offers a surreal combination of the delicacy and the power the natural world possesses.
This highlight of Anchorage’s annual Fur Rondy celebration is well-loved by visitors and locals alike. The Outhouse Race zips through the streets of downtown Anchorage as participants compete for trophies and cash.
Wal Mikes is an old-school second hand store on mega-steroids. You’ll find all manner of Alaska memorabilia here. The shelves are teeming with arts-and-crafts items created by Alaska artists, outdoor gear, gently used clothing items, tools, and endless knickknacks and kitsch. Every visit to the store is a unique experience. The only things that stay the same at Wal Mikes are the helpful, friendly attitudes of the owners and the happy dogs that greet customers with wagging tails.
The Alaska State Fair is where you’ll see the legendary giant cabbages, pumpkins, squash, and other vegetables that grow unbelievably large under the midnight sun.
Single women over 21 from all over the country pack their dancing shoes and head to Talkeetna every year to bid on some of Alaska’s most eligible bachelors. A Bachelor Ball with drinks and dancing follows the auction.
Vintage steam locomotives were brought here over a century ago to build a dream railroad that never happened. The rusty locomotives have been sinking into the tundra ever since the dream went dry.
Watch grizzly bears fish in the surf of the pacific as the salmon return to their spawning grounds. Although bear commonly feed on salmon during late summer and early autumn, this is the only part of the state where you’ll see them in the ocean rather than in rivers.
Delight little hearts by giving them a taste of Christmas no matter what the time of year by paying a visit to the city of North Pole. Not only is Santa Claus house open year-round, but the entire town of North Pole is always decked out for Christmas.
Located at Chena Hot Springs Resort outside of Fairbanks, the Aurora Ice Museum features ice carvings from some of the state’s most talented ice artists. The museum has an ice hotel with a bar where those over 21 can enjoy an Appletini served in a glass made of ice.
Alaska’s northernmost community recently changed its name from Barrow back to the original Inupiaq word, Utqiagvik. The annual whaling festival, Nalukataq, features festivities such as feasting and dancing centered around a traditional whale hunt. One of the major highlights of Nalukataq is called blanket toss, and involves a dancer being tossed as high as possible into the air from a seal skin blanket.