New York boasts the Statue of Liberty, Florida has Disney World, California rocks stunning coastlines, and Alaska has… wait, what does Alaska have? Even though it’s by far and away the largest American state, the world is rather oblivious to anything that actually goes on up there.
This might come as a bit of a shock, but there is a whole lot more to that big piece of northern land than just the stereotypes like dog mushing, polar bears, snow, ice, more snow, a few more polar bears, and the Northern Lights. A giant Santa can greet you at the North Pole, or you can shake paws with a feline politician. And that’s just the tip of the Alaskan iceberg.
10 The World’s Largest Santa Claus Statue (at the North Pole)
Just as December rolls around year after year, Michael Buble and Mariah Carey start to bellow out tunes about Santa and his reindeer on every supermarket’s radio, indicating that the holiday season is well and truly upon us. For most of us, Santa is just a regular-sized guy (okay, maybe he’s a little larger due to feasting on a few too many cookies) with a thick, white beard. Over in Alaska, however, there’s no way he’s fitting down any chimneys.
A towering 42-foot-high Kris Kringle stands tall on St. Nicholas Drive in the town of North Pole, making it officially the biggest in the world.
9 A Cat... that was officially the Mayor of Talkeetna
For some people, having the opportunity to meet the mayor of a town (especially a small town) can be a real hoot. However, when they start to respond to all of your genuine questions and concerns with a different intonation of the word “meow,” then there’s not much room for the conversation to grow.
Over in the small town of Talkeetna, with a population of about 900, a beloved feline by the name of Stubbs held the title of town mayor for a whopping 20 years. During its tenure as leader, it is rumored that dogs were mandated to be leashed at all times, and taxes were reduced on all scratching posts.
8 A hammer museum
There are some pretty intriguing museums dotted around this diverse world of ours (just look at the Museum of Broken Relationships in Croatia as a perfectly questionable example), but the Alaskan town of Haines is trying their best to take top spot in the ‘weird museums’ category.
Thanks to the curator, Dave Pahl, the Hammer Museum features over 1,700 unique hammers, brought in from every corner of the globe. Contrary to most of our (pretty darn basic) hammer knowledge, they’re not exclusively for nails. They come in all different shapes and sizes, and as tacky and boring as it might sound, the place actually boasts rather positive reviews.
7 Bears (of the non-polar variety)
When we think of Alaska, what exactly comes to mind? Snow, ice, some more snow, polar bears, whales, and snow, right? Well, believe it or not, the environment and ecoysystem is actually a little more diverse.
Yes, there are polar bears, and yes, they’re darn cute, but they’re by no means the only type of bear roaming around. In fact, there’s plenty of subspecies of black bear found throughout the state, including the Eastern black bear, glacier bear, Kenai black bear, Haida Gwaii black bear, and Dall black bear. These critters are omnivorous (meaning they won’t tear you to pieces and eat you), however, there have been plenty of reports of them wandering into human territories in search of food.
6 A House that looks like it was built by Dr. Seuss
Alaska is the biggest American state. However, it’s also the least populated, at only 1.3 persons per square mile (if we included those black bears it might be a different story). So, with such an abundance of space, you’d assume that the locals would be able to expand their properties horizontally, right?
Well, between Willow and Talkeetna you’ll find the appropriately labeled 'Dr. Seuss House,' whose owners clearly overestimated how many neighbors would be coming up from the south. The property stands at approximately 185 feet high, and is said to have between 14-17 stories.
5 Outhouse Races
Alaska sits pretty far out of the mainstream public eye, which means that its people have no qualms fully embracing their oddities. The state capital, Anchorage, plays host to the world’s largest dunny dash, and it has been marvelously doing so since way back in 2006.
The annual event, hosted by the University of Alaska Anchorage's Architecture and Engineering Club, is part of the city’s two-week winter festival, and is actually one of the most anticipated events of the year up North. It’s pretty much exactly what you’d imagine as well: pulling a functional outhouse across the track, with a seated person inside.
4 An absurd amount of coastline
When we imagine America’s beaches, our minds are usually drawn to the Californian coast, or the scenic shores scattered across the Atlantic states. If you’re thinking out of left-field, perhaps some of Texas’ sandy beaches come to mind. Here’s the thing though: coastline doesn’t always mean beaches, sunshine, and piña coladas, and that is exactly why our beloved Alaska is regularly forgotten and/or disregarded.
Unless you actually grab a map and take a look, there’s no way ‘coastline’ is the first noun that pops up. In actuality, however, Alaska actually sports more coastline than all of the other 49 American states combined.
3 *GIANT* vegetables
If you thought that big Santa was the only oversized thing you’d witness today, think again. Alaska might not be infamous for it, but it certainly has a record of producing some ridiculous-sized fruit and vegetables. How on Earth does a cantaloupe grow to 65 pounds?
Well, it’s all due to the Midnight Sun, which essentially is the extremely long summer days. Due to the extra sunlight exposure, the crops grow, and grow, and grow. There have also been 138-pound cabbages and 35-pound broccolis recorded over the years. If you’re wondering where James found his giant peach, it’s likely it was somewhere in Alaska.
2 America’s largest national park
The vast, geographically-diverse land of the good ol’ US of A is no stranger to impressive national parks. With names like the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Bryce Canyon, Zion, and Sequoia, spread across the contiguous states, it’s so easy to forget one crucial piece of land. Nope, not Hawaii… Alaska.
Most people are clueless to the name Wrangell-St. Elias. However, it’s actually the largest national park. In fact, Alaska holds seven of the nation’s top ten largest. To put things into relative terms, you could fit almost eight Grand Canyon National Parks into Wrangell-St. Elias.
1 Sand Dunes
No, we didn’t mean snow dunes. It might be a little odd to discover that the icy land of Alaska isn’t actually all ice, snow, and igloos. In the summer months, despite their slim longevity, there is plenty of stunning greenery to explore, countless stunning hiking trails, and even a few sandcastles waiting to be made.
The dunes in question are found smack bang in the middle of Kincaid Park, in the state’s largest city, Anchorage. They overlook the ocean and actually provide some rather entertaining hours. It’s certainly not the first thing that comes to mind when we think of Alaska, but it’s often realized as a pleasant surprise.