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How (and Why) People Visit North Pole, Alaska

If you love Christmas or want to rekindle the holiday spirit, a trip to North Pole, Alaska, may be an ideal vacation. 

With road names such as Snowman Lane and street lights decorated like candy canes, it’s hard to visit and not feel the love of all things Christmas. 

But, where is North Pole, and what is there to do when visiting?

Let’s find out!

About North Pole, Alaska

What started as some homesteads in the late 1940s became an incorporated city in 1953. Originally named for the Davis Railroad running alongside the sprawling developments, North Pole received its name from developers. 

While there were military outposts and refineries in the area, the developers hoped to draw toy factories to the area. They thought being able to say their toys were made at the North Pole would be a huge draw. Unfortunately, no toy makers moved in.

North Pole exists in a subarctic climate, meaning they experience long, frigid winters and short, cool summers. The average high temperature in January is -1°F. In July, it’s 73°F. The city is landlocked and protected by mountain ranges resulting in little seasonal lag and more significant seasonal temperature swings than coastal areas.

This interior city experiences just over three hours of daylight near the winter solstice and just over 21 hours around the summer solstice. That’s an extreme not many people can get used to. Today, North Pole, Alaska, has just under 2,300 people.

Man looking at Northern Lights in Alaska
Just moments from Fairbanks, North Pole, Alaksa is a must-see city on your Alaskan adventure.

Where is North Pole, Alaska?

North Pole is a 15-minute drive southeast of Fairbanks, the second-largest city in Alaska. Considered part of greater Fairbanks, it has its own zip code, post office, and city council. In reality, it’s over 1,700 miles south of the geographic North Pole. 

The city lies in an area known as a slough, a muddy or marshy and swampy area. But in North America, a slough most often references an area characterized as a side channel to a river. The Thirtymile Slough and Chena Slough run through the heart of the city. The Tanana River flows to the west and south and the Chena River to the north.

Best Way to Travel to North Pole, Alaska

“Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” isn’t just a comedic film from 1987. They’re also the best ways to travel to Fairbanks and North Pole. 

The easiest and quickest way to get to the region is by airplane. Daily flights from Fairbanks International Airport service various Alaskan & Canadian cities. Some cities within the contiguous US that offer flights to Fairbanks are Chicago, Seattle, and Minneapolis.

For a scenic drive, one might take the Alaska Highway, built in WWII as a supply route. It stops short of Fairbanks by about 100 miles but is a scenic route popular among truckers and tourists. In Delta Junction, a turn to the north puts drivers on the Richardson Highway, which runs into North Pole.

So we’ve covered planes and automobiles, but “what is this about trains,” you ask? The Alaska Railroad runs two train services from Anchorage to Fairbanks and the North Pole region. 

The Denali Star runs twice a day from mid-May to mid-September. On the other hand, the Aurora Winter Train runs from mid-September to mid-May on weekends only. Each ride is about 12 hours long, offering patrons stunning scenic views. 

Pro Tip: Unable to make it to North Pole, Alaska but still want a fun adventure? Check out these 22 Must See National Parks.

Little girl meeting Santa at Santa Claus House
Visit Santa’s house while exploring North Pole, Alaska.

Things to Do in North Pole, Alaska

One might think that the only activities in North Pole will be Christmas-related, but that isn’t entirely true! You can also explore natural spaces within a short drive of the town.

Santa Claus House

Arguably the most popular attraction in the city is the Santa Claus House. What started as a post office, soda fountain, and general store all at once has grown into a more Christmas-focused destination. 

Endless aisles of ornaments and toys fill the store. Letters to Santa from children all over the world decorate the walls. Santa is always on hand to listen to Christmas wishes, and a 42-foot statue of the magical elf stands out front. Millions of visitors come from around the world to visit the Santa Claus House.

Chena Lake Recreation Area

Chena Lake Recreation Area has so much to do in two different areas, Lake Park and River Park. Between the two regions, there are 80 campsites, 21 of which are pull-throughs. Chena Lake also offers multiple day-use picnic sites with tables, fire rings, and rentable pavilions. There are fishing docks, boat launches, and sandy beaches. 

If you’re not in the mood for water activities, a 4.5-kilometer self-guided nature trail is available at Lake Park. In the winter, fun is still to be had with rentable ice houses, cross-country ski trails, and multi-use trails for snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and dog-sledding.

Northern Lights Viewing

A visit to North Pole is not complete without viewing the Northern Lights. Almost impossible in warmer months due to the amount of daylight, the best time for seeing them is later in the year. In fact, the peak aurora season is from late August through late April. 

People travel from all over the world to catch a glimpse of this natural phenomenon. Fairbanks is an ideal viewing location due to its distance from coastal areas and low precipitation, creating ideal clarity at night.

Pro Tip: Can’t make it to North Pole, Alaska to see the Northern Lights? Find out Can You See The Northern Lights in Michigan.

Snowy forest in Alaska
Head to a winter wonderland in North Pole, Alaksa.

Does Santa Claus Really Live in North Pole, Alaska?

While some of you may not believe in Santa Claus, he does indeed exist. Born Thomas Patrick O’Connor in 1947, Santa Claus is a child welfare activist, monk, and politician residing in Alaska. He’s also an active member of the North Pole City Council. 

In 2022, he became a candidate in the Alaskan at-large congressional district special election as an Independent. Not only does he resemble the jolly elf, but Mr. Claus also changed his name in 2005 to bring awareness to his advocacy for children’s health and wellness. 

Is a Visit to North Pole, Alaska Worth It? 

Is a trip to North Pole worth it? Yes! Whether you love Christmas or not or outdoor recreation is where it’s at for you, this jolly little town won’t disappoint. There’s so much to see and experience in the Alaskan interior, and you’ll find it all there!

Would you take a trip to the North Pole/Fairbanks region? Let us know in the comments below!

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