You’re pumped, you’re excited, you’re on your way to Alaska for that once-in-a-lifetime trip. We totally get it. A lot of us kicked off our Alaskan tenure exactly the same way. We visited, fell hopelessly in love, and ended up calling our family to tell them that we were not coming home. While you may not go to that extreme, there’s a fair number of things to experience before you can return home legitimately claiming to have visited Alaska. Check these off, and only then will you have earned your true Alaska badge.
1. Brave the weather.
Regardless of where in the state you are, Alaska weather is a wild ride that can push even the roughest and toughest to the edge of reason. In the far north, it’s the bowels of winter with howling winds and negative digits so cold even Jack Frost turns into a popsicle. In the southeast, it’s rain, rain, and more rain. In the interior, it’s so dry in summer that forest fires rage. And yet, somewhere between May and early August, there’s a sweet spot that sweeps across every inch of the state reaffirming what all Alaskans call truth — that Alaska’s unequivocally the best place on Earth.
Make it through a whole year of Alaskan weather sans frostbite, hypothermia, SAD or insomnia and you can truly say you’ve visited and earned a gold star or two in the process.
2. Survive combat fishing.
If you can keep your fish, and live to tell the tale, you’re already further along than most in staking your “I visited Alaska” claim.
Locals can smell a tourist on the river faster than a bear can sniff out fish. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll walk away from your first elbow-to-elbow battle for salmon unscathed, but stick with it and, eventually, you’ll prove yourself worthy of a spot in the line-up.
3. Experience a moose stalking.
Alaskan moose sightings are one thing, but Alaskan moose stalkings are a whole different kettle of fish. Alaskan moose are a persnickety, short-tempered lot. Particularly prone to stalking humans, it’s not uncommon to encounter locals and visitors alike who’ve been bullied more than once by a moose. In fact, many claim multiple incidents by the same moose. Heck, for all we know, Alaskan moose might as well have their own mafia-type racket going on where they get rewarded for the number of people they stalk on any given day.
4. Eat local Alaskan produce.
Be it baby ferns sautéd in butter with garlic, a bushel basket of one of our many wild berry varieties, or something meatier of the finned- or fur-clad variety, no one can truly say they’ve experienced Alaska without munching on at least some of our seasonal produce.
5. Participate in a race.
Alaska celebrates costumed-reindeer races, dog-sledding races, marathon races up mountains and through city streets. We’ve got races to see who is speediest at donning survival gear and races to see who can drive the fastest snowmachine or catch the biggest fish. Alaskans are a fun-loving but highly competitive bunch and we have no reservations about pushing ourselves, our gear, and our crews to the limits. We do this, of course, while intentionally adding plenty of weird and wacky on the side. After all, spend an entire year in Alaska and you’ll start to understand how and why the looniness doesn’t stay tucked in for long.
6. Attend a very Alaskan festival.
With Alaska being what it is, we have no choice but to get creative with our downtime activities. Over the years, we’ve developed a number of very Alaskan themed festivals. Many of which have quite large fan bases — here’s a few to clue you in on the kinds of things we like to do:
- Chickenstock Music Festival in Chicken
- The Blueberry Festival in Girdwood
- Salmonfest Alaska in Ninilchik
- Alaska State Fair in Palmer
- Fish Fest in Juneau
- Bear Paw Festival in Eagle River
- Fur Rendezvous (AKA Fur Rondy) in Anchorage
- World Eskimo-Indian Olympics in Fairbanks
- Cabin Fever Reliever in Trapper Creek
For more info on Alaska’s long list of annual festivals, Alaska.org has the low-down on most.
7. Do your business in an outhouse.
And get peeped on by the local residents — the fur-clad, four-footed residents to be specific. Seriously, there’s nothing more Alaskan than getting caught with your pants down around your ankles by a bear out on a stroll. Whatever you do, don’t run. That’ll make the situation worse on so many levels.
8. Purchase spray cans.
And nope, we’re not talking spray paint and weekend DIY projects. The two most important sprays in Alaska have nothing to do with paint or blocking the sun. We’re talking bear spray and bug spray. You’ve not truly experienced Alaska until you can say you’ve purchased at least one of each and better yet, used both.