Do you believe in Santa? If not, a visit to North Pole, Alaska is in order. This community of about 2,700 residents keeps the Christmas spirit alive all year long.
About North Pole
Only a 15-minute drive south of Fairbanks on the Richardson Highway, North Pole features holiday decorations and trimmings all year – even if it’s 80 degrees in July. You can drive down streets like Santa Claus Lane, Kris Kringle Drive, and Mistletoe Lane, or stay the night in the Santa Suite at Hotel North Pole.
Things to do
North Pole's best-known attraction is Santa Claus House. The sprawling store holds endless aisles of Christmas ornaments and toys, a live Santa to listen to your Christmas wishes, a 42-foot-high statue of Santa overlooking the Richardson Highway, and walls covered with Dear Santa letters from children around the world.
The town comes alive in December with the annual Winter Festival, which draws crowds with activities, ice sculptures, and fireworks. During this time of year, it’s not unusual for national TV newscasts to broadcast live from the Santa Claus House. At the North Pole Post Office (located on South Santa Claus Lane, of course), more than 400,000 pieces of mail arrive annually simply addressed to “Santa Claus, North Pole, Alaska.” Each year, teams of community volunteers work to respond to each letter.
Besides the novelty of seeing Santa any time of the year, North Pole received some recognition for its restaurants after being featured on the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.” It’s an ideal place to be based while visiting the Fairbanks area, especially for RVers. Nearby is Chena Lake Recreation Area with 80 campsites along with a swimming beach, paved bike trails, and canoe rentals. Chena Lake offers fishing for arctic char, grayling, and rainbow trout.
Outside of the North Pole City is the town's beloved totem pole and a replica homesteader's cabin. Located near City Hall is the trailhead for Beaver Spring Nature Trail, a half-mile path that winds through a northern conifer forest to North Pole Park. Located on Santa Claus Lane, Terry Miller Memorial Park features a picnic area and playground.
First homesteaded in 1944, North Pole was given its holiday-themed name by a development company selling property and hoping to attract a toy manufacturer that could advertise products as being made in North Pole. The name stuck although a toy factory never materialized.
North Pole’s association with the spirit of Christmas began in earnest in the 1950s by Conrad Miller. The young trading post operator was well known in rural Alaska for playing Santa Claus for young children in Alaska villages. When he set up a trading post in North Pole, he named it Santa Claus House and today the sprawling store features almost endless aisles of Christmas ornaments and toys, and a giant outdoor statue of Santa beckoning in highway travelers.