Do you believe in Santa? If not, a visit to North Pole, Alaska is in order. This community of 2,200 residents keeps the Christmas spirit alive all year long.
About North Pole
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.
Only a 15-minute drive south of Fairbanks, 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 at Santaland RV Park.
North Pole’s association with the spirit of Christmas began in earnest in the 1950s by Con 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.
Things to do
The town comes alive in December with the annual North Pole Christmas In Ice Contest, which attracts ice sculptors from around the world. The Winter Festival draws crowds with activities and fireworks. During this time of year, it’s not unusual for national TV newscasts to broadcast live from the Santa Claus House. And 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” program in 2009. 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 can be fished for arctic char, grayling and rainbow trout. Within North Pole there are two full-service campgrounds as well as tent sites located in North Pole Park.
Chena Lakes Recreation Area
Near North Pole is Chena Lakes Recreation Area featuring 80 campsites along with a swimming beach, paved bike trails and canoe rentals for Chena Lake that can be fished for arctic char, grayling and rainbow trout.
City Hall Totem Pole and Homestead Cabin
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.
Cruising with Santa Festival
Classic cars invade North Pole for its Cruising with Santa Festival in August. Along with vintage cars and street hot rods on display, there are drive-in movies, a street dance and live entertainment.
Santa Claus House
North Pole's best known attraction is Santa Claus House (www.santaclaushouse.com). 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.
Summerfest is North Pole's Fourth of July celebration featuring a parade, contests like a grease pole competition, crafts and arts booths and food vendors.
Terry Miller Memorial Park
Located on Santa Claus Lane, Terry Miller Memorial Park features a picnic area, children's playground and a up close view of the Alaska Railroad when it passes by several times a day.
Held in early December, Winterfest is a two-day festival that highlights a holiday bazaar during the day and fireworks at night.