9 Surprising Things About Anchorage, Alaska
Living in Alaska can inspire some tall tales, but reality can be just as remarkable as any fiction. Here are a few surprising yet delightful things about life in Anchorage, Alaska.
The most famous local is a reindeer
Anchorage’s reindeer resident is a star. In a cozy pen on the Delaney Park Strip along downtown’s southern edge, Star the reindeer lives a quiet life. The charismatic ungulate is the latest in a line of antlered occupants – each named Star – that have called Anchorage home since 1960. Visit Star at home along 10th Avenue, or catch up with him on leashed walks about town. Star and his caretaker also take part in many local celebrations like Fourth of July and the Fur Rendezvous parade.
The city can get 22 hours of daylight
There’s a sunset, but it’ll be a while. On summer solstice, the sun barely squeaks below the horizon; streetlights don’t come on. Anchorage makes the most of that light, hosting a summer celebration downtown.
Surfers ride a tidal wave
Anchorage has some of the greatest tidal swings in the world. That big difference between high and low tides generates a wave in Turnagain Arm large enough to surf. Wetsuit-clad surfers time the tide to catch the wave as it rolls along the coast south of Anchorage.
Anchorage's unofficial Olympic sport is all about fish
One of the most popular parts of the annual Bear Paw Festival, the Slippery Salmon Olympics challenges competitors to race while wrangling a slimy, slick, wild Alaska salmon. Cheer on your favorite teams, and hope they don't lose their grasp on the official fish of the festival. Bear Paw — and the Slippery Salmon Olympics — traditionally take place in mid-July in Eagle River.
Outhouse races speed along the main street
Alaskans vie for a very different throne, with teams racing outhouses mounted on skis. The event is part of Anchorage Fur Rendezvous. Teams show off their speed in drag race style, head-to-head heats. The event is flush with bathroom humor. Teams choose names ranging from puerile to risqué, and design and decorate inventive outhouses.
The whole city was once under a glacier
Tens of thousands of years ago, a massive glacier covered what is now Anchorage. As a result, the city is a relatively flat place, even with so many mountains nearby. Sharp-eyed observers can find evidence of the city’s glacial past, from silty soils ground down by glaciers, to kettle ponds and ancient moraines, to the many glaciers near Anchorage today.
Keeping toasty means a throwback from the ice age
While the ice covering Anchorage receded thousands of years ago, a different vestige of the ice age is still a going concern. The musk ox’s wool – qiviut – evolved to keep the animal comfy in cold Pleistocene conditions. It did the job so well the musk ox survive to present day. Foragers collect tufts of fur to be spun into wool, and then knitted into caps, scarves, and other goods by a co-operative spread across Alaska.
You can blame being late to work on a moose
“I’ll be in as soon as he moves.” Moose are everywhere in Anchorage, and occasionally this means one preempts the morning commute by taking a rest in the yard. Residents know a lazy moose bedded down next to the driveway is cause enough to delay the trip to the office. The moose will pick up and go when they feel like it.
You’ll get hooked on urban fishing
Suits and salmon co-exist in Anchorage. Or at least they would, if Anchorage was the kind of place anyone wore a suit. In bustling downtown Anchorage, commerce and casting for fish are in the same place. Ship Creek is just off Second Avenue, yet it is packed with king and silver salmon all summer long. There’s even a fishing derby for anglers hoping to hook the heaviest king of the year.