What Is Alaska Known For?

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The largest state in the United States and disconnected from continental US, Alaska, or the “Last Frontier” is a fascinating part of North America. What is Alaska known for? The 49th state is famed for its incredible wildlife, massive oil and natural gas reserves, staggering natural beauty and rich Alaska Native culture. Alaska became the union’s 49th state following the Alaska Purchase, which saw the United States acquire the entirety of the state from Russia for $7.2 million.

Spurred by the discovery of natural resources, cities such as Anchorage, Juneau and Fairbanks have grown into modern urban cities each with their own distinct cultures, attractions and colourful neighbourhoods. Sharing a border with two different countries, Alaska is a bucket list-worthy American state filled with some of the most remarkable cities, people and natural features North America has to offer. Here’s what Alaska is famous for.

What Is Alaska Known For

1- The Alaska Purchase

Officially introduced as the union’s 49th state on January 1, 1959, Alaska was purchased by the United States government from modern-day Russia for a sum of $7.2 million back in 1867.

Russia initially wanted to use Alaska to expand further along the Pacific Northwest, however, a surge in influence in the region by the British Empire and a recent defeat in the Crimean War left the Russians little choice but to sell off Alaska to the United States.

The United States soon struck gold with their Alaska purchase, quite literally, when gold and large deposits of oil, natural gas and a whole bunch of other natural resources were discovered in the 49th state soon after the US gained control of the region.

It’s safe to say that Alaska and the United States wouldn’t have been the same if not for the Alaska Purchase of 1867, making the event the most important in the Last Frontier’s history and among the defining moments of 19th century North America.


2- The Alaskan Wilderness

Mountains In Alaskan Wilderness With Cabins
The Alaskan Wilderness is what Alaska is known for..

Home to some of the most remote parts on earth, Alaska is famous for its rugged outdoors and sparsely populated interior, so much so that the state has been officially nicknamed “The Last Frontier”.

The largest and one of the least-populated states in the union, Alaska offers nature lovers plenty of remote areas to discover and spots to escape civilization for a brief moment, not to mention an incredibly diverse array of wildlife and flora to gawk at.

Found right on the doorstep of major Alaskan cities such as Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau, the Alaskan wilderness is arguably the state’s biggest draw and remains incredibly important to the state’s biodiversity and indigenous people.

Recommended tours: Seward: Kenai Fjords National Park 6-Hour Cruise

3- Anchorage

Summertime Bootleggers Cove Anchorage, Alaska
Anchorage is the city Alaska is most known for.

More than half of all Alaskan residents call the urbanised city of Anchorage home, making it the Last Frontier’s unrivalled economic, cultural and entertainment capital even though it isn’t Alaska’s official state capital.

Anchorage and its 291,000 residents are the ideal destination in the Last Frontier to check out for travellers not yet ready to kiss civilization goodbye, with downtown Anchorage boasting many of the Last Frontier’s best retail outlets, restaurants, bars, museums and art galleries.

Originally settled by the native Alutiiq people some 5,000 years ago, modern-day Anchorage was founded by a collection of American settlers in 1914, when the future city was haphazardly chosen for the construction of a railroad.

The city quickly flourished into a powerful economic force in the region following the discovery of Alaska’s large oil, gas and gold deposits before reinventing itself as a tourism hub when Alaska’s wild untamed landscapes started attracting thrill seekers and nature enthusiasts during the late 20th century.

The Alaska Native Heritage Center, the Alyeska Resort, the Alyeska Aerial Tram and the Alaska Aviation Museum are just some of Anchorage’s top tourist attractions and landmarks which have helped the city develop into Alaska’s largest urban centre.

Recommended tours:

4- The Northern Lights

Gorgeous View Of Northern Lights In Alaska
The Northern Lights is what Alaska is most known for.

With large parts of northern Alaska spilling over into the Arctic Circle, the Last Frontier is one of the top destinations in the northern hemisphere to spot the majestic Northern Lights, a riveting display of shapes and colours beautifully contrasted by the night sky.

The Northern Lights are a captivating natural phenomenon unique to the Arctic Circle which can best be experienced between September and March, when electrically charged particles of the sun interact with the Earth’s atmospheric nitrogen and oxygen gasses.

Observable throughout Alaska when conditions are perfect, the Northern Lights are perhaps Alaska’s most recognisable natural feature and are a major tourism boost for the Last Frontier’s less-travelled northern towns and cities.

Recommended tour: From Fairbanks: Northern Lights and Arctic Circle Tour

5- Being The Largest State In The USA

Well over twice as big as Texas, the second-largest US state, Alaska’s sheer size has been a topic of discussion and speculation since the Alaskan Purchase of 1867.

Spanning an area of about 665,384 square miles (1.72 million km2), Alaska is twice as large as France and roughly 20% the size of all the 48 states of the continental US put together.

Alaska is completely disconnected from the mainland United States and shares a land border with the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Yukon, making it one of the most remote and mysterious parts of the United States.

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6- Fairbanks

City Of Fairbanks, Alaska At Sunset In Winter
Fairbanks is a place Alaska is known for.

Situated in the proverbial heart of Alaska, Fairbanks is a popular spot in the 49th state for catching a glimpse of the Northern Lights over winter and the Midnight Sun during summer, two of the Last Frontier’s most iconic natural phenomena.

Fairbanks was initially settled by E. T. Barnette, a former Yukon riverboat captain, in 1901 on his way to Tanacross and has since developed into Alaska’s second most-populated city with more than 32,000 proud Alaskans calling Fairbanks home.

The city serves as the gateway to Alaska’s rugged interior and boasts many outdoor attractions and cultural showpieces for travellers to enjoy, such as the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics, the Tanana Valley State Fair and the World Ice Art Championships.

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7- Oil And Natural Gas

Equipment For Drilling Oil And Gas Well
Oil and gas is what Alaska is best known for producing.

Home to some of the largest deposits of oil and natural gas in the United States, Alaska’s oil and gas drilling industry is big business in the Last Frontier, with Alaska’s North Slope region once responsible for about 25% of the entire United States’ domestic oil and gas production.

Alaska’s oil and natural gas industry got its start during the early 1900s, however, it wasn’t until the discovery of the Prudhoe Bay oil and natural gas fields in 1968 that oil in the Last Frontier started to take off, fuelling Alaskan cities such as Anchorage and Fairbanks to become the major metros they are today.

Shipped to the continental United States from Alaska via the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, an 800-mile-long (1,288 km) network responsible for moving Prudhoe Bay’s natural resources further south, Alaska’s productive oil and gas fields are crucial to the United States’ economy and the single largest economic driver in the Last Frontier.

8- The Bering Strait

Chukotka, Alaska And The Bering Strait
The Bering Strait is what the state of Alaska is known for.

Connecting the Arctic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean, the Bering Strait is the sliver of water separating Alaska and eastern Russia that’s infamous for its treacherous seas and midsummer ice drifts.

The Bering Strait serves as the only navigable connection between the Arctic and the Pacific, and was a contentious geopolitical issue between the United States and the Soviet Union that was dubbed the “Ice Curtain” during the Cold War.

It’s believed by many scientists and academics that Paleo-Indians crossed from Asia into North America via the Bering Strait when it was still a land bridge, with reported land crossings between the two continents via the Bering Strait as recent as the early 1900s.

9- Juneau

City Of Juneau In Alaska Seen From The Water In The Port
Juneau is a place Alaska is known for.

Situated in the Alaskan panhandle, Juneau is the Last Frontier’s official state capital despite lacking behind both Anchorage and Fairbanks when it comes to population, economic output, attractions and cultural importance. largest US state capital by sheer land size.

Juneau is recognised as the largest state capital in the United States by sheer land size and was established by Joseph Juneau and Richard Harris in 1880 as the first permanent European-American settlement in Alaska following the Alaska Purchase.

Officially declared Alaska’s new capital city in 1906 by the United States, Juneau is one of only two state capitals not connected to the continental US via road and features popular tourist attractions such as the Alaska State Capitol, the Alaska State Museum, the Mendenhall Glacier and the Mount Roberts Tramway.

Recommended tour: From Juneau: Whale Watching Cruise with Snacks

10- It’s Abundant Wildlife

Wild Deer
Wildlife is what Alaska is famous for.

No other US state is as wild and untamed as Alaska, especially the state’s vast interior, where animals such as bears, wolves, moose, muskoxen and caribou freely roam the state’s snowcapped peaks and rolling valleys.

Towards the Alaskan coast and the Aleutian Islands, animals such as humpback whales, puffins and orcas can be spotted frolicking just offshore, with numerous tour operators chartering boat trips for travellers to see these majestic creatures up close.

Alaska’s wildlife truly is the stuff of legend and attracts thousands of travellers and thrill seekers from across the world every year hoping to catch a glimpse of the state’s unique animal species in their native habitats.

Visit the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center.

11- The Aleutian Islands

The Aleutian Islands are a group of islands and islets split between the United States and Russia which make up the Alaska Peninsula, a 1,200-mile-long (1,931 km) archipelago jutting out from the Alaska mainland and across the Bering Sea.

Perched atop the Pacific and American tectonic plates, the Aleutian Islands are home to 14 large volcanic islands and resemble stepping stones crossing from North America into Asia.

While most of the Aleutians remain uninhabited, several Aleutian Islands support human life, with about 8,000 Aleuts calling the archipelago home, making them among the most unique features of the Last Frontier and one of the last remnants of traditional native life in North America.

12- Denali

Denali Landscape
Denali is what Alaska is known for.

The tallest mountain peak in North America, Mount McKinley, simply known as Denali, is a staggering natural monument of Alaska towering 20,310 feet (6,190 m) above sea level.

Situated in the Denali National Park, the mountain forms part of the Alaskan Range and is a member of the illustrious “Seven Summits”, the tallest mountain peaks on all seven continents.

Denali sits about 130 miles (210 km) outside downtown Anchorage and was named by the Koyukon, with the name officially adopted by the United States and Alaska state governments in 2015.

Recommended tour: Talkeetna: Grand Denali Flight with Optional Glacier Landing

13- Alaska Natives

The various native tribes and people of Alaska, known collectively as Alaska Natives, are renowned for their colourful cultures and traditions which travellers and urban explorers can experience throughout the Last Frontier.

Made up of the Aleut, Tlingit, Haida, Yupik, Tsimshian, Eyak, Iñupiat and Northern Athabaskan people, Alaska Natives are believed to have arrived in North America via the Bering Strait land bridge, with 229 federally-recognised native tribes spread across modern-day Alaska.

While their traditional way of life has significantly been altered following the discovery of oil and gold in Alaska, the unique music, foods, languages and tales of Alaska Natives can still be experienced in large sections of the Last Frontier.

14- Klondike Gold Rush

Scenic Railroad On White Pass And Yukon Route In Skagway Alaska
Skagway is what Alaska is famous for in history.

Responsible for the first major influx of continental Americans and European settlers into Alaska, the discovery of gold in the Canadian province of Yukon attracted large swaths of immigrants and fortune seekers hoping to strike it rich along eastern Alaska.

Roughly 100,000 people arrived in Yukon and eastern Alaska between 1896 and 1899, with towns such as Dawson City exploding with wealth and residents throughout the Klondike Gold Rush.

The Klondike Gold Rush is credited with placing Alaska on the proverbial map and is the main reason why Alaskan cities such as Anchorage and Fairbanks are the flourishing urban metropolises they are today.

Recommended tour: From Skagway: White Pass and Yukon Suspension Bridge Tour

15- The Midnight Sun

Midnight Summer Northern Lights Aurora Borealis
The midnight sun is what the state of Alaska is known for.

One of the Last Frontier’s most unusual features is the Midnight Sun, an annual phenomenon that sees areas north or near the Arctic Circle experience sunlight for 24 hours a day.

Experienced during summer months, the Midnight Sun is most intense during the summer solstice and is a widely celebrated event in Fairbanks, where travellers can come across the Midnight Sun between April and August.

The midnight sun makes it possible to enjoy the great Alaska outdoors 24 hours a day and as much as 85 days of uninterrupted sunlight in Utqiaġvik, the northernmost city in Alaska.

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Mark Westwood
Mark Westwood is a Seattle-based writer who writes for various online blogs and travel websites. In 2017, he went on a 12-month road trip across the USA visiting many iconic landmarks and small towns along the way. Having explored over 20 countries, his favourite places to date are along the west coast of the USA but he is happiest anywhere where there are mountains and ocean.