Local traditions and culture in Alaska

  • A mural at Seward showing the Iditerod Dog Race!
    A mural at Seward showing the Iditerod...
    by jumpingnorman
  • The Grizz!
    The Grizz!
    by madmax79
  • Juneau Parking and Public Library.
    Juneau Parking and Public Library.
    by shrimp56

Most Viewed Local Customs in Alaska

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    Ice Breaking Lottery

    by MyHollyDay Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    "I was so mad!" The Irish woman working at the roadhouse next to Tanana river told us. She was referring to the annual lottery of Nenana. Residence in the town of Nenana started this lottery of betting on the exact time(down to the minute) and date each spring when the ice on Tanana river breaks. When winter comes, surface of the river turns to ice, a tripole in the shape of a lighthouse is placed on the surface of the river right outside of the roadhouse. People take turn to keep an eye on it 24/7. The moment when this tripole tips over is THE winning time and date. The Irish woman said she had been in Nenana less than 2 years and was so happy to be able to participate in this game last year. She placed a bet of course. Around early april, she had to leave town for a couple of days. Worried that she might miss the action, she asked "the expert" (I would not dare to write his name here....lol) and he told her to go, "ice does not break this early". So she left town. The tripole tipped over, and she was in Fairbanks missing in action...sigh.....

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    Fishing and Seafood very important in Alaska

    by jumpingnorman Updated May 9, 2009

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    I was flying into Alaska and the man beside me was a regular visitor of this 50 year old state (as of 2009), flying from Oregon to Alaska just for fishing! He said he was renting a 30 foot RV for the amazing price of only $75 per day and will drive around to fish...

    And seafood here is really fresh and they take pride in this -- you will order salmon in restaurants and they taste so fresh and not fishy at all! There's 34,000 miles of coastline, and my newfound friend on the plane said he has gone to remote places just to fish. Even being near a bear once --- and his wife and him being stuck at some remote area. Kinda scary but you could see he was excited talking about his adventures...

    The five species of salmon range from pan-size to 80 pounds (or 94 pounds as we saw in Soldotna's Visitor Center which had the biggest salmon caught). We saw a fisherman get a halibut which looked big to us, but I saw an huge huge one at the airport --- on display and it was like several hundreds of pounds! Amazing they grow that big!

    Mountain View Sports (562-8600) will guide you to how to get fishing licenses. Have Fun Fishing, and if you just want to eat seafood, that's fine too!

    Related to:
    • Family Travel
    • Food and Dining
    • Fishing

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    Alaskan Hospitality

    by MyHollyDay Updated Jun 5, 2007

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    Can these be eaten raw? We asked the fish shop owners Ed and Sandy after we bought a few pounds of halibut from them. Both of them stepped closer to us with great interest. "Yes...I suppose" and started a round of discussion on whether the halibuts are deep frozen, if they were not deep frozen, how fresh are they....etc. We then found out these guys are one of the sashimi suppliers to cruise ships porting their town. Now the topic moved on to how many ways there are to eat fish raw that we know of? "Wait, give me a minute. Let me bring out some halibut sashimi, we can trade raw fish recipes by demonstration." Ed brought out a plate of neatly cut halibut and lemon juice. "Do you have wasabe?" Ed asked us. Although we did not think of bringing wasabe with us nor soy sauce, this fish tasting event were full of flavor, especially with a grain of alaskan hospitality. They shared with us anecdotes in their town that are beyond our wonder; like kids do not have to be burdened by the harsh weather in winter, there are underground tunnels that lead from their home to the school! We shared with them our udon noodles we brought from san francisco, and recipe on making ceviche, which Ed wrote down in detail.

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    Tough exterior, kind interior

    by PA2AKgirl Written Apr 29, 2007

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    Alaskans--those who have lived here their whole lives and those who came from Outside years ago--are, as a whole, the nicest people we've ever met. Anywhere we've gone, pretty much, the people we've never met before are helpful and treat you as a lifelong friend. They may appear a little rugged or tough and maybe even unapproachable but they all have stories and experiences they can share and want to hear yours. In the smaller towns this is especially true. When I first arrived in Sitka a few years ago, I didn't feel unwelcome for even a minute. Almost immediately, I was happy to be there. When I was interacting with tourists, I was proud to say that I now lived in this state. Anchorage actually is no different to me in this respect...we are always greeted with the friendliest smiles and endearing demeanor. Though isolated and sometimes harsh, Alaska brings out the "humanity" in a lot of people. If you live here and care enough to learn about the other towns, cultures and regions, you feel somehow connected to people with whom you you never knew existed.

    There have only been a couple times we came across some attitude but I'm sure there were reasons.

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  • The most beautiful Alaskan Calendar

    by Matyas Updated Nov 19, 2006

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    Fireweeds are typical Alaskan flowers can be found all over the State. In Alaska, candies, syrups, jellies, and even ice cream are made from fireweed.

    Monofloral honey made primarily from fireweed nectar is particularly light and mild tasting. I've heard many times that we can deduce the weather from the fireweeds' length. If all petals appear on the fireweeds it means winter is coming in 4 weeks.

    At the same time I've been told different theories and stories so would be glad to hear the truth. Please drop me a line if you know something. Thanks:)

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  • The route to the Klondike Gold Rush...

    by Matyas Updated Nov 15, 2006

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    ... the Chilkoot Trail. Many hikers' aim.

    I managed to find out more about this trail while in the local visitor centre. You can watch a short but very good movie of the Chilkoot trail and its history. Very interesting.

    The Chilkoot Trail, was the most famous route taken by prospectors and would be miners who made their way to the Klondike Gold Rush in the Yukon.

    It all started when gold was discovered in the year 1896 on Bonanza Creek, a tributary of the Klondike River, just 17.7 km ( 11 mi.) from Dawson City...continue.

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  • Jackpot Halibut Derby !!

    by Matyas Updated Nov 13, 2006

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    Well i guess the Halibut Derby is the most important event of Homer! While visiting this beautiful town enter the Jackpot Halibut Derby (visit the homepage for rules and requirements). The Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby began in the summer of 1986 as the brain-child of a committee dedicated to promoting business in Homer and enhancing tourism for the community.

    The Oregon man who won the jackpot last summer took home $48,504 for pulling in a 310 lb. halibut. You can check the result board just nearby the visitor centre. It was so much fun to see how big these animals are.

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  • Alaska's Flag

    by Matyas Written Nov 9, 2006

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    Eight stars of gold on a field of blue—
    Alaska's flag. May it mean to you
    The blue of the sea, the evening sky,
    The mountain lakes, and the flow'rs nearby;
    The gold of the early sourdough dreams,
    The precious gold of the hills and streams;
    The brilliant stars in the northern sky,
    The Bear—the Dipper—and, shining high,
    The great North Star with its steady light,
    O'er land and sea a beacon bright.
    Alaska's flag—to Alaskans dear,
    The simple flag of a last frontier.

    A Native lad chose the Dipper's stars
    For Alaska's flag that there be no bars
    Among our culture. Let it be known
    Through years the Native's past has grown
    To share life's treasures, hand in hand,
    To keep Alaska our Great-Land;
    We love the northern midnight sky,
    The mountains, lakes and streams nearby.
    The great North Star with its steady light
    Will guide all cultures, clear and bright,
    With nature's flag to Alaskans dear,
    The simple flag of the last frontier.

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  • The Pipeline - Alaska's Artery

    by Matyas Updated Nov 7, 2006

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    The Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS), usually called the Alyeska Pipeline in Alaska or the Alaska Pipeline elsewhere, is a major U.S. oil pipeline connecting oil fields in northern Alaska to a sea port where the oil can be shipped to the Lower 48 states for refining.

    The main Trans-Alaska Pipeline runs north to south, almost 800 miles (1,300 km), from the Arctic Ocean at Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to the Gulf of Alaska at Valdez, Alaska, passing near several Alaskan towns, including Wiseman, Bettles, Livengood, Fox, Fairbanks, and Glennallen.

    Construction of the pipeline presented significant challenges due to the remoteness of the terrain and the harshness of the environment it had to pass through. Geological activity has damaged the pipeline on several occasions. Since its completion in 1977, the pipeline has transported over 15 billion barrels of oil.

    Summary Source: Wikipedia.

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  • Population and languages

    by Matyas Written Nov 7, 2006

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    Just one among the many resons why I wanted (and still want) to visit Alaska. It's folks and different languages, cultures and habits. In the following I'd also like to share some basic info as the population concerns. This is a short summary for more information visit Wikipedia.

    The largest ancestry groups in the state are: German (16.6%), Alaska Native or American Indian (15.6%), Irish (10.8%), British (9.6%), American (5.7%), and Norwegian (4.2%). Alaska has the largest percentage of American Indians of any state.

    More than 90 languages are spoken in Alaska, including 20 which are indigenous to Alaska. The indigenous languages, known locally as Native languages, belong to two major language families. As the homeland of two of North America's major language families, Eskimo-Aleut and Athabaskan, Alaska has been described as the crossroads of the continents...

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  • The Last Frontier

    by Matyas Updated Nov 7, 2006

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    State bird - Willow Ptarmigan
    State land mammal - Moose
    State marine mammal - Bowhead Whale
    State fish - King Salmon
    State insect - Skimmer Dragonfly
    State flower - Forget-me-not
    State motto - "North To The Future"
    State song - "Alaska's Flag"
    State tree - Sitka Spruce
    State fossil - Woolly Mammoth
    State gem - Jade

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    The Iditarod

    by PA2AKgirl Written Oct 1, 2006

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    The Iditarod is one of the biggest things people associate with Alaska. It covers 1100 miles (1760km) from Anchorage to Nome in the winter. The route does get altered sometimes due to lack of snow and while the ceremonial start is here in Anchorage, the restart is in Wasilla (or Willow Lake, depending on conditions.) The historic route starts in Seward, which is marked by the “historic trail” People from anywhere may compete, but they have to get through smaller races before they can move on because this is such a difficult competition. The dogs are trained for this and the breeds are ones who prefer weather well below freezing. Still, the race has been met with protests and objections by animal rights advocates. (Everything in Alaska seems to have controversy)
    A man I knew who did this race didn’t use dogs at all—he just wanted to complete the race and did so on cross country skis. Seeing the start of it is big here in Anchorage and the race is televised at the checkpoints and then at the end in Nome. I’m sure it’s huge up there too, though a lot of time passes between the musher who arrives first and the rest who complete the race.

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    Alaska Highway references

    by PA2AKgirl Updated Oct 1, 2006

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    One thing you might find confusing if you’re driving is how the highways have a number but no one refers to them this way. Getting directions from someone will probably involve a name and not a number. Following the number is okay on the map but one number can be a few different highways. Alaska 1 is a great example of this…it’s called all of these depending where you are on the highway:
    Tok Cut-Off
    Glenn Highway
    Seward Highway
    Sterling Highway
    Also, unlike the US interstate system, Alaska doesn’t follow the “odd numbers go north and south” and the “even numbers run east and west” so don’t base the roads on that system. You’re better off knowing which name goes where. Like the Parks highway connects Wasilla (at the Glenn Highway) to Fairbanks. The numbering pattern seems to go from 1-11 which could make sense, but then there’s Alaska 98 also called the Klondike Highway. Name changes are common among Alaska roads—one side is usually called one thing, another side a different name. Or it may seem one road ends but then you see it again on the other side of the town and no way to figure out how that road made it there. One last thing: don’t bet that just because it’s called a highway, that it’s paved. It’s not always the case.

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    ice breaker

    by PA2AKgirl Written Oct 1, 2006

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    We arrived here in the winter of last year and soon, we began to hear about Nenana Ice Classic. Nenana is town located south of Fairbanks, quite a distance north of here on the Parks Highway. We didn’t know anything about this and actually kinda forgot about it until we went to Nenana recently. The Ice Classic is a wonderful local custom that anyone can win—it’s a complete guessing game. People put money down and make a guess as to when the ice is going to break on the Tanana river. This means it’s time for spring. The town goes all out for this—there’s a building for the Ice Classic, a number to get tickets and place your guess (up to the minute), provides employment (short term). It gets the whole state involved and big money can be won ($300,000 in the past years) just by making that lucky guess.

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    A general list...

    by PA2AKgirl Updated Oct 1, 2006

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    Alaska has a lot of local customs. Some I’ll devote a tip to individually, but others I can just group here in a single tip.

    Alaska has its own time zone—one hour behind Pacific Time

    No matter what you think about it, hunting or fishing is a way of life here. They aren’t just sports for everyone, but truly a way of life.

    Snowmobiles are called Snowmachines

    The contiguous US states are referred to as the “Lower 48”

    When we were stopping for coffee, a lady asked us if we were going to the “outside” meaning out of Alaska. If you hear that and you’re outdoors already, don’t be confused;-)

    Cold weather doesn’t bother a lot of people here. We heard that children up in the
    Fairbanks area still have recess until it’s below -20F.

    The farther east you go in the interior, the more Alaskans sound like Canadians--
    sometimes more so than people you’ll come across in Whitehorse, Yukon.

    reindeer meat is available in many forms--sausage, hot dogs, ground in omelets, etc.

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Alaska Local Customs

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