Located 500 miles away from the nearest state, there’s likely a lot you haven’t heard about Alaska. Here are 25 facts about the last frontier.
1. Dog mushing is Alaska's official state sport.
2. A teen designed the state flag.
The state flag was designed by a 13-year-old boy named Benny Benson. After calling on students throughout the territory to submit their ideas, Alaska ultimately decided on Benson’s scene of the Big Dipper and the North Star in 1927. The design was kept even after Alaska became a state in 1959.
3. There are some pretty high mountains.
4. There are many moose laws.
Some of Alaska’s bizarre moose-specific legislation has included laws against pushing a moose from a plane and giving a moose beer. (In fairness, you shouldn't do either of those things in any state.)
5. If you want to go to a museum dedicated to hammers, you're in the right state.
Haines, Alaska, is home to America’s first museum solely dedicated to hammers. Visitors to the Hammer Museum can view their fascinating collections of hammer sculptures, handle-making machinery, and spring-loaded meat tenderizers.
6. Alaska is home to multiple heroic dogs.
Balto is the famous sled dog that’s usually credited with delivering medicine to a remote Alaskan village, but some argue that Togo was the true hero. Before Balto completed the last 55 miles of the journey, Togo pulled the medicine through 200 miles of wind and snow. His stuffed and preserved body is on display at the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Museum in Wasilla, Alaska.
7. The state holds the U.S. record for coldest recorded temperature.
8. There's a whole lot of coastline in Alaska.
The state has more coastline than the other 49 states combined.
9. You can grow a zucchini the size of a dachshund.
Because of their long summer days, Alaska is capable of producing some unusually oversized produce. Some notable specimens that have been harvested in recent years include a 35-pound broccoli, a 65-pound cantaloupe, and a 138-pound cabbage.
10. There's a town dedicated to Christmas in Alaska.
About 1700 miles south of the geographic North Pole lies the Fairbanks suburb of North Pole, Alaska. The town’s famous Santa Claus House gift shop is open year-round, and thousands of letters addressed to Santa are sent to the ZIP code each year. (A real-life Santa Claus was even elected to City Council.)
11. It might be possible to see Russia from Alaska (but just in one spot.)
The Bering Strait that separates Alaska from Russia is around 55 miles wide at its narrowest point. Within it sit the Russian island of Big Diomede and the U.S. island of Little Diomede, which are just two and a half miles apart. So in theory, it would be possible for some Alaskans to see Russia from their houses.
12. Japan invaded Alaskan islands during World War II.
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese forces bombed and invaded the Aleutian Islands of Alaska in June of 1942. The occupation lasted nearly a year. (The United States owned Alaska at this time, but it didn't become a state until 1959.)
13. Some roadkill is considered property of the state.
Moose, caribou, and bears killed by cars in Alaska are considered property of the state [PDF]. When roadkill is reported, the carcasses are butchered by volunteers and distributed as food to charity organizations.
14. Alaska is home to America's largest national forest.
15. If you're so disposed, you can take part in an outhouse race.
Each year, brave Alaskans compete to be crowned the king or queen of their throne in the Fur Rondy Festival outhouse races. Teams outfit the bottoms of their custom-built outhouses with skis and race each other down a two-lane track. In addition to the title of first place, prizes are awarded for the most colorful, best-engineered, and cleanest commodes.
16. An iconic horror movie was filmed in Alaska.
17. Some nights can last for two months.
In Barrow, Alaska, the longest night lasts for 67 days. In the summer they make up for it with 82 days of uninterrupted sunlight.
18. Alaska is absolutely gigantic but sparsely populated.
If New York had the same population density as Alaska, only about 53,844 people would live in the entire state (there are more than 19 million NY residents today.) The real kicker, though, is that Alaska is so big that you can fit 12 New Yorks inside of it.
19. There are way more men than women.
There are 107 men for every 100 women in Alaska, the highest male-to-female ratio in the United States.
20. You can't get to the state's capital by road.
You need to take a plane, cruise ship, or ferry to get to Juneau.
21. The United States bought Alaska for just a few million bucks.
In 1867, Russia agreed to sell Alaska to the United States for $7.2 million, which amounted to about two cents an acre.
22. The state earned an unflattering nickname after the U.S. bought it.
The deal to purchase Alaska was put together by Secretary of State William H. Seward, a proponent of U.S. expansion. But not everyone was happy with the move, with some nicknaming the territory "Seward's Folly" and "Seward's Icebox."
23. It has a big Indigenous population.
The Aleuts, Inupiat, Yuit, Athabascans, Tlingit, and Haida make up the major native groups of Alaska. At more than 19 percent, Alaska has a more concentrated Indigenous population than any other state.
24. The state has its own Big Mac.
The Denali Mac—formerly The McKinley Mac—isn't too far off from the classic Big Mac, but this variation, found in McDonald's across the state, is pretty beefed up. The patties are bigger than the standard Mac (it uses the same patties as the Quarter Pounder), and there's more secret sauce slathered throughout. That all adds up to 840 calories, according to the burger chain.
25. One town used to hold an event dedicated to moose poop until it turned into a fiasco.
For years, the small town of Talkeetna, Alaska, hosted the annual Moose Dropping Festival. Varnished pieces of numbered moose droppings were dumped from a crane into a parking lot and participants whose corresponding droppings landed closest to the center of a target received cash prizes. The event eventually grew too dangerously large for the town of 850 to handle and was retired in 2009.
This story originally ran in 2015; it has been updated for 2022.