Have you ever wondered what Alaskans do for fun?
Whenever I go down south to visit the lower 48 and I mention that I’m from Alaska, one of the first five questions I’m always asked is “what do you all do for fun up there?”
I have to pause and think for a second, not because I’m unfamiliar with the concept of fun, but because it’s an interesting question.
It’s a common joke among Alaskans that people from the continental US think we live in igloos and regularly encounter polar bears, like the fantasy sequence from the “Half-Baked Alaska” episode of Garfield and Friends.
Contrary to that, though, that’s a bit of an outdated stereotype. The internet exists now and people don’t get their notions of Alaska from Saturday morning cartoons anymore (for better or for worse).
After my brief pause, I usually tell them some or all of the following, depending on how much of it comes to my mind right away.
Hunting and Fishing
I have grouped these two together because fishing is basically just hunting, but it takes place in the water.
I have tasted bear meat (I did not shoot the bear myself; it was given to me by a friend after I helped him move!) and I learned very quickly that the meat itself is rather bland. It definitely needs to be seasoned heavily.
In order to go hunting or fishing, it’s necessary to get a license from the state. For Alaska residents, the fishing license is $20 and it lasts the entire season.
These activities aren’t always done for fun, though. For thousands of years, Alaska Natives lived off the land by hunting and fishing. To this day, there are many people in smaller communities across the state who still maintain a subsistence lifestyle.
Having a Drink – In Some Places
In many Alaskan cities, there is a pretty active nightlife. In downtown Juneau, you can find ten drinking establishments in a three-block radius.
Bar trivia is incredibly popular all over the state, with even non-drinkers going to bars and ordering Diet Coke to sip while trying to remember the names of the two men credited with founding Juneau (Joe Juneau and Richard Harris [not the actor]).
Not just in the major cities, either. I’ve been told that there are trivia nights at a bar called The Office (named after the old joke of a man telling his wife he’ll be home late tonight because he’s stuck at “The Office”) in Hoonah, a town of 931 people.
It is important to note, however, that this doesn’t apply to every community in the state.
Some states have what are called “dry counties” in which alcohol isn’t allowed to be sold. Alaska takes this a step further by giving every town the right to ban or allow alcohol to the level they prefer.
In Angoon, for example, possession of any amount of beer or liquor is illegal. In Port Alexander, it’s illegal to buy or sell, but if you bring it back with you from nearby Sitka, that’s perfectly legal.
In all, there are over 100 communities in the state that restrict either the purchase, transportation, or possession of alcohol.
For those that don’t, however, bars are open until 2 AM and I’ve never walked past one on a Saturday night that wasn’t full.
Hiking and Mountain Climbing
I have also combined these two because mountain climbing is just hiking with a higher elevation.
Most of us don’t climb Denali (formerly known as Mount McKinley, the tallest mountain in North America), however, as a mountain that high is best left to the professionals.
Luckily for us, there are many smaller mountains that can be climbed more easily. In Juneau, I’ve hiked Thunder Mountain a few times. The elevation is about 3,000 feet, which is about one-tenth the number for Mount Everest (29,035).
That 3,000 feet is a raw number, though, as most of Juneau is at sea level. The Gastineau Channel that runs through downtown is an arm of the Pacific Ocean.
There are also a lot of trails on flat ground, which are definitely closer to my style. I’ve lived at 5 different addresses in Southeast Alaska and every single one had some kind of a walking trail within three blocks.
Trail walking allows you to enjoy nature for free while walking along a well-maintained path, either with friends or alone. It’s no surprise that it remains one of the most popular things to do for fun.
Boating and Other Related Water Activities
This is actually a pretty broad category of water-based fun that can be had here because there are a lot of ways to enjoy the water safely.
Boats of all sizes can be found or, in some cases, rented all over the state of Alaska. Full-sized boats, kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, and even inflatable pool floats are taken out onto lakes or rivers.
These are all incredibly popular activities in the summer, whether it’s taking a boat out to fish or buying a $30 inflatable float from Costco and taking it out to relax on a lake.
These are just some of the most common things to do for fun in Alaska. Obviously, it depends on the person, as not everyone up here is going to enjoy everything on this particular list.
There are all sorts of other activities, like something called “Beer Ball” that I witnessed one time while walking through a baseball diamond in Juneau.
As I understand it, it’s essentially a co-ed softball game, but players are encouraged to drink a beer after reaching base safely.
I guess what I’m saying is that Alaskans mostly do the same things that everyone else does for fun, with the exception of things you can only do in places like Alaska that have a highly developed trail system or dozens of mountains to climb.
Chasing the Northern Lights is not uniquely Alaskan, but it is one of the few places where you can view them semi-regularly.
As a child, I never understood the Northern Lights or why the adults cared about them so much. Now that I’m an adult, I understand why people drive 50 miles or more just to see them.
Whether you’re planning an Alaskan vacation or if you’re considering moving here either short-term or long-term (we do have a lot of seasonal workers who only come up for the summer), I guarantee that you’ll have a lot of fun up here.