You don’t go to Nome for the bright lights. Or if you do, they’re the ones in the sky rather than the ones on the street. With a tiny population of just 3500, Nome is one of the least hip and happening places in Alaska. The nightlife is noticeable for its absence, the shopping opportunities are next to none, and your chance of stumbling on a Michelin starred restaurant is nonexistent. Does that mean it’s not worth visiting? Not at all. It may, quite literally, be on the road to nowhere, but it still has a ton to offer. If you’re planning a visit, don’t miss checking out these 10 best things to do in Nome, Alaska.
10. Ride the Road to Nowhere
As ottsworld.com points out, Nome isn’t the most well connected of places. Only three roads lead in and out, with each acting as a connection to the remote communities on its borders. They’re not well maintained and come winter, it’s hit and miss whether you’ll be able to get more than a few minutes down any one of them without losing either a wheel or your sanity. If you do manage it, you’re in for a treat. Although they don’t really lead anywhere, they’re an unbeatable way of getting a feel for the landscape, the history, and the very unique way of life of this fascinating region.
9. Climb Anvil Rock
Drive just a little north of Nome and you’ll stumble on Anvil Rock, a piece of exposed bedrock at the top of a mountain that’s so named after the blacksmith’s anvil it resembles. As Alaska.org notes, while the rest of Nome has changed and evolved over the years, Anvil Rock has stayed reassuringly unchanged, providing an unmistakable landmark for travelers arriving by sea, by air, or overland. The hike to the top is brief (expect it to take no more than an hour all-round) but delightful, offering stunning views over Nome, the Bering Sea, Cape Nome, and the Kigluaik Mountains and plenty of wildlife spotting opportunities.
8. Take a Tour of the Cold War Remnants
Nome is the biggest town in the US closest to Russia. That might not mean a lot now, but back in the days of the cold war, it meant everything. Today, the abandoned radar installations at the White Alice Site serve as a chilly reminder of just how close the world got to a third world war. It’s a fascinating place to visit, if a little eerie. It also offers gorgeous views over Nome and the surrounding area.
7. Take a Dip at Pilgrim Hot Springs
If you thought Alaska was Cold with a capital C, just wait until you visit Pilgrim Hot Springs. A subarctic oasis packed with bubbling hot springs and tundra trees, it grew to prominence in the early 20th century after gold miners decided to take advantage of its thermal waters to build a community. Today, it’s a ghost town, but the remnants of the abandoned buildings still remain. It’s definitely worth exploring, but take care if you decide to take a dip in the springs – this isn’t a tourist spot, and if you get into any difficulty, no one will hear you shout.
6. Indulge in Some Wildlife Watching
Regardless of where you go in Alaska, wildlife spotting should feature highly on your agenda. Nome is no exception. Home to three different habitats of sea, wetlands, and high alpine tundra, the region is blessed with a huge variety of wildlife, including over 150 migratory species of birds and several resident species like the Willow Ptarmigan, Common Ravens, and Snow Buntings. Wherever you go, keep your binoculars to hand – you never know when you might need to use them.
5. Take a Fishing Tour
Why buy dinner when you can catch it instead? Unless you’re a die-hard vegetarian, a day of fishing is guaranteed to add some spice to your Alaskan adventure. The waters surrounding Nome are teeming with salmon, char, and grayling, all of which promise an exciting day of fishing and an even more exciting plate of food at the end of it. If you’ve got the skills, it’s easy enough to hire a boat and venture out alone. Otherwise, there’s plenty of skippers around who’ll happily organize a tour of the area’s best fishing spots.
4. Get Inspired by the Northern Lights
There’s not much by way of clubs and bars in Nome, but that doesn’t mean you need to spend your evenings tucked up in bed with Netflix and a bottle of red. If you’re in the area between November and March, you’ll be perfectly primed to enjoy the spectacular Northern Lights. You won’t see much from the town itself, but venture just a mile outside its borders, and the sky will transform into a vivid array of color.
3. Check out the Iditarod Sled Dog Race
Affectionately known as the Alaskan Mardi Gras, the Iditarod Sled Dog Race is a must-do if you’re in Nome in March (and if you’re not, now’s the time to start planning your next trip). The 10-15 day race covers 1,049 miles in total with up to around 50 mushers showing off their skills (not to mention those of their dogs) as they race through the wilderness in the hope of winning the much-coveted first prize. This is more than just a race: as Wikipedia notes, it’s a symbolic link to the early history of the state and is connected to many traditions commemorating the legacy of dog mushing. It’s also a whole lot of fun, so be sure to check it out if you get the chance.
2. Visit Bering Land Bridge National Preserve
Once upon a time, Asia and North America were connected by a land bridge. The bridge may be long gone, but its remnants can still be seen at the fascinating Bering Land Bridge National Preserve. Other than the bridge, the center offers a unique opportunity to learn more about the local and historical animals of the region. If you’ve any kind of interest in natural history, the chance to get up close and personal with the bones of mammoths and mastodons, short-faced bears and saber-toothed tigers shouldn’t be missed.
1. Tour the Katirvik Cultural Center
Described by The Crazy Tourist as “small but very educational,” the Katirvik Cultural Center is a must-do for anyone who wants to learn more about the culture and traditions of Alaska. Packed with photographs, artifacts, and personal stories, it offers a fascinating glimpse into the history and evolution of this intriguing part of the country.