Stories from Alaska

An insider's journey through Alaska's best kept secrets

The Top 10 Things Alaskans Are Most Grateful For

Alaskans have so much to be grateful for, beginning with the fact that they live in Alaska – one of the most beautiful and exciting places in the world! It takes a special breed to live here, and those who thrive in AK take great pleasure in enjoying some of the state’s truly unique features.

Here are the top 10 things that Alaskans are truly grateful for:

If THE MIDNIGHT SUN isn’t the most important factor supporting Alaskans’ well-being, it is certainly the most noticeable. The ever-present Midnight Sun fuels extended summer fun, while even the winter sun gently warms the shorter days and casts a soft glow for a few precious hours. The sun over Alaska turns standard garden items into monstrous veggies and transforms fields of brush and tundra into colorful bounties of berries and blooms. The sun makes national news when it sets on Alaska’s North Slope in November, beginning a long dark winter, and then goes viral on social media when it peeks over the horizon as a sweet orange sliver in mid-January. Alaskans love the sun so much, they pay their salutations twice a year with rollicking summer and winter Solstice celebrations around the state, from community-wide bashes to backyard bonfires with their “besties”.

ALASKA’S NATURAL BOUNTY provides surplus sustenance and tasty treats. Hardworking harvesters can provide for themselves, their families and even friends and neighbors with fish and moose, berries and vegetables grown in local gardens and greenhouses, and sourced in mountains and woods, tundra and waterways. Alaska’s spectacular seafood practically deserves its own category of appreciation – from salmon to halibut, shrimp to oysters, Alaskans know how fortunate they are to have access to this all-star lineup. Even those without green thumbs or hunting and fishing ambitions happily gobble up Alaskan goods. Even grocery stores, markets and restaurants in the lower 48 proudly sell Alaska-caught and -grown items. And there are popular farmers market scenes in most Alaska communities, where local farmers, fishermen and creative artisans offer the usual and unexpected (honey! chocolates! teas! breads!).

Kenai Backcountry Lodge garden.

Speaking of tasty Alaska treats, many residents will happily say “Cheers!” to Alaskan BEERS. Once a quiet cabin industry, brewers and microbreweries are now big business … and big-time tasty! Alaskans have always loved sipping suds, but they are especially proud of and loyal to the bounty of Alaska-based breweries that produce hundreds of flavors that satisfy practically every palate. Many breweries send their best to restaurants, bars and liquor stores across the state; a few also have popular followings Outside. Even the breweries and their tasting rooms have become happening hubs for Alaskans to hang out, catch up and compare notes on their newest and old favorite brews. Bonus points: many Alaskan breweries have food trucks parked curbside peddling tasty accompaniments like tacos, crepes and waffles!

Alaskans are particularly thankful for ALASKA’S OPEN SPACE providing an abundance of outdoor opportunities and hosting countless adventures for Alaskans of all action tolerance and activity levels. Some live in and refuse to leave Alaska because of only this! The state of Alaska delivers one square mile of space per resident and 24 national parks. Whether you climb Denali or Flattop, dig packrafting or backpacking, live to hunt and fish, like to cycle or ski across the state in the winter (or run, bike or hike along an urban trail in the summer), or just enjoy taking after-dinner walks under the Midnight Sun or electrifying northern lights, Alaska offers something for everyone who craves life outside. Breath it in: the spruce trees of the Interior and Southeast, the mountain air of Denali National Park and countless major mountain ranges, the flora and fauna of the tundra, the sea breeze of the state’s coastline that goes on and on and on, just like Alaska’s outdoors.

Alaska Native people make up around 15 percent of the state’s population, and ALASKA NATIVE CULTURE, their traditions and lifestyles, have an important presence nearly everywhere in the state. Alaska Native heritage and tales of life, survival and exploration are Alaska’s foundation and roots, and they are on display in museums across the state. Alaska’s native lifestyles can also be experienced in real-life communities, cultural centers and at special events. Alaska Native drummers, singers, storytellers, artists and athletes provide the state’s cultural heartbeat. And Alaska Native lifestyles and leaders are held with respect by all Alaskans. Those fortunate enough to experience traditional Alaska Native foods are particularly grateful for the opportunity to experience authentic Alaska still thriving in the 21st century.

ALASKA’S PERMANENT FUND DIVIDEND is an outrageous oddity to outsiders (and perhaps a bit of a political football if not a hand grenade) among Alaskans who seemingly all have passionate opinions on how it should best be used. But all Alaskans share one feeling on the matter: when the fund’s annual dividend check automatically deposits into their bank account every winter, there’s a whole lot of saving, spending, partying and vacation planning going on across the state.

No matter how long you’ve lived in Alaska, how many miles you’ve traveled, and how many magical moments you’ve experienced, Alaska’s NORTHERN LIGHTS are so cool that they never get old. The sight of the northern lights, otherwise known as “aurora borealis” simply stops everyone in their tracks. Some Alaskans obsessively track northern lights activity online all winter and wake up and bundle up at all hours to catch the unpredictable and dramatic displays of color illuminating Alaska’s night skies.

While it may be part of daily life in Alaska, encountering WILDLIFE remains a real treat for Alaskans. Iconic eagles, whales, bears and muskox always provide a thrill. Rare sights of wolves, wolverines, lynx and foxes make memories that folks talk about forever. Bird species are plentiful, active and interesting, especially the state’s official bird, the somewhat goofy ptarmigan. Even common critters like squirrels and hares make most Alaskans smile. For the most part, Alaskans live in harmony with their furry and feathered neighbors. That said, where else can you call into work saying you’re going to be late because there’s a moose blocking your driveway or a black bear on your porch?

Alaskans may feel isolated from the rest of the world and can even feel cut off from culture and activity in their own vast state. But ALAKSA’S NOVEL AND OFTEN ESSENTIAL FORMS OF TRANSPORTATION make the world and the state smaller, more accessible places. While large national commercial airlines hit the state’s big hubs, smaller, regionally-focused outfitters fly families, workers and adventurers to distinct and difficult-to-reach destinations in every corner of the state. Boats, from launches to power boats to ferries are big business for carrying cargo to and from and within Alaska, and they’re also key to transportation across the state. Alaska’s Marine Highway System of routes and ferries help many residents get from their port towns to neighboring communities or to larger towns for shopping, doctor appointments and connections to planes that will take them even further. Once winter hits Alaska’s villages, many use snow machines and frozen river highways to reach their neighbors. The Alaska Railroad system is a special gem for both locals and visitors that offers classic American transportation to glaciers and mountains, the big cities of Anchorage and Fairbanks, and quaint tourist towns of Seward and Talkeetna.  And Alaska airways are filled with an intricate network of local and regional planes (from bush planes to jets) to ferry Alaskans all over the state for work and for play.

Arctic Circle Flightseeing Tours from Fairbanks

Finally, while this may sound strange, Alaskans are also shamelessly appreciative for AN OCCASIONAL TASTE OF LIFE IN THE “LOWER 48”. Alaskans get downright giddy when national musical acts and fine arts performers travel up north to play on stages up here in Alaska. It’s not unusual for a national food chain to arrive in Alaska, open up shop, and have lines out their doors for months. And many Alaskans originally come from other states so they love it when Lower 48 friends and family arrive for a visit