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Ends of the Earth -- Destination #9: Barrow, Alaska


If I had the means to visit the ends of the Earth, here are the ten places I would visit.

What ten "ends of the Earth" places would you like to visit? Leave me a comment. 

Destination #9 -- Barrow, Alaska

All I know about Barrow, Alaska, I learned from watching the zombie flick 30 Days of Night. In other words, I know nothing about Barrow, Alaska.

Barrow is the northern-most city in North America, and its main claim-to-fame may be that it’s the biggest city in the National Petroleum Reserve.  As far as I can tell, the city has never been attacked by zombies, but polar bears have been known to drop by for unexpected visits.

Current population is 4,000, and apparently folks have been calling Barrow and the immediate area home for the past 1,000 years. This amazes me, as there were probably countless other places that people could have homesteaded back then, and yet out of all the places in the world, they selected Barrow? Amazing. Did these people cross the Bering Strait and just get too tired to walk any further? Is whale blubber really that addictive?

Anyway… Temperatures stay below freezing from October to May, which makes Barrow’s winter just a little bit longer than the one we enjoy in Minnesota. One difference between Minnesota and Barrow: When the sun sets for the final time in November, it doesn’t rise again until a morning in January – hence, the 30 days of night. 

An average flight from Minneapolis to Barrow in December runs about $1,400 and requires connecting flights in Chicago and Anchorage, which is 725 miles to the south. Total time in the air is around 11 hours.

Tripadvisor.com users have rated Top of the World Hotel  as the best of Barrow’s three hotels. To paraphrase one review, it’s the best choice in a place without any choices. Now that’s a stellar review.

If I spent any time in Barrow, I would hit the beach. I don’t know if it is possible to swim in the Arctic, but apparently you can dip your toe in it. And if you’re there in August, you can do so under sunny skies at 10 p.m.

p.s.  I just checked, and apparently you can register at the Mexican restaurant (I assume there’s only one in town) for a “polar bear challenge” in the Arctic, and receive a free t-shirt and certificate suitable for framing.

Comments

  1. I'd recommend Airport Inn as the best of the hotels there myself followed by the King Eider Inn. My favorite time in Barrow is in the dark period and just after--auroras can be spectacular in clear dark skies. The people are interesting, skilled, and almost to a person very friendly, especially if visitors make a little effort to prepare themselves for the visit and show respect to the culture. There is a Heritage Center there that is worth the trip in itself. The Tuzzy library is a bright spot for sure. And Ilisagvik College, Alaska's only Tribal College, offers post-secondary education from a fully accredited institution with truly dedicated instructors.
    On swimming in the Arctic, you can do a dash in and out in the summer. I think the certificate you refer to is called Polar Bear Plunge or something like. Pepe's is the Mexican Restaurant and there are several other good restaurants as well, especially for lovers of Asian foods. Barrow is a fantastic trip destination and a great place to live as well, for those who can adjust--takes only about a year to know if you are one who can. I recommend a visit for anyone willing to explore the Inupiaq culture. You won't be disappointed.

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  2. Thanks for the comment. It sounds like you spent more than a few days in Barrow? I have often thought about spending an extended period of time in Barrow or some such place in Alaska, but it's easier to think about than to actually do, of course. Just getting there for a few days would suit me at this point. :)

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