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Is the North Pole Real? Welcome to North Pole, Alaska

Travel to North Pole, Alaska, where you’ll find a real Santa Claus ,a reindeer academy, and volunteers who answer every letter to Santa.

As Christmas approaches, a sense of childlike wonder and curiosity fills the air. Kids, and even adults, might be wondering… Is the North Pole real? Look no further than North Pole, Alaska!

The city of North Pole sits nestled in the Alaskan wilderness with a population of only 2,243. Not to be confused with Earth’s geographic north pole, some 1,700 miles to the north, this North Pole started out as homesteads before it became a city in 1953.

Though the town’s holiday season gets busy, visitors can enjoy the sights—like Santa Claus’ house and the giant Santa statue—all year round. Take a tour of North Pole, Alaska, with our photos and meet some of its residents, including Mr. Claus himself!

Photos by Eric Engman

The real North Pole wooden city sign with the towns motto

1 of 12 Year-Round Yuletide

North Pole, Alaska, sits next to the Tanana River, just over 13 miles from Fairbanks. Residents of this town really get into the holiday spirit. They begin the season with a winter festival, fireworks, an ice carving contest, and lighting of the community Christmas tree. True to its motto, the residents of the city keep that spirit alive throughout the year.

A car in snow at the intersection of Kris Kringle and Donner street signs

2 of 12 Where the Streets Have Christmas-Themed Names

With street names such as Kris Kringle Drive and Donner Lane, this community has embraced its Christmas theme. Other unique streets include North Star Drive, Holiday Road, Monk Court, Blanket Boulevard and, of course, Santa Claus Lane. Need to do some business at City Hall? You can find it on Snowman Lane.

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Mr. Claus in a Santa hat standing outside in the real North Pole

3 of 12 Civic-Minded Santa

Mr. Santa Claus (yes, that’s his legal name) is a man on a mission. Born Thomas Patrick O’Connor, Mr. Claus is a clergyman, Christian monk, and two-term city councilman. His ministry focuses on child safety, health and welfare. As a monk, he has taken a vow of poverty. He strongly believes that it’s the act of giving, not receiving, that’s important. “In a world that often feels gripped by fear,” he said, “love is the greatest power and the greatest gift of all.”

Two women in red stand next to the map for Santa's Letters

4 of 12 They’ve Got Mail!

Sharon Beeman and Juanita Webb volunteer at Santa’s Letters. This nonprofit organization—located on St. Nicholas Drive—receives and respond to thousands of letters a year that children send to Santa in care of the North Pole. The wall behind them has a map with a pin in every city and town they’ve gotten a letter from. Letters arrive from all over the world, some even coming all the way from South America and Africa.

A bulletin covered in letters to Santa

5 of 12 Every Letter Answered

This wall of letters from kids—like Ashley, Chihiro, Dima, Karina, Trinity, and Zander—came from all over the world. While many of the letters ask for fun gifts (a fishing pole, a metal slinky, a keyboard, and a puppy) a lot of the letters simply wish Santa Claus, and his elves, a Merry Christmas. The volunteers at Santa’s Letters make sure they are all answered. In 2021, they replied to 16,000 letters!

A close-up of a letter to Santa addressed to the real North Pole

6 of 12 “Dear Santa”

Kids can write to Santa at the address above (Santa Claus 123 Elf Road North Pole 88888). This will get the letter to the North Pole post office, which in turn will send it to Santa’s Letters. Volunteers from all over the North Pole area, including the local Lions Clubs and fire departments from surrounding counties, pitch in to brighten up a child’s Christmas. “We love helping communities and helping kids,” says Sharon Beeman, vice president of Santa’s Letters. “That’s what it’s really all about.”

A smiling music teacher stands in front of her students with her arms raised up

7 of 12 Music Teacher Extraordinaire

Gwen Brazier grew up in North Pole, Alaska and was the music teacher at North Pole Elementary School (NPHS). In 2019, she was instrumental in helping the school win a GRAMMY Signature Schools Enterprise award, which recognizes exceptional musical programs at public schools with economic hardship. The money from the award was used to buy drumline equipment for the school. “[Music is] a bridge builder,” Gwen says. “There are so many different perspectives in our world. Music makes it possible to share that with kids while creating something beautiful and important for others to enjoy.”

READ MORE: The Healing Power of Holiday Music

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A candy cane sign for number 1 Santa Claus Lane in the real North Pole

8 of 12 Winter Wonderland

North Pole, Alaska is a town that loves to focus on the details. All over town there are cute nods to the town’s Christmas theme, including candy cane light posts and street signs. Even the local North Pole welding company entrance is graced with huge candy cane arches. Many of the buildings have Christmas-themed murals and designs. The snow and surrounding evergreen trees truly make this place a winter wonderland.

The exterior of Santa Claus House in North Pole Alaska

9 of 12 The Santa Claus House

When Conrad and Nellie Miller decided to build a trading post in North Pole, Alaska in 1952, they weren’t sure what to call it. As he worked on the building, Conrad (who was known to dress up as Santa around the holidays) heard a child walking by call out to him: “Hello, Santa Claus! Are you building a new house?” The rest is history.  

The Santa Claus House has since become a staple in the town. It includes a gift shop, with items made in Alaska, and a pastry shop. Go next door and you’ll find the Antler Academy (of Flying and Reindeer Games) which houses Santa’s reindeer and gives visitors the chance to meet them up close!  

People stand in front of the giant Santa statue outside of Santa Claus House

10 of 12 The Big Guy in the Red Suit

Nothing says Christmas like a 42-foot tall, 900-pound Santa Claus statue. It was built in the 1960s by Wes Stanley of Stanley Plastics as a prototype. When Santa’s House’s Conrad Miller saw it, he knew it was perfect for their outdoor space. Unfortunately, when it finally arrived, the statue was badly damaged. But Con Miller would not give up. He had the statue repaired and finally erected in 1983. Now it is a must-stop for North Pole tourists.

A funny parking sign with the Santa statue in the background

11 of 12 Sleigh All Day!

The sign speaks for itself! 

A tourist poses for a photo in front of a painted wall in the real North Pole

12 of 12 Say “Milk and Cookies!”

What started as a modest homestead has become a magical place whose residents are dedicated to bringing joy to children across the world. According to USA Today, even Bob Ross, creator and host of The Joy of Painting on PBS, was inspired by the beauty of North Pole while he was stationed at the nearby Eielson Air Force Base. Something about this town makes people want to keep the wonder of Christmas alive all year long. So, is the North Pole real? You bet it is.

Read Erin Janoso’s inspiring story from the December-January 1923 issue of Guideposts!

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