After a long winter of dark and cold, March brings…even more cold (and wind) to Alaskans living in the Bering Sea coastal town of Nome. But it also brings Iditarod season, and a two-week party often referred to as the “Mardi Gras of the North.” About a thousand people descend on this small city for the finish of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, the Lonnie O’Connell Iditarod Basketball Classic, and a host of other events – from golfing and demonstrations of Native games to live music and craft fairs.
In fact, the schedule of events rivals the early days of Nome and its gold rush hustle and bustle, with bars hopping, bands playing and competitions for everything from snow-sculpting to a chili cook-off.
Here’s a sampling of what’s typically on the schedule. (Check with the Nome Convention and Visitors Bureau for this year’s details.)
Note: Make your plans early and find a place to stay. Accommodations during Iditarod season can fill up a year in advance.
Tournaments and competitions
If you can mush, drink, cook or stand around in a wet t-shirt, there’s a competition for you during Iditarod. Or maybe you’d like to snowmachine 200 miles to Golovin and back? Arm wrestle a musher? Or play a few rounds of golf on the frozen Bering Sea (a section of which is painted green for the occasion)? Darts, pool, basketball and beer-pong all await the intrepid traveler.
Parties and special events
Bring your best Gold Rush era outfit for the Miners & Mushers Ball, talk shop at the Iditarod Kick-off party, and stay in town all the way until the Red Lantern Banquet (held after the final musher arrives in Nome). In between, you can take in events like the Girl Scouts Pancake Breakfast and the Airport Pizza Beer Tasting Extravaganza.
Arts and entertainment
Nome has a thriving performing and visual arts community, which you can see in action with live music at the local bars, theatre productions, a fine arts show, poetry readings and the arts and crafts fair. If you miss the highly recommended Iditarod Open Mic, when enthusiastic locals share their talents, you’ll have to stick around until November for the next one.
Learn about aspects of Nome history, wildlife, the Iditarod, and more with educational talks and movies held at the University of Alaska Northwest Campus, National Park Service, Carrie McClain Museum and the Nome Visitors Center.