9 Best Things to Do in Nome, Alaska: Go Beyond Gold

February 11, 2024   17 Comments »

In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the top things to do in Nome, Alaska. Go beyond gold history and the Iditarod to learn about all of the other unique things to do. Make the most out of your visit to this remarkable destination.


“There’s a million dollars out there that could be yours,” the guy at the table behind me says.

“I don’t know,” the man says in a doubtful tone, “the season is about half over.”

I continue to eavesdrop as they share numbers back and forth. The strange thing is that the first guy is probably right. There are a million dollars out there at the bottom of the Bering Sea, after all this is Nome, a gold town. As you would expect in a gold town, it feels like the Wild West as the whole cafe is filled with men talking about gold as a disgruntled-looking waitress tops off coffee cups around the Polar Cub Café.

When I arrived in Nome, AK Richard picked me up from the airport and took me to the little visitor center on Front Street. Right across from where the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race ends each year.

Within 2 minutes of being in the visitor center, I found myself holding a flask of gold flakes that a dredger had ‘scooped’ up. The Italian miner who owned this little flask of gold looked pretty haggard like he had been out at it for a few days, but he was pretty happy with his bounty.

Explore gold panning tours with AKAU Alaska Gold Adventure

I stared at the flakes and turned the flask to see the light reflecting off the gold flakes and thought – Nome is cool.

Nome, Alaska gold mining
A modern-day gold miner shows me his bounty…

I like Nome – this is my kind of town. No, I’m not going to move here, I just like to observe (however, there is an abundance of men). It’s gritty, dirty, hard-living, and that holds some weird allure to me.

Nome has a fascinating gold history, however I wasn’t there to pan for gold,
I was there to be nowhere.

Where is Nome?

map of alaska, where is nome

Nome, population 3,500, is located on the Seward Peninsula (once the Bering Land Bridge), along the shores of the Bering Sea, and is completely disconnected from the rest of Alaska. The only way in is via plane, or dogsled in the winter.

It has 3 roads, but none of those roads connect Nome to anything but remote communities. I was here to see what life was like in this old gold rush town and drive the roads to nowhere.

Hiring a Guide in Nome, AK

Richard Beneville, the founder of Nome Discovery Tours was my guide for Nome and the roads to nowhere. Richard, a 70-year-old former Broadway actor, is the most entertaining character in town.

“Thank God for Alaska – it saved my life,” Richard said with a hearty smile. He weaves his fascinating and theatrical story about his life, alcoholism, living above the Arctic Circle, and how he ended up in Nome as you spend the day with him.

I can’t stress this enough, meeting Richard Beneville is actually reason enough to go to Nome.

But if you want more reasons, I have plenty more reasons to go and things to do in Nome.

Update from 2020 – Mayor Richard Beneville, 75, was first elected mayor in 2015 and was serving his third term when he passed away in May of 2020. He was known for his flamboyant and outgoing personality, unconditional love for the town, and tireless work to revitalize the arts in the community.  I was saddened to learn of his passing, and I’m sure the whole town of Nome feels this great loss.

Hire a local guide from Nome Discovery Tours | Email them at [email protected]

9 Things to Do in Nome, Alaska

If you think a town like Nome sounds boring, think again. It has a unique personality and plenty of things to do that will keep you entertained!

1.  Drive Nome’s Roads to Nowhere

Three roads of no more than 300 miles total lead out of Nome like a spoke and connect some remote communities to Nome. The roads are gravel and only maintained from June to September – after that, winter takes over and all bets are off.

There are no gas stations or facilities on these roads, so leave prepared. Driving the roads is a great way to get a feel for the Arctic tundra landscape and gold history, do some photography, and see how locals live in the cabins that dot the landscape. Richard and I even stopped and talked to reindeer herders along the way.

2.  Visit the Site of the Last Train to Nowhere

We drove Council Road East out of Nome to view the Last Train to Nowhere (as it’s called today); a rusted-out train that is sinking in the tundra about 40 miles out of Nome. I love abandoned photography so I was eager to see this sorry, rusty sight.

The engines were originally used on the New York City elevated lines in 1881, then were shipped to Alaska in 1903 to serve the miners along this line to Nome. A huge storm in 1913 took out the tracks and stranded the rolling stock where it is today, literally dissolving under the influence of Bering Sea storms.

3.  Grab a Beer at the Safety Road House

Council Road is also the site of the Safety Road House, the last stop/checkpoint on the Iditarod. We pulled up and parked in the afternoon, we were the only car around. The outside looked rather rough and tumble and the inside was no different. The walls were plastered with one-dollar bills, there were some old bar tables, old sofas that looked rather scary in the bright daylight, and an old bartender who looked like he had been a fixture there for a while.

Discover why an Alaska train trip should be on your winter itinerary

Richard told me that not only is this place packed during the Iditarod, but when the bars close in town at 2 AM, many people drive out here as they are open later; basically bar hopping in nowhere.

4.  Walk Around Pilgrim Hot Springs

Pilgrim Hot Springs is a subarctic oasis full of tundra trees and bubbling hot springs found about 7 miles off Kougarok Road. From a distance, you see pine trees, balsam poplar trees swaying in the wind, and a few old buildings remaining from a Catholic mission and orphanage. Constructed in 1919, it served children whose parents were wiped out by the 1918 influenza epidemic. You can explore the abandoned buildings that look like a nuclear bomb hit nearby with old rusted bikes out in the grass, or you can try to take a dip in the hot springs…but this is not a tourist site – so enter at our own risk.

Read More about my journey to Plymouth Hot Springs  – a tundra oasis

pilgrim hot springs
Richard led me through the trees at Pilgrim Hot Springs. This is one of the few places you’ll find trees near Nome.
nome pilgrim hot springs
Pilgrim Hot Springs abandoned church

5.  Wildlife Watching

Migrating birds, tundra swans, reindeer, and muskox inhabit the tundra around Nome, so a drive out on any of the roads to nowhere will yield some great wildlife sightings – as well as some wild blueberry sightings. Richard was a pro at bird watching as we often screeched to a halt and Richard got out his binoculars to investigate sightings.

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6.  Don’t Miss the Nome Cemetery

Why am I telling you to go visit a cemetery? First, it has nice views of the city and the coast. Second, it is also the only place in Nome City where you’ll find trees. Third, I love visiting cemeteries when I’m traveling.

And finally, it has a cookie recipe on one of the gravestones….yes, a cookie recipe. Happy hunting.

7.  Visit Cold War Remnants in Nome

During the cold war, Nome was a pretty important place. Being the largest ‘town’ closest to Russia meant that there was a lot of potential for spying to go on. Richard took me to the top of Anvil Mountain, one of the highest points in Nome, not only to show me the view but to also show me some Cold War relics.

Discover where to find autumn colors in Alaska

You’ll see the abandoned White Alice Site remnants of a communication center used in the Korean War. It used tropospheric scatter for over-the-horizon links and microwave relay for shorter line-of-sight links.

white alice abandoned site
White Alice

8.  Eat Pho at Twin Dragon

After all of this sightseeing, you are bound to be hungry. Restaurants in Nome, Alaska are all adequate, but the most surprising one to me was the Twin Dragon. In this remote little town, I actually found delicious Pho (Vietnamese soup). I ate lots of pho in Vietnam, and this is some of the best I’ve had since! Go in, get a big bowl, and get warm.

vietnamese Food at twin dragon
Twin Dragon Restaurant – doesn’t look like much from the outside…but go in…trust me.

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9.  Have Breakfast at the Polar Cub Cafe

And if you want to go to the hub of Nome, then you must stop in at the Polar Cub Café. You can eavesdrop on gold dredging conversations, have a giant stack of pancakes, and also have a great view of the crashing waves in the Bering Sea.

breakfast at polar cub cafe in nome alaska vacation
Start your day off with a giant breakfast and some town gossip.

Nome isn’t a normal stop on the Alaska tourism route, but in my opinion, it should be! It’s full of local culture and history and will give you a whole different view of the state.

Where to Stay in Nome, Alaska

There aren’t many choices for hotels in Nome, Alaska but I stayed at Aurora Inn Nome. It’s basic – very basic.  But then again – you can expect that of anything you find in Nome!  I think I was the only tourist there, it was mainly filled with workers who were there for the mining business.

Read reviews for the Aurora Inn | Check prices and availability for the Aurora Inn

Tips for Visiting Nome

Learn more about things to do in Nome at the Nome Convention and Visitors Bureau

Car Rental:
Stampede Vehicle Rentals – (907) 443-3838 or 800-354-4606.
Dredge No.7 Inn – (907) 304-1270 (For B&B Guests only)
Stosh’s Rental, Inc. – (907) 434-1499

Essential Travel Gear to Pack for Nome

  1. Klean Kanteen 16oz (w/ Café Cap)
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    One of the things I like about Klean Kanteen is that they have a system where you really just need to purchase one insulated bottle and then use their interchangeable caps for your different needs; caps for sipping drinks, straws lids for cold drinks, or chug caps. One bottle is really all you need!

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    03/02/2024 08:47 am GMT
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    Packing organizers are the key to packing happiness – they turn your bag into a piece of furniture. I use mine to organize my different types of clothes, just like I would a dresser; one has t-shits, one has pants, one has sweaters. You get the idea – it’s packing bliss. I use and love Eagle Creek packing solutions.

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  4. Wallaroo Hats

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  5. Peak Design Tech Pouch
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See all of my Nome photography

Nome Photography

Disclosure:

I was a guest of Alaska Tourism during my time in Nome, however all opinions in this post are my own.



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