By Dimitra Lavrakas
Senior Voice Travel Correspondent 

Pay a visit to the big man and his reindeer


December 1, 2018

Courtesy Santa Claus House

The Santa Claus House is hard to miss on the Richardson Highway in North Pole.

You're never too old to sit in Santa's lap. It's true. One year I was in Nordstrom admiring their stunning Santa Claus when a woman next to me confessed she still visits Santa every year.

There is something about a Santa Claus that pulls on your heartstrings no matter how old you are.

I look back at one photo of me sitting in Santa's lap and I have a look of total adoration. This is perhaps one reason my life companion is a hippie version of Santa.

And still, a man with a white beard and long white hair still makes my head turn.

Head north to see Santa

At North Pole's Santa Claus House "smiles are guaranteed."

Sixty-nine years ago, Con and Nellie Miller arrived in Fairbanks, Alaska, in with a mere $1.40 in their pockets and two kids in tow.

They scrambled to find work to support themselves.

While out trading for fur in the villages, Con wore a Santa suit each Christmas, to the wonder of the local children.

Three years later they built a trading post in North Pole and when Con was recognized as being the Santa who visited communities, he was asked by a local youngster if he was building a house.

And the Santa House was born. At first it was more of a store, housing the local post office for 20 years until the state rerouted the Richardson Highway and bypassing the Millers. So they built a new store and the Christmas offerings grew.

Today you can visit year-round to see Santa.

If you can't make it there the next best thing is an original letter from Santa for only $9.95 and based on the text you provide, a genuine deed to one-square-inch of North Pole property for $9.95 or a combination of both for $14.95. They come with a North Pole postmark, an exclusive "Santa's Official Mail" seal, a jumbo sticker proclaiming the bearer to be on "Santa's Good List," a keepsake photo of Santa, and an exclusive Santa dollar, printed on Santa Claus House stationery, and mailed to arrive just before Christmas day.

You can purchase these online or by mail at Santa Claus House, 101 St. Nicolas Drive, North Pole, AK 99705.

You don't need directions, it's right on the Richardson Highway. Visit for hours or call 907-488-2200 or toll free,1-800-588-4078.

In Alaska reindeer are a natural

What could be more in spirit of the holidays but reindeer? A domesticated version of the caribou has a leading role in Anchorage.

Star the Reindeer, from the Palmer reindeer farm, is the seventh in the Star lineage after the sixth Star died last year. It's the first male, and yes, still lives downtown near the Park Strip.

You'll find him in Albert Whitehead's yard at 840 West 10th Avenue. Whitehead takes Star for a walk every day at the park and if you're lucky you'll chance upon them there.

It's a great way to see a reindeer up close and personal if you've never seen one. Bring a grandchild along.

A herd of reindeer also roam the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center south of Portage on the Seward Highway. AWCC takes in orphaned and injured animals and also cares for a herd of wood bison on 110 acres for reintroduction into the wild.

It's open Friday through Monday during the winter from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with the last entry at 4 p.m. Senior entrance is $12; adults age 18 to 65, $15; ages 6 to 18, $10, and under, free.

The center is hosting a fun-filled holiday event on Dec. 8 for anyone who has ever wanted to take their photo with a reindeer. Meet Santa and Mrs. Claus, enjoy tasty holiday treats, and create an ornament for your own Christmas tree. For this day only, everything in the Be Wild Gift Shop will be 5 percent off.

Dimitra Lavrakas photo

Bruce Ware, formerly of Tenakee Springs, poses as Santa through a window encrusted with ice crystals.

This event is free with admission and fun for families and all ages.

Festivities happen in Bison Hall from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with last entry at 3 p.m. There'll be photo opportunities with reindeer, Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus.

A Santa photo tradition

Dakota Lassley, store administrator for Nordstrom in Anchorage, said the store no longer has a Santa there, but Fifth Avenue Mall will.

Starting in November and through Christmas Eve, St. Nick will be available for photos from late morning to early evening. Go to and click on events. You can even book a time online and skip the lines. Photo package options run from $24.99 up to $49.99.

You could visit Star and then stroll over to the mall for a special holiday treat.


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