Alaska is America’s largest state, with land area bigger than Texas, California, and Montana combined. Home to 731,545 people, it’s also one of the least populated states in the country.
Alaska is the number one cruise destination in the United States. Fairbanks is typically the base for most visitors. Most cruise packages include a voyage up the Prince William Sound for watching whales and glaciers and a tour by bus or train to visit the Denali National Park. Between mid-August and September, tourists flock to Fairbanks to see the northern lights (also called aurora borealis), the astronomical phenomena that creates a natural light display.
The Alaskan economy relies on the oil and gas industry, which pays over $3.1 billion in state and local taxes annually. The industry accounts for about one-half of the overall economy and one-quarter of jobs in the state. Tourism is also a major economic driver, generating more than $1.4 billion in payroll. The Alaskan cruise industry includes about 2,175 local businesses that provide services.
In 1859, Russia offered to sell Alaska to the United States, but the sale was delayed until after the American Civil War. In 1867, Secretary of State William Seward agreed to buy Alaska for $7.2 million. Alaska was transferred to the U.S. that year, but the government paid little attention to it for a long time. Critics dubbed Alaska “Seward’s Folly.” In 1896, the discovery of gold in the region vindicated Seward. Buying Alaska boosted U.S. power in the Asian-Pacific region. Alaska became the 49th state in 1959. Juneau is the state capital.
Alaska is one of the most expensive places in America, mostly because goods need to be shipped from the mainland. Also, the state’s dark and cold winters cause high energy bills. The good news is, there are no statewide income or sales taxes in Alaska. Even better – residents receive money annually from the Alaska Permanent Fund, which comes from oil and natural gas revenues. Residents pay 0% to 9.50% in local sales taxes.
The extraordinary size of Alaska means the weather can vary dramatically from region to region. In the winter, the farther you go north, the darker it gets. Barrow, the northernmost town in the state, doesn’t see the sun for 67 days. But Anchorage, in south-central Alaska, gets over five hours of daylight. Alaska is called the Land of the Midnight Sun because some areas, such as Barrow, experience the midnight sun for over 80 days in the summer. You can expect about 74 inches of snow annually in Alaska, more than the national average of 28 inches.