If you’ve ever wondered how a town called North Pole—that is actually about 1,700 miles (2,700 km) south of the magnetic north pole—got its name, you better watch out. I’m telling you why and how Santa Claus came to town.

Vintage Santa Claus House

It all began in 1952 when a development company purchased a homestead about 14 miles south of Fairbanks, subdivided it, and renamed it North Pole, wishing to attract a toy company to the area. While that did not come to pass, it did inspire North Pole city council member, Conrad Miller to open a trading post and name the business Santa Claus House. Meanwhile, fortune smiled on Miller’s roadside attraction as it served as the city’s first post office. The city government and other businesses followed suit (so-to-speak) and embraced the Christmas town theme.

North Pole City Hall in Winter

Today, North Pole is very proud of its patron St. Nicholas. The streets are decorated year-round with cheerful displays of candy canes and striped light poles that recall the Christmas Season for visitors young and old. Christmas-themed streets in North Pole include Santa Claus Lane, St. Nicholas Drive, Snowman Lane, and Kris Kringle Drive. There are also multiple holiday-inspired ice sculptures during winter months. Take a delightful drive along snowy Santa Claus Lane and admire the holiday decorations.

Hotel North Pole ExteriorA few miles from the city center is Chena Lake Recreation Area. This Fairbanks Borough park offers a variety of outdoor activities including, snowshoeing, snow-machining, skiing, walking, ice fishing, and aurora viewing photography in the winter. And it is a hot spot for swimming, boating, biking, camping and picnicking in the summer.

Other businesses to discover include Arctic Harvest, a farm, distillery and tasting room that grows its own grains. And if you’re looking for cheerful accommodations, Hotel North Pole offers extended stay lodging located in the heart of the area’s shopping district. Ask about their Santa Suite.

Large outdoor statue of Santa Claus in a traditional red suit with spruce trees and blue sky in backgroundOf course, North Pole's biggest attraction is a gift shop that is home to the Jolly Old Elf himself. The Santa Claus House is known for a 40-foot (the world's largest!) fiberglass statue of Santa Claus that stands outside the shop—beckoning visitors to stop and find presents for everyone on their list.

Each year, the current U.S. post office in North Pole receives hundreds of thousands of letters to Santa Claus, and thousands more from people wanting the town's postmark on their Christmas greeting cards to their families. Officially, the ZIP code 99705 is the ZIP code of Santa. A volunteer community program is also organized each year that responds to letters addressed to 1 Santa Claus Lane in North Pole.

Just a short 20-minute drive from Fairbanks, North Pole— “where the spirit of Christmas lives year-round”—will leave you whistling your favorite holiday tune.