15 Best Things to Do in Barrow, AK

Barrow, AK
Real Window Creative / shutterstock.com

Barrow, also known as Utqiagvik, is the largest city in Alaska's North Slope Borough.

The Inupiat people have lived here for thousands of years, building a long history of whaling that dates back millennia.

Likewise, the place features remarkable natural wonders that you can’t find anywhere else.

The harsh climate and natural dangers might make visiting this place hard, but extensive preparation will help you.

Here are the best things to do in Barrow, AK:

Go Wildlife Viewing

A snow owl flying over Utqiagvik
Agami Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com

Another highlight of Utqiagvik is the rich biodiversity and the many wildlife species you can find there.

Millions of birds fly across its skies in the spring as part of their yearly migration journeys.

You’ll also find thousands of beluga and bowhead whales around this time.

An arctic fox at Utquiagvik
Agami Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com

The area's geography means traveling through the central road systems will give you an exceptional viewing experience for these animals.

If you want to see more sea creatures, walk along the beach, and see them lolling about.

Take appropriate precautions to ensure no harm comes to you, your traveling companions, or the wild animals.

A male king eider on Utquiaqvik's water
Agami Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com

Join the Tundra Tours

The Tundra Tour lasts for several hours and will give you an excellent look into the area's culture.

You’ll tour an Inupiat village and visit culturally specific destinations to meet with indigenous residents and learn about their history and heritage.

You’ll also meet several local artists, so ask them about their work and check out their work.

Finally, you’ll see various cultural entertainment presentations.

Visit the Utqiagvik Whale Bone Arch

Utqiagvik's iconic Whale Bone Arch
Michelle Holihan / Shutterstock.com

On a beach outside Utqiagvik stands one of the area's most unique attractions, the vast whale bone arch.

You'll find the arch at the border between the northernmost city in the United States and the rest of the Arctic Ocean.

Scenic view of the Whale Bone Arch
Wildnerdpix / Shutterstock.com

It stands on a beach blanket with black and grey pebbles littered with broken pieces of whale bone.

Experts date the whalebone arch to the end of the nineteenth century.

This arch is also known as “The Gateway to the Arctic” and symbolizes the city’s long and historical relationship with whaling.

Dine at the Niggivikput Restaurant

Traveling through Utqiagvik can build up an appetite.

The activities in the area are physically demanding; you must eat food that’ll give you energy for your journey.

Luckily, Niggivikput Restaurant prepares filling, delicious meals you’ll surely love.

You can try their country-fried steak or their chorizo and egg for breakfast.

It’s the most important meal of the day, so make sure to order a large one.

For lunch, you can sample different kinds of salads or various sandwiches; remember to pair them with egg rolls or potato skins for your appetizer.

The best time to dine at this restaurant is when you're tired from sightseeing and more than ready to rest with a good meal and chat about everything you’ve seen.

So, when that time comes, order their steaks, pork chops, or spaghetti while you take the time to relax and absorb the warm atmosphere.

Swim in the Arctic Ocean

Aerial view of Arctic Ocean from Utqiagvik
Real Window Creative / Shutterstock.com

When you’re at the edge of the world, you’ll feel like everything around you, including yourself, is limitless.

Why don’t you put that to the test and see how far you can go?

Take a dip in the Arctic Ocean, feel the cold seep into your bones, and push through the pain to do something few people get to do.

The waters of Arctic Ocean
Wildnerdpix / Shutterstock.com

However, before you embark on this adventure, prepare well for it.

Water in the Arctic drops down to almost 30 degrees Fahrenheit, so make sure you’re physically fit for swimming there.

Remember that an activity like this isn’t for everyone.

Take as many precautions as possible to avoid injury or worse.

Go Fishing at the Emaiksoun Lake

This lake is in the North Slope Borough and is a prime spot for fishing, spinning, or baitcasting.

If you enjoy fishing, then you’re in luck.

The chances of getting a great catch from this lake are pretty high.

Fishing is a waiting game, and there’s beautiful scenery eager for you to appreciate it while waiting for the fish to take the bait.

It’s also vital to know Alaska’s local fishing laws before doing anything.

Bring the appropriate licenses so you won’t run into any problems.

Visit the Iñupiat Heritage Center

Traditional clothing displayed in Iñupiat Heritage Center
Rickmouser45, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

By the time American whalers first stepped foot in Alaska, the Yupik and the Iñupiat peoples had been whaling the nearby seas for millennia.

When commercial whaling began there, these people actively participated in the trade as crews.

They also shared their knowledge with less experienced whalers.

The Iñupiat Heritage Center was dedicated in 1999 and currently houses several exhibits and artifact collections to illustrate the many stories that occurred back then.

They also have a traditional room where people can teach and learn the traditional crafts that have sustained the whalers of Alaska for thousands of years.

You can also check out the library, read local history, and visit the gift shop where you can buy a few souvenirs.

Try the Dishes of Arctic Pizza

Arctic Pizza is one of the best pizza places in Utqiagvik, and you have to try their pizzas at least once.

Their pizzas come fresh and hot on large pans overflowing with savory flavors.

They offer different flavors: classics like pepperoni and mozzarella cheese and more exciting options.

The restaurant also serves other Italian dishes, such as fettuccine and lasagna, so try those, too.

Head to Point Barrow

Waters of the arctic at Point Barrow
Wildnerdpix / Shutterstock.com

Have you ever imagined yourself standing at the edge of the world?

In stories where the Earth is flat, you'll stare down into space as the seas drained into nothingness.

Thank goodness the Earth is round; however, some places will make you feel you’ve reached the planet's edge.

Point Barrow is the northernmost point of the United States, located between the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.

It’s the closest most people will ever get to the North Pole, and it’s a visit you should remember.

Captain Beechey named it in 1826 to honor Sir John Barrow, one of the most distinguished members of the naval administration at the time.

The captain's crew, including Thomas Elson and William Smith, discovered the spot after he had sent them on a rowboat.

Journey to Barrow Beach

Have you ever imagined yourself standing at the edge of the world; in the stories where the earth is flat, you would be staring down into space as the  seas drained into nothingness.

However, the edge of the world doesn’t really exist, but there are places that make you feel like you’ve reached the point where you feel like the world can just stop.

Barrow Beach can be found right at the heart of Utqiagvik, and the sight of it will surely take your breath away.

Take a walk along the rich black sand and watch, take a dip in the water, and appreciate the beautiful and majestic view all around you.

Walk along the Lagoon Boardwalk

You can find the Lagoon Boardwalk near the Top of the World Hotel, and it’s a great place to visit if you’re looking for a walk amidst the lovely scenery.

Enjoy the cold breeze and the relaxing vibe of the area.

You can even snap a few pictures of the awe-inspiring landscape all around you or use that walk as a chance for some peace.

Use the time for some quiet meditation.

It’s not every day you interact with the charm of a peaceful and natural area, so take advantage of it and let the peace of your surroundings soothe whatever chaos inside you.

Marvel at the Winter Auroras

Majestic Winter Aurora of Utqiagvik
Gabriel Johnson / Shutterstock.com

During the winter, the area experiences a phenomenon that only happens in the regions near the north pole: the Aurora Borealis.

If you visit during the cold months, go outside at night and watch the night sky light up in glowing green, purple, and blue.

It’s an experience that’s impossible to forget.

You'll feel like you’ve stepped into a fantasy novel, watching threads of magical light dance across the midnight sky.

The natural light show will surely take your breath away, and you should let it.

You can also look up some stories about the Aurora Borealis.

Different cultures, including the indigenous residents of Utqiagvik, tell various legends about the Borealis.

It’ll undoubtedly make for a lot more interesting if you can picture the other tales that people across time and continents have told about the same night sky.

Join the Nalukataq: Utqiagvik Whaling Festival

When visiting Utqiagvik in June, the whaling festival is an unmissable event.

This traditional event takes place after the spring whaling season to give the locals the chance to say thanks after a successful hunting season.

You’ll see the traditional songs and dances of the Inupiat people and other activities.

Get a taste of native Alaska by joining the festivities.

Try Liliana’s Fresh Bake and Cruz’s Mexican Grill

Another restaurant you can visit in Utqiagvik would be Liliana’s at 3210 Paneatak Street.

The restaurant serves Mexican dishes that are absolutely to die for.

Try the tacos or enchiladas, maybe even the tamales or the burritos.

Utqiagvik may be at the northernmost edge of the United States, but it’s still an area where culture converges, and it’s still a spot where you can find the most exciting dishes and delicacies.

Visit the Will Rogers and Wiley Post Monument

On August 16, 1935, the humorist Will Rogers and aviator Wiley Post died in a plane crash in Utqiagvik, then called Barrow.

The flight was supposed to be a happy-go-lucky aerial tour of Alaska, a possible prelude to a much bigger trans-Siberian flight to Moscow.

However, as they were flying over Alaska, they encountered low-visibility conditions.

Then, they crashed.

The first monument was erected on the site of their death just three years after it happened.

Thousands of their American admirers organized and paid for the monument.

It comprised two cubes, one on top of the other; the monument was designed in Oklahoma and built directly on the site.

Fifteen years later, Jesse Stubbs built the second monument.

It was ten feet taller than the first, an obelisk made purely of poured concrete in four rectangular blocks.

Final Thoughts

When you go to the northernmost part of the United States, you’ll find many things you don’t see every day.

Every step feels like an adventure.

Follow the footsteps of the sailors and explorers who sailed there hundreds of years ago.

There’s always something new to discover and something else to learn.

Take as much time as you need to explore Utqiagvik.

💌
Spotted a mistake, have some feedback, or just want to chat with our editorial team? Click here to get in touch.
✍️
Find out more about Travel Lens and read our editorial guidelines here.