The locals proclaim "There's No Place Like Nome," and they're right. From the outside, it may appear to be a mismatched collection of odd-shaped buildings piled up on the Norton Sound coast, many on stilts because of the permafrost, but Nome is more than the sum of its rag-tag parts. Nome is truly a state of mind, one of the few cities in Alaska that still resembles its earliest years. As you walk its streets, you can clearly relate to the early prospectors who stormed the same beaches looking for gold dust that passed through their fingers like sand.

It's been a century since the prospectors arrived, but Nome retains that frontier character especially in the entertainment downtown "district," where bars operate nonstop and local characters can be seen leading pet reindeer down the sidewalks.

More than a collection of characters, Nome is one of the few places that visitors can access the Arctic "bush" without resorting to expensive charters. There are more than 250 miles of roads leading into and out of Nome into the wilds of the Seward Peninsula. You never know what you will find outside of Nome, wildlife such as reindeer and muskox, and even the remains of an old steam engine that appears to have just stopped in the middle of the tundra one day.

Nome is also the center of a thriving trade in Iñupiaq arts and crafts, with many artists in the villages sending their work to Nome to be sold on consignment to visitors.

Nome was once part of the Alaska Airlines circle tour involving Fairbanks and Point Barrow, but large-scale tourism has fallen off in recent years. If you want to see both frontier and Native Alaska, Nome is a great place to start.