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Beginning in the heart of downtown Anchorage, the Iditarod race is Alaska's most treasured and celebrated sporting event. Here's all the information you ever wanted to know about this famed race, plus some helpful travel tips for the curious and the adventurous.

The Iditarod Sled Dog Race runs from Anchorage to Nome, a 1,049 mile-long stretch of some of the most majestic and treacherous terrain on earth. As if the distance wasn't enough, mushers and their dogs face some of the harshest conditions Mother Nature is capable of producing. Frequent blizzards often lead to whiteout conditions, while subzero temperatures combined with gale force winds can push the wind chill to -100°F. It’s pretty easy to see how the Iditarod earned its nickname: "The Last Great Race."

For many, the race embodies the spirit and history of Alaska and its people, serving as a symbolic link to the early days of Alaska’s statehood and to traditions commemorating the legacy of dog mushing. Let’s explore some of the rich history and traditions of this truly amazing race.

The Iditarod: a Quick History

Native Alaskan people have used portions of the Iditarod trail for hundreds of years, yet traffic on this historic route reached its peak during the gold rush around the turn of the 20th century. With all the northern ports ice-bound between October and June, sled dogs became the principal, if not only means of communication and transportation during the harsh Alaskan winters until the end of the 1920's, when the introduction of small aircraft revolutionized the state's commerce.

For much of the first half of the 20th century, dog teams were still commonly used for local transportation and work, particularly in Native villages. But the introduction of the snowmobile in the 1960's nearly brought about the extinction of dog mushing and all the tradition and lore that came with it.

Although a variety of sled dog races had been held since the beginning of the 20th century, in the early 1970's, a desire emerged for a large-scale race to honor the Alaskan tradition of mushing and preserve the historic mail and supply route that was the Iditarod trail. After much planning and hard work, the first race was run and completed in 1973. Since then, the race has grown in size and popularity every year. It’s now the largest sporting event in the state and has achieved international acclaim, drawing both participants and spectators from all over the world.

Get the Best Seat in the House

With 1,049 miles of trail to choose from, picking the right spot to watch the race isn't always easy. Come early March, you'll undoubtedly want to find yourself at the ceremonial starting point of the Iditarod on Fourth Avenue in downtown Anchorage. There, you'll find all of the best vantage points and situate yourself in the heart of the action. Anchorage is also the ideal base camp for those intent on traveling to the various stages and checkpoints along the Iditarod trail.

The Lakefront Anchorage is the perfect place to stay if you want to catch all the action and enjoy the pre- and post-race festivities. Situated on the banks of the tranquil Lake Spenard, The Lakefront Anchorage puts you within easy reach of the race's starting line, as well as a wide variety of restaurants, boutiques, and cultural attractions in bustling downtown Anchorage. Take in the action of the race during the day and relax in the lap of luxury at night! Witnessing the start of the Iditarod in person is a truly unforgettable experience - make sure your entire stay is unforgettable, too.