Greetings from the far North of Alaska!
I came back to Alaska to visit with family but I realized it’s been over five years since I’ve been home in the winter time! This trip has been amazing! And for my fellow winter travel lovers out there, such as myself, I wanted to share the top winter activities to do in Fairbanks Alaska!
My town of Fairbanks is counted as the largest city in the interior region of Alaska, with around 35,000 in the city proper and over 100,000 in the surrounding area. It is only 200 miles south of the Arctic circle. The University of Alaska Fairbanks is located here, the founding campus of the university system. And the beautiful and mighty Chena River flows through my very small city center.
Did you ever have the chance to go sledding as a child? If you haven’t and you want to – Fairbanks is the place to do it! Up at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, there is a great sledding hill that is just outside of the ice skating rink and it is epic! Definitely be careful though, that hill can be slick so you can slip or if you aren’t keeping an eye out a sledder can take you out too.
This is the classic thing to do in Alaska! Actually, we made a whole sport up here that draws the attention of the world, based upon a real-life needs. There are lots of options because here are a number of dog mushing (sledding) businesses in the Fairbanks area – so you have lots of options but I do recommend you do your homework to find a good place that treats their dogs well. Not to say that any of us Alaskans wouldn’t but better to be safe than sorry!
Chena Hot Springs
If you are into a wonderful winter (or anytime of year experience) outing to be had! Visiting Chena Resort is one of the more popular things to do in Fairbanks. This dream destination is a little over an hour from the Golden Heart of Fairbanks. However, that time can change based on the weather and road conditions. The resort features a restaurant, single or family cabins, two kinds hotel areas to sleep in, an ice museum (with an ice bar – you need to book the tour a head of time to go in). A slew of activities that you can book from a massage to dog sledding and everything in between and a hot spring lake that the average temperature is 106 degrees. Going back home in the winter, this is a “must experience” location for me to go back and visit time and time again. This trip was the first time I had actually stayed in the cabins here at Chena and it was a lot of fun! (I wouldn’t recommend it though if you aren’t much of a woodland person, they are all dry cabins).
I mentioned above about the Ice museum, this isn’t just an ice museum it is an ice museum, hotel and bar! I touched on it briefly above but I wanted to give this activity it’s due glory. As an Alaskan and someone who has gone to other ice bars around the world this is still one of the most interesting and amazing experiences that you will ever have with ice in your life! I highly recommend it and also recommend to book early! Only so many tickets are available daily and you DO NOT want to miss out!
Aurora Borealis Northern Lights Trip
If you follow Travel and Leisure, Fairbanks, Alaska is one of the 12 best places to view the northern lights. If you want to do a northern lights trip, Fairbanks is THE best place in the United States to do so. And the best time to go is in the winter generally between January and March. I have spent my whole life hearing people tell me, once they found out I was from Alaska, that they have always wanted to go visit to see the Northern Lights.
Just because you visit Alaska during those months does not mean that it is a guarantee that you’ll see the lights. There are a lot of factors. You need complete darkness (I grew up outside of city limits so I was privy to a lot of private shows), clear skies that are free of clouds, solar winds, and the sun’s activity. And even though it is cold, you’re going to have to be patient. Trying to see the lights means many late nights because the best viewing time is between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. It makes for very long nights but if/when you do see them, it’s nothing short of magic.
Ice Sculpture Competition
The Fairbanks Ice Sculpture Competition has been around for 30 years! Artists who work with Ice come from around the world to compete. Competitions include one person, two people, and multi-block exhibits open to a limited number of contestants.
This is a cold and grueling timed competition, so you can visit while the artists are still carving through all hours of the day and all temperatures that an Alaskan winter can throw at them. I always loved this competition! The public viewing always opened in March, so most years I would go out and enjoy a birthday outing for myself seeing all of the beautiful frozen creations. I always recommend you go early enough in the day where you can see the sculptures in daylight but nothing beats the view at night.
A day pass from Ice Alaska costs $16 and lasts all day. They provide a band so if you wish to leave and go back in the evening when the sculptures are lit up, you can. Season passes are available for those who wish to visit multiple times. 1800 College Rd, Fairbanks, AK 99709-4190 in the Tanana Valley Fairgrounds.
When it comes to very special and Alaskan specific experiences to be had in the winter-time, these are the top items you have to experience while you are visiting Fairbanks Alaska. There is so much more to see, taste and experience throughout all of Alaska but as far as the top things to do in my hometown in the winter…these will set you up for an amazing, true Alaskan experience. If you aren’t brave enough or hate the cold but still want to visit Alaska, check out my other blog posts about how to enjoy summer or a weekend in Alaska. Or feel free check out my book!