Fairbanks, Alaska is really a winter wonderland when the snow flies. The rugged fantastic thing about the snow-covered roads, evergreen bushes, and big mountains of the Alaskan Inside will little question dazzle guests. Fairbanks prides itself in being the principle US vacation spot for seeing the aurora borealis and guests from across the globe make a pilgrimage to Fairbanks every winter to catch a sight of the magical, dancing Northern Lights.
There are such a lot of issues to do in Fairbanks in winter that you simply doubtless will run out of time earlier than you run out of enjoyable actions! From snowshoeing to canine mushing to sizzling springs to museums and extra, you gained’t need to miss out on a winter journey to Fairbanks.
On this submit, we share our high issues to do for guests searching for winter journey in Fairbanks, Alaska.
Attending to Fairbanks
Fairbanks is the biggest metropolis within the Alaska Inside with a inhabitants of round 35,000 within the metropolis, and 100,000 within the surrounding space. It’s fairly far north – solely 200 miles from the Arctic Circle!
Alaska Airways and a handful of different airways have direct winter flights into Fairbanks from Seattle (3 hours 50 minutes). Delta flies on to Fairbanks from Minneapolis (5 hours 10 minutes).
The Fairbanks airport is just some miles outdoors of town middle, and most of the accommodations present free airport shuttle service, making Fairbanks a surprisingly easy-to-reach winter vacation spot.
It’s also possible to select to fly into Anchorage and drive right down to Fairbanks on Route 3 with a one-way automobile rental. This can be a 6.5 hour drive and it passes via Denali Nationwide Park, which stays open with restricted amenities all through the winter. Needless to say you’ll be driving in winter situations, so solely go for this selection in case you’re comfy driving in winter and have flexibility in your schedule in case there’s a storm.
Transportation In Fairbanks
Renting a automobile is a should in Fairbanks, particularly throughout the winter. Taxis, Ubers, and Lyfts are scarce – I spent an hour one afternoon ready for a Lyft that by no means arrived. Fairbanks does have a bus service (MACS), with eight traces, however if you wish to chase the aurora borealis, get out into nature, and even simply make a fast journey to the grocery retailer, the one dependable approach to get there’s by automobile.
Guide the rental automobile far prematurely, as there’s typically a scarcity of obtainable leases. Whereas all of the rental automobiles have studded winter tires, it’s useful if you’re accustomed to driving on snow and ice. I additionally extremely advocate getting further windshield insurance coverage as a result of Alaska doesn’t salt its roads for traction. As an alternative, they solely use gravel and this could trigger a fair proportion of cracked windshields and different harm.
Finest Time to Go to Fairbanks in Winter
The winter season in Fairbanks begins in mid-October and extends via late March. Winter Solstice usually sees about 3 hours and 41 minutes of daylight. The phenomenon often known as “Civil Twilight” happens when the solar by no means actually rises above the horizon.
To have the next proportion probability of seeing the Northern Lights whereas nonetheless having sufficient daytime to do different outside actions, the very best time to go to Fairbanks is in February or March. By the point I left Fairbanks on the finish of February, I used to be handled to virtually twelve hours of daylight, however nonetheless had loads of darkness to see the Northern Lights.
Timing your go to within the later a part of the winter season may also give you a chance to expertise the World Ice Artwork Championships that happen yearly in Fairbanks from Mid-February via Mid-March.
A Be aware on Alaska Time:
When you plan on chasing the Northern Lights in Alaska, be ready to shift your sleeping and waking hours drastically. Aurora chasers and midnight solar seekers will discover that their sense of time shifts when visiting the far north. Construct time into your schedule for relaxation if you’re chasing aurora borealis. Naps are key. I didn’t sleep via the evening as soon as throughout my week-long keep as a result of I used to be so targeted on seeing the Northern Lights that are usually most lively from 11:30pm-3am.
The place to Keep in Fairbanks
Fairbanks gives a variety of lodging for each kind of traveler, together with majestically scenic lodges, Airbnbs, and basic Mattress & Breakfasts with educated hosts who’ve intimate data of the realm. Fairbanks additionally has three hostels and a plethora of accommodations and motels.
Throughout my go to, I stayed on the charming Pike’s Waterfront Lodge, positioned on the fringe of city near the airport. The lodge is adorned with Alaskana of all types, from taxidermy to walrus tusk carvings, native artifacts, and a really fantastic assortment of work.
Pike’s proprietor Jay Ramras’ portray assortment of Alaska scenes rivals any of the Alaskan Inside museum collections. I additionally loved the aromatherapy steam room, the aurora conservatory, and walks on the frozen Chena River simply outdoors of the property.
What to Pack for Fairbanks in Winter
Layers, layers, layers. You’ll need lots of layers to be comfy for winter adventures in Fairbanks. Fairbanks can attain temperatures of minus-40 levels within the winter and guests must be ready for excessive chilly. Throughout my keep, the temperature shifted over 40 levels, from -10F to 30F. Keep away from sporting cotton as a lot as attainable as a result of cotton absorbs moisture and traps it subsequent to your pores and skin and can make you are feeling colder. Keep on with wool and artificial materials to your winter go to to Fairbanks.
To make sure you keep heat and comfy in your winter journey to Fairbanks, I like to recommend packing:
- Wool or artificial base layers: a lengthy sleeve shirt and leggings are key for staying heat.
- Heat mid-layers: carry an insulated artificial down jacket to your journey
- Outer parka: my -25 diploma rated parka was fantastic for all of the frozen waits for the aurora and all different outside actions.
- Heated gloves and heated socks: I used to be actually grateful to have the ability to hold my extremities heat for lengthy durations outdoors
- Wool hat: I typically discovered that I wanted a hat together with my parka hood even when the temperature was simply within the low teenagers.
- Neck gaiter
- Wool socks
- Insulated snow pants: I liked my Columbia Girls’s Wild Card Pants as a result of they weren’t as puffy as downhill pants and with a base-layer beneath, I used to be a lot heat and will enter outlets and eating places with out feeling like an ungainly strolling snowwoman.
- Polarized sun shades: snow is tremendous vibrant and reflective when the solar comes out
- Swimsuit: in case you plan to soak at Chena Sizzling Springs
Don’t need to purchase a bunch of cold-weather gear to your journey to Fairbanks? Alaska Aspect gives rental gear to your go to to Fairbanks and they’ll even meet you on the airport so that you don’t freeze in your approach to your resort!
>> Learn Subsequent: Winter Climbing Garments & Chilly Climate Layering Fundamentals
Finest Issues to Do in Fairbanks in Winter
Aurora Borealis Looking out
Fairbanks is world-renowned for aurora borealis viewing as a result of it’s positioned below the “Aurora Oval”, a ring-shaped dome over the Geomagnetic North Pole the place aurora exercise is concentrated. Seeing the Northern Lights in particular person actually is a wide ranging expertise and was a spotlight/obsession throughout my week-long go to to Fairbanks this winter.
What’s the aurora borealis precisely?
The sunshine from the aurora is brought on by energetic electrons from Earth’s magnetosphere placing atoms and molecules within the Earth’s higher environment. The inexperienced shade is atomic oxygen and the pink/pink is atomic nitrogen.
Based on Geophysicist Dr. Don Hampton of the College of Alaska at Fairbanks, “the aurora is a part of a photo voltaic system-wide phenomenon we now name area climate.” It’s a bit sophisticated however principally, when the photon vitality from a beforehand excited atom or molecule begins to calm, that photon vitality emits mild and on a big scale, creates the dazzling show of the shifting, shifting northern lights. If you wish to be taught extra, Dr. Hampton has a pleasant rationalization of the aurora phenomenon on this Science Friday phase.
You possibly can’t simply look out your window in Fairbanks and see the Northern Lights more often than not. Even in such a small metropolis, the sunshine air pollution makes seeing the aurora moderately tough, however not unimaginable.
Touring away from town lights is useful however much more vital is to seek out areas the place cloud protection clears.
Listed here are some suggestions for seeing the Northern Lights in Fairbanks:
- Discover a place with darkish skies, away from town lights
- Be prepared to remain up late; the very best auroras are from 11:30 pm to three:00 am.
- Gown warmly, and don’t overlook hand and ft heaters.
The Discover Fairbanks web site has a really correct aurora tracker that mixes each the aurora predictions, the climate forecast, and the time of day to give you a really correct guess of whether or not or not the aurora might be seen. In case you are out searching for the aurora by yourself, the Fb group Alaska Aurora Addicts is an efficient group to affix.
Utilizing a tour firm to seek out the lights is de facto useful, particularly in case you don’t have a rental automobile. I spoke with a lot of individuals who liked their expertise with Aurora Chasers and their pictures had been unimaginable.
It’s useful to go not less than as soon as with an skilled information as a result of the aurora doesn’t appear like the colourful pictures to the bare eye. Generally it simply appeared like white smoke. As I discovered extra, I received higher at recognizing it however I typically needed to snap a photograph on my cellphone to substantiate that what I used to be was the precise aurora borealis. Aurora looking requires tenacity, endurance, and a little bit of luck.
>> For an unforgettable expertise, guide a Moonlight Canine Sled, Dinner, & Northern lights Tour
Chena Sizzling Springs
Chena Sizzling Springs Resort, positioned sixty miles Northeast of Fairbanks, gives many Alaskan winter actions together with outside and indoor sizzling springs, Aurora Ice Museum tour, canine sledding, geothermal and hydroponics excursions, snowmobile excursions, and massages.
It’s a few 2 hours winter drive from Fairbanks. Chena Sizzling Springs can prepare a shuttle to/from Fairbanks as a part of a day-trip bundle or you may drive your self in case you lease a automobile.
The main focus of the resort is on the geothermal sizzling springs that characteristic an out of doors pure pool in addition to an indoor family-friendly pool home. Chena Sizzling Springs is a simple day journey from Fairbanks, or you may spend the evening of their lodge.
It was cloudy the evening I spent at Chena however I liked the thought of being in a comfy sizzling spring and looking out as much as see the Northern Lights.
Downhill and Cross Nation Snowboarding
Snowboarding was one of many issues that I didn’t get to throughout my go to to Fairbanks. However given the heavy snowfall and chilly temperatures, Fairbanks hosts a large number of epic powder days. Nice cross-country trails abound from town middle and there are many locations to lease ski gear together with the Fairbanks REI.
There are three principal downhill ski areas near Fairbanks: Ski Land, Moose Mountain, and Birch Hill.
Nothing says Alaska winter expertise higher than canine mushing. Originated by the Native individuals of Alaska and Northern Canada, canines have been used to move mail, meals, and important medicines by pulling sleds throughout Alaska for hundreds of years.
2022 marks the fiftieth operating of the Iditarod, the 1,000-mile canine sled race throughout Alaska which honors the traditions and tradition native to the state of Alaska. Iditarod winners immediately turn out to be Alaskan heroes as canine sledding is woven into the material of the place.
You possibly can expertise a small style of the marvel and fantastic thing about canine sledding throughout your go to to Fairbanks throughout the winter. I had the chance to trip with Paws for Journey, a professionally run canine sledding enterprise. I solely went on a brief tour however I’d like to return to attend their “canine mushing faculty” the place after a couple of hours of coaching, of us can information the canine group themselves.
Snow Machine Tour
There are lots of Fairbanks tour firms that provide snowmachine or snowmobile rides. I took a snow machine tour at Chena Sizzling Springs however we went a bit too sluggish for my liking. Fortunately, I used to be the final particular person on our single-file tour, so I simply waited till there was a wholesome distance between me and the subsequent snowmobile so I may gun my engine.
I noticed a lot of snowmachines racing up and down the frozen Chena River that snakes via city.
The quiet solitude and pure fantastic thing about Fairbanks will shine via when you get out on the snowshoe trails. In case you are staying at an Airbnb or a trip rental, there could also be snowshoes you may borrow, or head over to the native REI to lease a pair.
I liked my morning snowshoe in Coldfoot up above the Arctic Circle with the gentle mild, the snow sparkles, and the northern quiet.
College of Alaska Museum of the North
The Museum of the North positioned on the College of Alaska Fairbanks campus is an artwork museum, pure historical past museum, and cultural museum. This mix of artifacts and specimens collected on public lands in Alaska makes it a frontrunner in pure and cultural historical past analysis within the state.
I used to be impressed by the third-floor artwork gallery that includes a wide selection of Native Alaskan modern and historic artwork items.
World Ice Artwork Championships
The World Ice Artwork Championships happen in Fairbanks every winter from mid-February via the top of March. Yearly, ice sculptors from all over the world compete and it’s fairly superb to see all the huge ice sculptures!
Fountainhead Vintage Auto Museum
Over 95 pre-World Struggle II vintage race automobiles, horseless carriages, a snowmachine, and different pleasant automotive treasures may be discovered on the Fountainhead Vintage Auto Museum. Paired with most of the automobiles is what the museum boasts as essentially the most intensive classic trend assortment within the Pacific Northwest.
The mix of classic clothes and automobiles makes it fairly straightforward to think about what life was like throughout the period of every car.
Go ice fishing
Identical to canine sledding, ice fishing has a protracted and vital historical past for individuals in Alaska. Natives and residents nonetheless fish all through the winter for meals, however it has additionally turn out to be a preferred exercise for vacationers.
I didn’t get to expertise ice fishing throughout my go to, however in case you’d prefer to strive your hand at it, Rod’s Alaskan Information Service offers a half-day guided tour that features entry to a heated ice fishing cabin, sizzling drinks, grilled reindeer sausages, and extra.
Go to Operating Reindeer Ranch
If it’s been your childhood dream to see a reindeer, then you definately’re in luck! Operating Reindeer Ranch is positioned about half-hour north of Fairbanks and guests can be part of guided strolling excursions within the surrounding boreal forest and rise up shut to those mild and swish animals.
Reservations are required to go to the ranch and I like to recommend reserving early as a result of excursions promote out!
Finest Locations to Eat in Fairbanks
Fairbanks has a stunning quantity of nice eating places to select from. Listed here are some high locations to eat:
- Pike’s Touchdown: the restaurant related to the resort the place I stayed in Fairbanks. Chef Jeffery Brooks whips up basic American meals with an Alaskan twist. The most effective issues I discovered on the menu had been the Halibut Fish and Chips and the reindeer sausage.
- Lemongrass: Do you know that Fairbanks boasts 27 Thai eating places? That’s lots of curry for 37,000 individuals! The primary Thai restaurant opened in 1987 and the chef/proprietor skilled his workers who then opened their very own locations. Lemongrass is a neighborhood favourite.
- The Pump Home: verify this out in order for you the total Alaska eating expertise! This is among the solely few high quality eating establishments in Fairbanks, so ensure to snag a reservation effectively prematurely.
- Soba Genuine Moldovan Delicacies: hardy meals with huge parts is the specialty at this genuine Slavic eatery positioned in downtown Fairbanks.
- The Crepery: Candy and savory crepes are full of contemporary substances which may be laborious to come back by within the Far North.
- Silver Gulch Brewing: The pub fare at Silver Gulch options native Alaskan substances together with standout pizzas, burgers, and naturally – wonderful beer.
- Hoodoo Brewing Firm: Fairbanks has a ton of nice breweries and this is among the greatest for his or her European-style craft beers and meals vehicles.
Are you planning a visit to Fairbanks, Alaska in winter? What actions are you wanting ahead to most? Go away us a remark under!