Greatest Issues to Do in Fairbanks, Alaska in Winter – Bearfoot Idea

Fairbanks, Alaska is really a winter wonderland when the snow flies. The rugged great thing about the snow-covered roads, evergreen timber, and big mountains of the Alaskan Inside will little doubt dazzle guests. Fairbanks prides itself in being the primary 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 just probably will run out of time earlier than you run out of enjoyable actions! From snowshoeing to canine mushing to scorching springs to museums and extra, you gained’t wish to miss out on a winter journey to Fairbanks.

On this publish, 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 exterior of town heart, and most of the lodges present free airport shuttle service, making Fairbanks a surprisingly easy-to-reach winter vacation spot.

You can too select to fly into Anchorage and drive right down to Fairbanks on Route 3 with a one-way automotive 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. Understand that you’ll be driving in winter circumstances, so solely go for this selection in the event you’re snug driving in winter and have flexibility in your schedule in case there’s a storm.

Transportation In Fairbanks

Renting a automotive is a should in Fairbanks, particularly in the course of 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 strains, 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 method to get there’s by automotive.

Guide the rental automotive far prematurely, as there’s typically a scarcity of obtainable leases. Whereas all of the rental vehicles have studded winter tires, it’s useful in case you are aware of driving on snow and ice. I additionally extremely advocate getting additional windshield insurance coverage as a result of Alaska doesn’t salt its roads for traction. As a substitute, they solely use gravel and this will trigger a justifiable share of cracked windshields and different injury.

an icy road in Alaska in winter with snow capped mountains in the distance
A rental automotive is a should for visiting Fairbanks within the winter if you wish to get exterior town limits to discover

Greatest 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 a better proportion likelihood of seeing the Northern Lights whereas nonetheless having sufficient sunlight hours to do different out of doors actions, the most effective 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 Observe on Alaska Time:

In the event 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 in case you are 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 energetic from 11:30pm-3am.

the view from a dog sled with 6 dogs pulling ahead

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 world. Fairbanks additionally has three hostels and a plethora of lodges 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 very 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 exterior of the property.

What to Pack for Fairbanks in Winter

Layers, layers, layers. You will have a number of layers to be snug for winter adventures in Fairbanks. Fairbanks can attain temperatures of minus-40 levels within the winter and guests should be ready for excessive chilly. Throughout my keep, the temperature shifted over 40 levels, from -10F to 30F. Keep away from carrying 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’re feeling colder. Stick to wool and artificial materials on your winter go to to Fairbanks.

To make sure you keep heat and comfortable 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 on your journey
  • Outer parka: my -25 diploma rated parka was fantastic for all of the frozen waits for the aurora and all different out of doors actions.
  • Heated gloves and heated socks: I used to be actually grateful to have the ability to maintain my extremities heat for lengthy durations exterior
  • 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 beloved my Columbia Ladies’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 shiny and reflective when the solar comes out
  • Swimsuit: in the event you plan to soak at Chena Scorching Springs

Don’t wish to purchase a bunch of cold-weather gear on your journey to Fairbanks? Alaska Factor gives rental gear on your go to to Fairbanks and they’re going to even meet you on the airport so that you don’t freeze in your method to your lodge!

>> Learn Subsequent: Winter Mountaineering Garments & Chilly Climate Layering Fundamentals

Greatest 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 beneath 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 attributable to energetic electrons from Earth’s magnetosphere hanging atoms and molecules within the Earth’s higher environment. The inexperienced colour is atomic oxygen and the pink/pink is atomic nitrogen.

In response to 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 house climate.” It’s a bit difficult however mainly, 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 clarification 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 slightly troublesome, however not unattainable.

Touring away from town lights is useful however much more necessary is to seek out areas the place cloud protection clears.

aurora borealis Northern Lights in Fairbanks Alaska

Listed below are some ideas for seeing the Northern Lights in Fairbanks:

  • Discover a place with darkish skies, away from town lights
  • Be prepared to remain up late; the most effective auroras are from 11:30 pm to three:00 am.
  • Costume warmly, and don’t neglect hand and toes 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 provide you with a really correct guess of whether or not or not the aurora shall be seen. If you’re 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 basically useful, particularly in the event you don’t have a rental automotive. I spoke with quite a lot of individuals who beloved their expertise with Aurora Chasers and their images have been unbelievable.

It’s useful to go a minimum of as soon as with an skilled information as a result of the aurora doesn’t seem like the colourful images to the bare eye. Typically it simply appeared like white smoke. As I realized extra, I received higher at recognizing it however I typically needed to snap a photograph on my telephone to substantiate that what I used to be taking a look at was the precise aurora borealis. Aurora searching requires tenacity, endurance, and a little bit of luck.

>> For an unforgettable expertise, e-book a Moonlight Canine Sled, Dinner, & Northern lights Tour

Chena Scorching Springs

Chena Scorching Springs Resort, positioned sixty miles Northeast of Fairbanks, gives many Alaskan winter actions together with out of doors and indoor scorching springs, Aurora Ice Museum tour, canine sledding, geothermal and hydroponics excursions, snowmobile excursions, and massages.

It’s a couple of 2 hours winter drive from Fairbanks. Chena Scorching Springs can organize a shuttle to/from Fairbanks as a part of a day-trip package deal or you possibly can drive your self in the event you lease a automotive.

The main focus of the resort is on the geothermal scorching springs that characteristic an outside pure pool in addition to an indoor family-friendly pool home. Chena Scorching Springs is a simple day journey from Fairbanks, or you possibly can spend the evening of their lodge.

It was cloudy the evening I spent at Chena however I beloved the thought of being in a comfortable scorching spring and looking out as much as see the Northern Lights.

Chena Hot Springs in winter in Fairbanks Alaska
The new springs at Chena Resort

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 heart and there are many locations to lease ski gear together with the Fairbanks REI.

There are three important downhill ski areas near Fairbanks: Ski Land, Moose Mountain, and Birch Hill.

Canine Mushing

Nothing says Alaska winter expertise higher than canine mushing. Originated by the Native folks of Alaska and Northern Canada, canines have been used to move mail, meals, and demanding 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 into Alaskan heroes as canine sledding is woven into the material of the place.

You possibly can expertise a small style of the surprise and great thing about canine sledding throughout your go to to Fairbanks in the course of the winter. I had the chance to experience 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 just a few hours of coaching, of us can information the canine staff themselves.

the view of 10+ dogs pulling a sled while dog mushing in winter in Fairbanks Alaska
Photograph: Ariel Frager

Snow Machine Tour

There are various Fairbanks tour firms that supply snowmachine or snowmobile rides. I took a snow machine tour at Chena Scorching Springs however we went a bit too gradual 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 great thing about Fairbanks will shine via when you get out on the snowshoe trails. If you’re staying at an Airbnb or a trip rental, there could also be snowshoes you possibly can borrow, or head over to the native REI to lease a pair.

I beloved my morning snowshoe in Coldfoot up above the Arctic Circle with the delicate mild, the snow sparkles, and the northern quiet.

>> Be taught Tips on how to Snowshoe With Our Newbie Suggestions

two people snowshoeing in Coldfoot in Alaska in winter
Snowshoeing in Coldfoot. Photograph: Ariel Frager

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 mixture 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 big selection of Native Alaskan up to date and historic artwork items.

World Ice Artwork Championships

The World Ice Artwork Championships happen in Fairbanks every winter from mid-February via the tip of March. Yearly, ice sculptors from all over the world compete and it’s fairly superb to see all the large ice sculptures!

an ice sculpture of a queen with various ice sculptures in the background
Go to Fairbanks between February and March to view unbelievable ice sculptures as a part of the World Ice Artwork Championships

Fountainhead Vintage Auto Museum

Over 95 pre-World Conflict II vintage race vehicles, horseless carriages, a snowmachine, and different pleasant automotive treasures might be discovered on the Fountainhead Vintage Auto Museum. Paired with most of the vehicles is what the museum boasts as essentially the most intensive classic trend assortment within the Pacific Northwest.

The mix of classic attire and vehicles makes it fairly straightforward to think about what life was like in the course of the period of every car.

Go ice fishing

Identical to canine sledding, ice fishing has a protracted and necessary historical past for folks in Alaska. Natives and residents nonetheless fish all through the winter for meals, however it has additionally turn into a well-liked exercise for vacationers.

I didn’t get to expertise ice fishing throughout my go to, however in the event 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, scorching drinks, grilled reindeer sausages, and extra.

Go to Working Reindeer Ranch

If it’s been your childhood dream to see a reindeer, then you definitely’re in luck! Working Reindeer Ranch is positioned about half-hour north of Fairbanks and guests can be a 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!

Reindeer with antlers standing in snowy looking up at camera surrounded by snowy forest landscape
Go to Working Reindeer Ranch to see these majestic animals up shut

Greatest Locations to Eat in Fairbanks

Fairbanks has a shocking quantity of nice eating places to select from. Listed below are some high locations to eat:

  • Pike’s Touchdown: the restaurant related to the lodge the place I stayed in Fairbanks. Chef Jeffery Brooks whips up basic American meals with an Alaskan twist. One of the best issues I discovered on the menu have been the Halibut Fish and Chips and the reindeer sausage.
  • Lemongrass: Do you know that Fairbanks boasts 27 Thai eating places? That’s a number of curry for 37,000 folks! The primary Thai restaurant opened in 1987 and the chef/proprietor skilled his staff who then opened their very own locations. Lemongrass is an area favourite.
  • The Pump Home: examine this out if you need the complete Alaska eating expertise! This is without doubt one of the solely few high quality eating establishments in Fairbanks, so make certain to snag a reservation properly prematurely.
  • Soba Genuine Moldovan Delicacies: hardy meals with massive parts is the specialty at this genuine Slavic eatery positioned in downtown Fairbanks.
  • The Crepery: Candy and savory crepes are filled with contemporary substances which might be exhausting 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 without doubt one of 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? Depart us a remark beneath!

Discover the best things to do in Fairbanks in winter plus tips for when to visit, what to pack, and how to see the Northern Lights.

Written by
Ariel Frager

Ariel Frager likes to get exterior to play, be it browsing, touring the world, or strolling the canine. She is a college counselor and mother or father coach in the course of the week and the remainder of the time she works her dream job – being a journey author. Ariel writes about out of doors and household adventures in her beloved Pacific Northwest and past. She lives in Portland, Oregon along with her household.

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