Six Unique Winter Experiences in Central Alaska

Let us abandon the perceived notion of dreary winters and long-hours of darkness. In actuality, Central Alaska is a winter wonderland worth visiting during the coldest months. In the land of extremes, filled with vast wilderness and untamed nature, there are endless places to visit and things to do, and each is unique that it is difficult to find in the other parts of the world. If you plan to unfold the veils of Central Alaska’s winter, here are the top six unique experiences that are promised to make your Alaska trip memorable.

Central Alaska
Aurora Borealis over Chena Hot Springs  Fairbanks, Alaska 

Northern lights over Chena Hot Springs  

Drive 68 miles outside Fairbanks’ city center to reach Chena Hot Springs Resort, a place famous for natural outdoor springs. When it is under -30 Celsius outside, dip into the outdoor heated pool for a relaxing soak in the healing mineral waters that can accommodate dozens of people at once. For those who wish to observe the Northern Lights, Chena Hot Springs are said to have the minimal light pollution that is perfect for the lights to be highly visible overhead. Basking yourself in the water while watching the northern lights display is an exciting way to enjoy your winter holiday.

Northern Lights Forecast: http://www.gi.alaska.edu/AuroraForecast

Aurora Winter Train

Take a 12-hour train ride from Fairbanks to Anchorage to explore Alaska’s country-side, a place filled with the Denali mountain range, rugged terrain, and endless white solitude that is inaccessible by road. The train even stops at Sarah Palin’s hometown, Wasilla, allowing visitors to take a sneak peek at what her city looks like. Settle-in for a relaxed journey in the glass-domed dining cars for a warm breakfast and a 180 degree of sweeping vistas.  For those who are tired of driving on the snowy and icy highway, Alaska Railroad promises an exciting journey in complete comfort. It is a hassle-free way to experience winter in Central Alaska.

Alaska Railroad

Picture: View from Aurora Winter Train 

Meet Santa on Christmas Eve

If you want a handshake with Santa, then a visit to Santa Claus House cannot be skipped. This property was built by Nillie Miller in 1952 with a mission of providing a true Christmas spirit. The Santa Claus House offers a true Christmas ambiance with Christmas toys, ornaments, and a letter walls display letters sent by the children from all over the world. The Santa also writes tailored letters to millions of children to wish them a Merry Christmas. Do not forget to send postcards to your family and friends from Santa’s House with your heart-warming wishes.

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Ice Sculpture at Faribanks’s Ice Park. Photo Credit: Peng Li 

World Ice Art Championship

Regarded as one of the largest ice art competitions in the world, the World Ice Art Championship has been held annually at Fairbanks’s Ice Park. The event draws ice carvers, visitors, and volunteers from around the globe. You have the opportunity to browse through the fantastic, intricate pieces of multi-block ice art created by world renowned artists. In addition to appreciating the masterpieces of the ice artists, you have the option to take a quick ice sculpture class, get entertained at the kids’ park, or simply mingle with the artists in the cafeteria. The 2017 World Ice Art Championship starts on February 27.

Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race

The annual long distance Sled Dog Race takes place every March, and it draws the best sled dog mushers and worldwide interest. Covering 11 miles from Anchorage to Nome, the field dog team runs for two weeks and crosses the toughest and wildest terrain Mother Nature has to offer.  In addition to the inclement weather, the sled team has to battle with the total loss of visibility, strong wind, treacherous terrain, and long hours of darkness. It is a wonderful event to showcase the local culture and Alaskan spirit. The 2017 race starts on the 4th of March, and the temperature is predicted to be below zero over that time.

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Pciture: Seward Highway under the sunset, Winter 2019

Seward Highway

If you are looking for an Alaskan road trip, venture to the Seward Highway. This highway is a 200-kilometer coastal road that connects Anchorage and the coastal community of Seward. Throughout the journey, your visual senses will be bombarded by the pristine inlet, jagged cliffs, wildlife, and the snowy peaks on the Kenai Penninsula. A brief stop on the highway allows you to view the waterfall cascading down the valley; see the snowy mountains meet the sea, and marvel at intrepid locals skiing on Mount Alyeska. The sunset even adds an illusion of a soft glow of a soft glow on the snowy peak. An afternoon stroll along the shores of the Portage Glaciers dates you back to the Ice Age, where you will have a close-up view of humongous icebergs on a frozen Portage Lake. Bring your cameras and fill your memory stick with postcard quality pictures.
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Explore Central Alaska in Winter

 

Julie Cao

Julie Cao is a travel blogger, travel writer, and global citizen currently living in Toronto Ontario.

18 thoughts on “Six Unique Winter Experiences in Central Alaska

  • October 16, 2016 at 10:14 pm
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    These are such beautiful places, and experiences. I particularly love the Northern lights. Even the pictures are so surreal. Hoping to make it there one day!

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    • December 14, 2016 at 3:39 am
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      Thanks Khansa! Northern Lights are more surreal once you witness it with your own eyes. It is a beautiful site I will remember for lifetime.

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  • October 16, 2016 at 11:07 pm
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    Wow what a great post. Alaska sounds amazing I would love to go to Alaska one day and your post has really got me in the Christmas mood. Great post thank you 🙂

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    • December 14, 2016 at 3:40 am
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      Fairbanks is a great place to visit on Christmas holidays. Thanks for your kind comments.

      Reply
  • October 17, 2016 at 6:46 am
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    So I am going to admit it … Winter is not my thing. I spend countless hours trying to plot tropical getaways to escape a Sydney winter so I’m not sure that I would survive winter in Alaska. Although those hot springs and the northern lights might be just enough to tempt me

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    • October 17, 2016 at 8:15 pm
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      Sydney winter does not sound too cold for me after spending the winter in Alaska and Canada haha

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  • October 17, 2016 at 9:30 am
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    I am so jealous of the Northern lights. I have tried twice to see them. Once in Lapland and once in Iceland. Both times I didn’t see them.
    Alaska is definitely on my hit list. There is something mystical about it. It’s not your typical holiday destination but really should be looking at your post. Thank you for sharing.

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    • October 17, 2016 at 8:14 pm
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      Thanks Kathy for reading. For northern lights, the University of Alaska Fairbanks have students doing Aurora Forecast on a website and there are other websites doing the forecast and they are mostly accurate. Alaska is really a mystical and surreal place in the winter and I hope you will see the northern lights in the future.

      Reply
  • October 17, 2016 at 7:18 pm
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    Alaska sounds like a very cold but fabulous place! I would love to visit and see the Aurora, I’ve heard that with its landscape, Alaska is a perfect location for it. The ice sculpture championship sounds amazing too and I would definitely not miss meeting Santa!

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    • October 17, 2016 at 8:09 pm
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      Alaska is definitely the most beautiful state in terms of the landscapes. Meeting Santa on Christmas Eve is magic!

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  • October 17, 2016 at 7:35 pm
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    Alaska is a place I have always wanted to go. I like the idea of seeing the Northern Lights from a heated pool, I saw them in Iceland and have never been so cold!! I would also love to see the World Ice Art championship, I bet it’s amazing to see what they can make out of ice!!

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    • October 17, 2016 at 8:08 pm
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      The final result of the World Ice Art Championship is so amazing, especially during the night with the lights illuminate with the carved ice blocks. It is cold under the northern lights but so worth it!

      Reply
  • October 17, 2016 at 7:42 pm
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    I’m a bit obsessed with arctic travel – and this post is really making me crave the cold! I think I would be very happy to spend a winter in Central Alaska! The world Ice Art championships sound incredible – there would be some highly talented artists creating incredible works! Would love to try my hand at it as well.

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    • October 17, 2016 at 8:01 pm
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      Hi Juliette, the World Ice Art championships offers ice sculpting class in the winter. Travel to Alaska in winter from Fiji is a great idea. I visited Alaska in winter from Hawaii and I was so happy to get away from the heat:)

      Reply
  • October 17, 2016 at 8:08 pm
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    I think I’ve actually read a feature story about the dog sled race! It was such a fascinating and completely foreign story- I absolutely loved it! And a road trip on the Seward Highway would be stunning during the wintertime with the icebergs floating by! I’ve always wanted to go to Alaska, so I just might need to go now!! (Mentally preparing for the so-cold-it-hurts-to-breathe reality now!) Thanks for the tips 🙂

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    • October 17, 2016 at 8:22 pm
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      haha it was really really cold when I was there to the point that my eyelash and inside my nose are frozen. Seward highway is really stunning in winter but more so during the summer.

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  • October 17, 2016 at 10:27 pm
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    I’ve been to Alaska before but haven’t had a chance to experience the northern lights. Definitely on my bucket list! My kids would love to go to a Santa Claus House! The ice sculptures look amazing!

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    • December 14, 2016 at 3:41 am
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      I believe visit Santa Claus could be their dream come true. Where have you been in Alaska?

      Reply

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