My friends thought I was crazy when I told them that I’d spontaneously booked a 10 day trip to Alaska in the dead of winter.
I live to tell that it was the best decision ever. Not only are the crowds at a minimal but it’s amazing to see this place in all it’s wintery glory + my trip coincided with the Fur Rondy!
Here’s my list of the best things to do and see in the Winters at the Last Frontier:
- Take the Alaskan Railroad: I’m gonna start with the best! The Alaskan railroad is a gem and enjoyed in any weather. It’s the perfect way to travel from Anchorage to Fairbanks or even shorter distances till Talkeetna. You ride through the backyards of Alaska abundant is gorgeous views and wildlife (which the engine master slows the train for you to observe) Make sure you reserve a seat in advance especially if you plan to hear further out of Anchorage, the train timetable is not as extensive as in the summers. The train runs all the way from Seward to Fairbanks so there is plenty to see and stop along the way at.
- Talkeetna: All of it in one single street comprising of everything you may need for a short getaway. It’s the perfect town if you plan to hike up to Denali or take a helicopter there. The town has you covered with the Roadhouse Inn for you to stay cosy, Fairview Inn for some lovely music, drinks & games, Nagley’s for your grocery needs, Conscious Coffee for that morning cuppa and Mountain High Pizza Pie for well, Pizza! It’s also a great spot for Aurora viewing over the bridge on the Talkeetna river (I didn’t catch any though)
- Sample local Alaskan breweries: Alaska, like many states in the US, has a tonne of local breweries with some amazing beers. Go local and try these beauties either at the breweries themselves or at local bars around town (which are, by far, the friendliest bars I’ve ever been to!)
- Spot the Aurora: I’m guessing this is on your list for Alaska if you’re planning a winter trip! Best time is September – March and if you really want a higher success rate, head up to Fairbanks! I used this to help track activity and it’s a great way to know which day you have the best shot at spotting the dancing lights.
- Moose’s Tooth & Bear Tooth @ Anchorage: These two are by far my favourites in Anchorage. Moose’s tooth is amazing for it’s food and Bear’s is perfect for a night of watching second-run movies in the theatre while enjoying the best craft beers and food. Both are iconic Anchorage spots and definitely need to be visited!
- Eat Reindeer meat (If you eat meat): From standalone dishes to pizza toppings, it’s everywhere and something you kinda have to try!
- Dog sledding – It’s one of those things you probably have to do once in your life! Please do research the kennel before you go so that you’re able to really find one that’s ethical. Yes, some of them really are! It’s an experience to drift through the snow on a sledge and learn more about sledging and it’s history in Alaska.
- Explore the national parks – From Denali to Kenai, there is so much to explore in Alaska that a lifetime seems insufficient. Definitely visit at least 1 national park on your visit and make the most of it. There are also many large parks within city limits like the Earthquake park in Anchorage which is perfect for long walks and Snow Shoeing.
- The Fur Rondy – This 10 day festival in Anchorage takes place in February usually and turns the little town into a massive fest! With rides, candied apples, Ice sculptures and more, this is one of those large American festivals you just have to be a part of. It marks the start of the annual Iditarod race which kicks off from the heart of Anchorage city to end days later at Nome.
- Take a helicopter Ride – While there are many helicopter rides available in Alaska, some are more expensive than the others. I stumbled upon (while trying to escape a rather angry Moose) a $50 ride for 30 minutes around Anchorage and I can safely say that those were the best 50 I ever spent! Either the sketchy ride I picked or any from the list above, you should definitely include aerial view of this place on your itinerary.
PS: Rent a car! If you are comfortable with driving, the conditions in Alaska are not as challenging as they seem and most areas around cities are well cleared out even in the winters. Having a car at hand can save you a tonne of money and hassle as taxi cabs aren’t that readily available. For longer distances like heading to Fairbanks from Anchorage, the train is a great option!