Editor’s Note: This story is sponsored by Visit Anchorage.
Anchorage, Alaska shines in autumn and winter. The summer crowds have quieted down, and Anchorage comes alive with a riot of fall colors, sparkling white blankets of snow, and luminous displays of the northern lights.
Temperatures begin declining in September, but Alaska residents don’t let the conditions stop them from enjoying the outdoor playground of Anchorage. Pack a warm wardrobe and join the year-round fun!
See the Northern Lights
Seeing the northern lights in all their glory is a bucket list activity for many people, and Anchorage is one of the easiest destinations from which to catch a glimpse. Prime viewing season runs mid-August through April, and during these months you might be able to simply step outside of your hotel and look up at the skies to see the show.
For the best views, head to an area with minimal light pollution, such as the Glen Alps Trailhead, Point Woronzof, or Earthquake Park.
Yes, you can bike year-round in Anchorage, thanks to the area’s extensive network of groomed trails. In the winter, rent a fat-tire bike and glide easily over the scenic Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, an 11-mile path that winds along the water from downtown Anchorage to the chalet at Kincaid Park.
The trail is equally stunning in the fall, when it offers amazing skyline views fringed by fall foliage.
Anchorage is a winter paradise for skiers and snowboarders. There are three great ski mountains within 45 minutes from downtown Anchorage, offering an amazing variety of terrain (and plenty of fresh, natural snow) so enthusiasts of any skill level can enjoy.
Up the adrenaline level by booking a classic Alaska adventure—a backcountry or heli-skiing tour. Anchorage’s Chugach Range offers a spectacular 700,000 acres of skiable powder where you can make fresh tracks.
Spas and Wellness
Anchorage’s numerous spas make for a relaxing retreat any time of year, but there’s something especially special about sinking into a steaming outdoor hot tub when the air around you is crisp and cool.
The state’s first Nordic Spa recently opened at Alyeska Resort. This Nordic-inspired spa features hot and cold outdoor pools, a signature sauna, social relaxation spaces, and a wellness-focused bistro—all set against stunning mountain views.
Fall and winter are favorite times of the year for many Anchorage locals, as it’s when some of the best events take place—try to time your trip to Alaska to coincide with one of these festivals to truly taste a bit of Alaskan life.
The Iditarod Sled Dog Race, one of the most famous events in Alaska, kicks off in Anchorage on the first Saturday of March each year. Stake out a spot at the start line, or watch as the racers hit their stride further down the 11-mile route through the city. If you’re visiting before the race starts, you can take a tour of the kennels and meet the sled dogs or even give the sport a try yourself.
Another fun event is Anchorage’s Fur Rondy, a rollicking festival that involves wacky competitions like the Outhouse Races and Running of the Reindeer.
Despite being the tallest mountain in North America, Denali can be hard to see sometimes. It’s not uncommon for its peaks to be hidden among the clouds. For the best chances of an unobstructed view, visit in January through March, which is the clearest time of year in Denali National Park.
Even though the iconic mountain is 140 miles away from Anchorage, you can still see it quite easily on a day trip—simply book one of the numerous flightseeing tours that depart from Anchorage. These scenic flights take just 45 minutes to reach Denali, and include plenty of time swooping around the mountain’s peaks and glaciers.
Anchorage’s hundred miles of trails are put to good use in the winter, when they become a playground for cross-country skiers. Kincaid Park’s 60 kilometers of trails regularly host cross-country events but are open for recreational users to enjoy as well.
Or, if you prefer to make your own tracks, head to Powerline Pass, a popular spot for backcountry skiing.
Anchorage doesn’t typically see snow until November, and September and October can be some of the best months for hiking. The air is crisp but the sun is warm, and many trails offer incredible vistas of the fall foliage for leaf peepers. Your only dilemma? Choosing which path to take—Anchorage is home to around 300 miles of hiking trails.
Visit Anchorage’s Museums
Anchorage’s 12 museums offer plenty of indoor entertainment for bad weather days. Don’t miss the Alaska Native Heritage Center, the premier place in the state to learn about the heritage and culture of Alaska’s 11 major cultures.
The Anchorage Museum is another must-see—it’s Alaska’s largest museum and features a wide variety of exhibits, organized around 13 themes showcasing essential aspects of past and present day life in the state.
Sample the Local Dining Scene
Anchorage is a thriving destination for foodies, with charming cafes and fine dining showcasing fresh and local ingredients. Cozy up with a cup of coffee when you need to warm up—the city has more coffee shops per person than almost anywhere else in the country. At night, unwind with a craft beer and live music at one of Anchorage’s many microbreweries (rumor is, Anchorage’s famously clean water makes the beer extra delicious.)
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