If you’re visiting Alaska between May and August, you're pretty much guaranteed to stumble across a celebration. Fairs, of course, offer an all-ages crowd-pleaser, with good food, entertainment, and no doubt some quirky Alaskan tradition that started it all. The Alaska State Fair (in the Mat-Su Valley, about an hour north of Anchorage) is the biggest festival of the summer, taking place from the end of August through early September. While the celebrations slow down during the colder months, they certainly don’t stop. One of the most beloved festivals of the year—and the largest one during winter—is the Fur Rendezvous (also called Fur Rondy), which turns Anchorage into a big snowy party every February.
Fairs & Festivals
The Seward Silver Salmon Derby® is one of the oldest and largest fishing derbies in the State. Seward’s Derby is equally popular with locals, other Alaska residents, and visiting anglers from around the nation and world. Anglers vie for the largest Coho (Silver) Salmon and try to catch tagged fish worth prizes. Anglers turn their fish in daily, which are sold to raise funds for fish enhancement efforts. Derby tickets go on sale Friday night… ...more
On the Fourth of July, the population of Seward swells from around 2,500 to a reported 40,000. Main Street is completely blocked off to traffic and the streets fill with people. Many come to run in or watch the Mt. Marathon Race, while others come to enjoy some of the most beautiful scenery in the world and take part in the festivities. Seward’s annual July 4th celebration features a packed holiday schedule of special events, presentations,… ...more
Summer Wednesday evenings in Soldotna are times that everyone looks forward to. That’s when the famous — and free! — Levitt AMP Soldotna Music Series takes place in the beautiful Soldotna Creek Park. It happens weekly from June through August, and on top of catching some great music, it’s a fantastic chance to meet locals.
The Alaskan blueberry: plump, delicious, and so popular that every year Girdwood puts on a big celebration in honor of blueberry season. As many as 4,000 people have been flocking to Girdwood one weekend every August for the past 7 years, and the festival gets larger and more exciting each year, with people coming from all over Alaska. The two-day family-friendly event makes for a great excuse to visit this gorgeous area.
If you’re visiting Girdwood the first weekend in July, you’ll feel a palpable energy in the air — a little extra jolt of excitement. It’s because of the Forest Fair — a huge festival celebrating Alaskan music, arts, and crafts. Artists and visitors pour in from all over Alaska to perform or just have fun, and the entire community comes together to make it happen. It’s the kind of event that visitors may stumble across, then return the following ...more
Summer is not the only time to embrace Sitka’s connection to our vast oceans and the inhabitants. November’s annual Sitka WhaleFest, hosted by the Sitka Sound Science Center, celebrates marine life through a science symposium, art, wildlife cruises and so much more!
Since 1935, the Fur Rondy has been celebrating the joys of an Alaskan winter. And because of the time of year, this is hardly your typical festival! So bundle up and check out the outhouse races, native arts market, snowshoe softball, a snow sculpture contest, the Open World Championship Sled Dog Race, and the uniquely Alaskan “running of the reindeer.”
For over 75 years, the Alaska State Fair has been a gathering place for all Alaskans, and a “last hurrah” before summer gives way to the long Alaska winter.What started as a celebration for the Mat-Su colonists in 1936 has grown into the state’s largest annual event. Each year, hundreds of thousands of fairgoers enjoyed nightly concerts featuring headline entertainers in the AT&T Concert Series, carnival rides and games, hundreds of… ...more
This annual three-day event celebrates the Cordova region’s abundant crop of wild mushrooms with classes, art and handcraft sessions, expert talks, kid’s activities and daily-guided trips into the rain forest foothills and the Copper River Delta.
It’s only fitting that an Alaska fishing village throws a great salmon festival. Every year in July, the town of Cordova takes a break from fishing to turn out for the Copper River Salmon Jam. This festival aims to celebrate salmon and promote the health and sustainability of local salmon runs.
According to folklore, the tradition of the Mt. Marathon Race began when two sourdoughs argued about the possibility of climbing and descending the mountain in less than an hour. “Impossible” one said. To settle the argument, and the resulting wager, a race was held, with the loser to furnish drinks for the crowd. At the same time, enterprising merchants put up a suit of clothes and other attractions for the winner and proposed the race take… ...more
Considered one of Alaska’s top birding events, this annual festival during early May celebrates the arrival of more than 5 million migratory birds on the Copper River Delta east of Cordova.
Love skiing and wacky costumes? The Slush Cup is the perfect opportunity to see both. Competitors dress up and try to skim across a 90-foot-long pool of freezing water on skis — and not many make it! There are lots of other activities as well, including a swim across the freezing pool, face painting for kids, food booths, and more.
The world’s most famous sled dog race begins in downtown Anchorage on the first Saturday in March, in a spectator-friendly ceremony. The first mile and a half of this leg is on city streets lined with thousands of spectators. The next six miles run east and south through the city greenbelts and parks on the extensive system of bike and ski paths.
Anchorage RunFest is a collection of running events that celebrate runners of all abilities from the elite runners to the back of the packers. This late season Boston Marathon qualifier boasts ideal running weather, mild temperatures and a fast course with very little elevation gain. The out and back route takes runners through downtown Anchorage before heading out along the scenic coastline and through the city’s wooded greenbelt. In keeping ...more
The Homer Highland Games are dedicated to the education of the general public about the Celtic Culture through athletics, music and information about one of the most ancient athletic events in history starting back in 1057 A.D. when King Malcolm Canmore, who called upon the Clans to send their best runners, for he needed messengers, send their best fighters, for he needed a private army, and send the strongest, for he needed personal guards. ...more
The first Sunday of August brings a special event to Homer: the opportunity to step into private gardens that showcase the uniqueness of Alaskan gardening and get some real insight into what it’s like to work the land in a place where the growing season is short and the days long. Some 400 people come to Homer from all over, some of them gardeners from other parts of Alaska, and others from outside the state who simply have an interest in ...more
This unique festival in Homer, Alaska is an art-lovers dream.
March is the month to get outside. The days are longer and the weather is starting to warm, but winter still has its icy grip. To avoid going stir crazy or for some good, clean Alaskan winter fun, head north to Trapper Creek for the Cabin Fever Reliever. Held the second Saturday in March in this picturesque small town (there are great views of Denali), the celebration includes a pancake breakfast, a raffle, cross-country ski races, games, ...more
You know you’re in Nome when the raffle prizes at the annual Fireman’s Carnival are snowmachines, gold nuggets, airline tickets and heating fuel! Join in the fun at this community event, filled with bingo, food…and excited raffle winners.
The Nome Community Thanksgiving Dinner, made possible by donations and lots of volunteer help, is open to all community members and visitors. Stop by for a meal, pitch in to help with the turkey, and enjoy the company of friendly Nome-ites, who warm up even the coldest of November days.
This annual winter festival, in existence for more than 50 years, is held on back-to-back weekends at the end of January and beginning of February. With the state’s biggest winter fireworks display, $1,000 bingo cash pots, sled dog races, talent contests, foot races and fat-tire bike races, the festival is a regional draw and a fun place for travelers to see Alaskans cut loose.The carnival kicks off with a dinner at the community center, where… ...more
Visit local galleries and shops in downtown Seward to see featured local artists and enjoy local Alaskan hospitality. See handmade jewelry, pottery, photography, paintings, metal work, carvings, clothing and more. Occasionally the event includes local musicians, dancers or drummers.
If you like small-town Independence Day celebrations, you’ll love this one. It’s an all-day celebration of tasty food and quirky games, featuring kids, dogs, floats, flags…and slugs. It begins with a parade of people walking and riding bikes and four-wheelers along Tenakee Avenue, beginning at the fire hall.
Nome is a star attraction for birders, who might be surprised by hundreds of yellow ducks drifting down the Snake River on Labor Day.
If you love bluegrass and camping in the Alaskan wilderness, this is the festival for you. Bands play for 20 hours each day, and there are vendors selling handmade craft items and food of all kinds. The festival is also focused around camping, and the whole family is encouraged to participate: there’s even a designated family camping area.
In early summer, Petersburg folks let their hair down — or bundle it up under a horned helmet — during a three-day party to toast their Viking heritage. This festival warmly welcomes visitors. The town’s main drag is barricaded off as fearsome marchers in horned helmets and furs parade a dragon-bowed Viking ship down Nordic Avenue.
Miners took a lot of gold out of Dexter Creek, just northeast of Nome, and the Wyatt Earp Dexter Challenge takes participants through this backcountry on the Dexter Bypass Road. Walkers, runners and bikers complete different course lengths, but all cover some of this ridge-lined territory on the backside of Anvil Mountain.
In mid-February, the Mat-Su Valley hosts the beginning of the longest and toughest snowmobile race event in the world: the Iron Dog. In its 30th year in 2013, the race features teams of two snowmobile racers riding from Wasilla to Nome to Fairbanks, covering more than 2,000 miles of rugged Alaskan terrain. Sea ice crossings, the frozen Yukon River, and treacherous passes await these rugged snowmobilers, who don’t slow down for anything; some of ...more
From Nome to your home: You can capture the spirit of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and stay active during winter no matter where you live through Nome-based charity fundraisers: Idita-splash and Idita-walk.
Every September since 2004, an interesting tradition has taken place: locals create a giant woven basket with birch, fireweed, and grass, set it out on the beach, decorate it, throw notes into it, and then, at sundown, burn it up in spectacular fashion. Artist Mavis Muller began this unique event, and today, it makes for a vibrant evening, filled with music and dancing, that showcases a strong community spirit and respect for the local ...more
For an authentic Alaskan celebration, head to Fairbanks in the third week of July. That’s when residents cut loose in honor of their Gold Rush history, during a five-day festival they call Golden Days. Bank managers dress up as sourdough miners, waitress don “fluzie” outfits, and most of the city turns out for races, parades, and great food. It’s a great time to meet locals — who are in a festive, social mood — and to be swept up in a big Alaskan ...more
Perfectly timed for the approaching holiday season, the Ketchikan Arts & Humanities Council’s Winter Arts Faire showcases the creations of local artists, which make for great gifts. More than 80 artists exhibit their work here, so you could easily fill all of your holiday wish lists with local, handmade gifts.
The Talkeetna Trio is made up of two distances of 20 and 60 miles, FAT BIKES only. Beautiful rolling terrain with narrow trails, with some river running and each lap takes you through downtown Talkeetna. Starting point is at the Denali Brewing Company.
See what it’s like to be “Nome for the Holidays” at the much-anticipated Christmas Extravaganza fills Old St. Joe’s Hall with music, Santa and his elves, live reindeer, and just about everybody in town.
Every Friday from late May through August, visit the popular open-air market in downtown Palmer. Started in 2002, this summer-long festival celebrates downtown Palmer and the people and businesses that make the town great.
Each year, the streets of downtown Fairbanks burst with a 12-hour, family-friendly street fair packed with live music, performances and hundreds of booths selling food, crafts, official festival t‑shirts, and handmade souvenirs. Activities include face painting, gold panning, an annual BBQ cook-off, sled dog puppies, and a skate park. This popular block party reflects the importance of summer solstice to Interior Alaskans.
Talkeetna celebrates the dark month of December with its annual Talkeetna Winterfest. This popular festival attracts folks from Anchorage and Fairbanks with its famed Bachelor Society Ball and Auction. Come watch the bidding as Talkeetna Bachelors fetch as much as $1,000 for a drink and dance at the ball. The auction and ball, held the first Saturday of the month, are the highlights. But don’t miss the Parade of Lights, held on the festival’s… ...more
The summer outdoor Farmer’s Market, on the right side of Ocean Drive en route to the Spit, offers not only fresh produce and art, but also performing artists on stage. It’s a very pleasant aspect of Homer life. The entertainment ranges from singer/songwriter guitarists, quartets, elaborate dance performances to marimba bands to mention a few. In a town so full of talent, one can always expect an added treat at the Farmer’s Market, not only in ...more
Billed as the “World’s Longest, Toughest Snowmachine Race,” the Iron Dog course totals 2,274 long winter miles. Beginning at Big Lake (north of Anchorage), the race course leads to Nome, and then ends in Fairbanks. Racers and the Nome community enjoy a festive banquet halfway through the race.
Kake’s residents were the first Alaska Natives to become U.S. citizens, when the community incorporated under Federal law in 1912. Celebrating Independence Day is a big deal in Kake, with plenty of fireworks, kids dressed in red, white and blue, a parade, games and races.
The Official Race Start begins in the town of Willow on the first Sunday in March. Come see the mushers head out on “The Last Great Race” and get a feel for a small-town Alaskan winter. The race begins at 2 p.m., with mushers leaving the gate every two minutes. Several thousand fans show up to cheer on the 60 to 70 dog teams; vendors selling food and souvenirs set up at the Willow Community Center. There’s usually a shuttle from Wasilla, and… ...more
The biggest community party of the year in Pelican is the 4th of July celebration, which starts a day early with a big fireworks display late on July 3rd. Live music, quirky contests, a parade and a community picnic round out the festivities.
The first few weeks of each year are a time of renewal. In Kake each January 8, residents and guests gather at the Community Hall to commemorate the anniversary of the city’s 1912 incorporation (it was the first Native village to do so). Kake Day celebrates the city’s self-governance, as well as its Tlingit roots.
Held the second weekend in June, the town of Palmer commemorates the area’s original farmers, and Palmer’s colony history.
This ambitious event spotlighting overlooked choral and classical music and incorporating natural elements from Sitka’s surroundings, speaks to the town’s artistic legacy and its ambitions. This annual, week-long chamber music festival promotes an inclusive, accessible vision of classical music, with free events, workshops and performances.
Mushing in Alaska is often a family activity, with entire households devoted to the feeding, training, and care of dog kennels that can house more than 100 canines! Teenagers from these families, plus other teens who have stumbled into the world of mushing, compete in a 160-mile race the weekend prior to the start of the Iditarod. It’s a small field, usually under 15 people, and the race takes under 24 hours. You can catch the start of the… ...more
The water’s cold, but there’s definitely gold to be found in the “Poor Man’s Beach Gold Panning Contest,” held annually in Nome’s Anvil City Square. Grab a pan and a bag of pay dirt and see if you can find the gold faster than anybody else.
Unalaskans turn out for an active running/racing schedule most of the year no matter the weather. In fact, the season officially gets started with the 5K Polar Bear Run in late February, when the average temp is still hovering around 32 degrees. Events range from mild to technically challenging, and most also offer shorter versions for the kids. Come to Unalaska, and join a race February — November!
Nome residents have celebrated the Fourth of July since before the town was even incorporated. A festive parade and range of games is always on the agenda, from the high kick, to gunny sack and bicycle races. And in Nome, the fun isn’t just for kids. There are race categories for all ages!
If you’re looking for a traditional 4th of July, you’ll get that and more in Glacier View. Visit this small town with superb views where you can take part in a community get-together that features a flyover of Kingdom Air Corps planes, a parade, community bbq (bring your own meat to grill on provided grills), fireworks, and the launching of a vehicle off a 300 foot cliff.
Come on out to watch some community softball, a passion for many residents. Nome usually fields nearly a dozen teams, offering pretty competitive softball for a small town on the far reaches of Alaska. With games throughout the summer and a Midnight Sun Festival tournament, the ball is in play several days a week, rain or shine.
An annual event with local Alaskan artists, featuring beautiful work for your holiday shopping pleasure. Don’t forget to check out the food vendors, live entertainment, holiday music and Santa! Generally the first week in December at the Dale R. Lindsey Alaska Railroad Intermodal Facility.
Get a real taste of native Alaska. This festival — called Nalukataq — is a tradition of the Inupiaq Eskimos of northern Alaska, held after the spring whale-hunting season to give the locals a chance to say thanks for a successful hunting season. There are traditional songs and dances, including a blanket toss, where a dancer is tossed high in the air from a blanket made of seal skins. You’ll find the most events in Barrow, though other towns in the ...more
You probably call them “snowmobiles,” but Alaskans call them “snowmachines.” The Alcan 200 is billed as the “fastest snowmachine race on earth.” Machines have been clocked over 110 miles per hour as they zoom along the 154-mile course, from the Canadian Border to Dezadeash Lake, Yukon Territory. Portions of the Haines Highway are closed during the race, and plenty of partying takes place in town before and after this January event.
Five days of festivities peppered with traditional and quirky tournaments, games, races and competitions. The festival is held Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, ending on Memorial Day
Unalaskans are “always ready” for music, a tradition that goes back to the 1920s. Back in those days, there was just one piano on the whole Aleutian Chain, and it was used by Bering Sea Patrol commander Captain Frances Van Boskerck (along with friends Alfred Nannestad and Joseph Fournier) to write a catchy tune that became United States Coast Guard’s anthem “Semper Paratus” (“always ready”). Today, there are plenty more pianos, along with plenty ...more
Reaching deep into a sleeve of hot kettle corn for the kernels at the bottom amid a pop-up city of white tent tops is an easy recipe for a classic afternoon in Fairbanks. Farmers markets double as open-air social halls to run into friends and neighbors while shopping, and also play host to cooking demonstrations, competitions (like the purple vegetable contest), and live music.
Every town has their 4th of July traditions, and while small, Whittier’s is lots of fun. And, it’s the main community event of the year. It also doesn’t take itself too seriously! There’s a tiny parade through the downtown “triangle” (blink and you might miss it!).
The World Eskimo-Indian Olympics (WEIO) were formed over fifty years ago to spread knowledge and awareness of traditional skills and games to visitors and residents of Alaska. Each summer, the top athletes from the circumpolar north (including teams from Greenland and Russia) gather in Fairbanks to compete in tests of strength, endurance, balance, and tolerance for pain. World Eskimo-Indian Olympics usually runs from July 16th-19th at the ...more
A relatively new event, the Celebration of Bears takes place in August, a time when the pink salmon run is peaking and bear viewing along the Chilkoot River is most reliable. Hosted by the Alaska Chilkoot Bear Foundation, the free, two-day festival promotes bear education.
An annual New Year’s Eve tradition, the Luminary Ski is a free community event on the Divide Ski Trails (at Mile 12 of the Seward Highway). The trails are lit by candlelight, and you can walk, snowshoe, or ski, depending on your preference. Hot cocoa, cider, and a campfire are provided.
The Kachemak Bay Wooden Boat Society holds an annual festival in September. Features include a tour of the waters includes a WWII era wooden tug converted for charter use, kids boat building, marine demonstrations (including knot tying, net mending, and bronze casting. For entertainment, listen to tall tales and poets.
Looking for a music festival during your visit to the far North? There’s one held every year the second weekend of June in the town of Chicken, Alaska. 2016 will be the 10th annual. Like any good music festival, it promises good music, plenty of beer, and lots of fun.
With almost 30 years under its belt, the Ketchikan Wearable Arts Show is an event you don’t want to miss. Described as the “original runway performance,” this show has inspired imitations in neighboring communities and around the world. If you’d like to see a show that most clearly represents pure artistic talent, this is it.
Running the Gold Dust Dash in Nome offers a beautiful view along the 5K race course up and back along the shoreline of the Bering Sea. A gold nugget is on the line for first place finishers, so most runners enjoy the view at top speed. The Gold Dust Dash is the first of many events celebrating summer solstice in Nome.
On these special Fridays, art galleries celebrate new works by local artists, and it’s great entertainment for art lovers. You may find galleries hosting receptions with hors d’oeuvres, offering a chance to meet local artists while enjoying a stroll through downtown. Look for a map of participating galleries in the Anchorage Press or the Anchorage Daily News the day before.
The annual four-day Bear Paw Festival brings fun events like live music and dancing, races, a car show, carnival rides, food and drink, and all kinds of vendors every mid-July to downtown Eagle River. Don’t miss the only-in-Alaska events like the Slippery Salmon Olympics
Come see the thrill of human ingenuity surrounded by the majesty of Mother Nature. At this drag racing track in Palmer — the only International Hot Rod Association track in Alaska, and the only NASCAR sanctioned oval track in the state, you can have a relaxing but thrilling day of entertainment, with races every weekend all summer long. Plus, it’s definitely a must-stop for any hot rod lover or racing fan: this is arguably the most picturesque… ...more
Come to Pelican the first weekend in June to try your luck at the King Salmon Derby. June is the best time to catch a fat, sweet King, especially along the coastal waters of nearby Yakobi Island.
The tiny town of Houston triples its population (all the way up to 6,000!) during this one-day family-friendly blowout on the third Saturday in August. And the best part is that everything’s free! Kids’ games and bouncy rooms, dunk tanks, fishing ponds, slides, and a BBQ…it’s all covered by the folks of Houston. The block party-style festival, which has been going on for at least 30 years, was started for kids, and they’ve kept the focus on… ...more
Plants, organic flours, handmade products (like pottery, beadwork, knitted goods, artwork, lip balms and salves), and historical books about the area. Food stands, meanwhile, brim with market favorites like soft pretzels, hot dogs and fries.
Snowmachines are part of daily life around Nome, but you usually have to mind the speed limit. Not so in the Cannonball Snowmachine Race each April, when racers tear up the trail in multiple laps around Nome.
The view from Nome’s Anvil Mountain is worth the effort it takes to climb 1,100 feet to the summit. Two very different summer competitions feature a fast race to the top. How much time you spend up there enjoying the grand view of Nome and the Bering Sea is all up to you.
Over 275, aviation only exhibitors featuring the latest technology, state-of-the-art products, new innovations and comprehensive safety conference. Indoor & Outdoor Static Displays featuring every type of aircraft – sport, general aviation, vintage, experimental, commercial, corporate and military. The Alaska State Aviation Trade Show is about flying in Alaska complete with a frontier flair. Discover industry trends. Learn about new… ...more
Although it’s a state holiday, Alaska Day is owned by Sitka, which throws an annual, day-long party to observe the anniversary of the transfer of the Alaska Territory to the United States. There’s a parade led by the pipe and drum regiment of the Seattle Fire Department; a ball, historical reenactments, panel discussions, and more.
Join this annual competition hosted in Downtown Anchorage at Ship Creek where anglers cast their line for a prize-winning King Salmon. It’s one of Anchorage’s most exciting events — come and watch, or cast your own line. Visitors and locals can participate! Rent all the equipment you need and purchase a license from The Bait Shack.
When you see berry pickers dotting the tundra around Nome, you know the Blueberry Festival is just around the corner. Don’t miss this one-day gathering that celebrates all-things blueberry: from music to arts and crafts, and so many blueberry-based food concoctions.
The “Haines Beerfest,” as its known by locals, is very popular, and tickets sell out weeks in advance. It kicks off with a gourmet dinner, paired with beer tastings. The following day, the crowd descends on the Southeast Alaska State Fairgrounds, where craft beer and homebrew samples abound.
Seward’s Halibut Tournament, in June, offers an early-season focus on this famous fish, attracting anglers from all over Alaska and beyond
Robbers with guns drawn stride down Nome’s Front Street each solstice with one goal: to rob the bank and get away with bags of loot. The plan is somehow always foiled, but that doesn’t matter. Those robbers keep trying, year after year! Watch for the bad guys to come calling at high noon just after the Midnight Sun parade.
Many events are held here throughout the year, the largest being the Kenai Peninsula Fair held annually the 3rd weekend in August. Locals call this the biggest little fair in Alaska. The festivities include a rodeo, parade, livestock competition, horse show and exhibits ranging from arts and crafts to produce.
This festival brings together some of America’s most talented string musicians and has garnered national acclaim. Celebrated for over 40 years, the festival is the vision of Paul Rosenthal, a violinist from New York who visited Alaska while on tour in 1972. It’s grown to include fall and winter performances in Anchorage and other parts of the state. The stringed performances are truly impressive (they’ve been featured in the New York Times… ...more
The Kluane Chilkat Bike Relay takes place in June, right around the longest day of the year (the summer solstice). The 8‑leg relay starts in Haines Junction, Yukon, and ends in Ft. Seward in Haines, a distance of 150 miles. It attracts a wide range of enthusiasts, from serious bike racers to local teams simply out to have a good time.
Certified by the U.S. Track and Field Association, this annual marathon is run against the gorgeous backdrop of the Alaskan wilderness. People come from far and wide to participate: all 50 states and some 15 countries. And if you’re not up for the full 26.2, you can still be a part of it by running the half-marathon, the 4- mile race, the 1.6‑mile youth race, or the marathon relay.
Can your homemade raft survive a race down a five-mile stretch of the Nome River? How about when water balloons and squirt guns are in play between race participants and even spectators? The Nome River Raft Race, held each June as part of the Midnight Sun Festival, is one event where getting wet is not only part of the fun – it’s a requirement!
Tee off in the ice and snow of the frozen Bering Sea in this 6‑hole charity golf classic that includes a mandatory stop-off at a local bar after the first three holes. Parka, fur hat, and heavy boats are advisable for one of the most unique golf outings you’ll ever experience.
Plunging into the Bering Sea’s frigid waters takes a lot of nerve, but each year dozens of folks jump in with gusto as part of the Nome Rotary Club’s Polar Bear Swim. Many get out as fast as they went in, with gasps, smiles and a rush to the nearby bonfire. It’s all part of Nome’s wacky annual celebration of summer solstice.
The Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby is the longest running derby in Alaska and boasts the largest jackpot, too.
Fall in Unalaska brings cooler air, rich color to the tundra, and a plethora of berries. While locals can be pretty secretive about their favorite picking spots, they are generous with the fruits of their labors – at the annual Blueberry Bash. Here you’ll find an amazing array of blueberry dishes – table after table loaded with variations on tasty pies, cobblers and tarts, along with jams, vinegars, chutneys, salsas and everything in between. ...more
Each February a select group of hardy souls sets out from Knik Lake to test themselves against Alaska’s harsh winter elements. Their mission? To traverse the famed Iditarod trail, by mountain bike, ski, or on foot – with little to no trail support. Crazy? Maybe. Inspiring? Definitely.
The 200-mile Nome-Golovin Race is held on the second Saturday in March. Racers begin and end in Nome after following 100 miles of the Iditarod trail down the coast to Golovin and back. It takes just a few hours, so you can catch both the start and finish – and maybe even catch the Award Ceremonies, held a few days later.
Learn about the far north through the eyes of creative film-makers (many of them local) in this 2‑day film festival organized by the Nome Arts Council.
One of the most unique golf outings you could ever experience takes place every August, on the Aleutian tundra thousands of miles from any established golf course. This is a place where you can (and perhaps should) wear knee high boots as you advance along a 9‑hole course winding through the Pyramid Valley of Unalaska Island.
Alaskans love winter recreation, and this race is a testament to the cold-weather fanatics of the far north. Following portions of the original Iditarod trail and the frozen Susitna River, this 100-mile race is open to bikers, runners, and cross-country skiers. Set in February on President’s Day weekend, the racers deal with 13 hours of darkness and whatever the winter elements might be that week: minus-20 degree temps, snow, wind, or maybe… ...more
Youth talent is on display at Nome’s Summerfest, an end-of-July celebration held in Anvil City Square. Face-painting, a talent show, bounce-house and community booths are all part of the fun in this annual event that honors youth, the arts, and healthy choices.
4th of July is Elfin Cove’s biggest community event, with everyone turning out for some patriotic fun that includes a pancake breakfast, games and even a banana slug race!
Experience Nome’s collective creative spirit at the Nome Arts Council Open Mic events, held in mid-November and in March during Iditarod Week. They are always well-attended, so arrive early to enjoy some of Nome’s best music, dance, poetry and story-tellers.
Winter festival featuring live music, food, and a beer garden held each February in Soldotna Creek Park.
This is the lottery, Alaska-style. To enter, just buy a ticket and pick the date and time (down to the minute) in April or May when you think the winter ice on the Tanana River will break. Winning could mean a windfall: the pool has reached nearly $300,000 in recent years.
“You too can clean up your act,” promise sponsors of Nome’s wacky Labor Day Bathtub Race. Whether a participant or a bystander, be prepared to get splashed as tubs full of water, bubbles – and a bather – are raced 100 yards down Front Street. For Nome, this is good, clean fun!
The Musk Ox Farm has hosted the “Running with the Bulls” trail race on the first Sunday in August since 2002. Don’t miss out on this uniquely Alaskan one-of-a-kind race!
Coming to Kake in the summer? Time your visit to late July/early August so you can participate in the Dog Salmon Festival, a community celebration with great food, crazy games, music, and dancing. It’s the biggest event of the year, and a time when the entire community comes together to celebrate the bounty of the land and sea.
Something magical happens in Soldotna every year during the fourth week of July. That’s when the town comes alive with Soldotna Progress Days — an annual community celebration worth planning your visit around.
One week after the town of Willow hosts the Iditarod Sled Dog Restart, locals take advantage of the groomed trail by playing golf on it! Started by the Chamber of Commerce, this icy links tournament draws some 100 foul-weather golfers for a 9‑hole tourney. According to participants, the ball bounces on groomed snow just like on real grass. There’s a limit of two clubs per person, but teams can share their clubs (a putter and seven iron are… ...more
In Nome you can find truly unique, hand-made items during local arts and crafts fairs. The largest of these takes place during Iditarod Week in mid-March. Take advantage of the local flavor and pick up a hand-spun qiviut (muskox fibres) garment, ivory carvings or a sealskin hat.
This big pullout doesn’t look like much, but each spring bird watchers from around the world gather here to look for elusive species of raptors and falcons. Migrating north for summer, red tail hawks, sharp-shinned hawks, gyre falcons and other birds of prey gather in large numbers here, playing on the uplifts along the windy cliffs. In addition to seeing impressive numbers of hawks and rare species, birders are drawn by the good light, with… ...more
Jazz in Alaska? In the winter? You bet. In fact, this three-day festival, which takes place over the first weekend in February, has been going on for 17 years. And it continues to draw musicians from New Orleans, Detroit, San Francisco, and New York. The festival’s mission is to bring jazz to Sitka. Professional musicians headline evening performances, but music students also perform at the 650-seat Performing Arts Center. In fact, nearly 200… ...more
Separated from the Alaska mainland by fjords and steep mountains, Southeast Alaska developed its own “state fair” 50 years ago. In the words of one of its annual themes, the Haines-based fair really does “soak in Southeast.”
One of the best ways to view the true spirit of a small community is to take part in its annual Fourth of July parade. This is true for the City of Unalaska, where you’ll see a number of unique floats put together by local businesses, community groups and individuals. The spirit of patriotism runs high in this wind-swept Aleutian island, whose history includes an attack by Japanese bombers during World War II.
Musicians don’t even have to audition to perform at this “come-one, come-all” festival, and not knowing quite what you’ll get makes the event even more spontaneous and fun. It’s also free, which means it’s a great opportunity to bring the whole family to enjoy the music.
It’s a wonder that it took until recently to launch this celebration in the town long-billed as “Sitka-by-the-Sea.” Who doesn’t want to be a mermaid? Held over five days in late August, this celebration of the sea includes a Mermaid Parade, seafood tastings and a two-day public market.
The annual Alaska Bald Eagle Festival takes place in Haines during the second week of November at the peak of the largest congregation of eagles in the world. Drawn by a late run of chum and coho salmon, some 2,000 to 4,000 eagles converge on the Chilkat River Valley.
Summers are busy in Ketchikan, with up to five cruise ships making port every day, but the locals also know how to play hard — especially at the huge Blueberry Arts Festival, hosted every August by the Ketchikan Arts and Humanities Council. In a town of 14,000, you’re likely to see as many as 8,000 people come out to this family-friendly event that celebrates the Southeast Alaskan blueberry.
Located on the shores of Kachemak Bay, Homer is one of the most accessible and beautiful places for shorebird viewing in Alaska. Many visitors fly in (with the birds) while others drive the scenic road, about four hours south from Anchorage. Over 100,000 shorebirds migrate through this area, some staying to make their homes here. Many travel thousands of miles resting and feeding at a few critical stop-over points such as the base of the Homer ...more
Founded in 2001, the Anchorage International Film Festival will be hosting its 16th annual celebration of independent film in Anchorage this December. Attended by filmmakers and cinema-lovers from all over the US and the world, the festival seeks to support new media and independent filmmaking in Alaska and beyond. Festival-goers are treated to the opportunity to watch films not-yet-released or that won’t be released in Alaskan theaters, plus ...more
Kick up your heels during Nome’s Salmonberry Jam, a three-day music festival with workshops, guest artists, local musicians, dancing, hand-made crafts, and a community cookout and jam.
Very few art festivals in the country are as boldly multi-disciplinary as the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival with classes in music, dance, theatre, visual arts, literary arts, culinary arts, and healing arts. Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival hosts a thousand people, from beginners to advanced practitioners, register each year to explore their inner artist.
Come try your luck at ice fishing during the month-long Mat-Su Valley Pike Derby. Drill a hole and start jigging for pike, a large invasive species with a voracious appetite that grows to impressive lengths (winning fish are close to four feet long). Hosted by organizations from the town of Houston, the derby features prizes for the most fish caught, as well as the longest, heaviest, shortest, and lightest pike. The fish are cooked at the… ...more
An annual, must attend event with fabulous art, live music and dance performances. Local Alaskan artisans and food vendors are featured. The Seward Art’s Council promotes this ever growing event, with a commitment to youth involvement, education, and creative inspiration; as well as a philosophy of low environmental impact. It is a family-oriented festival with children’s activities and artist’s projects throughout the weekend; including the ...more
In the cold and dark heart of winter, in the slightly twisted, yet brilliant mind of a local DJ, an ember slowly burned. How long, how hot, who knows? What we do know is that the ember grew into a flame and once released, grew legs, antlers and much more…A legend was born. In a small office, not far away, a community festival struggled. After staggering debt was paid off thanks to community support, it was time to give Rondy back to the… ...more
Framed by green mountains on three sides, Kelty field is the perfect setting for an end-of-summer party – a celebration of Aleutian life and the people who make Unalaska their home (whether year-round or just for the summer). Coordinated by the city’s Parks, Culture and Recreation Department, the Heart of the Aleutians Festival is a family affair, where artists and their crafts, small businesses and non-profits fill the community tent with ...more
All races are on courses that make them easy to watch from the end of the Spit. Frequently they race around the ‘green can’ marker on a shoal west of the Spit, and Gull Island, a few miles across Kachemak Bay from end of the Spit. Sometimes there are only four boats racing and other times up to 20. They are very open-minded sailors and whether or not you have had any sailing experience they welcome new crew. Captains and Crews meet on P… ...more
There’s no place like Nome at solstice time. The community gathers for a celebration like no other: the Midnight Sun Festival. Spirits are high, as locals take advantage of more than 21 hours of direct sunlight. Events include a parade down Front Street, a mock bank robbery, and an icy plunge in the Bering Sea.
Cordova’s oldest festival — which started back in 1961 — is about offering a cure for the winter blues. This weeklong festival happens during the hopeful time of year when the days are starting to get longer!
A beautiful 100k race on remote piston bully snow trails in the spectacular Caribou hills outside of Homer. Racers pick one mode: FATBIKE, SKI, or RUN and must finish in one day or less. Starting point is McNeil Canyon Elementary School.
Whether you land a record-breaker or not, the Halibut Derby in Unalaska is a full day’s worth of excitement. Held on a single day in late June or early July, you’ll have just ten hours to land the largest halibut you can – and a $1,000 cash prize is on the line.
Many people travel to Seldovia, across Kachemak Bay from Homer during summer solstice for music, games, food, workshops and fun during their three-day Summer Solstice Music Festival, a popular outing sponsored by the Seldovia Arts Council every year. Most events are staged in the Susan B. English School auditorium. There’s an open mic session for early arrivals Thursday evening and the main performances are Friday and Saturday. There are ...more
Flying, of course, is a way of life in Alaska, and this air show celebrates the skilled pilots who traverse the state. They fly in from all over Alaska and line the tarmac with their planes. Nonstop performances make for great family entertainment, like the short take-off and landing contest and the flour-bombing contest (where planes drop bags of flour on a target).
King salmon hit town just after the snow melts and people are ready for the sunny days of summer. With temps in the 60s and 70s for the first time in months, the whole place comes alive. The diehards are out weeks ahead of time to see where the Kings are. Volunteers help out at the weigh-in stations and give hourly updates to the radio station, which airs these along with fish-ladder reports.
A 100 mile human powered adventure in remote and beautiful interior Alaska, near Fairbanks.
This annual fair has been taking place for more than 30 years, and there’s lots to do, including a parade, games, a horse show, and of course a music festival. It promises fun for the whole family.
One of skiing’s toughest — and strangest — races, the Arctic Man combines skiing with snowmobiling. Watch skiers speed down a narrow canyon for a full 2 miles, then meet up with their snowmobiling partners, who tow the skiers uphill at full throttle before they race downhill again. Are there broken bones in this race? You bet.
This little lake is situated on the Peel Plateau, and is the site of the annual Midway Lake Music Festival, held the first weekend in August. Don’t forget both your sunblock and mosquito repellent!
Sure, you’ll find all the makings of a great state fair here, including contests (don’t miss the delicious baking contest) and games that make for family fun. But the rodeo is definitely a highlight: it’s a taste of the Wild West, Alaska-style, complete with bull riding and a horse show. You’ll also see one of the oddest small-town contests anywhere: a cow-milking contest, where audience members are invited to chase down small cows and milk ...more
Some 400 runners make their way north every fall to participate in this marathon, which was started in 1963. The trail starts and ends at the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus.
Don’t let “trade show” scare off any non-pilots: Alaska’s biggest aviation show is more like an interactive museum. Bush planes, 747s, and military planes and helicopters are all on display — and everyone can climb into them, which makes this event perfect for families. A thrilling performance of the secret F22 Raptor usually caps off the event.
Premier fishing derbys are on the bucket list of many a serious fisherman: to Costa Rica for sailfish and tuna, to Prince William Sound to salmon shark, and to Homer or Southeast Alaska for halibut.
The race course is an 8.2 mile circumnavigation of Pennock Island, making it one of the most unique – and one of the longest — open-water marathons. (Seasoned swimmers usually take between 3 and 4 hours to finish). Enter as a solo swimmer or as a 2- or 4‑person relay, and there is a wetsuit category as well.
Calling all nature buffs — or anyone who appreciates a large gathering of creatures. Every August, thousands of Sandhill Cranes begin their annual migration south from Alaska, and this Fairbanks festival is where to catch the spectacle. Some 1,000 cranes appear daily, and there are accompanying lectures and nature walks so participants can fully appreciate the event.
Showcasing local residents kicking up their heels in a broad range of dance styles – from ballet to boogie woogie to Filipino break dancing!
People wearing wacky costumes and jumping into 35-degree water: sounds like the makings of a fun Alaskan winter festival. This tradition began in 1986, and while the jumpoff itself is the highlight, plenty of other wacky activities take place during the festival, including ice bowling, oyster slurping, and a bed-making contest. There’s also a bachelor and bachelorette auction, a parade, dog-sled races, and an arts and crafts fair.
Sea cucumbers poached in green tea with Japanese seawood, sliced geoduck with soy sauce and lemon, crab quiche with large chunks of Dungeness crab and shrimp ceviche with tequila.
Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday in summer, more than 100 vendors sell a wide variety of Alaskan-made goods and food from all over the world. Whether you’re in the market for a valuable keepsake or a last-minute souvenir, you’ll likely find what you want here. You’ll find souvenir T‑shirts, furs, painters and photographers selling their work, handmade jewelry, and more. Music and dance performances keep the market lively.
Established in 1924, The Tanana Valley State Fair seeks to highlight and enhance appreciation for Interior Alaska by showcasing competitive and commercial exhibits during an annual Fair with wide community appeal. The Tanana Valley State Fair is the oldest in Alaska, and the farthest north in the United States.