Why This Trip?
Alaska is a special place year-round, but it's truly unique in the fall and winter. There are three distinct periods during the fall and winter season:
Aug 21 - Sep 15: The northern lights are visible by August 21, and most summer activities are available until September 15 (thought some go until the 30th). The fall colors emerge toward the end of August.
Sep 15 - end of November: This is a period where many summer activities have ended for the season, and the winter tours haven't kicked off yet. It's still a great time to come for Aurora and experience Alaska like the locals do.
End of November to early April: By the end of November, you'll find world-class skiing along with classic cold-weather activities like dog sledding and ice fishing.
Arrive & Overnight in Anchorage
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Welcome to Anchorage! Take today to explore Alaska's largest city. In fall, go on a city tour via trolley or bike to get an overview, or join a brewery tour and sample some of the innovative suds being brewed here. In winter, switch that up for a fat bike tour! Then get an in-depth picture of the city and state at the Anchorage Museum. Of course, you'll also want to experience the city's fantastic bars and restaurants.
Day & Overnight in Girdwood
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Today you'll be making the 45-minute drive to Girdwood, home to the world-renowned Alyeska ski resort. Ski season usually kicks off toward the end of November, so get an early start if you want to hit the slopes; you could also go fat-tire biking. Or simply check into the Hotel Alyeska and bask in the luxurious surroundings.
In fall, there are great hiking trails before the snow flies. Here, you'll have the unique opportunity of looking for the northern lights; ask the hotel for an aurora wake-up call and they'll notify you if the famed aurora borealis light up the night sky.
Day & Overnight in Girdwood
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Take advantage of another day in this world-class wonderland. Spend the day schussing down the slopes or exploring the wilderness on cross-country skis. Up the adrenaline by taking a snowmachine ride through the backcountry or taking a winter flightseeing trip. And don't forget to ask for an aurora wake-up call.
If you're here in the fall before the snow falls, go flightseeing, hiking, or visit nearby Whittier for a day cruise in Prince William Sound. Tours typically run through the end of September to early October.
Day & Overnight in Girdwood
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Get in one last day of skiing at this famous resort. Tired from the previous two days? Take it easy and soak in the scenery, hit up the spa, or relax in the pool and hot tub. If you haven't gone flightseeing yet, this is the time to do it; getting a bird's-eye view of the rugged landscape, snowy peaks, and ancient glaciers is an unforgettable experience. You'll also get a great view from the resort's Seven Glaciers Restaurant—a culinary gem at the top of the tram. Or enjoy more casual fine dining at Jack Sprat.
In fall, take a day drive to nearby Portage Valley, and marvel at the glaciers tucked into the mountains. Walk the Trail of Blue Ice, or rent a bike and do it on two wheels! Or, check out the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. This is a great day trip in winter too.
Drive from Girdwood to Seward
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Drive the 90 miles to the quaint seaside town of Seward, where you can explore the shops and galleries. Make time for a visit to the Alaska SeaLife Center—an aquarium and research facility where you can get an up-close view of Alaska's unique marine creatures, like Stellar sea lions and harbor seals, as well as birds like puffins.
Day & Overnight in Seward
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If you're here before the end of September, take a day cruise into the stunning waters of Resurrection Bay and Kenai Fjords to see glaciers and wildlife. After September, you can still have this experience by booking a custom charter into Resurrection Bay, where the waters are calm and you'll have plenty of opportunities to spot wildlife like whales and sea otters.
In winter, check out the cross-country skiing on some of Seward's scenic trails, or cozy up in a coffee shop with a good book.
Fly from Anchorage to Fairbanks
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Catch a quick, one-hour flight from Anchorage to Fairbanks. If you take an early flight, start exploring. Begin at the University of Alaska Museum of the North, where you'll get a fascinating glimpse of the cultures and wildlife that call this part of Alaska home, as well as a deep dive into contemporary Native Alaska art. Then experience a winter activity like dog sledding, ice fishing, or snowmachining.
In fall, some dog sledding companies offer an augmented tour on an ATV or wheeled cart.
Of course, you'll want to see the northern lights if they appear; ask your Fairbanks Hotel to give you an aurora wake-up call. You can also opt to book into a specialty lodge, specifically designed to view the northern lights.
Day & Overnight in Fairbanks
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Take today to go on another exciting winter tour and try one of the very Alaskan sports you didn't get the chance to do yesterday.
Then be sure to squeeze in a nap if you plan to look for the northern lights tonight! Aurora Pointe is a great spot to do that with a free evening.
Drive to Chena Hot Springs
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Today, you'll travel to Chena Hot Springs, about 90 minutes away. It's a beautiful area with a fascinating history, as the springs were discovered in 1905 by gold prospectors; just seven years later, a resort built there had become the premier resort of Interior Alaska—and still is! You can drive yourself, or choose to go with a winter sightseeing tour, where you can tour the Ice Museum, soak in the hot springs, and get another chance to see the northern lights!
Day & Overnight in Fairbanks / Arctic Circle
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It's your last full day in Fairbanks, and you'll want to take full advantage of being in a place where the aurora borealis so often appears. Sleep in so you'll be ready to stay up later and have the best chance to see the lights. Take the afternoon and enjoy an activity. Then get your camera charged up so you're ready for an evening tour to look for those magical lights dancing across the sky. Or do an overnight trip beyond the Arctic Circle!
Fly from Fairbanks to Anchorage
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Take the one-hour flight back from Fairbanks to Anchorage today. You can do like the locals do and brave the outdoors. Go ice skating at Westchester Lagoon, rent a fat tire bike (or take a tour on a fat tire bike) and ride the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, or enjoy a winter walk on city trails.
Day in the Mat-Su Valley and overnight in Anchorage
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Make the 45-minute drive from Anchorage to the Palmer/Wasilla area, where you'll have lots of adventures to choose from. Get on a snowmachine and ride through the scenic backcountry, checking out the views and looking for wildlife. Experience the iconic Alaskan activity of dog sledding, feeling the wind in your hair as you learn first-hand how Iditarod mushers run the fabled race. For quieter exploration, go out on cross-country skis for a quieter activity. Or stick around town and learn about the history of this fascinating area at one of the museums.
In the fall, Hatcher Pass is a fantastic place to take in the red and yellow fall colors on the tundra. There are great hiking trails and you can explore the historic Independence Mine. Or, opt for a fun and rowdy ATV tour!