Anchorage, Fairbanks and surrounding area
Day 1 Anchorage – Fairbanks
Arrive in Anchorage the night before your departure on the Alaska Railroad Aurora Winter Train and get settled. The Aurora Winter Train is the only passenger train operated by the railroad in winter months, and runs on weekends with a single, one-way route between Anchorage and Fairbanks each day. Depart for Fairbanks in the morning from the downtown Anchorage rail depot. Take in the breathtaking beauty of Alaska from the comfort of a deluxe vista dome car. Eat lunch and dinner on board while you enjoy panoramic views of the snow-blanketed Matanuska and Susitna valleys and Denali National Park and Preserve. You’ll arrive in Fairbanks around 8 p.m. Overnight at one the many hotels and lodges in the area, where they are happy to provide “aurora wake up calls” to alert you if the northern lights start dancing in the middle of the night.
Day 2 Fairbanks
Spend the day at Chena Hot Springs Resort, located an hour from Fairbanks by car. Rentals are available in Fairbanks, or book a shuttle transfer through the resort at least 72 hours in advance. Chena Hot Springs Resort is a year-round resort featuring a natural outdoor hot springs, an adult rock lake (ages 18 or older) and an indoor family pool. The resort is renowned for being one of the best places to view the northern lights from September to May, and offers special aurora wake-up calls for guests when the aurora appears late at night or early in the morning. Spend the day relaxing and soaking in the warm springs or get a therapeutic massage. After sunset, go on a snow coach tour 30 minutes away to a 30-foot yurt for the ultimate aurora-viewing experience. End the day with a nightcap or some hot tea at the resort’s Trails End Lounge.
Day 3 Chena Hot Springs - Fairbanks
Begin your day with a tour of a working dog kennel at the resort, followed by a two-mile dog mushing excursion. Later, take a guided snowmobile tour on backcountry trails. Stop in at the resort’s Aurora Ice Museum — the world’s largest year-round ice museum — and peruse ice sculptures created by 15-time world champion ice carver Steve Brice. Before you leave, enjoy sweet appletini served in a martini glass carved from ice. Take a final dip in the hot springs, pack up and drive (or take the shuttle back) to Fairbanks. Enjoy dinner at a local bistro in town; several boast extensive wine lists. Spend the night at a local hotel or B&B in Fairbanks.
Day 4 Fairbanks
Explore the Arctic Circle by land or air and watch for the spectacular aurora borealis. Several Fairbanks-based tour companies offer trips to take you north from Fairbanks for northern lights viewing and other outdoor adventures. Alaska’s Far North region is one of the best areas to view the aurora due to its location under the Auroral Oval, a zone of intense aurora activity in the atmosphere. Full-day tours highlight landmarks such as the trans-Alaska oil pipeline and the Yukon River, and include a ceremonial crossing of the Arctic Circle. Stop in various rural villages to view the northern lights and return to your hotel in the early hours of the next morning. If you have extra time, many tour companies offer multi-day northern lights viewing expeditions into Alaska’s Arctic. Board a return flight to Anchorage or fly home from Fairbanks International Airport.