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Santa Clause House in North Pole, Alaska in winter.
Photo Credit: ATIA, Brian Adams
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Winter Sightseeing from Anchorage to Fairbanks

Winter Sightseeing from Anchorage to Fairbanks

This winter adventure through Southcentral and Interior Alaska features a scenic rail excursion, balmy hot springs, aurora viewing, dog mushing, and a visit to Santa’s house. Also included: a two-day extension to the remote community of Bettles for more aurora viewing and fun in the snow.

Day 1: Anchorage

Experience Alaska’s indigenous cultures and state history at the Alaska Native Heritage Center and Anchorage Museum, or learn about the state’s pioneering bush pilots at the Alaska Aviation Museum. Wrap up the day by exploring downtown Anchorage's art galleries, followed by a hearty evening meal and locally crafted beers at one of the city’s many fine restaurants.

Day 2: Anchorage to Fairbanks by Rail

Time your trip so you can board the Alaska Railroad for its Saturday northbound run to Fairbanks. The day-long journey includes brief stops in Talkeetna and Denali National Park and Preserve, but you’ll want to stay aboard the train as it traverses the wide-open winter landscape en route to Fairbanks.

As Alaska’s short winter day fades into darkness you’ll be treated to the sight of alpenglow illuminating the mountain peaks—including 20,310-foot Denali, which is visible from the train on clear days—into shades of orange, pink, and purple. When you check into your Fairbanks hotel, make sure the staff knows you’d like a wake-up call if the aurora borealis, or northern lights, are visible that night.

Day 3: Fairbanks

Spend the day exploring local museums, art galleries, and cultural facilities, including the University of Alaska Museum of the North, the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center, and the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum.

Day 4: Chena Hot Springs

Rent a winterized car and make the 60-mile drive to Chena Hot Springs for a dog sledding tour, then spend the afternoon soaking in the hot springs. Explore the century-old main lodge building before driving back to Fairbanks.

Day 5: Fairbanks to North Pole

It’s always Christmas in North Pole, just a 15-mile drive southeast of Fairbanks—but winter is definitely the most picturesque time to visit. Stop by the Santa Claus House for Christmas-themed gifts, decorations, and toys. You can also send letters from Santa (they’ll receive an official North Pole postmark) and have your photo taken next to a giant Santa statue. In the evening, return to Fairbanks and check out the events calendar for performances by local musicians and theater groups.

Optional Two-Day Add-On

Day 6: Bettles

In the morning, check in with a local flight-service operator for your flight above the Arctic Circle to the remote village of Bettles. Guided activities in Bettles include dog sledding, wildlife viewing, snowshoeing, skiing, and, if the skies are clear, northern lights viewing.

Day 7: Bettles

Enjoy another day of outdoor recreation and aurora viewing in Bettles. Other options include a flightseeing tour over Gates of the Arctic National Park and the Brooks Range, or a cross-country snowmobile (or as they call it in Alaska, "snowmachine") tour along the frozen Koyukuk River. Return to Fairbanks in the evening.

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