Experience Alaska’s Winter Magic
Imagine a land quiet and still. A gentle, snowy expanse spreads as far as the eye can see, while in the dark sky above, waves of light pulse rhythmically in one of the world’s most stunning astronomical phenomena. Winter in Alaska offers one of the most unusual and exciting travel experiences available: take an exhilarating trail ride behind a team of Alaska sled dogs; soak in a thermal hot spring surrounded by snow and ice; witness the spectacle of the aurora borealis, or northern lights, from above the Arctic Circle; or take part in one of the many off-the-wall and hugely entertaining festivals Alaskans hold to help pass the time during our longest season. When is the best time to visit, and where should you go? Read on to learn more about planning an unforgettable Alaska winter vacation.
Fairbanks, located right in the heart of the state, bills itself as Alaska’s winter travel headquarters – and for good reason. The community offers a wide array of activities and experiences that highlight the best of our longest season. For the most part, visitor-friendly winter events are clustered between February and March, and there is a dizzying array of options. High-profile events include the annual Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race, which starts on the banks of the Chena River right in downtown Fairbanks on Feb. 1, 2014. Not long after, the same spot will witness the finish of one of the toughest snowmobile races on earth, the 2,000-mile-long Iron Dog, which is anticipated to finish on Feb. 22 this year. The World Ice Art Championships, which run from Feb. 24-March 30, is an ice sculpting competition that draws the world’s best to Fairbanks each year. Sculptures are arranged in a gorgeous ice park. At the beginning of the event, visitors can watch sculptors in action; once sculptures are complete, the park is artfully lighted, and evening is a great time to wander through enjoying their work.
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Tips from an Alaskan
Ann Sears is an Alaska State Trooper based in her hometown of Nome, Alaska. She has been featured on several episodes of the Discovery Channel's show "Alaska State Troopers" and shares her favorite things to see and do in Nome.
Fairbanks to Coldfoot
Fairbanks is accessible via commercial airliner from many cities in the Lower 48 and via Anchorage. Upon arrival, check in to a cozy lodge or modern hotel, and be sure to ask the front desk for an aurora wake-up call – if the lights are out, they’ll ring your room so you can run outside and get your first glimpse! If you have time today, pay a visit to the University of Alaska Museum of the North to view its extensive natural history and art collection. Before you travel, be sure to check the Fairbanks event calendar to see what’s happening when you arrive.
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