Soak Up the Best of Sunny August
August in Alaska is hotly anticipated for its warm weather, freshly harvested produce and world-renowned salmon and halibut runs. With nearly round-the-clock daylight, Alaskans know how to make the most of the late dog days of summer, and visitors are invited to enjoy the revelry.
Alaska's State Fair kicks off, fishing derbies ramp up near prime salmon and halibut runs, and the countryside bursts with colorful wildflowers and berries. Read on for some of the best events and activities perfect for soaking in the midnight sun in the month of August.
Alaska State Fair
The Alaska State Fair, hosted in scenic Palmer, offers the quintessential Alaskan summer celebration. Held in late August through early September, this all-American fair's location is idyllic, framed by postcard-perfect Pioneer Peak on the horizon. In addition to concerts, 4-H displays and carnival rides, curious attendees can check out the giant produce contest. Thanks to the midnight sun, these massive specimens not only steal the spotlight at the fair, but also routinely set Guinness World Records.
Join in the fun by taking a passenger train from Anchorage to the fairgrounds, or drive one-hour northeast on the Glenn Highway to reach Palmer. If you prefer to stay close to the action, there are plenty of lodging options nearby to suit your traveling style. Meal planning is a breeze as well; choose from a variety of culinary delights at the fair, or step away from the crowds to savor Alaska-grown farm-to-table dining in town.
The salmon may be running thickest throughout the state in July, but you can still angle for a big one as late as mid-September. In Southcentral, two towns host fishing derbies into the fall, so you can try your luck for prizes based on weight or for catching a tagged fish. Fishing derbies pay big bucks to the folks who reel in the heaviest fish or who catch a tagged fish associated with a prize.
In Valdez, both the silver salmon and the halibut derbies run until September 4. There are daily raffle prizes, plus a grand prize of $15,000 for each derby. Tickets are only $10 per day, so if you’re already going fishing on gorgeous Prince William Sound it’s worth the money. It’s not uncommon for anglers to catch tagged fish, but without a derby ticket you’re out of luck for the big prize that awaits you.
Homer has named itself the “Halibut Fishing Capital of the World,” and its halibut derby also runs into mid-September. The "Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby" the longest running derby in the state, and with more than 100 tagged fish released into Kachemak Bay (and prizes worth up to $50,000), there’s no reason not to purchase a $10 derby ticket if you’re taking a halibut charter.
Fall may be about late-season fishing, giant vegetable harvests and welcoming the northern lights, but did you know that mushroom hunting is also an Alaska pastime? In Southcentral, two celebrations offer insight, information and fun to morel hunting: the Cordova Fungus Festival and the Girdwood Fungus Fair.
Both include guided walks so you can learn which mushrooms are safe to eat. Since mushrooms thrive in moist areas, you'll want to bring along rain gear for optimal comfort. In Girdwood, events include a fundraiser, live music and mushroom-themed workshops. The festival in Cordova features a keynote speaker and a Wild Food Dinner. At both festivals, you can expect passionate locals and experts offering workshops, cooking demonstrations and hunting tips.
The Cordova Fungus festival is held over Labor Day weekend, while the Girdwood Fungus Fair takes place the last weekend in August.
Late August is harvest time for wild berries, and plump blueberries color the hillsides of mountains around Anchorage (and the rest of the state). Also held in Girdwood in August, the Alyeska Resort Blueberry Festival celebrates the ripening and sweetening of Alaska's wild berries.
Festivities include a pie-eating contest (naturally), guided berry walks and free chairlift rides up to the breath-taking vista on the mountain.