North to Alaska - The Time of Your Life
One of the first things you think about when planning a road trip is timing. When can you go? But almost more importantly, when should you go? Sure, you want to factor in when the weather will be best, but also, what can you do or what events you can attend if you go at any given time.
Attending local events and festivals in towns along your route help color in your experience and help you get to know a destination even better. You can meet locals at a festival, learn about the region’s culture and history, sample local foods and so much more.
Whether you plan to attend Canada Day festivities, Indigenous gatherings, music festivals, state fairs, food and wine festivals or other types of events, there’s something for just about everyone if you’re driving through Canada to Alaska. Choose one of these routes, the Inside Passage, Rockies or Gold Rush, and time your arrival to one of the events below — or discover a multitude of others all year long.
If you’re starting a road trip on the Rockies route, look into what’s happening in the larger cities of Edmonton and Calgary while you’re in Alberta. There are also a number of events taking place in area parks, like Banff and Jasper.
- First organized in 1980, Edmonton’s Folk Music Festival is one of the leading folk festivals in the world with an incredible lineup of international acts. Edmonton’s International Fringe Theatre Festival is one the world’s oldest and greatest as well.
- Calgary is famous for its annual Stampede, “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth,” which celebrates everything about the western heritage and culture. On the other hand, attend Beakerhead if you’re fascinated by science, technology, art and engineering.
- Rocky Mountain Wine and Food Festival takes place in both Calgary and Edmonton to celebrate local breweries, restaurants, wineries and distilleries. Buy a ticket in advance and go hungry!
- For an incredible outdoor concert, head to Jasper National Park for the Symphony Under the Sun with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra.
Learn more about events you can attend in Alberta here.
Alternatively, the Inside Passage and Gold Rush routes start in British Columbia, where a wide range of festivities can liven up your road trip in any season. Celebrate local culture, food and nature with residents and other travelers no matter which way you go.
- For those who hit the road in the spring, attending the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival is a beautiful way to start the drive. Picnic under the blooming trees, take a guided walk to learn more about them or experience the Japan Fair.
- If you’re a wine connoisseur, don’t miss the seasonal Okanagan Wine Festivals celebrating the region’s best vineyards and tasting experiences.
- Honoring the Chinese-Canadian culture which thrives in Victoria, the Victoria Dragon Boat Festival is a three-day event filled with dragon boat racing, community events and cultural activities.
- Kamloopa Powwow is one of the largest Indigenous gatherings in western Canada to celebrate First Nations culture. Spectators come from all over to watch dance performances in traditional regalia.
- In the Columbia Valley, Wings Over the Rockies Nature Festival is perfect for nature enthusiasts of all kinds. Join a paddle in the wetlands or an outdoor yoga class.
Find even more festivals in British Columbia here.
With all three Alaska Highway routes traveling through the Yukon, it’s easy to come across an event that matches your interests, whether you want to spend more time outdoors, learning about local culture or listening to music.
- The world’s longest canoe and kayak race, the Yukon River Quest can be seen along the river all the way to Dawson City, with most spectators congregating for the start in Whitehorse.
- The Adäka Cultural Festival shines a spotlight on the Yukon’s diverse and distinctive First Nations arts and culture. It’s an exceptional opportunity for travelers who want to experience, learn from and support Indigenous artists.
- With ticket sales opening six months in advance, the Kluane Mountain Bluegrass Festival, held in Haines Junction, is a premiere lineup of musicians from across North America.
- In early fall, Kluane’s Annual Dark Sky Festival celebrates the end of the midnight sun and welcomes the northern nights season. Events in Kluane National Park and Reserve range from astronomy and photography workshops to campfires and crafts.
- Make a detour to Dawson City for the annual Music Festival to experience “Canada’s tiny, perfect festival.” The event is famous for presenting Canadian artists shortly before they develop into household names.
Discover even more events in the Yukon here.
All roads lead to Alaska and the state’s unique events. There’s not a month that goes by that Alaskans aren’t celebrating something, and it’s almost all happening outdoors. Join locals at an Alaska Native Celebration, a Midnight Sun Festival, the State Fair and more.
- The second largest Indigenous gathering in Alaska, Celebration brings together Alaska Natives from all over Southeast Alaska and beyond. The biennial festival of Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian cultures features dance, song, art, craft, food and more in Juneau.
- Celebrate the longest day of the year in Fairbanks at the Midnight Sun Festival, a 12-hour street fair. Basking in 24-hours of daylight, visitors can listen to music, go gold panning, attend a midnight baseball game and more.
- Alaska Bearfest is all about these fascinating mammals that roam Alaska. Celebrated in Wrangell, the event includes symposiums, cultural activities, art and photo workshops, a marathon and more.
- Held at the end of each summer, the Alaska State Fair brings locals and travelers alike to Palmer for music, carnival rides, food, games and giant vegetable competitions. The state’s largest pumpkin on record? A whopping 2,051 pounds.
- Valdez Gold Rush Days honors the past and present of this small town, but especially the people. Community events for all ages are held over five days as a fundraiser, with 100% of the profits directed back into the community through donations.
Find even more events across the state here.