Seeking Light

December 30, 2017

We often get asked what it’s like in the winter. Particularly this time of year, there is concern over the lack of light. Questions like how do you stand it being dark all day? Does the sun come up? What do you do? If you can’t see, how can you drive anywhere?  Here are different views of the setting sun and rising moon from the same location at 3 in the afternoon.

clouds and sunset

Setting winter sun

Moon rising mid afternoon

Rising moon at 3

 

Winter, December in particular, is all about light. The Northern lights, Christmas trees with lights, the city sidewalks lit up, the moonlight at mid-day, and, of course, that brilliant sun right on the horizon, shining so brightly that one needs sunglasses to drive. As we come into New Year’s Eve, there are fireworks at the University. (Conversely, we don’t have much for fireworks for the fourth of July—there is just too much light to enjoy any large fireworks display)

Alaska is a land of extremes, and this excess is truly loved. We revel in the seemingly endless days of summer sun, and are awed by the long, long nights of northern lights. Summers seem to compel us to excess of activity, and the winter drives us inside to seek warmth, with perhaps the opposite effect, slowing us down somewhat.

As we move slowly toward more than just our limited three hours and forty minutes of actual sunrise to sunset, more and more visitors come to view the lights—the aurora borealis, that mystical, ethereal appearance in the sky that either spans the sky expansively, or evades illusively, coming and going as though through some whimsical algorithm. If you are planning a visit, please ‘view the best spots to see the Northern Lights‘, our printable aurora fact sheet, and visit our blog for more Alaska and aurora facts.

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Plan that Trip North (Part 1)

January 21, 2016
northern lights above roof tops

circles of light

What should you know about traveling to Fairbanks in the winter months?

Believe it or not, March has become one of the busiest months in the year.  People from all around the world come to enjoy a wide variety of specialty winter activities:  our international ice carving competition, the northern lights, and several dog mushing competitions.

ice sculpture

Ice art competition

But you say how can I be warm then?  Not to worry.  While it seems that you might freeze in the winter months, most people come with a typical winter coat and prepare to dress with layers–long underwear, a warm long-sleeved shirt, a sweater or fleece layer and then the coat.  Similar guidelines follow for the lower body; long underwear, pants, and perhaps snow pants.  Warm boots are a good idea, particularly if you plan to stay outside and walk around the ice park, or wander outside and wait for the aurora to appear.

What about getting around?  We always recommend renting a car, because while Fairbanks is small, you will find you really won’t be able to walk around to visit the places you want to go or restaurants where you want to eat. Road conditions, generally speaking, are no worse than other places that get snow, and frankly, they may seem quite a bit better due to staying frozen or even showing bare pavement.  There is a public bus system that you may find helpful if you choose to not rent a vehicle.

What’s open then, you ask.  Lots!  You will want to visit the Morris Thompson Cultural Center, as well as the University of Alaska Fairbanks.  We have an amazing amount of talent in Fairbanks, which results in plenty of options for theatrical and music productions, and art displays.  Consider heading to one of the local coffee shops where you’ll find a wide array of local talent, happy to entertain you in just about any genre you could imagine.    Special events abound: dog sled races, concerts, downhill and cross country skiing.

What are you waiting for?  Time to get started on planning your visit–summer or winter!