Alaska is a land of adventure—you never know just what you might run into.
Wildlife is a huge attraction for visitors. While most people are able to see several types of animals in Denali Park, some are fortunate enough to run into them (figuratively we hope of course!) on the roadside. One spot close to Fairbanks that moose frequent is Chena Hot Spring Road. The upper Chena meanders alongside the two lane road and offer a watering hole for moose. This picture was taken by my daughter on her way back to Fairbanks up the Richardson Highway—these bear were happy to pose while checking out the car passing by.
Wildlife is also a draw for hunters within Alaska as well as from around the country. My nephew hunts every fall and is usually able to harvest a moose to pack the freezer for the winter. This past month several of our guests were returning from remote sites where they were seeking caribou. Indigenous people will be embarking upon whale hunting soon so they can share their good fortune with their community.
If you are hunting for views of the aurora, this is the time to come; people are already flocking to Fairbanks for what looks to be a very promising winter of auroral activity. There are three “S’s” to know about this hunting adventure: (1) Skies that are clear (think seeing stars) are a must; (2) Sun spots that create a heighten amount of solar activity and (3) Staying awake and away from light interference (consider the phrase, “sleep is overrated”)
Many come to Alaska “hunting” a fresh start, new job, and make a new life. Alaska does not disappoint; with wide open opportunities to launch a business, many locals are proof that given the gumption to keep on trying you can reach your goals to succeed in entrepreneurial pursuits. My favorite example is one of a young upstart who began with a lemonade stand downtown, and retired as a Chancellor for the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Fairbanks is up to 10 hours of brilliant sunlight a day and climbing upwards toward that time of year when the sun never seems to set. In the meantime, we are already in that anxious to get moving attitude. Here is a line-up of some of the many local options for things that locals like to do.
If you are a dog fan, this is your month! Whether you enjoy mushing, skijoring, or watching either, races abound. Trial runs for the Limited North American the first weekend, then the Open North American the following weekend at the Dog Musher’s Field on Farmer’s Loop Road.
Do you enjoy exploring Native culture? Festival of Native Arts provides many dance groups from around the state, as well as one of the best selections of native crafts brought to directly from the bush. Visit the Davis Concert Hall this weekend at the University of Alaska.
Still looking to see the Northern Lights? If the skies clear, this can be a great month. If not, you can visit the downtown Two Street Gallery for local artists renditions of what the lights look like from an artistic perspective is.
Tail feathers of ice sculpture
Visit the George Horner Ice Park with ice sculptures and ice slides on Phillips Field Road from now until the end of March.
You definitely don’t have to look far to find a wide variety of things to do in Fairbanks!
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.
Setting winter sun
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.
Don’t waste your sleep if it is snowing outside and clouds are low-lying. If it’s not clear, you won’t be able to see the northern lights. Look for stars; if you can see a few, then perhaps it’s worth losing sleep to stay awake and chance that skies will clear enough to see the lights.
Check the aurora forecasts—most notably, the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute has a website with forecasts nightly and even weekly. The website is http://www.gi.alaska.edu/AuroraForecast. According to their website, these are the recommended sites around Fairbanks for getting away from city lights:
Chena Lakes Recreation Area
Ester, Wickersham, and Murphy Domes
Some turnouts along the Elliot, Steese, and Parks Highways
If you are interested in taking pictures, (and need a little help like I do with photography skills), you might enjoy my new favorite app—aptly named “Aurora.” It will automatically adjust the settings on your phone to help you capture the faint glows in that faraway sky.
Additionally, there are many tour guides who offer to drive you to different locations where you can enjoy the warmth of their vehicle (not to mention not worry about unknown road conditions) and wait for the aurora to show up.
Even though I have lived here for fifty plus years, it is still amazing to see the aurora shimmer across the sky.
Now that the trails are filled with Iditarod mushers on the way to Nome, and the Great North American is just around the corner, Alaskans reach with gusto to enjoy the final stretch of winter.
Sled dogs anxious to run
With all the great races in March, there are additional attractions on the more leisurely side. In this case, the occasional meandering moose that wander through the neighborhood, or even stop on the street to munch on branches.
How about great sunrises and sunsets?
Crystal clear sunrise
Better yet, many visitors set their sights on the northern lights.
Northern lights above the arches
Whichever kind of activity you choose this month, they are all here in our backyard, waiting for your visit.
And while it may be cold right now, we offer a warm welcome to you as you come to enjoy our wild, and not so wild attractions.