Fairbanks is the second largest city in Alaska. Located in Interior Alaska, Fairbanks is known for its prime aurora viewing, proximity to the Arctic, and endless winter activities.
The first time I took a trip to Fairbanks was in 2010 when I was in college. There was a band playing called Tokyo Police Club that my sister and I wanted to see. We decided to make the 7-hour drive up from Anchorage on the morning of the concert and drive back the next day.
That night we slept on the floor of my sister’s friends dorm room. It was a quick adventure but it was so much fun.
On a much later trip, I flew up with a friend to visit Fairbanks in February with the sole purpose of viewing the Northern Lights. We rented a car and an Airbnb for the weekend and did a lot of different activities. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see the aurora borealis that weekend!
From natural hot springs to walking with reindeer and dog sledding, Fairbanks is a great destination for travelers that want to experience Alaska’s winter wonderland.
In this post, I’m going to share the best things to do in Fairbanks in Winter.
- 1. Winter Dog Sledding
- 2. Cross the Arctic Circle
- 3. Soak in Chena Hot Springs
- 4. Check out the Ice Museum
- 5. World Ice Art Championships
- 6. Visit Santa at the North Pole
- 7. Chase the Northern Lights
- 8. Ride a Snowmachine
- 9. Running Reindeer Ranch
- 10. Go on a Winter Hike
How to get to Fairbanks
Fairbanks is located in Alaska’s Interior, about a 7-hour drive north of Anchorage. During winter, I recommend flying directly into Fairbanks International Airport.
10 Best Things To Do in Fairbanks in Winter
1. Winter Dog Sledding
Dog Sledding is an Alaskan tradition and Fairbanks has a lot of winter tours to experience it first-hand. Many tours are run by Iditarod racers and champions, which is a super cool way to learn about mushing. But let’s be real, we all know that the highlight of dog sledding is meeting all of the super adorable sled puppies in training! This is a great activity for families, and it’s suitable for all ages.
2. Cross the Arctic Circle
If you’ve ever dreamed about a visit to the Arctic Circle then you’re in luck! The invisible line that marks the Arctic Circle can be found 196 miles north of Fairbanks on the Dalton Highway. If you don’t feel comfortable driving the road in winter conditions, join a tour. Some tours are also combined with Northern Lights viewing. Don’t forget to take your picture in front of the Arctic Circle sign, for proof of course.
3. Soak in Chena Hot Springs
Chena Hot Springs is a natural hot spring in Fairbanks, but you should keep in mind it’s also a resort. I would probably never visit the springs during the summer, but during the winter (especially when it’s below zero) you can’t really beat soaking in the hot water and watching your hair and eyelashes become majestical frozen icicles. There are also way nicer accommodations outside of the hotel, but if you do stay on-site it’s convenient to hop into the springs at less busy times. An adult day pass costs $15 USD.
4. Check out the Ice Museum
Drink an Appletini served in an ice glass in an ice bar inside an ice museum?! The Aurora Ice Museum is located at Chena Hot Springs Resort and it was created with over 1,000 tons of ice and snow. You can visit the museum year-round since an absorption chiller keeps it 25° F (-7° C) inside even through the heat of summer. Pick up a parka, visit the ice chapel, or stay the night in one of the ice hotel rooms.
5. World Ice Art Championships
The Fairbanks World Ice Art Championships is one of the largest ice competitions and exhibitions worldwide. This month-long, annual event attracts ice artists and sculptors from all around the world. Artists compete in different events and are provided with huge blocks of ice that weigh over 4,100 lbs! Some sculptures even reach heights over 20 feet. 2022 World Ice Art Championships begins February 15 and tickets start at $17 USD for adults.
6. Visit Santa at the North Pole
“Santa, I know him!” He lives in the North Pole, a small community near Fairbanks, which is known for having year-round Christmas decorations. You can visit the Santa Claus House, a Christmas shop full of Christmas ornaments, toys, and other gifts and take your picture with the giant 42-foot Santa standing outside. You can drive around on Mistletoe Lane, Kris Kringle Drive, and Santa Claus Lane. Stop by the North Pole Post Office to send a postcard from the North Pole or respond to a letter from Santa.
7. Chase the Northern Lights
One of the best places to see the Northern Lights in Alaska is Fairbanks! Since Fairbanks is much farther north and doesn’t receive as much precipitation, it gets more hours of darkness and clearer skies during the winter months. You have a chance of seeing the Northern Lights from August to March, but I recommend visiting from November through March for your best chances of viewing them. It’s easy to chase the aurora on your own but there are also plenty of tours that you can join!
8. Ride a Snowmachine
In Alaska, we say snowmachine not snowmobile. If you’re a thrill seeker and have an adventurous spirit, I recommend exploring the winter landscapes on a snowmachine. If you take a tour, your guide will take you on snowy trails across lakes and rivers. You’ll get to enjoy the beautiful winter scenery and keep an eye out for wildlife, including moose, foxes, and snowshoe hares!
9. Running Reindeer Ranch
It doesn’t feel like Christmas without some reindeer! If you’re looking for unique things to do in Fairbanks, head to the Running Reindeer Ranch and go on an hour-long walk with reindeer through a magical birch forest. The farm is run by local Alaskans, so you’ll have plenty of opportunity to learn about the history of Alaska and life in the Arctic at the same time.
10. Go on a Winter Hike
One of the best ways to experience Alaska’s winter wonderland is by going on a hike. There are plenty of trails all around Fairbanks. Depending on which trail you decide on, you can pick up a pair of snowshoes to help you get those waist-deep fields of snow. I love how peaceful it is to hike in the middle of winter and winter photography is my favorite!
Other things to do in Fairbanks in Winter
There are plenty of other things to do in Fairbanks, including a drive-through Christmas light show, visit the University of Alaska Museum of the North, watch an ice hockey game, try curling, walk around downtown Fairbanks and eat at a local restaurant or check out the shops.
For photo opportunities, visit the iconic antler arch made up of over 100 moose and caribou antlers outside of the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center. Another fun photo idea is with the UAF temperature sign on Alumni Drive (wait until the temps drop below zero)!
Answering Your Questions
What is there to do in Fairbanks Alaska in the winter?
Fairbanks winter activities include dog sledding, Northern Lights viewing, snowmachining, hot springs, winter hiking or snowshoeing, ice fishing, and ice sculpting competitions.
What is there to do in Fairbanks Alaska in February?
February is one of the best times to see Northern Lights in Fairbanks. You can chase. thelights on your own or book a tour.
Fairbanks is worth a visit during summer and winter. There are plenty of unique activities and tours to go on.
How cold does it get in Fairbanks?
During the winter, temperatures in Fairbanks are usually below zero. January is the coldest month of the year in Fairbanks and winter temperatures range from 1° F to -17° F.
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Do you have any questions on best things to do in Fairbanks in winter? Let me know in the comments.