Mid-winter has arrived in Alaska, and though this time of year typically sends a rush of residents to Hawaii or Mexico, it also marks the beginning of winter festival season. The fun starts this weekend in Anchorage and migrates north toward Fairbanks, and even those who don’t like cold can’t argue with the beauty of Alaska during her chilliest season. Right?
Getting here: Alaska Airlines offers great rates from Seattle or Portland to the 49th state, so check carefully for seasonal deals that can whisk your family north in just a few hours. The Alaska TourSaver coupon book is also available for good deals on everything from Alaska Railroad tickets to car rental packages; consider purchasing one for $99 and receive 2-for-1 deals for your wintertime fun-fest.
Staying here: Lodging is available at a number of our favorite kid-friendly hotels, but book early if you’re visiting during one of the famous festivals and events. Space fills up fast, especially for larger groups and/or families. Wherever you stay, ask about shuttle service between your hotel and festival grounds, many places offer complimentary transportation, and it saves paying for parking.
Having fun: Easy, really. Visit the websites of each festival and event (listed below), poll the kids to see which sounds best, and jump right in! Alaskans love when people immerse themselves in local culture, so try on that fur coat, give a dog sled a try, or swoosh down a slide made of ice. At the same time, take advantage of uncrowded museums, cultural centers, and attractions during this shoulder season. Guided tours with Salmon Berry Tours, Planet Earth Adventures, or First Alaska Outdoor School can expose your kids to everything from snowshoeing to northern lights photography. The only limits are your wallet and your time.
Festivals: Anchorage kicks off the famous Fur Rendezvous festival this weekend (psst: look for AK Fam dressed up as reindeer and a carrot in the Frostbite Footrace on Saturday!), celebrating winter, a healthy fur trade, and the ever-increasing daylight. Lasting until March 3, “Fur Rondy” is an explosion of Alaskana, with carnival rides, reindeer runs, outhouse races, and some snowshoe softball.
The Iditarod Sled Dog Race sends teams toward Nome at the Ceremonial Start March 2 along 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage, starting at 10 a.m. Teams travel 11 miles on Saturday, then pack up for the ReStart in Willow on Sunday, March 3. Read about our Iditarod experiences and tips, here.
Fairbanks is the place to be for the annual Ice Alaska celebration and World Ice Art Championships, February 26-March 1 at their new and improved venue. We’ve always enjoyed this event, for even though temperatures are frigid, the competition and artwork are hot. Plus, the nighttime sledding down a lit slide of ice is quite amazing. Read about our first visit, here.
Important notes: Bring plenty of warm clothes for layering, boots rated to -20F or lower, extra blankets, hand warmers, hot cocoa, and your camera for all of these festivals. After all, it’s not every day you can say you rode a merry-go-round in the middle of winter!