You Are Here: What to do in Anchorage this winter

Explore Anchorage Fur Rendezvous this winter with the help of AKontheGO. Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

Howdy, dedicated AKontheGO’ers, it’s nice to be back at the keyboard after a busy fall of trips and their planning. I went to Juneau for the Alaska Travel Industry Association Convention, then jetted to Las Vegas to represent my AK writing cohorts for the annual Alaska Media Road Show. And, everywhere in between, I schlepped AK Kid here, there, and everywhere in the manner of teenage boys who are involved in all the things. #tired 

But as another fall closes and the door to winter (hopefully) opens, it’s time to talk up my town and its attributes as a place to savor, any time of year. Oh yes, I’ve heard the murmurs: “Anchorage — You can see Alaska from here,” and “Anchorage — One hour from real Alaska.” 

Give me a break. 

Did you know: 

  • We have wildlife! The 300,000 or so human residents constantly share space with 1,500 or so moose; brown and black bears roam the local trails (and some neighborhoods); beluga whales are frequently seen from downtown and along the Seward Highway. River otters and beavers inhabit local lakes and ponds; and thousands of birds flock to Anchorage on their way to and from seasonal migrations. Check out the full list HERE.
  • We have wilderness! Within Anchorage, there exists a ton of forest, wetland, and alpine spaces in which to immerse your outdoor selves. From exploring the enormous Chugach State Park to the 200 miles of trails within the Municipality of Anchorage Parks and Recreation management area, visitors and locals have plenty of space to adventure, with or without a lot of other humans around. 
  • We have Alaska Native culture! There’s no better place to become acquainted with the many tribal groups making up Alaska’s vibrant and diverse Native populations than in Anchorage. From the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center to the Native Arts Market at Fur Rendezvous each February, there are many ways to gather an understanding of our First People. 
  • Winter is a great time to explore Alaska’s largest city! And hey, snow or no show, we’ve got plenty of fun happening in Anchorage, says Julie Saupe, President and CEO of Visit Anchorage. 

“Anchorage is in demand as a sought-after destination in the Last Frontier, yet still remains one of the easiest places to access the wilderness and amenities visitors are looking for on their dream Alaska vacation,” she said. 

The Alaska Botanical Garden leads wintertime snowshoe hikes around their Anchorage facility; and don’t forget their Holiday Lights, kicking off in late November! Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

Anchorage continues to draw winter crowds with opportunities to chase the northern lights, fat-tire bike in the crisp winter air, and explore remote glaciers. The city’s anchor events bring in visitors to a city that embraces winter sports and outdoor adventures.

Some highlights? Check out this lineup: 

  • The Alaska Botanical Garden’s eight acres of gardens and interconnecting nature trails becomes a winter wonderland beginning Nov. 30, with holiday lights strung throughout, ice sculptures, model train displays, regular live music, bonfires and hot drinks. We went last year and enjoyed it so much. 
  • Alaska Photo Treks adds a new night tour to explore the city of Anchorage and wild scenery in nearby Chugach State Park, Turnagain Arm and beyond. The start time of Alaska Nightscapes coincides with civil twilight and teaches guests a variety of photography techniques for shooting at night. The tour may include northern lights photography in prime conditions.
  • The Alaska Railroad adds a taste of the state’s top breweries with the addition of Big Swig Tours to its day trip options. From Anchorage, passengers travel aboard the Aurora Winter Train to Talkeetna and hop off to visit four different breweries, tastings included. 
  • Heli-biking is a thing. Alaska Trail Guides offers a new tour to Knik Glacier with included transportation from Anchorage. The tour features a helicopter flight over the Chugach Mountains to the face of a glacier where guests hop on studded fat-tire bikes to pedal across frozen rivers and lakes.
  • Back by popular demand, Arctic Valley Ski Area will extend its tube park hours to five days a week, Wednesday through Sunday. Each 90-minute session includes a tube and tow up the hill, providing scenic overlooks of Anchorage and Cook Inlet.
  • Hike Alaska begins its first season of guided snowshoe hikes in Chugach State Park and beyond with new snowshoes and winter clothing for the hikers.   
  • Salmon Berry Travel and Tours updated its Mountains & Musk Ox tour to include a visit to Government Peak Chalet, where guests can hike, fat-tire bike and sit by a campfire enjoying s’mores.  
  • 2020 marks the 85th anniversary of Alaska’s most iconic winter events, the 10-day Fur Rendezvous Winter Festival. Known locally as Fur Rondy or Rondy, events from Feb. 28 through March 8 include the Open World Championship Sled Dog Races, carnival rides, Running of the Reindeer, a softball tournament played in snowshoes, Alaskans racing with modified and decorated outhouses and more.
  • The nation’s third-largest state park, Chugach State Park, marks its 50thanniversary in 2020. The park is nearly half a million acres of wilderness that rivals some national parks and is open in winter with options for overnight stays at public-use cabins, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and more.

And, for 2020, Anchorage will also host a variety of events and festivals, from the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race (March 7), Native Youth Olympics featuring traditional indigenous games (April 23-25) and Slush Cup (April 17-19) to mark the end of the ski season at Alyeska Resort in Girdwood.

A hungry crew eats dinner around the family table at the Alaska State Parks Rainbow Trout cabin in Chugach State Park. Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

Nothing to do? Not “Alaskan” enough? Give me a break. After 14 years of residence in Anchorage, I’m still finding ways to keep my family, and my visitors, amused, happy, and wanting more. 

~EK 

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