Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

A Photo Essay: Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

For some reason, Alaska has always seemed so unattainable. There’s so much to see over such a large area, and I figured we would need several weeks during both winter and summer to even scratch the surface. Well, after spotting cheap airfare last winter, we decided to bite the bullet and plan a weeklong trip to Alaska. Winter in Anchorage to be exact. It is true that we barely even made a dent in our list of sights we want to see, but we found out that a weeklong visit in the winter was still a fantastic choice.

We planned our visit to coincide with the Fur Rondy festival in Anchorage, and ended up finding plenty of winter adventures to add to our schedule, as well. Our days were filled with snowshoeing, exploring glaciers and ice caves, a sightseeing plane ride, a road trip to the cute town of Homer, breweries, a movie pub, northern lights, the Fur Rondy festival, and even a walk on a sandy beach at sunset. We were a bit worried that the weather would interfere with our plans, but we ended up having significantly warmer weather than we had back home in Minnesota! There were days that were over 50°(F) warmer than the temperatures back home.

Our trip was so much fun that we actually just planned another winter trip to Alaska. This time we are going to Fairbanks, and we can’t wait. We will be sharing more about that trip soon, but in the meantime, here’s some of our favorite photos from our last trip to Anchorage.

The first adventure of the trip was snowshoeing about 40 minutes south of Anchorage in Girdwood. We made our way to Chugach State Park and rented snowshoes from the Alyeska Resort. After lacing up our boots and strapping on snowshoes, we found the Lower Winner Creek Trail and started our hike with views of the snowcapped mountains and pine trees that towered over us.

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

The trees were so heavy with snow that when a pile fell off the branches, it came sprinkling down and glistened in the sunlight.

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

We didn’t make it to the end of the fairly short trail because we were too busy taking some photos for a company we were working with. That and also because we probably didn’t even really need snowshoes. The trail was so packed down that it was almost harder dragging the snowshoes around that it would have been to just hike. Oh well, it was still fun to go on a little snowshoe adventure, especially in a setting so beautiful. Part of the trail was even a portion of the Iditarod National Historic Trail.

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

After the hike, our next stop was Flattop Mountain for views overlooking downtown Anchorage. We didn’t have much time before sunset, so we walked the short trail by the parking lot and found amazing views in all directions.

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

Then it was time to catch the sunset over the Turnagain Arm, which is a waterway that branches off from the Gulf of Alaska. We drove along Highway 1 and found a pull off spot near the fresh spring water at Mile 109. Filling up our water bottles was a must, and nothing beats fresh spring water! When we arrived, there was a local there filling up a case of water bottles. We waited our turn and then settled in for a sunset over the mountains.

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

We didn’t catch any spectacular colors in the sunset, but we did have fun watching the tide carry the giant ice chunks floating in the water. It was amazing how fast the water was moving and the ice almost looked like rocks!

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

Moose’s Tooth Pizza was on the agenda for dinner—we had heard many great things about this spot, so we just had to check it out. And, we were certainly glad we did! Both the pizza and my side-salad were delicious. We enjoyed it so much we almost went back a second time.

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

When researching spots to see near Anchorage, we read about an adorable town called Homer and we had to plan a road trip there. We rented a little cabin for the night and made our way south towards the Kachemak Bay. On our way there (and all over in Anchorage), we kept spotting these cute little drive-up coffee huts. We couldn’t resist stopping at several of them because we are coffee obsessed and it is such a great and convenient concept!

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

Our first stop in Homer led to us practically crashing the set of a reality TV show. Yep. We basically barged right into a scene of Alaska the Last Frontier.  It was both embarrassing and hilarious, and it is kind of a long story. If you want to hear more about it, you can check out our post recapping our favorite travel moments in 2017. I still get the giggles thinking about it to this day! After that debacle, our next stop was checking into our cabin for the night. The cabin was cozy and we had views overlooking the bay and mountains in the distance.

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

Then we went over to Smokey Bay Air for a sightseeing flight over the nearby glaciers and mountains. It was a turbulent ride, but we barely even noticed because the views out our windows were stunning. The 45-minute flight was over in a flash, and we couldn’t pull ourselves away—we wanted it to continue!

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

The weather was gorgeous when we were in Homer for the evening, and we made our way down to the beach to catch the sunset and to watch the drastic tide. The tides can reach over 28 feet and we had a lot of fun exploring the sand at low tide, especially since it was so warm and sunny. We didn’t even need our jackets; it was so warm that only a sweater was necessary! To finish out the night, we met up with one of our friends from high school who happens to live in Homer now. It was a fun night catching up—it had been well over 10 years since the last time we all hung out!

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

When we got back to Anchorage, we spent the next couple of days soaking up the Fur Rondy festival. The Fur Rondy is a winter festival that has been going strong since 1935. It began as a 3 day sports festival and has turned into 10 days jam packed with a wide range of events. I wanted to attend so many of the events during the festival, but there just wasn’t enough time. We did get to check out eight of the events though, and it was fun to see Anchorage so alive in the winter.

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

We kicked things off with a parade through downtown Anchorage, where I scored a nice little handful of loot.

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

Then it was time for the Outhouse Races where teams build an “outhouse” sled for a street race.

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

We watched dogsled races start and finish right downtown on main street.

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

There were ice hockey tournaments.

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

And, snowshoe softball tournaments.

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

Even a Blanket Toss right by the carnival.

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

A visit to the snow sculptures was also a must.

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

And we can never resist a great show of fireworks.

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

One of our favorite lunch spots during the events was Brown Bag Sandwich Company, which was walking distance from the main events downtown.

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

49th State Brewery in downtown Anchorage was another great spot to stop during the festivities—the beer was good, the food was delicious and the atmosphere was warm and cozy.

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

The last adventure during our week of winter fun was glacier hiking and exploring ice caves. But first, we had breakfast at Snow City Cafe, a delicious spot right downtown.

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

Then it was time to make our way out to the Matanuska Glacier. We booked a tour that lasted several hours, and we were able to explore so many ice caves during the hike. The ice formations that we saw during our hike were simply amazing, and I can’t even begin to find the words to describe them. There were ice tunnels, giant crevices, and deep caves, and they were fascinating.

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

After an action-packed week, we were wiped and needed a bit of downtime. So, we ended up going to a movie! Normally, we wouldn’t go to a movie when we are traveling, but this theater sounded like a fun concept. We went to the second run theater called Beartooth Theater Pub & Grill where every other row of seats is removed and replaced with a table. You can order from a full menu and bar, and your meal will be delivered to your seat. It’s like a laid-back version of those fancy movie theaters, and we loved every minute of it. And the best part is the price—seats start at $4 per ticket!

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

We had been hoping to see the northern lights throughout our entire visit, but the weather just wouldn’t cooperate. We had cloudy skies every night, but then on our last night in town, the skies decided to clear. So, instead of getting any sleep before our 6 a.m. flight, we decided to leave our Airbnb at midnight to search for the aurora. Thankfully, we lucked out and caught a fantastic show of lights over the mountains. I was so excited to finally see the northern lights. It was such a beautiful and wonderful way to end the trip!

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

 

Have you ever been to Alaska in the winter? What’s your favorite snowy destination?

 

A photo essay of winter in Anchorage, Alaska
27 Comments
  • terra
    Posted at 18:40h, 23 January Reply

    It looks beautiful! I visited Alaska in May a few years ago but would love to go back in the winter and see it all snow-covered. I also still haven’t seen the Northern Lights and would absolutely love to see them in Alaska.

  • Alyson Long
    Posted at 19:54h, 27 January Reply

    No, I haven’t. Nor in summer. But we’ve spent 2 winters in Romania and love the ice and snow. This looks magical and 1 day I hope we see Alaska. Renting cabins stopping for coffee to worm us up. It sounds wonderful. Funny that you say you didn’t need the snowshoes, that was my first thought…why are they wearing those?

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 22:36h, 28 January Reply

      Haha, yeah, when we got out on the trail we realized they definitely weren’t necessary! It made the hike much harder for sure, lol! Hope you can visit Alaska sometime–it’s a really great state. Romania would be really cool to visit in the winter–would love to check it out sometime, too!
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…Museum Adventures in the Emerald City: Seattle Museum MonthMy Profile

  • Adelina
    Posted at 22:41h, 27 January Reply

    Wow, wow and wow. As I was reading, every new activity sounded even better than the one before and to have it culminate in seeing the northern lights – amazing! Those outhouse races must have been hilarious too. I’ve been to Alaska through a cruise, but clearly I need to get to Anchorage.
    Adelina recently posted…Holy Vrindavan – The Town of KrishnaMy Profile

  • Elaine Masters
    Twitter:
    Posted at 11:11h, 28 January Reply

    Love that you took the risk and spent a whole week in Alaska in winter. I lived in Juneau for years and only went north for a short trip and a very wet summer road trip. So much going on in winter! Loved the little coffee stops too.

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 22:32h, 28 January Reply

      Yeah, we had been dying to visit Alaska for years, so when we found cheap tickets we figured we should just go even though it was winter! Would love to visit Juneau sometime too and would be great to head back in the summer sometime as well!
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…Museum Adventures in the Emerald City: Seattle Museum MonthMy Profile

  • Val Wheatley
    Posted at 14:44h, 28 January Reply

    I’m so jealous! I’m dying to visit Alaska in the winter to see the Northern Lights – your photos are spectacular! It sounds like such a fun trip and I think I’d really enjoy the Fur Rondy Festival, it’s so cool that it corresponded with your trip! And Homer sounds like a darling little town. Did you look into going dog sledding? That’s on my bucket list for sure! Oh man now I want to book my trip…

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 22:28h, 28 January Reply

      Yeah, it was such a fun trip! Hope you can visit in the winer sometime for sure! We were so excited to see the northern lights and really happy our trip coincided with the festival–it was fun to see the city so alive in the winter! We didn’t look into dog sledding on that trip–we’ve been before in Colorado and Utah, so we focused on other adventures instead, but it would be awesome to go dog sledding in Alaska sometime!
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…Museum Adventures in the Emerald City: Seattle Museum MonthMy Profile

  • Carrie
    Posted at 15:58h, 28 January Reply

    Your photos are gorgeous! Super cool that you were able to go during the winter (and amazing that it was warmer than Minnesota!). One question — how much of a problem would it be to visit the area without a car? I don’t drive at home, so I definitely wouldn’t want to try renting a car and contending with snow and ice.

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 22:18h, 28 January Reply

      Thanks so much! You could definitely go without a car–it wouldn’t be as convenient, but I can understand not wanting to deal with the snow and ice. The city has a bus system that you could use, but we didn’t use it so I’m not exactly sure how well connected it is. There are also tours you can take if you want to get outside the city, so that combined with the bus could work. Have fun if you go! 🙂
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…Museum Adventures in the Emerald City: Seattle Museum MonthMy Profile

  • Dorene Wharton
    Posted at 14:31h, 29 January Reply

    Wow! Incredible photos! Spectacular! I wanted to get to Alaska for Fur Rondy or Itidarod – and now I really need to, even if you want to avoid winter this would be hard to resist. You sure jam packed alot of things into this trip including the Northern Lights!? Wow! The Matanuska Glacier.- your photos are exceptional here. Anchorage definitely has a homey, kitchness to it. Wanderlust, bookmarked for a future trip!

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 00:52h, 01 February Reply

      Thanks so much, Dorene! I would love to head back and check out the Iditarod sometime! There are definitely some great events going on in the winter in Alaska. Yeah, we did pack a lot in! It was a lot of fun and too many great things that we couldn’t resist squeezing in! 🙂
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…Museum Adventures in the Emerald City: Seattle Museum MonthMy Profile

  • Linda
    Posted at 07:52h, 30 January Reply

    Thank you so much for sharing this great post on Alaska in winter. We did a cruise to Alaska in July and I was so disappointed. It really did not feel like we were in Alaska. Your story and pics are exactly what we really wanted to see. A sightseeing flight across the frozen land would be a stunning way to see it. I was fascinated by your great pics of the ice caves. This looks like such a perfect spot to see the Northern Lights. I am definitely putting Alaska in winter on the travel wish list!

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 00:45h, 01 February Reply

      Thanks, Linda! That’s a bummer you didn’t enjoy the cruise–I’ve always wanted to take a cruse in Alaska, but I can see what you mean about not really feeling like you were actually in Alaska. Hope you can get back again to see more of the land based sights in Alaska–winter is a really great time to go if you don’t mind the cold!
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…Museum Adventures in the Emerald City: Seattle Museum MonthMy Profile

  • Alli B
    Twitter:
    Posted at 08:44h, 30 January Reply

    My goodness – those photos are absolutely stunning! You are talented behind the lens – amazing job! I love the idea of the fresh spring water – how cool! I would love exploring such an amazing place like this in the winter – looks incredible and so very adventurous! 🙂

  • Megan Jerrard
    Twitter:
    Posted at 16:22h, 30 January Reply

    Incredile shots! We’ve done Anchorage in the summer, and it was fabulous to be able to hike and camp, and have long days with the extended periods of sunlight, but would love to get back during winter. It looks like such a stunning landscape when it’s blanketed in snow. The views from Flattop Mountain and the Smokey Bay Air sightseeing flight are out of this world. I think I would definitely do a flight! Surprising amount of really cool stuff to do in the winter – I think one of the biggest pulls for me would be the northern lights – still haven’t seen them yet!

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 00:39h, 01 February Reply

      Thanks so much! I would love to head back again in the summer–the extended daylight would be fantastic! And yeah, the northern lights were a big draw for us, too–we were so happy to see them! It was an awesome trip and there really is a ton to do there in the winter!
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…Museum Adventures in the Emerald City: Seattle Museum MonthMy Profile

  • Paige
    Posted at 22:35h, 30 January Reply

    Winter in Alaska looks like it kicks summer in Alaska’s butt, which I didn’t think was possible! There are so many gorgeous and unique things to do! I’m so envious that you got to see the Northern Lights. I saw them from the plane over Iceland, but not like you did. Matanuska Glacier looks absolutely unreal! I want to explore that for sure! So beautiful – nature is truly wonderful.

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 00:36h, 01 February Reply

      Yeah it was such a fun visit and we were surprised how much we enjoyed visiting in the winter!! We’d love to go back in the summer too, but there was certainly something special about the winter there 🙂 That would be so cool to see the northern lights from a plane! I was looking for them when we were flying in and out of Alaska, but didn’t see any. We really did luck out with a fantastic show though right before we left!
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…Museum Adventures in the Emerald City: Seattle Museum MonthMy Profile

  • Brittany McQueary
    Posted at 13:15h, 08 February Reply

    What an amazing post! My husband and I just moved to Fairbanks and are heading to anchorage for Valentine’s Day. I found your article looking for a few tips of what to do while we’re there! Your photos have made me even more excited. Hopefully you two enjoy Fairbanks, we’ve really fallen in love with how unique it is!

  • Hal Bruce
    Posted at 17:05h, 15 February Reply

    Hi Jenna, I am an old friend of your Dad’s and have played many rounds of golf together. I lived in Alaska 1965,66 and loved it. A friend of mine stayed there and was Mayor of Homer. Your web page and blog is wonderful, what great photo’s and stories.

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 16:20h, 21 February Reply

      Hey Hal! Great to hear from you! Thanks so much for checking out our site–really appreciate it! That’s awesome that you lived in Alaska for a bit–would be such a neat place to live! Such a beautiful state, and one of our favorites 🙂 Will have to tell my dad you stopped by our site and hope you are doing well!
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…Searching for Northern Lights in Anchorage, AlaskaMy Profile

  • Sharon Smith
    Posted at 01:22h, 15 July Reply

    The northern lights shimmer over Alaska, signature events make Anchorage the hottest place to be and unrivaled outdoor adventures on skis, skates and sleds fill the days from November to April.
    Sharon Smith recently posted…Kiki BertensMy Profile

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