The Best Things to Do in Alaska in Winter: A Guide

It’s no secret that winter in Alaska is colder and darker than summer. But that doesn’t mean the state shuts down! In fact, some of Alaska’s most amazing experiences happen in winter. From the world famous Iditarod to the spectacular Northern Lights, there’s plenty to enjoy throughout the season. All you need an adventurous spirit and a warm jacket! Here are some of our favorite things to do in Alaska in winter.

Learn more about things to do in Alaska in winter when you download our free Vacation Guide! It’s full of recommendations for activities, attractions, and events near Alaska Garden Gate.

Top 5 Things to Do in Alaska in Winter

1. Take a Guided Tour

As you can probably imagine, those who have the gusto to get outdoors in Alaska are rewarded with a true winter wonderland. Thick blankets of snow make for pristine landscapes and plenty of fun activities, including snow machining, snowshoeing, ice fishing, skiing, and skating on rivers and lakes. You can even plan a winter camping trip with local dog mushers like Martin Buser Kennels, Dream a Dream Dog Farm, and Jeff King Kennels. Just be sure to call ahead; many tour companies operate on a variable basis during the winter.

2. Admire the Northern Lights

Seeing the Aurora Borealis is a bucket list activity for many. Also known as the Northern Lights, this shimmering opus features vibrant greens, pinks, whites, and purples that sway in the sky. The collision of different types of particles creates the colors: atomic nitrogen causes blue displays, while molecular nitrogen results in purple. The colors are also affected by altitude. Winter is prime time for viewing the aurora, which can be seen swirling over Southcentral Alaska as early as 8 p.m. The best displays tend to be accompanied by cloudless and moonless skies.

Local Tip: If you’re looking for a quiet spot to view the Northern Lights, book your stay at our bed and breakfast. We can’t guarantee when it will be out so you should plan to spend a few days in the area.

3. Attend the Iditarod

Often referred to as “The Last Great Race”, the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is one of Alaska’s most iconic winter events. Each year, thousands of spectators watch as mushers and their four-legged teammates battle the elements. The event starts on the first Saturday of March and runs approximately 1,000 miles from Anchorage to Nome. There’s a musher’s banquet on Friday night, a Ceremonial Start in Anchorage on Saturday, and a Re-Start on Sunday about 20 miles from our B&B. Locals often bring lawn chairs and watch the dogs depart from the start line. Some even make bonfires right on the frozen lake! Head to the Iditarod website for details on this year’s race.

4. Ride the Alaska Railroad

One of the best ways to experience winter in Alaska is from the comfort of a warm rail car. The Alaska Railroad operates year-round, connecting Anchorage, Talkeetna, and Fairbanks throughout the winter season. You can ride the Aurora Winter Train on weekends, or take the winter Hurricane Turn Train on the first Thursday of the month. The train even features a whistle stop service that allows visitors to get off at a certain mile marker.

5. Take a Road Trip

Did you know that our Inn is the perfect starting point for Alaska day trips? Take an easy 3-hour drive to the port city of Seward for fresh halibut/rockfish, or head further south to Homer where you’ll find shops, art galleries, seafood restaurants, and beaches. (Be sure to stop at Gwen’s Lodge for lunch!) If you only have a few hours to kill, drive 90 minutes from Palmer to Talkeetna and take a pie baking class at the Talkeetna Roadhouse. We promise it will be a highlight of your trip.

Book Your Stay at Alaska Garden Gate B&B and Cottages

Now that you know some of the best things to do in Alaska in winter, it’s time to start planning your trip! Our Palmer bed and breakfast is perfect for family vacations, couples retreats, getaways with friends, and more. You can reserve an economical inn room with a private bath, or stay in one of our luxurious two-bedroom cottages. We offer a wide range of accommodations for every group size and budget. So what are you waiting for? Check our availability and make your reservations today! We look forward to having you.