Your Complete Guide to Experiencing the Magic of Christmas in Alaska

Published: December 22, 2023

Dreaming of a white Christmas? Few places offer winter flakes, festivities and fun like Alaska. 

Christmas in Alaska is when winter highlights are the most captivating, and for travelers, the enchanting experience becomes a holiday to remember. Dancing northern lights, the Christmas-crazy community of North Pole, and outdoor adventures like dog sled riding, downhill and cross-country skiing, snowmachining, and more all add to Alaska in December’s magical charm and appeal.

The go-to experts at Alaska Tours are your holiday travel helpers, with vast experience and 30-plus years of creating memorable Alaska winter tours and Christmas adventures. While summer is generally the most popular time to visit Alaska, there’s so much to see and do during December, and Alaska Tours connects travelers to the festive season’s unique attractions and activities.

This blog post is a complete guide to experiencing Christmas in Alaska, covering best places to visit, things to do, and tips for memorable holidays in Alaska.

Discovering Christmas Traditions in Alaska

In many ways, Christmas in Alaska is celebrated like other places. Yet Christmas in Alaska also comes with distinct traditions, customs and events that set the state’s holidays apart.

Alaska’s winter is merry, bright and white, meaning plenty of snow – and snowmen! – that makes it feel a lot like Christmas all December long. Holiday lights shimmer in December’s dark nights, as do Alaska’s northern lights, which light up clear winter skies and fill viewers with wonder. Winter includes incredible ice sculptures, buzzing holiday bazaars and markets with Alaskan artisans, Alaska twists on Christmas meals, and accommodations overflowing with holiday happiness. Alaska Native people host traditional Christmas events, and Russian Orthodox Christmas connects participants to Alaska history. Few things bring warmer grins to a cool holiday than meeting a team of sled dogs and their puppies, then going for a frosty, fun ride.

Given Alaska’s quirky side, visitors shouldn’t be surprised that there’s also a Christmas Celebration in Denali National Park in August. The end of the summer tourism season is celebrated by park workers and visitors, complete with Christmas music, cookies, and visits from Santa Claus. Festive folks working at the Grande Denali Lodge and Denali Bluffs Hotel wear ugly Christmas sweaters, hang holiday lights on a Christmas tree, and sing holiday jingles. You’d never know it wasn’t December until you step outside to a classic Alaska fall. If you can’t celebrate Christmas in Alaska, this is the next best thing.

Celebrating Christmas in August in Denali National Park (Source:

Top Destinations for an Alaskan Christmas Experience

Already excited about an Alaskan Christmas? Most communities offer distinct holiday experiences and festivities. Here’s a comprehensive overview of the top locations to visit for Alaska adventures during Christmas.

North Pole, Alaska

Yes, Alaska has a North Pole, and Santa Claus lives there! Getting there doesn’t require Arctic exploration, flying reindeer or sled dogs. North Pole in Alaska, is a quick drive from Fairbanks and lives up to its name with candy-cane light poles and holiday-inspired street names and landmarks. Its most popular attraction is the Santa Claus House, the Official Home of Santa Claus at 101 St Nicholas Dr. It delivers holiday happiness year-round. Even in mid-summer, you’ll think you’d slid into December thanks to its magical Christmas charm. There are gifts and Santa’s workshop, letters postmarked from the big guy to youngsters, and photo opportunities with Santa. Outside, you can meet his reindeer and witness a giant statue of Santa checking his naughty and nice list. The Christmas vibes in North Pole, Alaska, make it a can’t-miss stop for all Alaska visitors, no matter the month.

Santa Claus House

Anchorage, Alaska

Christmas in Anchorage, Alaska, delivers a big city holiday atmosphere, festive markets and bazaars, and scenic holiday lights with panoramic views of scenic surrounding mountains and legendary landscapes. This is Alaska’s “City of Lights,” after all. Some of the best family fun is on the Alaska Railroad’s Holiday Train, hosted by Santa and his pals. Looking for a post-Christmas party? Anchorage is the place to be for New Year’s Eve, with its big-time downtown fireworks show. Anchorage in the winter is also a cultural, entertainment and adventure hub for visitors: spend a day indoors at museums and Alaska Native attractions, or hang outside meeting sled dogs, snowshoeing or skiing.

Fairbanks, Alaska

Christmas in Fairbanks, Alaska, is quieter than Anchorage, and usually a little colder. That’s part of its attraction – set in the heart of Alaska, this quaint town loves its winters and holidays. December tours in Fairbanks, Alaska are filled with urban tours of Christmas lights, night-time trips to viewing the northern lights, festive ice sculptures, and Winter Solstice Celebrations, including fireworks. And don’t forget, the North Pole and Mr. Claus are a short drive away.

Juneau, Alaska

Christmas in Juneau, Alaska, is warm yet wintery, and the holiday spirit in Alaska’s capital city is alive in its charming downtown, which is always adorned with holiday lights. The lights are also bright at Eaglecrest Ski Area during its Christmas Eve torchlight parade. The harbor is lined with boats with holiday lights, too, and the Juneau Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count is a local tradition. In fact, trips to Juneau Alaska, are an adventure all winter long, with stunning glaciers and exciting skiing nearby. 

Glacier dog sledding helicopter tour from Alaska Glacier Lodge (Juno Kim)

Alaska in December: A Winter Adventure

Is December a good time to visit Alaska? Of course! With the right clothing and preparation, along with the warm welcomes you’ll receive and unique adventures you’ll experience, wintertime and Christmas in Alaska is a gift that keeps on giving to travelers. 

Things to See and Do during Christmas in Alaska

Christmas Events and Parades

Find the holiday groove with happy people and festive fun. Events like the cool Colony Christmas parade in Palmer, the big bright boats of the Kodiak Harbor Lights Festival and Festival of Lights in Petersburg, and the Solstice Tree Tour in Anchorage bring instant Christmas happiness, complete with hot cocoa! Most towns host holiday concerts and markets, with each community offering its character and cheer.

Christmas tree farms

There might be tons of trees, but there aren’t many Christmas tree farms in Alaska. The Dorman Tree Farm is a popular one in Kodiak. Beyond that, the best bet for visitors wanting a tree during a Christmas in Alaska adventure is shopping local vendors: Anchorage has Alaska Mill & Feed and Bell’s Nursery, Fairbanks has the Kiwanis Club. Ask around and locals will tip you off to top trees.

Alyeska Resort Skiing

Winter Sports and Activities

Alaska is a winter wonderland for outdoor adventures and winter sports like snowshoeing, snow machining, alpine and cross-country skiing, dog sledding, and ice skating, all amidst Alaska’s picturesque winter landscapes. Each region has outdoor options and outfitters. Talk to the experts at Alaska Tours about what you’re dreaming of and where you plan to stay and they’ll connect you to adventures!

Cultural & Culinary Experiences

 Just because it’s Christmas in Alaska doesn’t mean an entire trip should be spent outside. Warm up by immersing yourself in Alaska’s rich history and cultures at Alaska Native cultural centers, museums, and traditional community celebrations. Alaska’s cuisine like King crab and halibut might not be classic Christmas meals, but they are delicious tastes of dining in Alaska and celebrations for your senses.

Delicious cuisine at Kenai Fjords Wilderness Lodge

Wildlife Encounters

Winter wonder can be found by embarking on wildlife viewing tours to spot reindeer, moose, and eagles in their natural habitats and at zoos and preserves. The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is a must-visit for animal fanatics and is open year-round for visits with its resident moose, caribou, porcupine, muskox, and more. There are popular reindeer farms in Fairbanks and Palmer, too. The guided Anchorage Winter Photo Safari is a perfect way to see wildlife, as well as other cool Anchorage sights.

Viewing the northern lights

You can’t come to Alaska in the winter without seeing a sky filled with colorful dancing northern lights! December is an excellent time to embark on northern lights viewing adventures across the state. The further north you go, the better your chances, which is why Fairbanks is the northern lights hunting headquarters, with numerous outfitters and specially designed tours.

green aurora over a resort surrounded by snow and spruce trees

Experience the magical time of winter in Alaska (Alyeska Resort)

Tips for Planning Your Christmas in Alaska Adventure

It’s easy to get excited about Christmas in Alaska and visiting in the winter, and some practical tips for planning this trip will help you maximize your fun in comfort and calm.

  • Packing Essentials: Pack warm clothing from head to toe, waterproof gear, and sturdy footwear to navigate often wild winter conditions. And don’t forget this essential Alaska packing tip: layers, layers, layers.
  • Choosing the Right Time: Christmas in Alaska is a blast, but visiting in late-November/early-December comes with excellent snowfall and holiday kick-offs. Stay through New Year’s for community parties. But Alaska’s towns are like many places that practically shut down on Christmas and New Year’s days.
  • Booking Accommodations: Like all things Alaska travel, booking in advance is smart. That’s especially true for accommodations in popular destinations. Booking in advance can occasionally secure the best rates and availability, too. Check in with the pros at Alaska Tours to match accommodations and destinations.
  • Booking Dinner Reservations in Advance: The holidays are celebration-packed, which means many restaurants are packed, too. That’s why reservations are so important. Call ahead for special Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Year’s Eve meals. Chefs and staff love sharing holiday happiness in their best dining in Alaska offerings.
  • Transportation Options: Plan your transportation, from renting a car, taking a train, or arranging flights, to ensure seamless travel. Many operators and companies are closed on Christmas and New Year’s days, some even for extended holiday breaks.

Crafting the Perfect Holiday Experience with Alaska Tours

The Christmas spirit and unique winter wonders are easy to find in Alaska. The state has enchanting experiences and events, charming locations and Christmas traditions, unusual fun, memorable tours, and only-in-Alaska adventures awaiting holiday visitors.

A perfect present for hopeful Alaska winter travelers is the Alaska Tours team, with their extensive experience and expertise in organizing unforgettable Alaska Christmas adventures, including customized winter tours and itineraries, local expertise and practical tips, seamless travel arrangements, and exceptional customer service.

Alaska Tours staff have helped travelers plan their dream Alaska Christmas, holiday and winter getaways for more than 30 years, personalizing each trip to their customers’ desires and preferences. Ready to embark on your unforgettable Alaska Christmas adventure? Contact us to learn more about our packages and book your Christmas in Alaska trip today!