In Alaska, we like to celebrate all the usual holidays (and invent our own of course too!). Any excuse for more fun.
Christmas is especially popular in America’s 49th state. Heck, it’s always Christmas in the quaint Alaskan community of North Pole, just a short sleigh ride – or drive, if you prefer – from Fairbanks, Interior Alaska’s “Golden Heart City”. But you might be surprised to learn that Christmas is also celebrated by the busy folks in Denali National Park each August. That’s right! You can catch a case of Christmas spirit a little early every year in Denali if you play your cards right.
A Historic Tradition: Yellowstone National Park to Denali
Now celebrating Christmas in August isn’t just part of some guru’s merry marketing plan. Like Christmas itself, there’s a mix of mystery and lots of lore surrounding this Denali event. While the exact facts are a bit blurry, legend has it that in the early part of the 20th century, a freak August blizzard stranded visitors and their stagecoach at the Old Faithful Inn in the heart of Yellowstone National Park. Rather than acting like disappointed snowbound grinches, the guests at the Inn decided to make the most of their situation and seized the opportunity to celebrate Christmas early. Why not since the weather outside seemed just perfect for it! Word soon spread about how much fun they had in Yellowstone (as it often does with great parties), and today that tradition continues annually at many national parks, including at both Yellowstone and at Denali.
Why Not Christmas in July?
The fun starts in July, when hardcore holiday junkies, big-time e-commerce sites, and a certain television network (with an endless lineup of cheesy rom-com Christmas films) get the holiday spirit ball rolling. But the month of July in Denali is the peak of tourism and wildlife activity and is frankly, just too busy a time for those in Alaska’s biggest attraction and most-visited national park. They need a few more weeks to get into the Christmas vibe. When August arrives and Alaska’s Midnight Sun-drenched days start to wane and the days start to cool, a handful of park hotels slow down just enough to bring Christmas to life as they ring in the end of another adventure-filled summer.
Denali’s Christmas Celebrations in August
In August in Denali, it’s suddenly time for Christmas lights, Christmas music, Christmas cookies, Christmas cheer, and even a special appearance from Santa Claus, direct from North Pole! The hilarious teams at Grande Denali Lodge and Denali Bluffs Hotel liven up the mood by breaking out their fun and festive, ugly Christmas sweaters, guaranteed to get a laugh. Their lodges are adorned with sparkling lights, as well as a Christmas tree complete with holiday presents tucked underneath. All your old favorite Christmas jingles ring from the lodge sound systems as Santa Claus cruises through lobbies and restaurants, visiting with fans young and old, and posing for pictures. There are even small boxes set up in each lobby for your kids to post their personal appeals to Santa.
This year, Grande Denali Lodge and Denali Bluffs Hotel host Christmas on August 24-25, 2023. Ho-ho-hope you don’t miss it!