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Travel to Alaska in December 2013

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Sydney, Australia
posts: 4
Travel to Alaska in December 2013

Hi,

I have always wanted to visit Alaska and Im planning a trip in mid - late December 2013.

I was thinking about traveling on the train from Anchorage - Fairbanks - if its operating.

Seeing I'll be traveling by myself, I'm keen to get out and mix with the locals and see what life is like in Alaska.

Im looking for suggestions of what I should do and where I should stay...

I was also wondering if there is a train that goes from Alaska to Canada at that time of year.

Thanks

Jess

Sydney, Australia
posts: 4
1. Re: Travel to Alaska in December 2013

I should add, Im a teacher in Australia and seeing Dec/Jan is out end of year holiday time... I'm limited to travelling in December and January.

Is it worth coming to Alaska at that time of year?

Fairbanks, Alaska
posts: 230
reviews: 30
2. Re: Travel to Alaska in December 2013

Coming to interior Alaska in December is like going to Alice springs in July. Sure you can but why would anyone want to? Other than getting a chance to see the northern lights there is NOTHING to do in interior Alaska during the heart of the winter except wonder if things can be more painful than -40C/F and lament that you missed the 3 degrees above the horizon "daylight" of 3 hours. And yes things can be more painful than -40C/F, it's called -50F.

Although the Fairbanks convention and visitors bureau will say otherwise, there is nothing for tourists to do in december other than sit at a bar and drink.

The climate is a great deal milder along coastal Alaska. Anchorage and southeast Alaska.

Have a look at this website and you might get some ideas.

http://www.visitwildalaska.com/

Yes the train does run from anchorage to Fairbanks in the winter. Google "Alaska railroad" for schedules.

There is no rail connection at any time of the year between Alaska and Canada. There is ferry service from southeast Alaska to canada. Google "Alaska state ferries".

My advice is wait until you retire from teaching, then come see Alaska during its summer time.

If you are determined, however, do some research and feel free to ask.

Sydney, Australia
posts: 4
3. Re: Travel to Alaska in December 2013

Thanks for the advice ak_jkl ;-)

I'll keep looking into a few different options.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
posts: 7,967
reviews: 29
4. Re: Travel to Alaska in December 2013

Bad advice from a local!

There are plenty of people who have ventured to Alaska in the winter (even December!) and had a wonderful time experiencing all there is to see & do in the winter.

If you do a search of this forum of past trip reports you will get a sampling of what others have planned and done. Hopefully Jim from Atlanta will see you post and help with his personal experience.

haines, alaska
Destination Expert
for Haines
posts: 6,928
reviews: 29
5. Re: Travel to Alaska in December 2013

Give him a break, Von.....ak_jkl sounds like most of us this time of year, by the time February rolls around, we are pretty sick of winter..........

Welcome to the forum jesssleelee......There are lots of thing to do in Anchorage during the winter.....you could mingle with locals at concerts, plays, fundraising events; go to the museum or zoo; rent snow shoes or cross country skis and hit the trails; spend a couple days in Girdwood for downhill skiing and a couple days in Seward to experience a coastal community.....

But you do need to keep in mind that even if the weather cooperates there will be very little daylight in December as ak_jkl points out, so that most of your time will probably be spent indoors......

If I were only going to visit Alaska one time, I would go during the summer months......so much more things to see and do, and lots of daylight......

Seattle, Washington
Destination Expert
for Seattle
posts: 3,964
6. Re: Travel to Alaska in December 2013

I'll offer one alternative that might be acceptable at that time of year, especially if traveling alone.

Fly from Seattle to Juneau, Alaska. (Alaska Airlines is the only game in town, and there's no road access to Juneau.)

Spend a day or two in Juneau. It's an historic and very picturesque town, and there's enough to keep you occupied for a couple of days, even if the weather is poor. In December, Juneau, like much of Southeast Alaska, will be chilly, probably snowy or at least rainy, but nothing like the deep freeze you'd encounter in Fairbanks.

Then board the Alaska State ferry and travel south through the beautiful Inside Passage to Bellingham, Washington, about 90 min. north of Seattle and 60 min. south of Vancouver BC.

Get an outside cabin on the ferry (basic but comfortable) and spend three days sliding through the calm waters (most of the route is sheltered from the open ocean by islands) with snowy mountains visible through the clouds and mist, eagles and maybe some whales visible from time to time, fishing boats and brief stops in other coastal towns, such as Wrangell or Ketchikan. The food in the cafeteria on board is decent, your fellow passengers will be heavily weighted to Alaska residents some of whom use the ferry as the city bus, not cruise-ship tourists. Bring a camera and a couple of good books... it's a superb way to spend a couple of great days in the winter. http://www.dot.state.ak.us/amhs/

Then when you're done you're in easy striking distance of both Seattle and Vancouver, which are fun cities for New Years.

The one thing about Alaska is that it's got more diversity than one can imagine. The rain-forested Southeastern "panhandle" is about as different from the Arctic Slope as one can imagine. One can't possibly see the whole of the state in a lifetime, much less a week or two, so pick the areas that work within your time frame and go with them. In December I'd say that's SE Alaska, not Fairbanks.

haines, alaska
Destination Expert
for Haines
posts: 6,928
reviews: 29
7. Re: Travel to Alaska in December 2013

Good suggestions ibgardyloo.......there are lots of local activities happening in the SE during the holiday season...... check this site periodically, as December is so far away...... http://www.traveljuneau.com/events/

Getting a cabin on the ferry would be ideal.....there are movie theaters on the ferry, forward viewing lounges, cafeterias and some even have bars which have cards and board games to help pass the time with fellow passengers.......

Healy, Alaska
Destination Expert
for Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska
posts: 28,678
reviews: 35
8. Re: Travel to Alaska in December 2013

As well, I think the SE is much more doable without a car . . . and the rest of the driveable part of the state really requires a car most of the time.

And yes, even though we can't really get away right now, I keep looking at those Alaska Airlines flights to Hawaii . . . spring is a long time away yet. :)

Fairbanks, Alaska
posts: 230
reviews: 30
9. Re: Travel to Alaska in December 2013

Yep, look into if Jess. As I mentioned in my post and as others who actually live here have written, anchorage and southeast Alaska are far more amenable to a December visit than interior alaska. It will still be cold but usually not as dangerously cold as interior Alaska in the depths of winter.

One possible route would be to fly into anchorage, spend a few days doing day trips there, then fly down to Juneau and take the ferry to Vancouver or Seattle.

It all depends in what your vision of Alaska is. When family and friends come to visit I always ask them that question. If they want to see whales and aquatic critters thats one trip. If they want to see large herds of caribou and endless tundra that's a different trip. If they want to catch fish until their arms fall off that may be a different trip too. If they want to see native people living a subsidtsnce life style, again another trip. If you'd like to spend 3 weeks floating down a river or white water canoeing.... You get the idea.

If your vision tends to the aquatic then you can still a nice visit in some south central communities (anchorage, Valdez, Seward) without freezing your hind end off, and the same is true for southeast Alaska.

But there is a reason winter tourism in interior and northern Alaska borders on the non-existent during the months of nov/dec/jan/feb.

Fritz Creek, Alaska
posts: 5,995
reviews: 58
10. Re: Travel to Alaska in December 2013

The only railway that runs from Alaska into Canada is the White Pass & Yukon Route and shuts down following the cruise ship season. The other railroad option is the Alaska Railroad Aurora that operates weekends only.

We moved up here five years ago and have had our property since 1997. During the first few years we would come up several times and was Februarys. We didn't start summer visits until introduced to cruises. There usually isn't much to do in the winter other and look outside and "smell the roses".Active types (like we were once upon a time) will find excellent skiing at Alyeska Resort at Girdwood. You could enjoy the Christmas decorations as Alaskans enjoy doing that (long nights make it worthwhile). The ferries still run in December.

Maybe I'm weird, but we had always looked forward to our winter visits from California. We were already feeling like Alaskans.