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Northern Lights - on the bucket list!

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Atlanta, Georgia
posts: 194
reviews: 12
Northern Lights - on the bucket list!

Hi all:

I've been reading these posts and they are so informative. I'm a single woman traveling alone. I don't really like having a rigid itinerary as you would on a vacation tour, so I think I'm going to do the following:

Fly into Fairbanks and stay near walking distance to restaurants, shops, etc. Any suggestions for a good B&B?

One of my passions is photography, so I really want to get to a location that has spectacular views of the lights. I am from Atlanta and have NO experience driving on ice and snow. I think I would feel better booking a night expedition with a tour company (Aurora Village, etc.). I also want to get away from Fairbanks during the day to photograph some of the natural beauty of Alaska - I'm sure there are tour companies for this, also.

I think I would be ok driving a rental car in the city of Fairbanks since the roads are kept clear.

I was planning on going in mid-September, but it sounds like I should postpone my trip to March? Since I'm not used to extreme cold weather, I really don't want to go in Dec-Feb. I know - I'm a cold weather sissy!!

Thanks for all the information on this forum!! I can't wait to see Alaska.

Atlanta, Georgia
posts: 2,677
reviews: 14
1. Re: Northern Lights - on the bucket list!

My wife and I were in Alaska just about a year ago, and thoroughly enjoyed the winter experience. The key to dealing with the cold is to realize that there's really no such thing as "bad weather", only "inappropriate clothing" (forget who on TA said that, but it's true). Late December is a fun and festive time of year to visit with all the holiday activities, while March has the Ice Carving Championships - either time should be good, but March should be more temperate.

Major roads are kept clear all over the state - even as a precipitationally challenged Atlantan, you should have no trouble driving around, provided you use common sense (don't go too fast, allow plenty of time to react, etc).

Feel free to post here or PM me if you have specific questions about anything.

-JimG

Atlanta, Georgia
posts: 194
reviews: 12
2. Re: Northern Lights - on the bucket list!

Another Atlantan! I'm glad to hear that the roads are ok for drivers who possess zero cold weather skills :)

Where did y'all stay? Did you take any tours/excursions? Did you fly into Fairbanks?

Sorry for all the questions. I'm just now starting research for the trip. I'm also going to research Yellowknife, Canada as I hear that's another awesome place to see the northern lights.

Thanks so much!

MN
Destination Expert
for Alaska
posts: 13,493
reviews: 24
3. Re: Northern Lights - on the bucket list!

I would go in September or March. Early September is better than later in September, since you could also visit Denali NP. I have seen the Northern Lights twice from Denali NP in September.

If your main purpose is the Northern Lights, I hope you are planning a stay of at least 7 nights. You never know with the Northern Lights. I have been in Alaska a lot in the winter (let's say Sep to March) and on less than half my trips have I seen the Northern Lights. Your greatest asset is TIME.

You can see the lights from Denali almost as good as you can from near Fairbanks, though of course it depends on the intensity, cloud cover, etc.

If you lock yourself into a lodging that specializes in the Northern Lights viewing (i.e. outside of the city), you are pretty much stranded there during the day with nothing to do. If you go in September, renting a car would mean less likelihood of snow. March will almost certainly be colder and snowier than September.

Yes, Alaska keeps the main roads relatively snow-free, but for someone who has never driven on roads where it has snowed before, I would be a bit hesitant. I arrived in early March one year in Fairbanks and they just had a blizzard. Some of the roads north of the city were still quite slick. I am used to that living in MN. But I would think someone from Atlanta might have a bit harder time dealing with that.

Atlanta, Georgia
posts: 2,677
reviews: 14
4. Re: Northern Lights - on the bucket list!

ohara5150, you should read my trip report from our trip to get an idea of what we did:

tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g28923-i349-k50517…

Note that it's still unfinished, but my New Year's resolution this year is to complete it. One of the parts that is missing is that we did see the Aurora at Chena Hot Springs Resort. That will be the next installment when I actually get around to working on it some more. In the meantime the report should give you some ideas on what activities we did and what kinds of conditions we encountered.

Also, I would not go so far as to say that "the roads are ok for drivers who possess zero cold weather skills". You do still need to have some idea on how to operate a vehicle safely in slippery conditions (in particular how to use the lower transmission gears for downhills and how to steer safely out of a skid). Assuming you are familiar with those things, then the driving should not be too difficult for you.

-JimG

Vitoria, ES
posts: 1
reviews: 3
5. Re: Northern Lights - on the bucket list!

I'm travelling alone too!

My plans include a expedition to Coldfoot with Northern Alaska Tour Company. Now I'm searching for a nice place to stay in Fairbanks. Some good hotels have no vacancy for this season! So hurry.

I'll be there march 17-24th.

Anchorage, Alaska...
posts: 46
6. Re: Northern Lights - on the bucket list!

Ohara5150

If you DO want to rent a car and drive while you're here, I actually posted a note about driving in AK in winter, specifically for photographers coming for the aurora, a week or so ago:

expeditionsalaska.com/ramblings/…

Taking precautions is a good idea. grab a tow strap, and some kind of signal device, like a flare, or something .. and a good shovel, keep them in your vehicle.

Cheers

Atlanta, Georgia
posts: 194
reviews: 12
7. Re: Northern Lights - on the bucket list!

Thanks for all the advice! I'll definitely read the trip report and the post on driving in a winter wonderland :)

Oakland, California
posts: 1
reviews: 2
8. Re: Northern Lights - on the bucket list!

Hello!!! Thank you for your reply, could you say a little bit more about dressing? I am quite concern, thank you so much!

Anchorage, Alaska
Destination Expert
for Anchorage
posts: 5,999
reviews: 138
9. Re: Northern Lights - on the bucket list!

Dressing in AK in the winter...

Here's a thread that's re-posted in other threads:

tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g60826-i1068-k5954…

10. Re: Northern Lights - on the bucket list!

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