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Where to stay to see the aurora borealis lights?

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Seattle, Washington
posts: 79
reviews: 4
Where to stay to see the aurora borealis lights?

We are staying a week and are considering staying at Dale & Jo Suites, Riverbend Log cabins, or a moose in the garden B&B. I read that Dale and Jo will wake you up in the middle of the night to see the lights, but don't think the other 2 places will do this (or haven't heard that they will).

This is our one opportunity to see the lights so want to find the best place to have the best chance of seeing them. We are also considering splitting our time between 2 places.

Thanks in advance!

20 replies to this topic
MN
Destination Expert
for Alaska
posts: 13,493
reviews: 24
1. Re: Where to stay to see the aurora borealis lights?

When are you going and for how long? You need to be in Alaska for probably a week or two if you really want a decent chance of seeing the Lights, not to mention constant checking of the aurora forecast, etc. I was in Alaska for two full weeks in September. Even when the aurora forecast was high and I spent hours waiting for the aurora to appear, nothing. Have very low expectations and they will be met. Any sighting will be a treat, not an expectation.

Seattle, Washington
posts: 79
reviews: 4
2. Re: Where to stay to see the aurora borealis lights?

Hello - Thank you for your reply. We are going the last week of March to the beginning of April for 1 week. I called Aurora Borealis lodge (which is booked) and they recommended Clearly summit condos (which is booked and mount aurora lodge since all three are in the same area. We are debating whether or not to stay at Mount Aurora lodge just for the location. Any advice on where to stay is appreciated.

Healy, Alaska
Destination Expert
for Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska
posts: 29,013
reviews: 35
3. Re: Where to stay to see the aurora borealis lights?

It's actually getting pretty light in April - sure you can't come earlier in the winter? You see, by mid-March our daylight hours are approximately the same as yours - and then they start rapidly increasing. The sun won't be going down until about 9 and the light lingers much longer than actual sunset times . . .

timeanddate.com/worldclock/astronomy.html…

Atlanta, Georgia
posts: 2,668
reviews: 14
4. Re: Where to stay to see the aurora borealis lights?

My wife and I have stayed at Aurora Borealis Lodge and thought it was a great place in a great location for viewing the aurora. The biggest advantage at ABL is the large picture windows where you can watch the lights from inside, while having the ability to walk outside if/when you wish.

Having said that, we were there for three days and did not see the aurora once during our stay. I don't know what the setup is like at Mount Aurora Lodge, but unless they have an indoor viewing area I would probably not consider it (of course the week we were there the temp was about -20F, so having the ability to duck indoors occasionally was a little more critical to our comfort).

I hope you have other activities planned (or at least will have a car). I think you will be bored out of your skulls spending an entire week up on Cleary Summit with nothing else to do, and it is quite a drive to get into town and back. I wouldn't stay more than a couple of nights up there myself - maybe you can spend the balance of your trip at Dale and Jo's, especially if they do wake-up calls.

In reality, location is not that important if you have a car. You can always watch the aurora forecasts and drive up to Cleary Summit on the nights where there is higher predicted activity. That way you do not spend all your time at an out-of-the-way place with nothing else to do.

As fti says, "Have very low expectations and they will be met". Make sure you have some kind of backup plan in case the aurora does not appear.

-JimG

Edited: 5:35 pm, November 05, 2013
New York
posts: 1,248
reviews: 44
5. Re: Where to stay to see the aurora borealis lights?

I did 2 2 week winter trips. Both in March- I I think is a very good time to go. You do have plenty of "dark" with it split to about 12 hours of daylight. Temps are better as well, but we did have a few nights of 25 below. Bonus was the time of the Ice Sculpting Championships- definitely take advantage of going both during the day and night.

I highly recommend staying on Cleary Summit. Just spectacular viewing that doesn't require any transport. I am not there without a car however. It is well worth the added cost to stay somewhere, where you can just get up and look, Adding transfer time, isn't ideal.

The other area to consider is the Hot Springs- again, excellent viewing.

Seattle, Washington
posts: 79
reviews: 4
6. Re: Where to stay to see the aurora borealis lights?

THank you very much everyone! We really appreciate the feedback. We looked into going in the winter, but we couldn't make it work, so we will need to take our chances in late march and early april. I will keep expectations low and hope for the best. We will take day trips to keep us occupied.

7. Re: Where to stay to see the aurora borealis lights?

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Anchorage, Alaska...
posts: 46
8. Re: Where to stay to see the aurora borealis lights?

Late March/early April should be better aurora viewing than mid winter.

I'd recommend a car and driving around. keep your eye on the weather, and head whatever direction offers clear skies.

Seattle, Washington
posts: 79
reviews: 4
9. Re: Where to stay to see the aurora borealis lights?

Thank you very much. We will rent a car and look for clear skies. we are very excited.

Chugiak, Alaska
Destination Expert
for Anchorage, Alaska
posts: 2,095
reviews: 12
10. Re: Where to stay to see the aurora borealis lights?

Just to be devil's advocate, driving around can be not as awesome if you don't know the area and if the road conditions aren't great (especially if you aren't used to driving in Winter conditions). I have a couple friends who tried Aurora chasing in the Mat-Su and as it wasn't an area they were familiar with, they couldn't find a good spot to stop and take pictures when they did find a place without cloud cover (this was a lower display, so it was on the horizon and blocked by trees in the places they attempted).

Expeditions has his own opinions, of course, but since his business is driving people to different locations to view the Aurora, it makes sense that's where his preference lies. I'll move to different places on different nights (after scoping the area out in the day, checking that there's a clearing, that it actually faces north, etc), but the one time I tried moving from place to place, I missed the most active part of the display while I was driving and was pretty bitter about that.

Also, if you choose a place that does not do wake-up calls, there are a couple services that will send you a text or phone call when the KPI hits the level for the Aurora to be visible where you live. SpaceWeather.com does it as does someone locally in Anchorage (but they do it for everywhere). That's who I use now: http://auroranotify.com/alerts/

They have a Facebook page for people to discuss where and what they are currently seeing, etc.

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