Famous for its abundant snowfall, isolated yet vast forests, and unique waterfront communities in the Pacific Northwest, Alaska is the perfect place for a white Christmas vacation. During November and December, the state offers a number of great events to put your family in the holiday spirit.
From the small coastal island towns of Sitka, Ketchikan, and Petersburg to the capital of Juneau and the huge city of Anchorage, each of these destinations provides winter thrill-seekers a unique way to spend the holidays unlike elsewhere in the U.S.
If you prefer inland Alaska, Fairbanks and the town of North Pole both offer many opportunities to get festive. Tourists and residents can enjoy expansive holiday markets in the cities' centers—with arts, crafts, local foods, and gifts for purchase. Celebrate the magic of Christmas lighting ceremonies across the state, or take in the sights from the warmth of a holiday train as it cuts through the snow-covered landscape.
Close to the southernmost point in Alaska, the small island town of Ketchikan plays host to an annual Winter Arts Faire featuring over 80 artisans' crafts and projects such as pottery, jewelry, photography, tie-dye, and metalwork, perfect for that last-minute Christmas gift.
The 30th Annual Winter Arts Faire at the Saxman Community Center starts on November 29, 2019, with an opening gala reception, which has a small fee for appetizers and drinks, as well as vendors to check out. The event then continues with free admission on November 30 and December 1. In addition to crafts-related activities, kids can also enjoy visits with Santa on both days of the event.
Enjoy Juneau's Holiday Markets and Events
Although it's the capital of Alaska, Juneau can still be considered a small town in a lot of ways, including its intimate holiday celebrations. The city offers a Public Market featuring Alaskan items and gifts over the weekend of Thanksgiving, as does the nearby city of Sitka, whose Artisans Market & Holiday Craft Party takes place in December.
If you head a little further north from Juneau, you'll come to the Norwegian-inspired town of Petersburg, which celebrates the holiday season in style with its annual Festival of Lights.
During this festive tradition, the entire town transforms into a sparkling winter wonderland complete with a 70-foot-tall community Christmas tree that lights up the Friday after Thanksgiving. The tree lighting ceremony starts with a community walk—accompanied by the beloved Santa Claus himself—down Nordic Drive (the city's "Main Street"), featuring the High School Band and Chorus performing holiday carols.
For a truly Norwegian tradition, you may want to explore Petersburg during the week of Christmas. During Julebukking, customers receive samples like pastries and warming spirits from local merchants in appreciation of the business they have had over the past year.
Experience Anchorage Arts, Concerts, and a Holiday Train
Anchorage is probably the best coastal city in Alaska for Christmas events and festivals. Here, you can check out the Christmas Arts & Crafts Emporium held in late November at the Dena'ina Civic and Convention Center to pick up some great gifts made by Alaskan artisans. The Holiday Train on the Alaska Railroad features a visit from Santa Claus, caroling, and more, on select Saturdays in the months of November and December. And the Family Holiday Pops Concert in December features the Anchorage Concert Chorus performing a selection of favorite carols and Christmas tunes at Atwood Concert Hall.
In the city of Fairbanks, Alaska, you can celebrate the holiday season starting on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Ride and Dine with Santa and Mrs. Claus in Fairbanks North Star Borough Pioneer Park in December. Or sit back and relax in the warmth and comfort of the C.W. Davis Concert Hall for the Design Alaska Holiday Concert, which takes place on December 8 and features holiday favorites performed by the Fairbanks Symphony Orchestra and Chorus and the Northland Youth Choir.
Just a little to the southeast of Fairbanks, you'll find an entire town named after Santa's homeland, North Pole, where you can experience a holiday bazaar and fireworks display at an annual event known as "North Pole Christmas in Ice." Additionally, you can take part in the Candle Lighting Festival, whose attractions include the crowning of this year's North Pole King and Queen and a Christmas carol sing-a-long.
With a town motto of "Where the Spirit of Christmas Lives Year Round," it's no surprise this festive northern town goes all-out for the holiday season each year.
On the southern coast of Alaska, the port city of Seward offers a fun way to get in the holiday mood with your whole family at the Seward Holiday Arts and Crafts Fair. In 2019, the event hosted by Kenai Crewsers Rowing Club will be held in the Seward cruise ship terminal on December 6 and 7. Attendees will have a chance to not only see Santa Claus but buy holiday goods and crafts from a variety of vendors, buy food, and enjoy live entertainment and holiday music.