Famous for its abundant snowfall, 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 United States.
If you prefer inland Alaska, Fairbanks and the town of North Pole both offer many opportunities to get festive. Tourists and residents can enjoy holiday markets in the cities' centers—with arts, crafts, local foods, and gifts for purchase. Celebrate the magic of Christmas lighting ceremonies, or take in the sights from the warmth of a holiday train as it cuts through the snow-covered landscape.
For 2020, some events have been altered or canceled, so check below and event websites for details.
Browse the Winter Arts Faire in Ketchikan
Close to the southernmost point in Alaska, the small island town of Ketchikan plays host to a yearly 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 Winter Arts Faire at the Saxman Community Center usually has an opening gala reception, which has a small fee for appetizers and drinks. There are vendors to check out, and in addition to craft-related activities, kids can enjoy visits with Santa. In 2020, the Winter Arts Blitz highlights artists across town through December 31, and guests can shop online or in person with participating artists.
Enjoy Juneau's Holiday Markets and Events
The 2020 Juneau Public Market is virtual, with guests shopping on individual vendors' websites. This year's Holiday Pops concerts are online and free, taking place from December 21, 2020, through January 6, 2021.
Although it's the capital of Alaska, Juneau can still be considered a small town in ways, including its intimate holiday celebrations. The city offers a Public Market featuring over 200 vendors with Alaskan food specialties, crafts, and more in late November and early December at the Juneau Centennial Hall, with an admission fee. You can view more of the market at the free venues of Juneau Arts & Culture Center (JACC) and the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall.
Other festive events include the virtual Holiday Pops concerts presented by the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council.
Walk Through the Festival of Lights in Petersburg
For 2020, two consecutive tree lightings occur at 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. on November 27, and outdoor food vendors will be onsite. The parade was canceled.
A little further north from Juneau, the Norwegian-inspired town of Petersburg celebrates the holiday season with its annual Festival of Lights. The entire town transforms into a sparkling winter wonderland complete with a 70-foot (21-meter) tall Christmas tree. A tree lighting ceremony usually starts with a community walk—accompanied by the beloved Santa Claus—down Nordic Drive, featuring the high school band and chorus performing carols.
For a truly Norwegian tradition, explore Petersburg 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 Concerts and a Holiday Train
In 2020, The Family Holiday Pops concert will be online on December 20, and the Holiday Train on the Alaska Railroad was canceled.
Anchorage is probably the best coastal city in Alaska for Christmas events and festivals. The Holiday Train on the Alaska Railroad entails a visit from Santa Claus, caroling, door prizes, a magician, and more, typically in late November as well as some dates in December.
The virtual Family Holiday Pops Concert features the Anchorage Concert Chorus, with about 75 singers performing a selection of favorite carols and Christmas tunes new and old.
Check out a Concert in Fairbanks
The Design Alaska Holiday Concert will be held virtually on KXDF Channel 13 and live-streamed on the Fairbanks Symphony Orchestra website on December 6, 2020.
In the city of Fairbanks, Alaska, celebrate the festive season by sitting back and relaxing at the C.W. Davis Concert Hall at University of Alaska Fairbanks for the Design Alaska Holiday Concert. The early December show features holiday favorites performed by the Fairbanks Symphony Orchestra and Chorus and the Northland Youth Choir.
Visit the North Pole of Alaska
Information on the North Pole Winterfest Bazaar is unavailable as of December 2020; contact the North Pole Community Chamber of Commerce for information on other holiday happenings.
Just a bit to the southeast of Fairbanks, you'll find an entire town named after Santa's homeland, North Pole. Here you can attend an annual event known as The North Pole Winterfest Bazaar in early December at the North Pole Plaza Mall. The family fun includes fireworks, about 60 vendors (some selling food), and a Candle Lighting Christmas Sing-a-Long Celebration whose attractions include the crowning of this year's North Pole King and Queen.
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.
See a Holiday Fair in Seward
The Seward Holiday Arts and Crafts Fair was canceled for 2020.
On the southern coast of Alaska, the port city of Seward offers a spirited way to spend time with your family at the Seward Holiday Arts and Crafts Fair. Sponsored by the Kenai Crewsers Rowing Club, the event is held in the Seward cruise ship terminal on a few days in early December. Attendees will have a chance to see Santa Claus, buy festive goods and food from a variety of vendors, and enjoy live entertainment and holiday music.