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.
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 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 continues with free admission on November 30 and December 1. In addition to crafts-related activities, kids can enjoy visits with Santa.
Enjoy Juneau's Holiday Markets and Events
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 on November 29-30 and December 1, 2019, at the Juneau Centennial Hall, where you'll pay admission. You can view more of the market at the free venues of Juneau Arts & Culture Center (JACC) and the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall.
Likewise, nearby Sitka's Artisans Market & Holiday Craft Party takes place from December 1-31 of 2019, with handcrafted items made mostly in Alaska and Sitka.
A little further north from Juneau, the Norwegian-inspired town of Petersburg celebrates the holiday season with its annual Festival of Lights on November 29, 2019. The entire town transforms into a sparkling winter wonderland complete with a 70-foot-tall Christmas tree. A tree lighting ceremony 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
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, a magician, and more, on November 30 as well as December 7 and 14, 2019.
The Family Holiday Pops Concert on December 22, 2019, features the Anchorage Concert Chorus performing a selection of favorite carols and Christmas tunes at Atwood Concert Hall in the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts.
In the city of Fairbanks, Alaska, you can 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. In 2019, the concert takes place on December 7-8 and features holiday favorites performed by the Fairbanks Symphony Orchestra and Chorus and the Northland Youth Choir.
Alternatively, you may want to head to Hering Auditorium to watch "The Nutcracker" by North Star Ballet on December 6-8, 2019, featuring community members and kids, North Star Ballet Company, and seven guest artists from Ballet West.
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 on December 7, 2019, 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.
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. 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 see Santa Claus, buy holiday goods and food from a variety of vendors, and enjoy live entertainment and holiday music.