Guide to Christmas in Alaska: Festivals, Events, and Things to Do

Santa's House in the North Pole with the Northern Lights in the sky

 Santa Claus House

Famous for its abundant snowfall, isolated yet vast forests, and unique waterfront communities in the Pacific Northwest, Alaska is the perfect destination for a white Christmas vacation. During the months of November and December, cities across the state offer a number of great events and festivals for the holiday season to put you and your family in the Christmas spirit.

The coastal cities of Alaska offer a unique cross-section of winter sights and attractions unlike anywhere else in the United States. 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.

Meanwhile, if you don't want to be close to the waterfront, or perhaps just feel like getting immersed a little bit more in nature by visiting inland Alaska, the city of Fairbanks and the town of North Pole both offer visitors plenty of opportunities to get into the holiday spirit

Visitors and residents alike can enjoy expansive holiday markets in the cities' centers—complete with arts, crafts, local foods, and holiday gifts for purchase—celebrate the magic of Christmas lighting ceremonies across the state, or take in the sights of this massive winter wonderland from the warmth and safety of a holiday train as it cuts through the snow-covered landscape of Alaska..

Browse the Winter Arts Faire in Ketchikan

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, perfect for that last-minute Christmas gift.

The 29th Annual Winter Arts Faire will take place at the Saxman Community Center on November 24 and 25, 2018, with free admission. In addition to crafts for sale, kids can also enjoy craft activities and visits with Santa on both days of the event.

Christmas in Juneau: Holiday Market 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 after Thanksgiving, as does the nearby city of Sitka, whose Artisans Market & Holiday Craft Party takes place in early December.

Other festive events in 2018 include the Holiday Pops concert presented by the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council at the Egan Library on the University of Alaska Southeast campus on December 15 and the Midwinter Vocal Festival from December 28, 2018, to January 5, 2019.

Walk Through the Festival of Lights in Petersburg

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 Christmas 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 down Nordic Drive (the city's "Main Street") and features the High School Band and Chorus performing holiday carols.

For a truly Norwegian tradition, you can visit Petersburg during the week of Christmas for Julebukking when local merchants offer customers samples of their goods in appreciation of business over the past year.

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 November at the Dena'ina Center, the Holiday Train on the Alaska Railroad that features a stop in Seward for some afternoon fun, or the Family Holiday Pops Concert, which features the Anchorage Concert Chorus and Holiday Pops Orchestra performing a selection of favorite carols and Christmas tunes.

Santa Train at Tanana Valley Railroad Museum

In the city of Fairbanks, Alaska, you can celebrate the holiday season starting on Friday after Thanksgiving this year. Visit Santa and ride the Santa Train at Tanana Valley Railroad Museum in Fairbanks' Pioneer Park on November 24 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 2 and features holiday favorites performed by the Fairbanks Symphony Orchestra, the Fairbanks Symphony Chorus, and the Northland Youth Choir.

Visit the North Pole of Alaska

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.