Famous for its northern location, abundant snowfall, and isolated yet vast forests and unique waterfront communities, Alaska is the perfect destination for a white Christmas vacation, and the state also offers a number of great events and festivals for the holiday season to put you and your family in the Christmas 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.
From Anchorage to the "North Pole," great destinations, events, and festivals are coming to every city in Alaska this winter—check out our recommendations for the best of these activities and plan your winter getaway today.
Coastal City Christmas Events and Festivals
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.
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. Juneau also offers a Public Market featuring handcrafted Alaskan items and gifts, as does the Sitka Artisans Market & Holiday Craft Party each December.
If you head a little further north you'll come to the Norwegian-inspired town of Petersburg's Festival of Lights, an annual tradition that transforms the entire town into a sparkling Christmas wonderland complete with a 70-foot tall Community Christmas Tree that's lit up the Friday after Thanksgiving each year.
Anchorage, though, 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.
Inland Events in Fairbanks and North Pole
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.
Visit Santa and ride the Santa Train at Tanana Valley Railroad Museum in Fairbanks' Pioneer Park 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 once a year (Dec. 3 this year) and features holiday favorites performed by the Fairbanks Symphony Orchestra, the Fairbanks Symphony Chorus, and the Northland Youth Choir.
Just a little to the southeast of Fairbanks, you'll even find an entire town named after Santa's homeland, North Pole, where you can experience a holiday bazaar and fireworks display at " North Pole Christmas in Ice" or take part in the Candle Lighting Festival, whose festivities include the crowning of the year's North Pole King and Queen and a Christmas carol sing-a-long.