What to Do in Anchorage, Alaska in Every Season

by  Megan DuBois | Apr 6, 2022
Courtesy of Alaska_icons/iStock

Anchorage, Alaska makes a great year-round destination. The beautiful city is known for its cultural significance and proximity to world-famous natural wonders. In fact, travelers have been coming to the city for decades to get up close to nature and explore all that the Great Land has to offer.

Whether it's whale watching and ice climbing or embarking on railroad tours and cheering on student athletes at the NYO Games, Anchorage offers plenty to see and do all year long.  

Winter in Anchorage, Alaska

Courtesy of Visit Anchorage/JodyO.Photo

Winter in Alaska is a great time to enjoy the wonders of the outdoors. One of the most famous outdoor activities is viewing the northern lights (also known as the aurora borealis). Travelers can view the natural phenomenon in Anchorage between September and April.

Moreover, locals agree that winter is the best time to spot the stunning spectacle since the sky is clear and dark, allowing the colors to truly pop. Many Anchorage hotels also offer a "northern lights wake-up call," where the front desk will alert you when most lights are out in the city so you can see them for yourself. 

Courtesy of Visit Anchorage

Meanwhile, those looking for a more adventurous winter activity will want to try their hand at ice climbing. Anchorage is the ideal locale for ice climbing excursions since it's just a short drive to many top spots. There are plenty of tour operators that'll take you out to the majestic glaciers and mountains. And, don't worry if you're a novice ice climber: Expert guides from each tour company will be there every step of the way to ensure you're having fun while staying safe. 

Spring in Anchorage, Alaska

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Spring brings new life and almost-otherworldly scenery to the already-beautiful landscape of Anchorage. In March, gray whales start migrating north towards Alaska from Baja. One of the best ways to catch a glimpse of these magnificent creatures is via a whale-watching cruise, most of which depart from Seward. If you're lucky, you may also spot puffins, sea lions, and seals.

Sports enthusiasts will also want to plan their trip around the NYO Games (previously known as the Native Youth Olympics), which typically take place in April. The Games, which date back to 1972, are comprised of a series of ten sporting events, all of which showcase the skills of talented Alaskan youth. These events are based on traditional games played by previous generations of Alaska Native people as a way to test their hunting and survival skills. The games are open to all Alaskan students from seventh through 12th grade. Plus, it's completely free for spectators.  

Summer in Anchorage, Alaska

Summer in Anchorage is a great time to enjoy the warmer days and lush landscapes. One of the best ways to do that is with a dog sledding tour. While most people assume that dog sledding is exclusive to the winter months, the excursions are even more special during the warmer months, when the beautiful blue glaciers serve as an awe-inspiring backdrop. After taking a short drive and a helicopter ride to the glacier, you'll be greeted by adorable pooches and helpful staff. Post-sledding, dog lovers may choose to stick around and snuggle with the cute pups.

Courtesy of Visit Anchorage/Juno Kim

No summer trip to Anchorage is complete without a train tour, either. These trips along the Alaska Railroad, which can last anywhere from one to several days, afford visitors the incredible opportunity to admire the great outdoors from the comfort of their train car. Each trip features a local onboard guide who is there to answer any questions, tell stories, and point out notable locations along the route. Also, during the summer months, Alaska Railroad offers daily access to Denali and Kenai Fjords National Parks.

Fall in Anchorage, Alaska

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In autumn, Anchorage is known for its more mild weather, leading to cool days in October and November. Before the snow begins to fall come mid-October, embark on a bucket-list-worthy hike up Flattop Mountain, which offers trails for every skill level. Beginners may opt to stick with the loop trails below the path to the summit, which also offer stunning views. Alternatively, folks who choose to hike to the summit must make their way through steep rocky paths that span over three miles — and around 1,500 feet in elevation.  

Courtesy of Jaime Espinosa de los Monteros/iStock

Come September — that is, before the waters get too cold — glacier cruises are also incredibly popular. These excursions often take travelers to Kenai Fjords National Park or Prince William Sound, where gorgeous glacial vistas await. Passengers may also spot wildlife like birds, seals, and whales. Just don't forget to snap some photos!

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