ARE YOU READY TO BOOK A BUCKET LIST TRIP OF A LIFETIME?
Alaska is one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights!
I should know, I’ve lived in Alaska for over 25 years and have witnessed the northern lights more times than I can count.
This article will go over the best places to stay for optimum northern lights viewing in Fairbanks, Alaska.
Every place on this list fits all the criteria needed for perfect northern lights viewing: It’s in or close to the Aurora Oval, away from city light pollution, and has plenty of open skies.
When is the Best Time for Northern Lights in Alaska?
You need a few things to see the northern lights – it needs to be dark outside, the skies need to be clear (or mostly clear), and you should be away from light pollution.
And you need some help from the sun. The sun’s charged electromagnetic particles allow these gorgeous colors to dance in the sky.
In Alaska, it’s dark outside between the end of August to mid-April.
If you can choose your dates, here’s what I recommend:
- For clear skies, book during the drier months. It snows a LOT up here, especially in November and December. The months with the least amount of snow are February through early April.
- Book when there isn’t a full moon. The moon can often be so bright that you can’t see the lights, or they’re dim.
- Try to book around Equinox on March 20 or September 23. It’s believed the Aurora is better because the magnetic axis of the Earth is perpendicular to the direction of the Sun at the time of equinox.
But you can see them anytime it’s dark and clear outside. There are no hard and fast rules, and even the “best” times might not have any lights, so really it’s a bit of planning and a lot of luck!
The Best Places for Northern Lights in Fairbanks, Alaska
1. Pleasant Acres Reindeer Ranch
Pleasant Acres is located in Pleasant Valley, about 33 miles northeast of Fairbanks Int’l Airport. What’s great about this location is it’s on the same road as Chena Hot Springs, making the hot springs an easy day trip.
They’ll even pick you up in Fairbanks and bring you directly to your igloo.
Oh yeah, did I mention you’ll be staying in an igloo?! Not the ones constructed of snow, though, these are upscale fiberglass igloo-like domes. They’re fully equipped too with a queen bed, full bathroom, breakfast bar, kitchenette, french press, and wifi.
There are four igloos total overlooking the reindeer herd in a remote setting, and you’ll get a notice if the aurora is out.
On-site experiences include an aurora tour, reindeer tours, and dogsled rides.
2. Chena Hot Springs
Imagine this, you’re sitting in natural hot springs at night while enjoying the aurora dance across the sky. Well, that’s exactly what you can do here!
Chena Hot Springs is a resort area with plenty of activities and things to do. It’s located about 90 minutes northeast of Fairbanks, and they have a shuttle to easily take you to and from the resort.
Once you’re here, you can enjoy a frozen martini (no really, it’s served in a glass made of ice) at the Ice Museum and view the northern lights at night.
They also have a fun northern lights tour. The tour takes you up the mountain on SUSV’s to a warm yurt. Then you can watch the lights without the light pollution from the resort below.
The other option is to relax in the Aurora Viewing Room at the resort. There are windows so you can look out and wait while staying warm inside.
We stayed here in 2023 and I would go back again. I thought the Northern Lights tour was well worth the cost.
The rooms are no frills and could honestly use an update, but we were out and about most days so it was really just a place to lay our heads. I’m surprised there are so many poor reviews, as I anticipated a rustic place and that’s exactly what we got. I think the word ‘resort’ is a little misleading, but the activities and northern lights make it worth the trip.
There’s a restaurant with a large menu, a large main lodge to hang out during the day, a small store with to-go items and snacks, and a small gift shop.
There are the hot springs, an Ice Museum, and many day tour options like dog sledding available.
Chena Hot Springs is perfect for a one or two-night stay!
If you decide to stay elsewhere but want to experience the hot springs, you can easily drive yourself or book this Northern Lights and Chena Hot Springs Tour.
It’s a 10-hour tour that includes a guided tour of the Fairbanks Ice Museum, transportation to and from the hot springs, and aurora viewing. There’s plenty of time for the hot springs and grabbing a bite to eat while at the resort.
The guide will stop along the way for the Aurora and can help with any questions you may have.
I personally think the price is worth it for a 10-hour tour. The drive from Fairbanks to Chena can be quite harrowing in the winter, so having an expert to transport you around is worth it!
3. Northern Sky Lodge
The Northern Sky Lodge is located about 30 miles south of Fairbanks. The lodge is locally owned by a family and is in a rural setting, away from city lights.
The lodge is a large cabin that’s set up like a B&B. There’s a common area with a kitchen, dining, and sitting area. Breakfast is served daily from 7-10 am. The bathrooms are shared as it’s set up as a B&B with private rooms only.
Most people love the quiet, remote setting and the relaxing atmosphere you can experience here. And with a 9.2/10 rating, it’s highly recommended.
4. Frontier Village
Frontier Village is a family-owned business near North Pole, Alaska. They’ve built four brand new cabins set in a perfect remote location for aurora viewing.
They live on-site at an adjacent building and are available to answer questions. They offer aurora wake-ups as well, making it easy to see the lights.
These cabins are small but fully equipped and provide a cozy atmosphere. The bed is upstairs in an open loft with a well-stocked kitchen, living area, and bathroom below.
There is a fire pit where you can chat with fellow travelers and warm up.
Each cabin has its own covered porch, so you can easily watch the northern lights from the comfort of your place!
Please note each cabin is listed separately on both Booking.com and VRBO. I prefer booking.com to avoid any hidden fees and there’s typically a generous cancellation fee. If you use booking.com regularly, you can also earn big discounts the more you book (as a Genius member, I get a 15% discount on most stays).
Here are the individual links so you can easily book (these are affiliate links and help support my site). They’re all identical, and if one is booked you can check the others.
Cabins available for booking:
5. Aurora Yurt & Borealis Yurt
What if I told you you could witness the Aurora Borealis all while staying in a heated yurt? Well, here you can!
Yurts are actually quite common in Alaska and a fun way to experience the 49th state.
These yurts each have 3 bedrooms and 1 bathroom in an open style living area, meaning that the bedrooms are open to the upper loft area. They even have a hot tub available that’s shared with the main house (it’s away from the yurt so you have plenty of privacy).
The yurt has skylights so you can easily see the northern lights from the comfort and warmth inside.
If you love skiing, the local ski resort Moose Mountain is next door, so you can quite literally ski from your door. If you’re traveling with a larger group, there’s a second yurt the same size for rent adjacent to this one.
And with a 132 rave reviews (4.9/5 rating), this is a perfect option for a unique stay!
6. Borealis Basecamp
Borealis Basecamp is a premier full-experience destination for the northern lights. Located 25 miles from Fairbanks, they are away from the city lights and provide an excellent viewing location for the lights.
When you book a package, you get a one-hour dog sled experience and UTV tour (like an ATV but more robust).
There’s a mix of igloos and cubes available, and packages are for 2, 3, or 4 nights. There is an on-site restaurant, Latitude 65, that serves locally sourced dishes by a seasoned chef.
Their packages tend to book out a year in advance, so plan accordingly.
7. Alaska Grizzly Lodge
Located just 10 miles from Fairbanks, the Alaska Grizzly Lodge is a rustic, Alaskan style B&B with common areas. Breakfast is served daily but lunch and dinner are up to guests.
Since it’s so close to Fairbanks, many people drive into town to enjoy restaurants and daytime activities in Fairbanks. But you could just as easily cook dinner in the fully equipped kitchen.
The area is located away from city lights allowing for great northern lights opportunities.
The location is surrounded by woods, making it feel extremely cozy and off-grid. Another nice perk is the on-site laundromat for those longer stays.
The owners will wake you up when the lights are out and enjoy mingling and talking about the local area.
Many rooms have balcony access so you can enjoy the lights in comfort.
8. Aurora Ridge Cabin
This 3-bedroom, 1 bathroom cabin is a private home where guests have the entire cabin to themselves. The cabin is only 3 miles outside of town with unobstructed views for the northern lights. It’s also just 1/4 mile from the Alaska Pipeline overlook point.
The home has a fire pit, fully-equipped kitchen, and grill available for use. The secluded location is also great for wildlife viewing, and many people have watched moose from the large covered porch.
Guests rave about the cleanliness and amazing location for northern lights viewing.
9. Pike’s Waterfront Lodge
Located in Fairbanks, this hotel backs up to the Chena River and makes for a great base to explore Fairbanks and the outer areas.
Even though it’s located in town, the Aurora viewing is still great and they even have a brand new glass enclosed Aurora Conservatory. In addition, there’s a large deck and fire pits to stay warm and catch a glimpse of the lights from outside.
The hotel has 180 rooms and 28 cabins. Many rooms have private balconies and back up to the Chena River.
A nice feature of Pike’s Waterfront a that you can get all the amenities you need here (including an on-site restaurant). For something more private, book one of their cabins with a private room, bathroom, kitchenette, and a private deck.
There’s a sledding hill, evening ice cream (for a fee), a pool table, lounge, an Alaskan library, steam room, and dry sauna.
If you need to stay close to Fairbanks or want a place to stay before an early flight, this hotel the perfect spot with the added bonus of northern lights viewing. Or if you just want easy access to museums and restaurants before a night of aurora chasing, this is a great option.
10. Lakefront Luxury Log Home
Traveling with a larger group? Then this 4 bedroom, 4,800 sq ft custom log home is the perfect place for your northern lights getaway!
The home is set on a private pond in the town of North Pole (yes, it is a real town!). The main area has floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the large yard and pond, making it a great place to spot northern lights while staying warm. There’s an outdoor hot tub overlooking the pond.
Aside from that, the home is well stocked and has everything you need. Guests even have garage access to keep their vehicle warm. You can view the list of everything included in the rental (it’s a lot!) here.
Restaurants, grocery stores, coffee, pharmacy, and the Santa Claus house are just a few minutes away.
More Alaska Reading
I have tons of articles about Alaska. Here are some you may find helpful:
- A Perfect 10-Day Alaska Winter Itinerary
- An Epic 7 Day Alaska Winter Itinerary: The Highlights
- Anchorage to Denali by Train
- Things to do in Girdwood [Alaska] + Itinerary
- How to Spend 24 Hours in Anchorage, Alaska
- 7 Glaciers You Can Drive To From Anchorage
- Have a Few Hours in Anchorage? Here’s What to Do
- The Perfect 10-Day Alaska Road Trip + Itinerary
- 15 Best Things to do in Seward, Alaska
- The Coolest VRBO Home Stays in Alaska
- How to Plan the Perfect Trip to Alaska [2024 Edition!]
- How to Travel Alaska on a Budget
- 20 Unforgettable Experiences in Alaska