17 Incredible Winter Activities in Anchorage, Alaska

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Looking for things to do around Anchorage in the cold winter months? I have you covered!

I grew up in a town outside of Anchorage and live here now, so I know nearly everything about this area! A visit to Alaska in the winter is a completely different experience than in the summer months.

Visiting in the winter allows you to experience the state like the locals do. There aren’t many people who brave the snow and ice, but for winter lovers, it’s paradise.

If you’re planning a winter trip, I outlined a 7-day winter itinerary along with a longer 10-day winter itinerary. I recommend taking a look at both for even more winter travel ideas.

Let’s get right to it. Here are the best things to do in the Anchorage area in the winter months.

1. Walk on a Glacier

Let’s kick off this list with one of the coolest (no pun intended) things you can do in Alaska; walk on a glacier!

About two hours north of Anchorage is Matanuska Glacier. It’s 24 miles long and 4 miles wide. This is considered a valley glacier, meaning that the glacier sits on the valley floor (instead of up in the mountains).

There are many day tour options that do pick up/drop off in Anchorage. Most tours are about 8 hours long, and I recommend this Matanuska Glacier Tour with Greatland Adventures. They’re a local company with loads of experience and helpful tour operators.

Awesome day! Crawling through the crevasse was an added bonus. Guides were awesome and full of knowledge. Worth every penny.

– Robert_M (read more reviews)

Read next: 7 Glaciers you Can Drive to From Anchorage

2. Go Dog Sledding

Did you know Alaska’s official sport is dog sledding? Also called dog mushing, this sport is hugely popular in Alaska. And in my experience, all of the dogs are well loved and cared for. They’re also crazy with energy and seem genuinely excited to get out and start moving.

Many local mushers open up their kennels for day tours. And with a tour, you get to see the pups and actually go dog mushing!

The kennels aren’t located directly in Anchorage. Instead, they’re about an hour or so north in the areas of Wasilla and Willow.

The one I always recommend is this tour in Willow with Alaskan Husky Adventures. They were voted Best of Alaska in 2023 and you get up to an hour of ride time. It’s an awesome experience and I highly recommend it!

Photo Courtesy of Alaskan Husky Adventures

3. Watch the Northern Lights Dance in the Sky

The north is where you go to watch the Aurora dance across the sky, and Alaska is no exception. And while Fairbanks is the most popular location (it’s in the Aurora Oval), you can still spot the northern lights from the Anchorage area.

I created a separate list with viewing tips and top locations around the city to see the lights (you can find it here). But in general, the best way to see the lights is away from light pollution (aka city lights).

There are also many fantastic tour operators that will drive you to the best locations to witness the northern lights. I recommend doing this tour with Alaska Photo Treks. If the weather will prevent you from seeing the aurora (like a blizzard), they’ll cancel the tour and provide a refund.

It was a wonderful experience! Ben, our guide, was so helpful and he had such a great energy and gave us a lot of information about the town and the lights. We weren’t expecting to see much, but we were able to see the lights and they danced around and it was amazing! I highly recommend this!!

Bopha_p (see more reviews)

The northern lights are considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world and is something that everyone should experience at least once in their lives.

Northern-Lights-Fairbanks-Chena Hot Springs Alaska

4. Go Inner Tubing at Arctic Valley

Arctic Valley is a small ski area a few miles north of Anchorage. It’s a volunteer run organization and is mostly no frills with a few lifts.

They have a fun tube park where you can rent inner tubes and ride down one of the three tubing hills. There’s a rope similar to a t-bar that takes you up too so you don’t need to hike up the hill.

There’s a fee per person and you go in 90 minute slots. This is a fun activity for kids but also adults too. Visit their website for all the up-to-date information!

5. Try Fat Tire Biking

In Alaska, cycling doesn’t stop just because there’s snow on the ground. Okay, you can’t exactly cycle, but instead can try fat tire biking. There are a few places to rent bikes, and my favorite is Pablo’s Bicycle Rentals. Located in downtown Anchorage, they have a mix of fat tire bikes and even electric fat tire bikes too.

They’re close to the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail which takes you to Westchester Lagoon and Kincaid Park. A little further along you can also explore Earthquake Park. They’re happy to help you get oriented for a self-guided trip, and daily rental rates are really reasonable.

But if you prefer a guided tour, Pablo’s has a tour option that takes you through the downtown area and nearby trails.

Group of friends riding their fat bike in the snow in Ontario, Canada

6. Visit a Winter Carnival

There’s something incredibly unique about experiencing a carnival in the winter. Fur Fondezvous, also called Fur Rondy, is Alaska’s larges winter carnival leading up to the kickoff of the Iditarod. In fact, the Iditarod’s ceremonial start begins in downtown Anchorage and marks the final day of Fur Rondy.

This isn’t just any carnival. This is a festival that is completely Alaskan. Popular events include a large snow sculpture contest, the famous outhouse races, a Miners and Trappers Ball, and Running with the Reindeer.

There are plenty more events to keep you busy, though, so be sure to check out all the events at their official website.

The carnival has many typical fair rides and treats, and I highly recommend going if you are visiting the week leading up to the Iditarod.

7. Watch the Largest Sled Dog Race in the World

At the end of Fur Rondy, you can watch Alaska’s state sport come to life. The Iditarod kicks off, with brave mushers traveling across 1,049 miles from Anchorage to Nome. It’s known as the “last great race” and it’s fun to be a part of the largest event in Alaska.

Iditarod Anchorage Alaska Winter-3

8. Try Ice Skating on a Frozen Lagoon

There are many ice skating opportunities around Anchorage and the surrounding areas. All the lakes freeze over in the winter and many add lights and clear an area for ice skating. The most popular spot in Anchorage is located at Westchester Lagoon, a few minutes’ drive from downtown Anchorage.

Here you can put on your skates and enjoy a large cleared area. There are also lights added so you can easily skate at night.

On Saturdays in January and February, there’s family skating from 1-3pm. They have warming barrels, hot cocoa, music, and plastic skate assist seals too. Use this link for up-to-date information.

Alaska Outdoor Gear Rental has ice skates available for rent.

9. Ride the Alaska Winter Train

In the winter months, most bigger tourist activities close up shop. Luckily there are still some great options available. The Alaska Railroad, which is the only railroad operator in the state, runs a winter train from Anchorage to Fairbanks.

Just the fact that this train line is maintained all winter is an incredible feat, as many areas get hundreds of inches of snow.

The train leaves from either the Anchorage train depot or Fairbanks and embarks on a 12-hour journey. Passengers get to experience Alaska in a blanket of snow. The route passes by Denali National Park, through mountains, next to rivers, and also stops at Talkeetna.

The railroad only runs specific days in the winter, so be sure to plan your trip around it to ensure a smooth experience. I recommend only doing the train one way as it’s such a long trip. With that in mind, you’ll be flying into Anchorage and out of Fairbanks (or vice versa). Here’s a full itinerary that includes the winter train.

Reflections Lake Winter and Chugach Mountains Alaska

10. Go Nordic Skiing on Miles of Trails

Anchorage is a cross-country skiers paradise. In town, there’s an impressive network of trails at Kincaid Park.

This is where many athletes train for competitions and there are even some Olympic athletes training here. But don’t let that intimidate you, there are plenty of trail options to choose from.

Another popular spot north of Anchorage is at Beach Lake, next to Chugiak High School.

There are many places to rent skis in Anchorage including Play it Again Sports and Alaska Outdoor Gear Rental.

11. Watch Wildlife Play in the Snow

The bears may hibernate in the winter, but there are plenty of other Alaskan animals that roam all winter. Moose prefer the trails and roads to deep snow, so you can often spot them around town. Other wildlife you can see are hares and maybe even lynx (if you’re lucky).

To ensure you see all the Alaska animals, you can either visit the Alaska Zoo or the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center.

And while neither can compare to larger zoos you’ll find around the world, I think that both provide a good range of animals in a great setting. The Alaska Zoo is in Anchorage along the hillside area. The zoo is set in the woods with trails weaving throughout it. We typically spend about 90 minutes walking around, checking out the animals.

The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center has only Alaskan animals. They rehabilitate animals from all over the state. While it’s not large, I like that you can choose to drive if the weather isn’t ideal. It’s also in a beautiful setting along Turnagain Arm. Note that in the winter the drive can be dangerous due to ice and snow on the roads.

moose in woods Alaska near anchorage sunny

12. Go on a Winter Hike

Anchorage is full of active people who love hiking year round. Many trails are maintained in the winter months, or packed down enough due to traffic.

In Anchorage, Flattop is a popular year round hike. Please note that if it’s a particularly snowy year, there can be avalanche risk. Kincaid Park has a good network of hiking trails, just be sure to avoid the nordic ski trails.

The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail is a 20-mile trail that runs along the Cook Inlet. It starts downtown and has many other entry points including Westchester Lagoon, Kincaid Park, and Earthquake Park. This means you can start your trail on the trail from many points in the city. It’s mostly flat with a few small hills and makes for a nice stroll. Note that with the inlet right next to you, it can get really cold in the winter months.

Eklutna Lake

Eklutna Lake has a 13 mile trail that’s maintained throughout the winter. It’s a flat trail that’s great for walking. When the lake freezes over, it’s popular for walking, cross-country skiing, and snow machining. There’s no cell service here, so be prepared to be on your own.

Just outside of Anchorage, about 26 miles north, is the Eagle River Nature Center. Located at the end of the road, this privately owned nature center has a network of trails for winter walking and hiking. The road is well maintained, just be sure to take it slow on the big hills as you’re heading there.

It’s hard to beat the views from the boardwalks and lookout points at the nature center, and I highly recommend a visit if you have a rental car.

Eagle River Nature Center Winter Alaska
Eagle River Nature Center

13. Go on a Brewery Tour

Alaska has an incredible craft brewery and cider scene. In Anchorage, there are about 20 breweries and cideries, with more popping up every year.

For a more personal experience, I recommend skipping a DIY tour and instead letting someone else drive you around.

Big Swig Tours offers the most popular brewery tour in town. For the tour, you meet downtown and are taken to 3 of the best breweries. The tour guide, known as the ‘hoperator’, explains the history of Alaska’s beer scene and what makes it unique. The tour takes approximately 4 hours and has over 100 5-star reviews!

Truly a wonderful experience! Bryan was an awesome tour guide and provided 3 great breweries to tour. Each place had different but unique beers to try. All of the brewers working at the sites were so knowledgeable and certainly kept it lively. You definitely will not be thirsty on this beer tour! 10/10 recommend.

Samantha_S (read more reviews)

14. Ski the Longest Continuous Double Black Run in North America

The town of Girdwood, located about 45 minutes south of Anchorage, has the largest ski resort in the state. Alyeska is a fun mountain with incredible views. There are only 4 ski lifts and a tram from the hotel, but the mountain is large enough that there are plenty of runs to keep you busy.

Girdwood Road Winter Alyeska Alaska

One unique aspect of Alyeska is the North Face, a side of the mountain with North America’s longest continuous double black run (try saying that three times!).

If you don’t want to attempt North Face, there are many other runs to enjoy that aren’t quite so steep.

Girdwood Alyeska Resort view from mountain winter Alaska

15. Dine With Mountain and Inlet Views

For great views and an equally great meal (especially in the winter), head to Crow’s Nest at the top of the Hotel Captain Cook.

The bar area looks reminiscent of an old wooden ship and you have great views no matter where you sit.

Crows Nest Anchorage Alaska
Springtime in Alaska

16. Explore the Anchorage Museum

The Anchorage Museum is a fantastic place to spend an afternoon. It’s a beautiful building with a lot to offer. Kids love the Imaginarium. There’s all sorts of science experiments, sea life (the snapping turtle is a highlight), and things to do. There’s even a toddler area with toys and toddler sized furniture.

The museum is two story’s with many rooms and themes. There are some permanent exhibits such as Art of the North and an exhibition highlighting Alaska’s indigenous people, the first people of Alaska. Then there are rotating exhibits throughout the year.

The museum is located right in the heart of downtown and can be easily combined with other activities.

17. Warm Up at The Nordic Spa

The Alyeska Nordic Spa is a newer facility that opened in 2022. It’s the first of it’s kind in Alaska and possibly one of my favorite things to do up here.

There are multiple hot and cold pools with varying temperatures, and there are saunas all around the facility. It’s completely secluded and surrounded by a large sitka spruce forest. They even have a forest walk with barrel tubs and circular wooden saunas. There’s an added steam room and exfoliation room, and a restaurant and bar area on site.

Photography is not allowed inside, but you can check out their Instagram to get a better idea of what to expect.

So if you want a touch of luxury on your vacation, I highly recommending booking a day at the Nordic Spa. And to hear all about my experience, you can read that here.

Alyeska Nordic Spa Sign Girdwood Alaska Winter

Final Thoughts

A visit to Alaska in the winter provides an incredibly unique experience. Once you add in some of these adventures, you have the experience of a lifetime. Here are more articles you might find helpful on visiting Alaska in the winter months.

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