When is the best time to head up to the Great North to visit Anchorage, Alaska? You could answer that off the cuff and say that holidays usually involve having fun in the sun and taking in as many sights as possible.
In most cases, that’s true. But what about those who love to ski and engage in snow-related activities? What about those who want to catch a great view of the extraordinary Aurora Borealis? When is the best time for them? I visited Anchorage in February and it was fantastic (thus the winter photos in this article). I absolutely loved it and longed to see it in warmer weather as well.
Things to Book in Anchorage Before You Leave Home
Few things are more frustrating on vacation than missing out on that amazing hotel or tour because it is sold out. Here are my top things to book in Anchorage before your vacation.
🏔️ Most Popular Tours in Anchorage:
1. Northern Lights Tour from Anchorage– if you’re determined to see the Northern Lights this is your best chance (I did)
2. Helicopter Tour with Glacier Landing – unforgettable bucket list experience
3. Glaciers and Wildlife – two Alaska highlights together
4. Ride the Alaska Railroad for jaw-dropping scenery
🛏️Where to Stay in Anchorage:
1. Marriott Downtown – surprisingly stylish and great location
2. The Lakefront – stunning location on Lake Spenard and great food
This makes the answer to the key question a little more complicated. Let’s take a deep dive into what time of the year will give you the best experience. Here’s a detailed take on the best time to visit Anchorage Alaska.
PS: You might also want to know about the most beautiful cities in the United States.
What Is the Best Time of Year To Visit Anchorage Alaska?
Table of Contents
- What Is the Best Time of Year To Visit Anchorage Alaska?
- Other Considerations
- The Cheapest Time To Visit Anchorage, Alaska
- The Least Busy Time To Visit Anchorage, Alaska
- Summer in Anchorage: June To August
- Fall in Anchorage: September To November
- Winter in Anchorage: December To February
- Spring in Anchorage: March to May
- So, What Is the Best Time To Choose To Visit Anchorage?
- Recommended Best Time To Visit Anchorage Alaska
- What Is the Worst Time To Visit Anchorage, Alaska?
- Where to Stay in Anchorage
- Marriott Anchorage Downtown
- The Lakefront Anchorage
- FAQs About the Best Time To Visit Anchorage
- When Can You See the Northern Lights in Anchorage?
- Where Are the Best Spots To See the Northern Lights Near Anchorage?
- Can You See Wildlife in Anchorage, Alaska?
- Final Thoughts on the Best Time To Visit Anchorage, Alaska
When you contemplate this question, there is a short answer, but it’s not terribly informative. That answer is: It depends. It depends largely on what you hope to see and do while you’re here as a visitor to Anchorage.
Summer, for example, is awesome to see Anchorage in bloom, with flowers, some sun, and a general pleasant atmosphere. It has become one of the most beautiful towns in America. On the Downside, there may be more crowds, and accommodation prices will be elevated.
Conversely, winter is the peak time for those who love winter activities, snow, and wildlife. Prices for accommodations are more reasonable, and there are fewer crowds to deal with. This is also the best time to see the amazing northern lights or Aurora Borealis.
Straddling those two extremes are Spring and fall, in which the temperatures are relatively moderate, prices are similarly in-between, and a fair mix of things are happening. One caveat is that fall is quite short in these parts, so we only really consider it to last two months.
With all this in mind, the best way to determine what is best for you is to break Anchorage down season by season, looking at some key events and what to expect.
Before we detail each season, it’s worth noting that there may be one or two other key considerations for some people when deciding the best time to visit the “Hanging Basket Capital of the World.” Some people don’t like crowds or may want to monitor the budget.
The Cheapest Time To Visit Anchorage, Alaska
Winter isn’t appealing to many people, but if you don’t mind snow and cold, it’s the most wallet-friendly time to head to Anchorage. More than likely, hotels and accommodation will be far cheaper as there is less demand. You may also benefit from discounts for any tours that may still be running. Remember to pack warm.
The Least Busy Time To Visit Anchorage, Alaska
Not surprisingly, winter is also the quietest time to visit the city. The downside is that conditions make road travel hazardous or at least challenging. The upside is that you won’t need to pre-book many things that are still on the go.
Summer in Anchorage: June To August
Not surprisingly, summer sees the biggest crowds visit Anchorage. The temperatures are far more amenable to the average tourist, and with 18 hours of sunlight per day on average, it feels like an ideal holiday destination.
The drawback is that the crowds are here, and that means elevated pricing and, in some cases, a struggle to get tickets or spaces on tours and events. Anchorage isn’t huge, so the best facilities may go quickly. Book in advance if you have the capacity.
By now, you are more than likely looking forward to hitting the numerous hiking trails, mountains and glorious wilderness just outside Anchorage. You are not wrong to do so. You may also want to explore the waterways by way of kayaking or canoeing.
Did you know that Anchorage and Alaska have a strong salmon culture? If you didn’t, you’d be pleasantly surprised by the annual Slam’n Salmon Festival happening at Ship Creek in June. The Bear Paw Festival also features salmon heavily, with its own Slippery Salmon Olympics.
The annual PRIDE festival happens in June in Anchorage. The PRIDE parade marches through downtown, and there’s a fun fair on the Delaney Park Strip.
Special celebrations are also hosted to note the summer solstice. The city feels like one giant carnival as games, baseball, festivities, and parades fill the streets. The center of all the activity is on Fourth Avenue.
Sports enthusiasts are not forgotten, as they can participate in or watch the Mayor’s Marathon and run along the trails and tracks of the city.
Finally, there’s the nationally-observed Juneteenth celebration, which celebrates the emancipation of enslaved persons in the US. The day is usually observed with music and cultural celebrations and is considered by many to be “America’s second Independence Day”.
Summer is in full swing, and there’s a full calendar of festivals to choose from should you visit the now aptly named City of Lights and Flowers.
Not surprisingly, one major celebration this month is the Fourth of July, US Independence Day, which is celebrated with all the flair and ceremony one might expect. The nearby Girdwood Forest Fair and Bear Paw Festival are also major highlights.
One of the best things about Anchorage in August is that it’s the season for berries. Blueberries grow and come to ripeness around this time, and hikers love to go gathering and picking during the Blueberry Festival. You can find wild blueberries all over Chugach State Park.
Fall in Anchorage: September To November
The fascinating aspect of fall in Alaska is the dynamic temperature drop between the start and end of the season. From an average high of 13°C in September to a -2°C in November, you’ll need to plan carefully if you’re visiting in this transition period.
September is a special time for moose and moose-watchers. It is rutting season, and the animals tend to be less shy about gathering and being seen nearer the city. As a result, wildlife enthusiasts get a thrill from being able to see them all over the place. Just remember that moose can be dangerous while in rutting mode.
It’s still warm enough to hike, and the region has not yet begun to see much snow. Best of all is that the crowds have begun to thin. So, if you’re not too averse to a little cool weather (it’s not cold) and you like moose, this is your month.
Women fall under the spotlight this month at the Alaska Women’s Show, an expo-type festival that celebrates all things women and has been running for 30 years. The fest offers exhibitions and sales opportunities for wellness, jewelry, lifestyle, beauty, leisure and health-related products.
As the sky gets darker a little earlier, the “Aurora season” officially kicks off. Watch the skies, as they say, for the early displays of wonder. Note that the temperatures have dropped to an average high of about four °C around this time. So the heavier coats can come out if you plan to be outside.
To assist, perhaps, Anchorage celebrates its own Oktoberfest. This is a strong beer community, and the many craft brewers made in the region are all available to try.
Some believe that November in Anchorage is winter, not fall. The temperatures have indeed fallen dramatically to the mid -7°C range. Snow has arrived and has become a major aspect of daily life. So have fun winter activities like skiing, snowboarding, snowball fights, sledging, and dog-sledging.
Resorts like the Arctic Valley and Alyeska Resort have epic slopes to try out. Cross-country hiking snow trails are available for the truly rugged to get into.
Winter in Anchorage: December To February
The average high in winter sits below -7°C. That makes visiting these parts a challenge for some. Yet, the winter up here is full of charms, contrary to a popular fantasy TV series’ advice. Aside from the opportunity to see the northern lights, the snow has come, and with it skiing, snowboarding, and many other winter sporting activities.
Snowy holidays can be romantic. You may also want to check out some more romantic cities in the United States.
Winter isn’t all bad in Anchorage. In fact, it can be quite magical if you’re the right kind of tourist.
If ever there was a US city that knows about a white Christmas, it’s Anchorage.
The holiday season is in full effect as snow and ice blanket the town and its streets. The traditional colour of Christmas is also here, though, as people decorate their homes and shopfronts with the Christmas spirit.
Anchorage invites film fans to stay warm with the Anchorage International Film festival. Features, short films, documentaries and animated films fill a massive roster of titles that can keep you occupied (and warm) for nine days.
You are likely to see children and adults ice skating when conditions are favourable, especially on the frozen waters of the Westchester Lagoon. At Christmas, you should attend the tree lighting ceremony in Town Square Park, and at New year’s, you even enjoy the fireworks at Ship Creek.
Aside from the great outdoor activities like skating, skiing and sledging (those do sound thrilling), winter is a time when Anchorage takes advantage of the indoor coziness. Visits to the glaciers near Anchorage and catching views of the Aurora are still hugely popular.
The arts scene is alive and thriving, too, embodied by the Anchorage Folk Festival. This amazing music fest embodies folk in more ways than one. It runs over two weeks with performances and workshops. Among the special events are a banjo contest, an instrument swap, and a bagpipe competition.
Along with that, Alaska Beer Week celebrates the region’s special craft beers, which by themselves help keep out the cold, no doubt.
If there is one particular reason to visit Anchorage in February, it is Fur Rondy. This is a two-week festival that calls back to the early settler days. Fur Rondy started out as a gathering of early settlers, miners, and fur traders who would come to town to celebrate the near-end of winter.
Today it is a packed itinerary of events like the Running of the Reindeer, Sled Dog Races, a carnival, parades, fireworks, and all kinds of cultural celebrations.
Spring in Anchorage: March to May
In most parts of the world, Spring brings a sense of restoration. The same applies in Anchorage, as it emerges from a cold and snowy winter. Temperatures here average between 1 and 12°C in the daytime. Evenings are usually dipping below zero.
Oddly, rain isn’t very frequent around this time of year. You would still do well to pack for any eventuality, though, including a few layers, a heavy waterproof jacket and good shoes or boots.
Spring is here, but so is the snow, and visitors do enjoy lots of skiing still available around Anchorage. Whale season is in swing off the coast, with many nature-watching expeditions on offer.
The Most famous event in Anchorage to bring in the springtime is the Iditarod canine race. The world-famous race starts in downtown Anchorage and sees dogs sledding northward to the Nome. This gruelling race is run over 8-15 days and more than 1500km.
The days are becoming much longer, averaging around 15 hours of light per day. Temperatures average out to a high of around 4°C. Early April is also the last chance you are likely to catch a good view of the Aurora.
Spring is a time for celebration but also for friendly competition. The annual NYO Games is a celebration of traditional First Nation sports activities. Athletes from all over the estate arrive to compete, and the prestige of participating is as much a prize as winning itself.
As the snow melts, so does the silliness build. The Slush Cup takes place at Alyeska Resort to celebrate the last of the snow. This is where all comers don bizarre costumes and try their hand at leaping across an iced-over pond with their skis.
Temperatures have risen into the early teens Celsius, the days are bright and long, and the city is now in full bloom, with trees and flowers adding colour to the streets.
Now might be the time to try a glacier cruise or the Anchorage Trolley Tour, both of which are difficult, if not impossible, to access in winter.
Read more about Anchorage and Alaska:
2 Day Anchorage Itinerary
Anchorage Itinerary 4 Days
3 Day Anchorage Itinerary
Facts about Alaska
How to see the Northern Lights in Anchorage
Things to do in Downtown Anchorage
Ice Caves near Anchorage
So, What Is the Best Time To Choose To Visit Anchorage?
Summer, Spring, winter, or fall? With all the information provided, you may now truly need someone to tell you the answer to the question. So here’s The Boutique Adventurer’s opinion on the matter after many long hours of internal debate.
Recommended Best Time To Visit Anchorage Alaska
If it were up to The Boutique Adventurer to decide on when would be the best time to visit Anchorage, it would have to be summer by a hair. In fact, you could expand that slightly. Think between May and August, so you can benefit from the very start and end of the Aurora season.
That is not to say that winter is a bad time. It could be the best time for the right kind of tourist. Having visited Anchorage in winter it is well set up for visitors and stunning when the sky is clear. But summer brings a special atmosphere that feels celebratory and happy to the city. Long days make for great holidays allowing you to see lots of wildlife and enjoy all the festivals.
What Is the Worst Time To Visit Anchorage, Alaska?
Skiers and snow fans will love winter in Alaska. The aspect that makes winter the worst time to visit, though, is the conditions affecting roads and outdoor activity. It’s tough to get around on some days and even dangerous.
You could indeed get a great deal on hotels and accommodation, but that won’t really mitigate the constraints on what you are able to do once there. The weather changes frequently as well so many outdoor activities have a 50/50 chance of actually going ahead.
Where to Stay in Anchorage
🌟Rating: 7.6/10 I 📍Location: Downtown Anchorage I 🏩View on Booking.com
I really enjoyed my stay at the Marriott Anchorage Downtown. Normally I am all about boutique hotels but there weren’t many boutique hotel options in Anchorage and I was getting a special media rate at the Marriott so I decided to give it a go – and I loved it!
The Marriott Anchorage Downtown has a fantastic location in the middle of downtown. All the main things to see and do in downtown Anchorage can be accessed on foot even in the snow (as you might imagine Anchorage is very good at shoveling sidewalks etc).
My room was on the eighth floor and I had beautiful views of Anchorage and the surrounding mountains – most of the rooms at the Marriott have great views but make sure you request this so you don’t end up on one of the lower floors.
The rooms are a great size and decorated in a modern style with calming stone blues and greys. My room had two huge queen size beds with mattress toppers and many many pillows. It was extremely comfortable.
The room also had a lovely chaise lounge by the window with a light where I got some work done. The room also had a desk but it was under the television and faced the wall.
I was delighted to find power sockets and USB charge points in multiple places across the room. And even better the coffee in the room was actually quite good quality which was a welcome surprise.
There is a large room service menu for in room dining and a QR code makes ordering easier. I only had room service on one evening and it was delicious. It is also possible to order wine and have it brought up to the room.
The ground floor has a stylish and very comfortable bar with lots of different seating options. The bar has high ceilings and lots of windows which gives it nice lighting.
🌟Rating: 7.2/10 I 📍Location: Anchorage I 🏩View on Booking.com
I also stayed at The Lakefront Hotel which is near Anchorage Airport and of course on a lake. The weather was pretty awful the one night I stayed so I wasn’t able to get a clear view of Lake Spenard – I am sure it is beautiful. Apparently, Lake Spenard is the busiest lake in the world for seaplanes.
This is a large hotel and my room was a good size. The hotel has a strong taxidermy theme so if you don’t like wall-mounted animals this might not be the best choice of accommodation for you. My room was absolutely fine but fairly plain and the decor was a bit dated.
The Lakefront has a couple of restaurant options. There is an outdoor restaurant which was closed when I visited in February but I imagine it is wonderful in the summer. I had a fantastic meal of halibut at the Fancy Moose Lounge.
FAQs About the Best Time To Visit Anchorage
In closing, here are some frequently asked questions about visiting Anchorage.
When Can You See the Northern Lights in Anchorage?
The best time to see the northern lights in Anchorage is in winter and fall. If you opt to join a light-seeing tour, they may choose to head slightly out of town where it is darker. Light pollution from city lights can dampen the view, so to speak.
That said, it is often quite possible to see the lights from within the city itself, especially in winter. Bear in mind that daylight only lasts about six hours in the winter months, so there’s plenty of opportunity. I saw the lights in February when I visited – read all about it in my article on seeing the Northern Lights from Anchorage.
Where Are the Best Spots To See the Northern Lights Near Anchorage?
In winter, Aurora is more visible, but there are some key spots to get to near Anchorage if you want the best views.
Downtown Viewpoint – the parking area off East Northern Lights Boulevard
Eklutna Lake Road
Glen Alps Overlook
Hiland Road (Eagle River)
Skyline Drive (Eagle River)
Can You See Wildlife in Anchorage, Alaska?
There is plenty of wildlife to see in and around the city of Anchorage. Moose, bears, whales and polar bears are among the most popular stars of the region, depending on the time of year. Here is a good list of places to consider to get you started:
Alaska Wildlife Adventures
Alaska Wildlife Alliance
Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (wildlife refuge in Girdwood: a sanctuary for indigenous animals)
Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge (salmon and birds)
Bancroft Bridge Wildlife Viewing Deck
Baxter Moose Marsh
Brooks Falls (bears)
Chinitna Bay (polar bears)
Katmai (for bears)
Kincaid Park (birds and moose)
Lake Clark (bears)
Otter Lake Bird Viewing Platform
Potter Marsh Wildlife Viewing Boardwalk (wildlife refuge)
Powerline Pass (moose)
Redoubt Bay (polar bears)
Ship Creek (for salmon)
Ship Creek Overlook Park (Park with seasonal salmon viewing)
Final Thoughts on the Best Time To Visit Anchorage, Alaska
The summer has won out on this debate in this particular article, but not by much. There is plenty to see and do at all times of the year in Anchorage. The best time for you may well depend on your interests and hobbies.
Rest assured that there are clear benefits whichever time you go. Summer will be for the partygoers and nature lovers who wish to see the animals out and about. Winter is all about the Aurora, snow, and
I paid for my flights to and from Alaska. I paid a media rate for my hotel but many of my meals and excursions were covered by Visit Anchorage through the GoWest Summit. As always, my opinions are my own. This article on things to do in downtown Anchorage also includes affiliate links. That means if you click through on some of the links in the article and end up making a purchase I may receive a small commission. skiing.