The dark and cold of winter can drag down even the perkiest of spirits during long Alaskan winters. But Alaskans have learned to cope by celebrating winter festivals that bring everyone to life. Plan a special trip to one of these lively celebrations to fully appreciate the winter. Head to these festivals around this huge and gorgeous land for adventures you’ll never forget.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Iceworm Festival, January 27 - February 3, Downtown Cordova
Since 1961, this festival has sought to "cure the winter blues", and succeeded. Visit Cordova, a remote community on the shore of the Prince William Sound, for a week of fun. The community hosts a variety show, paper airplane contest and a parade. The theme this year is "Aloha Iceworm", and it sounds like a blast.
2. 32nd Annual Wearable Arts Show, February 1-3, Ketchikan
Artists from Alaska and beyond create original wearable wonders out of duct tape, foam, sequins, trash bags, wood, milk jugs and glue. This astonishing fashion show is a spectacle that defies description, and an experience you'll never forget.
3. Alappaa Film Festival, February 23 - 24, Nome Arts Council
"Alappaa" means cold in the Inupiaq language, and that speaks to the nature of the fest. Films from the arctic are featured during this two day event. A variety of short films are played, many locally made, that highlight many aspects of living in the Arctic including traditional dance, nature and climate change, string stories, scientific research, wildlife, and more.
4. Willow Winter Carnival, January 26 - February 4, Willow
This long standing event includes dog sled races, carnival rides, and family fun for everyone. One unique and amazing event is the outhouse race. That's right, a bunch of crazy Alaskans race outhouses down the street. There's also a "Talent or Not" Contest and pancake breakfast every day. It's actually the best ever.
5. Sitka Jazz Festival, February 1 - 3, Sitka
The Sitka Jazz Festival strives to teach music appreciation, skills, history, artistic expression, and cross-cultural understanding through jazz. Visit for the amazing performances and check out the gorgeous island of Sitka while you're at it.
6. Fur Rondy, February 23 - March 4, Downtown Anchorage
Fur Rondy, shortened from Anchorage Fur Rendezvous, is an excellent party that fills the streets of Alaska's largest city and is the self-proclaimed "nation's premiere winter festival." The schedule includes carnival rides, a snow sculpture competition, sled dog races, hockey games, a melodrama and live music. Of course, fur trading and sales are the historic purpose of the gathering and still occur at the festival.
7. Idatarod Ceremonial Start, March 3, Downtown Anchorage
Another celebration in downtown Anchorage, the Iditarod start is a celebration of the sled dog race between Anchorage and Nome. The opening ceremony fills the streets of Anchorage with dogsleds, mushers, and excited fans cheering on the mushers.
8. Talkeetna Trio, March 10, Talkeetna
A refreshing fat bike race in the cool mountain town of Talkeetna. Both 20 and 60 mile fat bike races run through the surrounding forests, along the river, and through downtown Talkeetna. Celebrations and parties surround the event.
9. Nome Arts Council Open Mic, Thursday during Iditarod week, Bering Sea Bar & Grill
The community comes out to celebrate this twice annual event, with the other night in November. Dozens of locals presenting their best music, poetry, and short stories make the event standing room only, so get there early for a seat.
10. Iditarod Finish, mid-March, Nome
A two-week party often referred to as the "Mardi Gras of the North" draws over 1000 people to the small town on the Bering Sea. Nome has a pioneer charm and is a gracious host for the mushers, support staff and fans alike. There's the Lonnie O’Connell Iditarod Basketball Classic, golf on the frozen Bering Sea ice, Miners & Mushers Ball (Gold Rush Era fashion encouraged), and lots of parties.
Start making plans for the new year and see how many fantastic weekend trips you can fit in. The more of Alaska you explore, the more you’ll love it!
Have you visited any of these places? Tell us about it in the comments below.