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Fairbanks in January

Fairbanks in January

Old Sep 13, 17, 10:32 pm
  #1  
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Fairbanks in January

Hi,

We are planning to fly to fairbanks during mid of January. I know it will be extremely cold, dark and snow. Wanted to know what all options we have if we prefer to drive to see places around. Other option was to take the arctic circle aurora fly, its bit costly though.

We have visited anchorage, denali earlier in summer and absolutely loved it.

As the northern lights are weather permitting, we do not want to fly just keeping that in mind. We would love to know activities or scenic drives or any tours which is around FairBanks ( we will have a rental car ).

Appreciate your responses. I may have to book flight by tomorrow evening.
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Old Sep 15, 17, 9:36 am
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One of my favorite Fairbanks wintertime activities is to visit Chena Hot Springs. The springs are very nice (and they feel even better when it’s super cold out), and it’s a relaxing place but with several activities to engage in. Aurora viewing can be very good there, and they even have some special aurora-viewing options (taking a snow cat up on the ridge, etc.).

The center of the auroral oval is usually directly over Fort Yukon, but there’s not much in the way of infrastructure there, and it’s not really necessary to go there to see the lights.

Other activities you can look into (not sure what all will be open, though):

  • North Pole Santa Claus House
  • Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum
  • University of Alaska Museum of the North
  • Morris Thompson Visitor’s Center (they can also tell you what’s open)
  • Trans-Alaska Pipeline viewing station in Fox
  • HooDoo Brewing
  • Silver Gulch brewing in Fox
  • Bundle up and walk around downtown, checking out some of the galleries and things

Beyond that, I’m really not sure what’s open, and I suspect most of the other things of interest in Fairbanks will be closed at that time of year.

Last edited by jackal; Sep 15, 17 at 3:57 pm
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Old Sep 15, 17, 9:48 am
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I've been in Fairbanks in January when it was so cold that you really couldn't spend any time outdoors, no matter how bundled up you were. Like -50F cold. Although not as bad as in the past, Fairbanks can also get periods of ice fog during which the air becomes so polluted (from people running their cars to keep the engines from freezing up) that it's really terrible.

Not saying these things will happen, but just a heads-up.

I'll also just note that you can see the aurora from lots of places around the world. Where are you coming from, and is this a mixed business/pleasure trip?
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Old Sep 15, 17, 6:53 pm
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Originally Posted by Gardyloo View Post
I've been in Fairbanks in January when it was so cold that you really couldn't spend any time outdoors, no matter how bundled up you were. Like -50F cold. Although not as bad as in the past, Fairbanks can also get periods of ice fog during which the air becomes so polluted (from people running their cars to keep the engines from freezing up) that it's really terrible.

Not saying these things will happen, but just a heads-up.

I'll also just note that you can see the aurora from lots of places around the world. Where are you coming from, and is this a mixed business/pleasure trip?
I am coming from Minnesota and have seen the aurora couple of times here, but very faint. And, i have some extra miles in Delta which is offering a real cheap flights for 20,000 miles roundtrip. So thought, we could just fly for 4 days or so...

Also, do you recommend taking a one way train ride from Anchorage to Fairbanks? more like a relaxing scenic ride?

Also, another option was to take the Aurora flight tour, which takes till arctic circle? Is it worth it.

Thanks!
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Old Sep 15, 17, 6:55 pm
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Originally Posted by jackal View Post
One of my favorite Fairbanks wintertime activities is to visit Chena Hot Springs. The springs are very nice (and they feel even better when itís super cold out), and itís a relaxing place but with several activities to engage in. Aurora viewing can be very good there, and they even have some special aurora-viewing options (taking a snow cat up on the ridge, etc.).

The center of the auroral oval is usually directly over Fort Yukon, but thereís not much in the way of infrastructure there, and itís not really necessary to go there to see the lights.

Other activities you can look into (not sure what all will be open, though):

  • North Pole Santa Claus House
  • Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum
  • University of Alaska Museum of the North
  • Morris Thompson Visitorís Center (they can also tell you whatís open)
  • Trans-Alaska Pipeline viewing station in Fox
  • HooDoo Brewing
  • Silver Gulch brewing in Fox
  • Bundle up and walk around downtown, checking out some of the galleries and things

Beyond that, Iím really not sure whatís open, and I suspect most of the other things of interest in Fairbanks will be closed at that time of year.

Thanks a lot for the detailed response. Could you answer below questions please?

Do you recommend taking a one way train ride from Anchorage to Fairbanks? more like a relaxing scenic ride?

Also, another option was to take the Aurora flight tour from Fairbanks, which takes till arctic circle? Is it worth it.

Thanks!
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Old Sep 16, 17, 12:32 am
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When I saw the thread title I wondered if someone had taken up the Delta offer. How nice of them to discount that destination so much for January and February. Maybe they'll also lop 10K off the award cost for Abu Dhabi in July and August.

While I've been to Alaska a number of times I've stayed away from the deep winter. Though one of the videos they show at the handy-dandy visitor center in Fairbanks was a 20-minute or so thing done in the late 80s about Fairbanks in winter and what that's like (which I was fortunate to get to see). It was upbeat but clearly meant for summer visitors and not really trying to get 'em to come during winter. The ice fog thing was mentioned, as were the days with the really, really low temperatures. Ya might get 4 hours or so of daylight, though the sun never rises very high. There's also the bit about needing to plug in your car.

Would think that Anchorage and points south like Homer would be more desirable inasmuch as you'll probably get temperatures above zero F and still get to see the aurora.
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Old Sep 16, 17, 9:26 am
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Originally Posted by mail4hemanthr View Post
I am coming from Minnesota and have seen the aurora couple of times here, but very faint. And, i have some extra miles in Delta which is offering a real cheap flights for 20,000 miles roundtrip. So thought, we could just fly for 4 days or so...

Also, do you recommend taking a one way train ride from Anchorage to Fairbanks? more like a relaxing scenic ride?

Also, another option was to take the Aurora flight tour, which takes till arctic circle? Is it worth it.

Thanks!
The problem with aurora tours is, of course, that the magnetosphere might not cooperate, or that the clouds might get a controlling vote.

Is the Aurora flight tour one of those that costs $400 or so per person? Yeah, you cross the arctic circle, but really, BFD. For less money you could do a round trip from ANC to Kotzebue, an Eskimo village on the Arctic Ocean that's above the arctic circle, and experience something few visitors to Alaska get to do.

The train in the winter is a hoot, but be aware that in January you'll get a few hours of scenery, followed by a long train ride in the dark.

I saw that the Delta "sale" lasts through March. Just as a thought experiment, what if you went up in late February, looked for the aurora in Fairbanks, then attended some Fur Rondy activities in Anchorage? Sled dog races, the "running of the reindeer," concerts and dances, numerous competitions... a real blast. Longer days, warmer temperatures, and the aurora will still be going on. Just sayin'.
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Old Nov 23, 17, 8:35 pm
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My wife and I will be in Fairbanks mid January and going to the Hot springs for a couple nights. What dates are you going? Find anything interesting to do?

Peter
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Old Dec 25, 17, 1:00 pm
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Fare sale is back for DL if anyone didnt get on it before. Also on AS for ~$430. I'm going to be in FAI from Jan 19th to late on the 21st, Though may cancel if its going to be cloudy since i really want to see the Northern Lights
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Old Dec 25, 17, 1:11 pm
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Originally Posted by RustyC View Post
When I saw the thread title I wondered if someone had taken up the Delta offer. How nice of them to discount that destination so much for January and February. Maybe they'll also lop 10K off the award cost for Abu Dhabi in July and August.

While I've been to Alaska a number of times I've stayed away from the deep winter. Though one of the videos they show at the handy-dandy visitor center in Fairbanks was a 20-minute or so thing done in the late 80s about Fairbanks in winter and what that's like (which I was fortunate to get to see). It was upbeat but clearly meant for summer visitors and not really trying to get 'em to come during winter. The ice fog thing was mentioned, as were the days with the really, really low temperatures. Ya might get 4 hours or so of daylight, though the sun never rises very high. There's also the bit about needing to plug in your car.

Would think that Anchorage and points south like Homer would be more desirable inasmuch as you'll probably get temperatures above zero F and still get to see the aurora.
Umm, I think I'm in that video, though there were a number made.

I love Fairbanks in the winter, as there are no tourists. I now the OP already made his plans and he only had few days, but in the last 12 years, my wife and I went to Fairbanks twice in mid-February.
both times we drove from Anc to Fairbanks, north via the Parks hwy and return to Anc via the Rich and Glennallen hwys.
Wonderful drives in the winter, very few cars and beautiful scenery.
January is a bit darker and colder, but I did notice a few years ago, Fairbanks had a February in which the temperature never went above 0F (-18C) that's old school.
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Old Dec 25, 17, 1:14 pm
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Originally Posted by CDKing View Post
Fare sale is back for DL if anyone didnt get on it before. Also on AS for ~$430. I'm going to be in FAI from Jan 19th to late on the 21st, Though may cancel if its going to be cloudy since i really want to see the Northern Lights
It's difficult to forecast that amount of cloud cover since it only takes a thin cirrus layer to obscure the NL. If they are out and bright enough to be seen.
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Old Dec 27, 17, 10:24 am
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Originally Posted by RustyC View Post

Would think that Anchorage and points south like Homer would be more desirable inasmuch as you'll probably get temperatures above zero F and still get to see the aurora.
Incorrect on a couple of points.

1. Weather in Anchorage (and particularly Homer) is likely to be a lot worse...I.e. cloudy. Fun fact that not many people know is that Anchorage is the cloudiest major city in the country (more so than Seattle or Portland).

2. Even if you get a clear day, the aurora is nowhere near as good in south central Alaska compared to Fairbanks or points north. I lived in Anchorage for 12 years and could count on one hand the number of good auroras I saw there compared to what you get in Fairbanks, where I lived for five years.

With climate change turning Anchorage-area winters into six months of dirt and slush, Fairbanks has kind of become the go-to place for winter tourism up there.

Also, for anyone interested, the best time of year to see the aurora is in March in Fairbanks. Statistically you are most likely to have clear weather, the daylight is even at 12 hours of daylight and darkness because of the equinox, and temperatures are much more moderate.
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Old Dec 27, 17, 12:22 pm
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To add to that, Fairbanks winters are incredibly still: no wind to speak of. Fairbanksans who came down to Anchorage would tell me they couldn't wait to get back home to Fairbanks where it wasn't as cold. Sure, it might be -10 up there, but without the wind, it actually feels more tolerable than Anchorage at +10 and a 10mph breeze.

Coldest I've ever been in my life, though, was walking through NYC on a 10-degree day in January with a 30mph wind howling down the urban canyon of 6th Ave. I'll take Fairbanks any day over that.

And yes, as Chugach mentioned, the cloud cover in Fairbanks is much better. it's 350 miles from the nearest ocean (with high mountains between the city and most of the water), so the air is much drier and skies much clearer.

In addition to the worst of winter being over (though I've been in FAI in March when it was -25!), March is also nice because of the festivities. Unfortunately, the World Ice Art Championships have been canceled for 2018 due to sponsorship issues, but they claim they'll be back in 2019. There are still other activities going on throughout March of 2018, though.
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Old Dec 27, 17, 4:28 pm
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Originally Posted by jackal View Post
To add to that, Fairbanks winters are incredibly still: no wind to speak of. Fairbanksans who came down to Anchorage would tell me they couldn't wait to get back home to Fairbanks where it wasn't as cold. Sure, it might be -10 up there, but without the wind, it actually feels more tolerable than Anchorage at +10 and a 10mph breeze.

Coldest I've ever been in my life, though, was walking through NYC on a 10-degree day in January with a 30mph wind howling down the urban canyon of 6th Ave. I'll take Fairbanks any day over that.

And yes, as Chugach mentioned, the cloud cover in Fairbanks is much better. it's 350 miles from the nearest ocean (with high mountains between the city and most of the water), so the air is much drier and skies much clearer.

In addition to the worst of winter being over (though I've been in FAI in March when it was -25!), March is also nice because of the festivities. Unfortunately, the World Ice Art Championships have been canceled for 2018 due to sponsorship issues, but they claim they'll be back in 2019. There are still other activities going on throughout March of 2018, though.
Iíve had plenty of 40 and 50 below zero experiences in Fairbanks, but the coldest Iíve ever been in my life was about -5 in Anchorage with a 25-30mph wind off Cook Inlet. It literally sucked the air out of my lungs. With the right clothing and some sunshine, a -20 degree day in Fairbanks is quite tolerable. Count me among the numerous people who prefer Fairbanks in winter to Anchorage for a multitude of reasons.
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Old Dec 29, 17, 9:22 am
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Newbie question here: I'm doing r/t SEA-ANC-FAI all on AS over MLK weekend. (Just decided to book, so no DL sale for me.) While in Fairbanks, what's the best way to get around? Was thinking of renting a 4x4, but it's unclear to me if the big box rental car companies mean actual 4x4 when they say Intermediate or Large SUV. Or are there local companies that will rent vehicles well suited to the terrain and this time of year?
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