Anchorage-Fairbanks service offered for the first time
Are you as fascinated as I am by the north-country experiences captured by the camera in “Ice Road Truckers” and especially “Railroad Alaska” on cable television? For me, and maybe you, the news that for the first time ever, the Alaska Railroad is offering midweek Aurora Winter Train specials between Fairbanks and Anchorage, is cheering. While travelers don’t have an unlimited choice of travel dates this winter, this inaugural season is a good start.
With northbound trains departing from Anchorage on Tuesday, March 11 and 18, and southbound trains departing from Fairbanks on Wednesday, March 12 and 19, these trains come at a time when Alaska’s two largest communities celebrate the winter season — and celebrate they do. Both residents and visitors the opportunity to ride the budget-friendly rails and experience “the real Alaska” without sharing it with hordes of cruise ship passengers. The days are getting longer (approaching 12 hours of daily sunlight), and with the trip taking roughly 24 hours, there’s plenty of time to sightsee and mingle. I’ve been to Alaska four times during the winter, and take from me: It’s fabulous.
Visitors to Fairbanks can book adventures such as aurora borealis viewing tours (those Northern Lights have reportedly been spectacular t this year), visiting Chena Hot Springs Resort, gazing at the intricate ice carvings at the BP World Ice Art Championships, experiencing the 2014 Arctic Winter Games and much more. Although the Iditarod is scheduled to start in Anchorage on March 1, that month is also a great time to visit Alyeska Resort for skiing and snowboarding, and the Great Land’s biggest city is also its cultural, entertainment and shopping hub.
This new train schedule coincides with University of Alaska Anchorage, University of Alaska Fairbanks and Anchorage School District spring breaks, making travel even more accessible for students and enabling visitors to meet some locals. For $215 roundtrip (students,$178; children,$108), trips taken with March departures and returns by May 10 are ideal for those who wish to linger longer. Tickets may be booked online or by calling 907-265-2494 or 800-544-0552.