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Anchorage in Winter

Northern lights, winter traditions & chance to see non-touristy Alaska

One year ago, I was in Anchorage, rubbing elbows with locals and visitors, shopping for Native crafts at a shopping center, trying to catch glimpses of the Northern Lights, skiing at nearby Alyeska, visiting a wildlife sanctuary and enjoying various downtown activities including the annual winter fest called the Fur Rondy and the ceremonial start of the Iditarod. I wrote the following feature story, which was syndicated to newspapers. What I wrote in 2011 holds true in 2012 — and it will in 2013 and beyond as well.

Northern Lights put on a dazzling show. (Photo courtesy Anchorage Convention & Visitors Bureau)

Copyright © 2011 Claire Walter

Distributed by Travel Arts Syndicate

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Summer is tourist season in Anchorage. With seven major cruise lines that call there, Alaska’s largest city swarms with tourists. But in winter, Anchorage is very Alaska-centric, with special events that are found nowhere else.

Inevitably and understandably, people first ask about the weather. The answer is: Not too bad. The maritime climate tempers the cold. By February, daytime highs are often in the 30s — nothing that warm clothes, insulated footwear, hat, gloves, scarf and even disposable heat packs for hands and feet can’t handle.

While daylight hours are brief from November through January, they become perceptibly longer every day, and by the March equinox, Anchorage enjoys 12 hours of sun. Still, nighttime is the right time to see the Northern Lights dancing in the sky. Request a north-facing hotel room and a Lights wakeup call, and prepare to be dazzled.

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