A December Visit to Anchorage, Alaska

The holiday season sparkle in Anchorage. A visit to Alaska in December means experiencing the place like a local and taking advantage of snow and clear skies.

Things to Do in Anchorage During December

Anchorage embraces the outdoors no matter the month. No need to be coy about snow when it’s this much fun. There are lots of winter things to do in Anchorage. December is a great time for northern lights viewing, flightseeing, downhill skiing, fat tire biking, snowshoeing and skating. Many city trails are groomed for cross-country skiing as well.

Of course, the great indoors have their draws as well, with plenty of winter warmers, and great year-round draws like the Anchorage Museum.

Holiday Traditions in Anchorage

Anchorage’s holiday traditions are as evident as the 300-foot-tall star on the horizon.

Look east to the Chugach Mountains, and you’ll see the huge star on the mountain. The lights are set on the side of Mount Gordon Lyon in a tradition dating back to the 1950s.

There’s another big holiday display in Anchorage. Rather than a snow-topped mountain, this one is buried in an avalanche of icing. Pastry Chef Joe Hickel spends countless hours building a whole gingerbread village in the lobby of the Hotel Captain Cook. Look closely and you’ll see that many of the buildings are dedicated to real people and businesses in Anchorage.

Do you recall the most famous reindeer of all? For most, the answer is Rudolph, but in Anchorage, Star is the celebrity. Star is a male reindeer who lives in a house near the intersection of 10th Avenue and I Street, on the southern edge of downtown Anchorage. Visit Star at his pen, or look for him on regular walks around the neighborhood.

They may not have made the cut for sleigh duty, however the Alaska Zoo and Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center are also home to some local reindeer, as well as moose, wolves, eagles and a whole bevy of Alaska animals. Pay a visit to learn about the incredible creatures that call Alaska home. The zoo even puts on a special holiday light display in the evening, Zoo Lights.

Holiday Events in Anchorage

The city’s brightly decorated tree stands in Town Square, with lights sparkling over the Thanksgiving weekend and shining all through the month of December.

Of course, there’s more than one outdoor tree. Community groups head to Kincaid Park to decorate live trees around the Mize Loop for the local ski association’s annual Solstice Tree Tour. The Alaska Botanical Garden gets in on the bright season with their own light-filled tour.

Winter Solstice in Anchorage

Even on the shortest day of the year, Anchorage still sees around five and a half hours of daylight. Winter solstice is a time to celebrate the season, and also welcome the longer days ahead for the Northern Hemisphere.

Locals celebrate outside. Some hearty hikers make a winter ascent of Flattop. Others head to Eagle River Nature Center's Solstice Celebrations. Or Hilltop for downhill skiing and fireworks. The center’s paths are lighted by ice lanterns, and big bonfire draws everyone together. Of course, the shortest days of the year also mean plenty of night skies for aurora viewing, arguably winter’s most popular pursuit.