Bright Lights in Alaska’s Biggest City

Alaska’s winters might be known for cozy, dark nights, but the biggest city in the state knows how to keep the season bright. Between colorful seasonal light displays, captivating northern lights and popular annual fireworks shows, Anchorage combines Alaska’s outdoor culture with enough sparkle and shimmer to light up even the earliest winter evening.

The aurora can be seen swirling in Anchorage’s skies between the middle of August and April, and Anchorage is filled with prime places to catch a show.

It’s scientific natural splendor. The northern lights are created by ionized gas particles hitting the Earth’s magnetic field, creating undulating curtains of light that glow, ripple and sway across the sky. From early fall through the middle of spring, when the skies are clear and solar conditions are right, the aurora can be seen everywhere from Downtown Anchorage to surrounding Chugach Mountain trailheads.

Rippling northern lights aren’t the only thing keeping the city bright. December and January bring colorful seasonal lights displays to local parks and gardens: Gather around the Christmas Tree in Town Square Park or steer a kicksled down illuminated corridors at the Alaska Botanical Garden. Bright paths are easy to find all season long. Anchorage’s vast trail system includes 24 miles of lighted cross-country ski trails, and three local alpine ski areas keep the lights on for snowy fun long after the sun goes down.

Two noteworthy fireworks shows bring even more light to Anchorage winter skies. The New Year begins with a bang during the annual New Year’s Eve show; another bright fireworks show kicks off the Fur Rendezvous festival in late February. The United States’ premier winter festival, Fur Rendezvous features everything from a snow sculpture competition to dog sled races, a carnival, and a host of unique, only-in-Anchorage winter events (don’t miss the Running of the Reindeer, Snowshoe Softball or the infamous Outhouse Races). The celebrations last for two full weeks, and the city glows with community spirit the whole time.

By the time the festival lights fade from view, winter is preparing to bloom into spring, and Anchorage is gaining six minutes of natural light every day. Within a few short months, the midnight sun is back low on the horizon, bringing a different kind of light to city night skies. In Anchorage, the view is spectacular in every season.

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