As Alaska’s biggest city, Anchorage definitely doesn’t sleep in winter. The city’s residents stay active through an abundance of outdoor recreation opportunities and break up the long winter with festive events. So if you find yourself visiting Anchorage during the winter, put on some warm clothes and check out some of the things the city has to offer.
Go ice skating
Anchorage maintains nine outdoor ponds and ice rinks for skating during the winter. Cuddy Family Park in midtown Anchorage has a full-size 400-meter speed skating loop. An icy ribbon in Chanshtnu Park on Muldoon gives skaters a unique path to cruise around. On the other side of town, Westchester Lagoon offers expansive skating opportunities. The parks department usually creates a quarter-mile loop around a small island in the middle and sometimes makes several open spaces available for casual hockey games.
Outdoor ice in Anchorage is maintained for skating once its 12-inches thick, usually by late November or early December. Check the city’s ice skating page for current conditions.
Celebrate the holidays
Start your Thanksgiving Day with a healthy 3K or 5K run at the Turkey Trot through downtown Anchorage. The race is put on by Skinny Raven and donations support the Food Bank of Alaska. The course takes runners through downtown Anchorage and during the pandemic the race started including a virtual option so competitors can race from anywhere.
If you’re in Anchorage during Christmas, be sure to stop in the Hotel Captain Cook for a sweet creation. For nearly four decades Pastry Chef Joe Hickel has created a massive gingerbread village every December in the hotel’s lobby just outside the Whale’s Tail bistro. There’s no charge to see the intricate village, just don’t snack on any structures.
Downtown Anchorage businesses host celebrations on New Year’s Eve and the fireworks show is normally early in the evening, around 7 p.m.
There are several downhill ski and snowboard hills within a short drive of Anchorage. Hilltop Ski Area on the south Anchorage slopes is a great hill for beginners. More than 80 percent of its runs are considered easy. Arctic Valley just north of Anchorage is a small operation and has a local atmosphere. Alyeska, about a 30-minute drive south, is the largest ski resort in Alaska and has 2,500 feet of vertical and more than 70 named runs.
If you prefer propelling yourself across the snowy flats instead of careening down the side of a mountain, there are hundreds of miles of cross country ski trails in Anchorage. Kincaid Park ranks as one of the most popular destination. The park has nearly 40 miles of trails including some hilly terrain and a decent chance at a moose sighting. The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, which links downtown and Kincaid Park, is a groomed and flat option along Cook Inlet. Check out the Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage for maps and trail reports.
Fat tire biking
It’s possible to go biking along many of those same trails used by cross country skiers thanks to the popularity of fat tire bikes. If you’re visiting Anchorage in winter and didn’t come equipped, there are bike shops that rent fat tire bicycles.
Rondy is probably the biggest winter event in the state. It’s part carnival, part cultural celebration, and part sporting event. In recent years Rondy has coincided with the beginning of the Iditarod, which holds its ceremonial start on Fourth Street in downtown Anchorage.
Rondy began in 1936 as a three-day sporting event held around the time trappers and miners came to the city with their goods. Today the festival has a snow sculpture competition, fur auction, and carnival rides. It also features wackier events like the running of the reindeer, a quirky melodrama, and a cornhole tournament.