Anchorage, Alaska, is one of the United States’ best-kept secrets. Although ranked among the best places to vacation, Anchorage remains a top locale for pristine natural beauty and wildlife sightings.
Most people think of Alaska as a barren land of ice and snow — but if you go at the right time, you can enjoy slim crowds, warm weather, and stunning landscapes.
We’ve assembled this guide to the best times to visit Anchorage, Alaska — complete with travel tips and insider tricks — so you can make the most of your trip to The Last Frontier.
Enjoy lower prices, shorter lines, and some of the best views you’ll ever see. Additionally, we’ll tell you when — and what — to avoid, so all you have to do is book your tickets.
Why You Should Visit Anchorage, Alaska
Alaska is a magical place that’s perfect for nature lovers and culture enthusiasts. From its national parks — representing more than half of the United States’ protected lands — to the Northern Lights, Alaska has much to offer to the intrepid tourist.
Anchorage is Alaska’s busiest and most populated city. And its economy depends heavily on tourism, so you can feel good about contributing to the growth of this fantastic destination.
In Anchorage, you can:
- See the nation’s highest concentration of glaciers and icebergs.
- Experience close encounters with wildlife — like the Alaskan moose!
- Learn about the city’s rich Native cultures.
- Visit one of Alaska’s many national parks.
- Experience the Chugach Mountains that encircle Anchorage.
- Go hiking, ice climbing, fishing, kayaking, canoeing, and even fly in (or jump from) a plane.
Overall Best Time to Visit Anchorage, Alaska
The overall best time to visit Anchorage, Alaska, is May through September. This period encompasses the summer months, when temperatures are relatively warm, ranging from 40 degrees Fahrenheit to 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
Long summer days allow you to enjoy Alaska’s breathtaking natural scenery for hours, while relatively high precipitation leads to rich greenery and a higher concentration of wildlife.
This is the high season in Alaska, which may lead to bigger crowds. However, many visitors travel on cruise ships, and Anchorage remains a lesser-known global destination.
As a result, you’ll likely avoid a dramatic price rise or overcrowded public areas. Because so much of Anchorage’s appeal is its natural beauty, summer remains the best season to visit.
Cheapest Time to Visit Anchorage, Alaska
The colder months are the best time to go if you can withstand the frigid temperatures of winter in Alaska. Because summer is the peak season, winter in Anchorage means fewer tourists, lower prices, and shorter lines.
It’ll be easier (and cheaper) to book quality accommodations and take advantage of promotions and sales during your stay.
You can find the most affordable flights throughout November, December, and January, and many airlines, like Alaska Air, offer special promotions. Additionally, you can find deals on tours and activities on Anchorage’s official tourism website.
In the winter, temperatures typically hover between zero to 20 degrees Fahrenheit, so you must pack warm clothing and be mindful of icy roads and impassable trails.
Winter is prime time for dog sledding, ice carving, snowmobiling, skiing, and other winter sports, so if you are a snow bunny, this is the best time to go. Additionally, the Northern Lights are most visible in the wintertime, and their haunting beauty you shouldn’t miss.
Least Busy Time to Visit Anchorage, Alaska
The least busy time to visit Anchorage, Alaska, is in the winter. Harsh weather conditions typically drive tourists away, and cruise ships can no longer navigate the dangerous, iceberg-studded waters throughout the winter months.
Additionally, frequent snowfalls and icy roads incentivize many visitors eager to encounter wildlife and hike through Alaska’s many national parks. There are many perks to visiting during Alaska’s low season.
First, winter is the best time to see the Northern Lights, which are on most people’s bucket lists — and make for excellent pictures. Additionally, winter is the best time for snow sports and cultural experiences like ice fishing and ice carving.
During the winter season, many hotels, restaurants, and popular destinations lower their prices to incentivize visitors, and you can usually find the cheapest flights during this time. Just remember to pack warm clothing and snow-appropriate footwear!
Worst Time to Visit Anchorage, Alaska
The worst time to visit Anchorage, Alaska, is in the winter. Although winter is an excellent time for snow sports and budget-friendly deals and promotions, you’ll likely encounter poor weather conditions and freezing temperatures.
Winter temperatures in Alaska typically hover in the single digits, and heavy snowfall often prohibits activities like hiking, climbing, swimming, and encountering wildlife.
Additionally, Anchorage only receives 5-6 hours of sunlight a day during the winter so you may need help scheduling sightseeing tours and activities. Other cities in Northern Alaska may not see the sun for months!
Visibility is also poor during the winter, so the sweeping views of the city you would otherwise enjoy from its surrounding mountains are often inaccessible. Lastly, poor flight conditions may contribute to canceled or delayed flights, so if you choose to visit during the winter, plan accordingly.
Things to Consider
Anchorage is genuinely one of the most magical destinations in the world. If you’ve decided on booking your trip, consider the following considerations before you do.
Depending on when you choose to visit, you should plan — and pack — for variable weather conditions, the cost of travel and accommodation, and what you plan to do while you’re there.
General Travel Checklist
No matter when you choose to visit Anchorage, here are some important considerations to remember:
- Pack plenty of layers since weather conditions are often unpredictable.
- Your packing list should include waterproof outerwear, boots or close-toed shoes, and moisture-wicking fabrics like nylon or polyester.
- Be sure to try the seafood and visit one of Anchorage’s many coffee shops.
- Prices are higher than in the rest of the United States since Alaska is remote and far from most major cities.
- Anchorage is famous for its natural landscape and wildlife, so remember to plan hikes and tours. Visit Hatcher Pass, the Chugach Mountains, or the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, where you can encounter moose, eagles, bears, and cranes.
- The tap water in Anchorage is potable so you can drink it safely.
Checklist for Summer Visitors
If you plan to visit Anchorage, Alaska, during the summer months, consider the following tips and details:
- In May, you can see newly born moose calves — particularly along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail.
- Summer is the best time to book a cruise, as ships can sail the open waters.
- Summer is also the best time to see glaciers, as they are more easily accessible.
- Anchorage trains mainly operate throughout the summer — book a train through the mountains or go dogsledding in the Matanuska Valley.
- In early summer, Beluga whales visit the Turnagain Arm — and salmon return to Anchorage’s shores.
- Summer is a good time for fishing, hiking, biking, and every other outdoor activity you can think of!
Checklist for Winter Visitors
If you plan to brave the Alaskan winters and visit Anchorage for the holidays, consider the following:
- Pack warm clothes and heavy snow boots. Pack accordingly if you plan to ski, snowboard, or engage in other winter sports.
- Winter is the cheapest time to visit Anchorage, so you can plan for a smaller budget and expect sales and promotions.
- The Northern Lights are visible throughout the winter, but remember that poor visibility may obstruct your view.
- Visit the Anchorage Fur Rendezvous or the famous Iditarod Sled Dog Race.
- Remember that days are short throughout Alaskan winters, so you only have five to six hours to sightsee before darkness sets over Anchorage.
- Check your inbound and outbound flights frequently since poor flight conditions may interfere with your travel plans.
Checklist for Fall Visitors
If you plan to visit Anchorage, Alaska, in the fall, consider the following:
- Pack plenty of layers for autumnal weather since temperatures can range from 20 degrees to 40 degrees — and winter winds begin to whip through Anchorage.
- As prices begin to drop, you can find better deals on accommodations and activities.
- In Autumn, the Northern Lights become visible. This is an optimal time to see them since winter in Alaska often features cloudy skies and poor visibility.
- Autumn is generally the second cheapest time to visit Anchorage — among the crowded minor seasons — so expect lower prices and better deals on accommodations, tours, and meals.
- Fall is the best time to see adult moose lingering around the city for food — remember not to touch these animals, as they can be dangerous.
Checklist for Spring Visitors
If you plan to visit Anchorage, Alaska, in the spring, consider the following:
- Pack plenty of layers and versatile clothing since temperatures can vary considerably in the spring.
- As prices rise in preparation for summer, you may incur higher costs for accommodations and restaurants.
- Gray whales begin to crowd Anchorage’s shores in the springtime — remember to book your whale-watching tour ahead of time!
- Plan to see plenty of wildlife — and if you love birdwatching, consider watching the massive summer migrations.
- Summer activities generally become available in early April, so you can go hiking, biking, or flying above this gorgeous Alaskan city.
Frequently Asked Questions
Now that you’ve chosen when to go and what to do, it’s time to clear up any final misconceptions or questions that you may have. Hopefully, this article has answered most of your burning questions.
If not, consider our most frequently asked questions about visiting Anchorage, Alaska, below.
Where Can I See Wildlife in Anchorage, Alaska?
The best wildlife viewing spots in Anchorage, Alaska, are:
- Powerline Pass (for Moose)
- Kincaid Park (for birds and moose)
- Redoubt Bay (for polar bears)
- Chinitna Bay (for polar bears)
- Ship Creek (for salmon)
- Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge (for salmon and birds)
- Lake Clark (for bears)
- Katmai (for bears)
- Brooks Falls (for bears)
What Are the Best Things to Do in Anchorage, Alaska?
There are so many things to do in Anchorage, Alaska, that you can ensure you’ll never get bored.
Consider some of the best things to do:
- Visit the Alaskan Wildlife Conservation Center to learn about the vibrant flora and fauna.
- Walk (or bike, snowshoe) the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail for wildlife sightings.
- Visit the Portage Glacier
- Take the Alyeska Aerial Tram
- Learn about Alaskan Native cultures at Anchorage’s various museums and cultural centers
- Take a cruise (or a day cruise!) and see the glaciers
- Go whale watching
- Go ice fishing, hiking, climbing, mountain trekking, or camping throughout the summer months.
- Dine on fresh seafood and drink Anchorage’s famous coffee.
Is Anchorage, Alaska, a Safe Place to Visit?
Although Anchorage is a quirky, tourist-friendly city, you should keep in mind that it is a sizable city with a relatively large crime rate. Anchorage consistently ranks among the ten most crime-prevalent cities, and violent crime rates are higher in Anchorage than across the United States.
If you travel in groups, avoid secluded or high-crime areas, and secure your valuables, you are unlikely to encounter crime. Regardless of its crime rate, Anchorage is still part of a developed country and, thus, safer than many international destinations.
Can You See the Northern Lights in Anchorage, Alaska?
You can see the Northern Lights from Anchorage, Alaska. Although most tours will take you to the city outskirts to avoid light pollution, you can also see the lights from within the city.
The Northern Lights are most prevalent in autumn and winter, though visibility often prohibits a clear view during the cloudy holiday season (November-January). To book a guided tour, search Anchorage aurora tours, and you’ll find plenty of options at varying prices.
How Much Should I Budget for a Trip to Anchorage, Alaska?
The average cost of a week-long trip to Anchorage is roughly $1,800 for a single traveler or $3,265 for couples. If you plan to visit with your family, budget around $6k–$7k. Remember that costs are lower during the winter season and higher during the peak season (throughout the summer months).
How Can I Get Around Anchorage, Alaska?
The best way to get around Anchorage is to rent a car since you may wish to venture outside the city and into the nearby forests and nature preserves. However, Anchorage has excellent public transportation, and many visitors choose to bike around the city and surrounding areas.
Can you go from Seattle to Anchorage?
You can take the ferry to go from Seattle to Alaska, however, it will take almost two weeks to reach the destination. Sadly, there is no train or any other quicker transport.
Before You Go
Anchorage, Alaska, is one of the best destinations for nature lovers, history buffs, and globe-trotters. The best time to visit is in the summer, since optimal weather makes it easy to see wildlife and explore Alaska’s jaw-dropping natural scenery.
However, you can visit in the fall or winter to see the Northern Lights and engage in winter sports or in the spring to catch bears waking from hibernation, newborn moose, and migrating birds.
Ultimately, no matter when you visit Anchorage, it’ll undoubtedly be a trip you’ll never forget. So what are you waiting for — book your own trip to this gorgeous city today!