The Best Place To See The Northern Lights Is In Alaska!

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See The Northern Lights

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Aurora Borealis Adventures In Fairbanks

What are the Northern Lights? If you are curious about this incredible natural phenomenon, keep reading! We have the lowdown on this spectacular light show, explaining why they appear in the nighttime sky. We can even help you decide where to travel to see the Aurora Borealis. Stay tuned – and get ready to learn all about the best places to see the Northern Lights!

Understanding The Science Behind The Northern Lights

The Northern Lights occur year-round, nearly every day of the year – but they are not always visible. To see this phenomenon, the sky needs to be dark and clear. But it also helps to be close to the Earth’s magnetic poles, where Aurora activity is concentrated. This is why so many people travel to see the Northern Lights. Location matters!

Here are a few fun facts about the Northern Lights to help you understand them better:

  • The colorful lights we see during an Aurora showing are caused by activity on the sun's surface.
  • This activity, aka solar storms, release huge clouds of electrically charged particles that travel millions of miles through space to collide with the Earth's atmosphere.
  • Our atmosphere deflects many of these particles, but some become trapped within the Earth’s magnetic field.
  • Once the particles are trapped, they travel toward the Earth’s North and South poles. This is why Aurora activity is concentrated at locations near the magnetic poles!
  • These trapped particles collide with gases in the Earth’s upper atmosphere. These collisions produce the Aurora, which is visible to us as the Northern Lights.

Many people think you have to go somewhere exotic to see the Northern Light. But one of the best places to see the Northern Lights doesn’t require a passport. Savvy travelers know that Alaska is an Aurora-watching hotspot and that an entire tourism industry caters to visitors who travel to see the Aurora Borealis in Alaska.

When Is The Best Time To See The Northern Lights In Alaska?

The best time to see the Northern Lights in Alaska is between September and April when the nights are long and dark. Although the Aurora occur year-round, it’s only dark enough to see them from early fall to early spring. This is mainly because of Alaska’s midnight sun, which blankets the state in perpetual daylight for the summer months! Aurora activity also tends to be high in September and March, around the fall and spring equinoxes, due to the Earth’s tilt.

If you want to guarantee a Northern Lights sighting in Alaska, you need four things:

  • Clear skies – a cloudy night sky will block any chance of seeing the Northern Lights.
  • Limited light pollution – depending on where you are vacationing in Alaska, you may have to travel to see the Northern Lights. Choose a place away from a major city, with limited light pollution.
  • The right time of year – Aurora season in Alaska is from August 21 to April 21.
  • Geomagnetic storms – geomagnetic storms or solar flares increase the chances of a Northern Lights sighting because they cause the sun to release the particles that cause this natural phenomenon.

The Best Place For An Alaska Aurora Adventure

Although the Northern Lights can appear anywhere in Alaska, some areas have more frequent displays than others. If you want to guarantee an Aurora sighting, you will need to travel to see the Northern Lights under the Aurora Oval. The Aurora Oval is a band that hugs the northernmost latitudes and is where Aurora activity has the highest concentration. Fairbanks is one of the top destinations for Aurora sightings, because it sits right under the Aurora Oval!

Located in the interior of the state, Fairbanks is one of the best places to see the Northern Lights in Alaska. The city has a wide variety of Aurora viewing tours for visitors, as well as specialty accommodations that cater to those who visit specifically to see the Northern Lights. The Fairbanks tourism board estimates that travelers who spend three nights in the city during prime Aurora viewing season have at least a 90 percent chance of seeing the Northern Lights!

Although Fairbanks isn’t a large city, the light pollution from downtown makes it challenging to see the Northern Lights. Your best option for increasing your odds of an Aurora sighting is to travel to see the Aurora Borealis outside of Fairbanks. There are some great Northern Lights viewing locations outside of Fairbanks, including Murphy Dome, Haystack Mountain, and the Chena Lakes Recreation Area.

Guided Northern Lights Tours In Fairbanks

Not only is Fairbanks the best place to see the Northern Lights in Alaska, it also has the most specialty tours! Only in Alaska can you see the Aurora from the back of a dog sled or watch this spectacular show from an ice fishing hut. For more fun and quintessentially Alaskan tour options, take a peek at the list below:

  • Take a dog sled tour – many tour operators offer a Northern Lights viewing tour combined with a magical dog sled ride. The winter tours are in a traditional dog sled. These tours get visitors away from the light pollution of the city lights and out into the wilderness for the best chance of seeing the Northern Lights. Visiting during the spring or fall? Don’t worry – you can still get the same experience on a side-by-side ATV pulled by a team of these fierce dogs!
  • Visit Murphy Dome by snowmobile - Murphy Dome is a decommissioned Air Force Station 20 miles northwest of Fairbanks. Because of its elevation, it is a great place to watch the sunset or to catch unobstructed views of the Northern Lights. One of the most popular ways to access the Dome is by snowmobile! Visitors can book a snowmobile tour for a nighttime ride, which not only means you’ll see the Aurora, but you’ll get a taste of traditional Alaskan life where snowmobiles are often used as a regular mode of transportation.
  • Sleep under the Northern Lights – have you ever dreamed of camping out under the Northern Lights? In Alaska, you can! Borealis Basecamp is a unique accommodation outside of Fairbanks that offers igloo-shaped domes where you can view the Northern Lights right from your bed. The best part of this option is that you get to travel to see the Aurora Borealis, but you don’t have to go too far from Fairbanks!
  • Go Ice Fishing - How about getting two amazing experiences in one trip? Aurora ice fishing is an incredible activity where you get to go nighttime ice fishing while the magnificent Aurora Borealis dances above you in the night sky. Many tour operators offer this type of outing in the Fairbanks area. You can even grill what you catch – so you don’t have to worry about being hungry during the light show.

The Northern Lights and Beyond

If you’re planning to travel to see the Northern Lights, consider a trip to the Interior of Alaska. Fairbanks is one of the best places to see the Northern Lights in Alaska, but it’s also one of the best places in the state to visit for a quintessentially Alaskan experience. Whether you want to go dogsledding, hiking, ice fishing, or Northern Lights viewing – Fairbanks is the place to visit. So start planning your Alaskan adventure today!

Download all three Alaska tour brochures for tour dates and pricing.