Fairbanks' renowned aurora viewing lures people from all over the world during “Aurora Season.” But why is Fairbanks, Alaska popular for viewing the Northern Lights and when should you visit? How do you look for the aurora and will you stay warm doing so? If you've thought of these questions, you’re not alone! Keep reading to have these frequently asked questions answered and get other useful information about this magnificent natural phenomena.
It's no surprise that with Fairbanks' location, it is frequently referred to as the best place to see the northern lights in Alaska, the United States and in many cases, across the globe.
There are many different ways you can hunt for the aurora. You can drive to a nearby vantage point and wait for them to appear, or take a tour and watch them from a heated “aurorium” cabin, yurt, dome or lodge, see them on a dog sled adventure of while you are ice fishing, on a snow cat tour, via a trip part way up the Dalton Highway or even on a flight above the Arctic Circle.
Ask your accommodation’s front desk if they offer a wake-up call when the northern lights are out. No guarantees, but the longer you’re here, the better your chances of seeing a great light show. Once you've spotted the aurora borealis, stop by the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center for your personalized Aurora Certificate.
Fairbanks’ location is ideal for northern lights viewing because it is under the “Auroral Oval,” a ring-shaped zone over the far north where aurora activity is concentrated. Additionally, Fairbanks’ low precipitation and distance from coastal areas contribute to consistently clear nights. All combined these variables make the Fairbanks region an outstanding destination for possible aurora borealis viewing.
Fairbanks’ “Aurora Season” is from August 21 to April 21 and will be visible in Fairbanks an average of four out of five nights when the sky is clear and dark enough. Scientifically speaking, the aurora is dancing above year-round, but we can only see it during the Aurora Season when we have dark enough skies.
The northern lights are so prolific in the Fairbanks region and the Arctic that visitors who stay a minimum of three nights and are actively out during the late evening hours increase their chance of seeing the aurora to more than 90 percent!
There are so many different ways, but a great way is to take a northern lights tour with a guide. You can view them from a heated “aurorium” cabin or lodge, see them on a dog sled adventure, on a snow cat tour, via a trip part way up the Dalton Highway or even on a flight above the Arctic Circle. Or perhaps you want to go fishing while you wait and go on an evening ice-fishing adventure on a local lake! All of these are great options, or if you are a do-it-yourself adventurer, you can drive to a nearby vantage point and wait for them to appear. See below for accessible spots around Fairbanks.
Visitors will most typically witness a swirling array of green, teal, and white. An intense aurora can get a purple or magenta edge. The aurora takes on different shapes such as curtains, bands, rays and coronas.
Layers, layers, layers and dress warmly! You will likely be out in the elements for extended periods of time. Rely on synthetic, wool, and fleece materials, especially in the winter. For more on how to dress for winter pursuits, watch this video.
I saw the northern lights for the first time in Fairbanks and literally teared up—huge green and violet curtains pulsating and swirling across the sky. I couldn't believe how vibrant and fast they were.
In Fairbanks itself, residents see the northern lights on about eight of every 10 nights. More
The city of Fairbanks, in Alaska, is often cited as the best place to see the Northern Lights in the United States. More