» Combining remote winter landscapes of pristine white snow, fascinating galleries and museums, and the best light show on earth, this trip captures the best of a winter in the Last Frontier. Following a key route of the historic Alaska Railroad, the journey cuts to the heart of Alaska, but you’re never far from the comforts of modern life: Instagram-worthy breakfasts, cozy spaces and central heating (most of the time).
Beginning in Anchorage, acclimatize with a plate of Kodiak Benedict, a twist on traditional eggs Benedict served with fresh Alaskan king crab cakes, from the Snow City Cafe
( snowcitycafe.com). Next, familiarize yourself with Alaska Native customs and art with a stop at the Alaska Native Heritage Center, a 26acre facility that shows how people have survived (and thrived) in the region for thousands of years ($24.95; alaskanative.net).
Before setting off on the train, make a stop at 6th Avenue Outfitters
( 6 thavenueoutfitters.com), a local outfitter that’s the perfect place to pick up a cozy down jacket. Next, you’ll board the train to Fairbanks at the Anchorage Railroad Depot, the Alaska Railroad’s ( alaskarailroad.com) central hub. The railway’s iconic blue and yellow trains snake north and south from here, covering 482 miles between Seward, on the southern coast, and Fairbanks, near the Arctic Circle.
Drop your bags at your assigned seat and stake out a spot on the Vista Dome Car, which gives passengers a 360-degree viewing experience. Settle in for a show: subarctic meadows covered with snow, craggy horizons blanketed with ice, and tiny railside towns. Keep your eyes peeled for moose or elk against the frigid landscape.
Fairbanks can see less than four hours of daylight during winter, but you didn’t come here for a tan. Make your first stop at the University of Alaska’s Museum of the North
($12; uaf.edu/museum), an igloo- and-aurora-inspired structure featuring some of Alaska’s finest exhibits on the diversity of its people, wildlife and landscapes.
Stop in at LULU’s Bread and Bagels ( lulusbagels.com), a purveyor of warming baked goods. The rosemary bread is incredible, and the steaming quiche is certain to thaw those frozen fingers.
In Fairbanks, keep your eyes on the skies.
This is where you’ll have your best chance to see the night sky light up in the green and red hues of the northern lights (Fairbanks can see an average of 240 such spellbinding events in a year). Increase your chances by hanging around for a few days, and check the University of Alaska’s Aurora Forecast ( gi.alaska.edu /AuroraForecast) for nightly updates. In the meantime, head to the Alaska House Art Gallery ( thealaskahouse .com), a log house on the south side of town that specializes in indigenous art, and a great place to stock up on souvenirs.
Although you can see the northern lights in town, the best viewing is in the outlying hills, away from the light pollution. The Chena Hot Springs Road follows the Chena River 56 miles out of town, and it’s dotted with pull-offs, viewpoints and places to explore. Any of these will provide fine northern lights viewing opportunities.
7 Defrost with a final stop at Chena Hot Springs Resort ($15 admission to hot springs, pool and hot tubs; chenahotsprings.com), the nearest hot springs to Fairbanks. Discovered by gold miners in 1905, the springs quickly became the state’s busiest soaking spot. The hot springs emit a steady stream of water at a piping hot 165°F, but don’t worry: it’s cooled before you can take a dip.
– Alexander Howard
S TAY Built in 1916 by wealthy restaurateur Arthur Williams as a way to lure his future wife up to Alaska (spoiler: it worked), the Alaska Heritage House B&B in Fairbanks is on the National Register of Historic Places. The antique-filled rooms harken...