Exploring Alaska has always been high on our bucket list. The Northern Lights, dog mushing, snowmobiling, ice parks… it all just sounds so COOL. Literally. Being the So-Cal kids we are, we’re fascinated by snowy weather activities… and basically snowy weather in general. We’re also big fans of Alaska Airlines, so it just made sense that we head to this epic and untouched state. Here’s a re-cap of our trip, and why we think Alaska should be on EVERYONE’S bucket list!
We flew LAX (Los Angeles) > SEA (Seattle) > FAI (Fairbanks), and it was easy and oh-so enjoyable. We stopped in at our favorite Alaska lounge at LAX, had a drink and some snacks, and boarded our comfy plane to Seattle. A couple hours later, we found ourselves at another Alaska lounge in Seattle (shocker, right? We love lounges!), and then before we knew it we were landing in snowy Fairbanks, Alaska. Nothing makes us happier than seamless travel days, and this one was a winner!
Pike’s Waterfront Lodge
Our first night was spent at Pike’s Waterfront Lodge, a cozy lodge right on the Chena river, and five minutes from the airport! On the shuttle ride over, we saw a small hint of blue waving through the sky. We both turned to each other and said “That can’t be the Northern Lights, right? Is it? Is it!?” Within five minutes we were checked into the hotel, bundled up, and stationed out on our balcony… watching none other than the NORTHERN LIGHTS!!! In case you didn’t know, the Northern Lights are really hard to see. March is a great month to see them (we were in Alaska March 15-19), but even then, there’s only about 8 nights of the month that the skies are clear. So we walked into our trip with pretty low expectations. Little did we know we’d get to see them our first night there!! SO THANKFUL.
We stayed at Pike’s Waterfront Lodge only for one night, but it’s a great spot that’s picturesque and close to town. It’s also super affordable, so definitely look into it when planning your trip. We’d love to return when the weather is warm, and truly utilize that waterfront location!
Mush or Bust
The next morning we stopped at The Cookie Jar for breakfast (highly recommend! Make sure you get the cinnamon roll!) and then headed to The Last Frontier Mushing Co-Op! Friends, this may have been the highlight of our entire trip. Not only did we get to play with Alaskan puppies and learn how to harness them, but we got to go on an hour sled ride along the frozen Chena River! It was a dream come true for us, and The Last Frontier team was absolutely incredible. The way they care and love on their dogs, their attention to detail, and their knowledge of all things dog mushing blew us away (most of them are professional dog mushers training for big races!). The experience of flying through the snow with the pups leading the way was something we will NEVER forget!
Borealis Basecamp aka ALIEN CAMP???
From The Last Frontier Mushing Co-Op we headed to the Borealis Basecamp, our home for the night. Now, we’ll be honest… This place was a splurge. We almost didn’t stay there, simply because of the cost, and also because they were sold out! But Borealis Basecamp happened to have a cancellation, and we couldn’t resist the thrill, so we made the spontaneous decision to YOLO it… and we’re SO glad we did!
Borealis Basecamp is situated in one of the best spots for Northern Lights viewing, and every one of their 9 igloos has a crystal-clear ceiling above the bed. Not only were we stoked on the idea of sleeping in an igloo, but what better way to watch the Northern Lights than from your bed?!
We spent the rest of our afternoon exploring the property, having dinner in their yurt (which we had all to ourselves!), and watching the snow gently fall around us. Unfortunately the snowfall meant that the sky was cloudy, and hence… no Northern Lights. But we loved every minute of our time at the Borealis Basecamp. We didn’t want to leave!!
Ice, Ice Baby
The next morning we headed to the George Horner Ice Park in Fairbanks. We weren’t entirely sure what an Ice Park entailed (Slushies? Ice cream? Ice skating?) but we were excited. This place was so much cooler (literally - it was cold) than we could have dreamed! Basically, think of an amusement park made of ice. There were tons of slides, sculptures, and life-size interactive displays - all made of ice! We spent hours walking around, sliding around, and marveling at the craftsmanship of every sculpture. They definitely don’t have these kinds of parks in Southern California!
Dog Mushing Championships
We timed our trip just right, where we were able to catch the tail-end (Get it? Tail?) of the GCI Dog Mushing Championships. Being very new dog mushers ourselves, seeing the “professionals” race against each other was really exciting. We had chili and cornbread with the locals and cheered on the racers.
Chena Hot Springs
From there we drove to the world-famous Chena Hot Springs. Known for their picturesque hot springs and eco-friendly resort, it’s also a prime spot to see the Northern Lights. We stayed in the cutest little rental cabin, the Ferree Cabin, and it truly became our home away from home. The owners had it stocked with snacks, water, movies, and all of the amenities one could want.
That night we set out on a Northern Lights adventure, where we rode a snow coach (think snow plow meets school bus... kind of) up to the top of a mountain far away from the city lights. There they had a heated yurt with hot cocoa, hot tea, and Cup O’ Noodles when you need a warm pick-me-up. This was MUCH needed, as we were there from 10pm-2am! The late night and cold mountain air was worth it though, we saw the Northern Lights for a second time (wahoo!!)… and even made some friends!
Prior to this trip, we had never been snowmobiling. It’s something we’ve always wanted to try, but honestly, we’ve always been scared to do! But what better place to face our fears and snowmobile than Alaska?!
The Chena Hot Springs team taught us all we needed to know, and took us out on a ride we’ll never forget. We rode down tree-lined snowy paths complete with jumps and sharp turns, and Bobby only got launched off once! Haha!
No trip to Chena Hot Springs is complete without a visit to the famous Chena Ice Museum. Everything inside is made out of ice, including an ice bar where you can sip on a Apple-tini in an ice glass! (You can keep the glass, but good luck bringing it home.) ;) You can get married in the ice chapel, and even rent out one of their four guest rooms, completely made out of ice!
Now, this blog barely breaks the ice (hehe) of all that there is to do in Alaska. Heck, we only made it to Fairbanks! If there’s one thing we learned on this trip, is that there is A LOT to do and see in this magnificent state, and we hardly scratched the surface.