Hey there! I’m Solar Storm Zhang and Alaska is just one adventure after the other! How exciting it is to be able to share with you all the different exciting festivals and events that happen in Fairbanks during the winter! The winter months can be long, so we know how to make them fun here in the Interior! Let’s get started!
1. First Fridays
Fairbanks has held a tradition to hold art exhibitions throughout many different venues across town on the evening of the first Friday of each month– appropriately named First Fridays! These events feature local artists– and are often paired with great live performances, hors d’oeuvres, and wine! Information on the specific venue locations during the time you are visiting Fairbanks can be discovered by checking out the local newspaper, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, or by contacting the local visitors bureau at www.explorefairbanks.com.
2. Cross Country Ski Races
Located at Birch Hill Recreation area on the Northeast side of Fairbanks, you can discover the local favorite past time of cross-country skiing! Featuring interval, mass and relay starts; as well as freestyle, classic and mixed techniques– there is a special energy at these family-friendly events! For more information on these races check out the website for the Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks at www.nscfairbanks.com.
3. Sled Dog Events and Races
There are many sled dog events that happen all throughout the winter here in Fairbanks– from homespun and fun amateur-style races to the more famous professional races such as the Iditarod and Yukon Quest. There are several websites to check to see if there are any of these races going on during your visit to Fairbanks:
Many of the local Dog Sled Racers and Mushers have kennels that are available for Visitors to come and meet the dogs, help feed them, and ride in a dog sled! You may get a little dog hair on you– but that’s a badge of honor here in Alaska!
Fairbanks is also a town full of talented musicians who are always performing. In the Thursday edition of the local newspaper, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, you can find the “Latitude 65”– a tabloid that features all of the music, dance, art, film, theater, and night-life activities for the coming week. Music performances appealing to all tastes– from Fairbanks Symphony to Fairbanks Concert Association to Metal Mondays at the local dive bar “The Marlin”– you can be sure to find a music performance to enjoy here in Fairbanks!
6. Fairbanks International Friendship Day
Each October, one day is set aside to celebrate the diversity that we enjoy here in a small Alaskan town. Fairbanks International Friendship Day is a local extension of the international holiday, and we make sure to celebrate it properly! There are continuous cultural performances, many educational displays, and of course FOOD! If you are in town, come celebrate with us and perhaps take home a few memories and new knowledge about our friends and family of different cultures!
7. Athabascan Fiddlers’ Festival
Each year in November, several indigenous people of Interior Alaska– the Athabascan People– gather in Fairbanks and hold a fantastic Fiddlers’ Festival! There is much dancing, fiddle music, food, and laughter at this annual festival. If you are unable to make it to this annual event, be sure to check with the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center as they hold small evening fiddle-dancing events three or four times throughout the winter that are open to the public as well!
8. Holiday Bazaars
As we move into the holiday season of our calendar of winter events, it is time to showcase our many holiday bazaars that are held during the months of November and December. There are many opportunities to shop for locally made souvenirs and gifts at the nearly 20 different holiday bazaars– and the list grows every year! The staff at Explore Fairbanks– our local visitors bureau– is very diligent in keeping track of these limited-time only shopping opportunities!
Due to Independence Day falling right in the middle of our Midnight Sun Season (as well as fire season), the time for fireworks here in Fairbanks is around the winter solstice and, of course, New Year’s Eve. The two major fireworks displays are as follows:
The Celebration of Lights Fireworks– this fireworks showcase is located right in the Fairbanks Downtown district, and is generally around the winter solstice time frame (December 21st). For specific details regarding this fireworks display, check out the website for the Fairbanks Downtown Association.
New Year’s Eve Sparktacular — Our biggest public fireworks event is held each year at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Campus. Feel free to watch from your vehicle, or stop into the University of Alaska Museum of the North and enjoy the exhibits while sipping hot cocoa!
10. Iron Dog
The iron Dog is touted as the world’s longest, toughest snowmobile race! Visitors to the Interior have the fantastic opportunity to check out the start of the race right here in Fairbanks. In mid-February, the race will begin its 2400 mile journey from Pike’s Waterfront Lodge and continue through Western Alaska before ending in the Mat-Su Valley, South of Fairbanks. If the raw power of snowmobiles intrigue you, be sure to visit the Iron Dog’s website!
11. Ice Sculptures!
No winter in Fairbanks is complete without a visit to the local ice parks. Fairbanks is lucky enough to host two different ice parks. The first is the World Ice Art Championships, located at the Tanana Valley Fairgrounds (1800 College Road)– and the second is the Fairbanks Ice Park located at 3574 Phillips Field Road). Both are extremely fantastic and showcase the work of very talented sculptors from around the world! For more information about each of these ice parks– visit their websites as follows:
(Insider Tip: If you are looking for hotel accommodations during Mid-February through March, be sure to check Pike’s Waterfront Lodge, host hotel for the World Ice Art Championships, for specials and packages surrounding the event!)
Every March, the local fans of William Shakespeare come out to celebrate the annual Bard-A-Thon. This event, hosted by the Fairbanks Shakespeare Theater is a fun out-loud reading of the Shakespearean Works! If you are a Shakespeare Buff, then be sure to join in the fun!
13. Chinese New Year Celebration
As mentioned before– Fairbanks is very proud of diverse population– and we also enjoy a good reason for a celebration! In mid-February we hold an annual celebration of the Chinese New Year! This is an evening filled with authentic Chinese songs and dance performances– as well as an authentic Chinese food spread! We hope that you are able to join us for this celebration, most especially our Chinese Visitors!
I always appreciate the local celebration of the Chinese New Year here in Fairbanks! It truly is a beautiful representation of Chinese culture, and I am glad to celebrate with my Fairbanks friends each year!
14. The Farthest North Jewish Film Festival
Fairbanks is home to the Farthest North Jewish Film Festival sponsored by the Jewish Congregation of Fairbanks. Their mission is to provide a forum for the presentation of high quality international films to enrich, educate and entertain our diverse community about the Jewish experience. This is certainly one of the many great winter opportunities for education and celebration of the many facets of the local population here in Fairbanks!
15. Festival of Native Arts
The Festival of Native Arts is another fantastic celebration of our community’s diversity– most especially our friends and family who are indiginous to Alaska, or Alaskan Native. This Festival features the opportunity for Visitors to learn through enjoying many Native dance performances and workshops about Native lifestyles and how that is represented through the art that they produce! While you are there, make sure to take a trip through the artisans that are selling their art– which makes for a fantastic gift or souvenir! For more information, visit the Festival of Native Arts website!
16. The Fairbanks Tired Iron Race
This local favorite event is all about celebrating the past by racing vintage snowmobiles on the frozen Chena River which flows through Fairbanks. Fairbanks has a rich history when it comes to snowmobiles and Craig Compeau– a local entrepreneur and race organizer– is happy to help keep that history alive and well! If you are in town in the beginning of March, be sure to check out the website for the Tired Iron Race!
17. Fairbanks International Bonspiel
If Fairbanks were to have an official sport, curling would certainly be a proud nominee for the list. The Fairbanks International Bonspiel is the culminating event of the curling world– a tournament that rivals the olympics! The Fairbanks International Bonspiel marks the end of the Curling event calendar. Be sure to stop by the Curling Club to view a spiel and enjoy some great conversation with very passionate locals! Their website can be found here!
There are many great opportunities to check out the annual events held here in Fairbanks– many of which celebrating our diversity, arts, and rich local history and traditions! If you are after some adventure here in Alaska– definitely start here! There are always new slice-of-life events popping up in Fairbanks continuously. Make sure to visit the events calendar at Explore Fairbanks to make sure that you are not missing anything on your Alaskan Adventure!
-Solar Storm Zhang
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