If you ask people to describe winter in Alaska, chances are most people will come up with the same two words: cold and dark. On winter solstice, which is coming up on December 21st, the sun will rise in Seward at 10:01am and set at 3:51pm, for a total of 5 hours and 50 minutes of daylight. However, if you take advantage of those precious daylight hours, you will find that winter in Alaska is a magical time, with beautiful snow-covered mountains, the most incredible sunrises and sunsets, less people, and endless types of winter recreation including downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, winter hiking, snowmobiling, ice skating, aurora viewing, dog mushing, and so much more. Once we make it through the darkest days of the year, we will start gaining noticeable daylight every day. The beautiful, quiet days of winter will be over before we know it! Here are several upcoming events that will help you get out and enjoy this special time in Alaska:
One of Seward’s most popular wintertime events is the Polar Bear Jump, which will be held on Saturday, January 18. At this fun-filled event that raises money for the American Cancer Society, teams dress up in wacky costumes and jump into the frigid waters of the Seward Small Boat Harbor. Jumpers say that the water is even colder than you can imagine, but in the end it’s all worth it. The money raised by teams and sponsors helps the American Cancer Society “honor cancer survivors, raise awareness about reducing cancer risk, and raise money to help the American Cancer Society fight the disease.” Major Marine Tours and Harbor 360 Hotel are proud sponsors of this event, and a few of our brave employees typically participate in the jump every year. For those not jumping, this is an exciting spectacle to witness. Everyone can enjoy the festivities around town, including an auction and a parade! Harbor 360 Hotel is offering a special $94 rate for this event.
The Iditarod, Alaska’s famous sled dog race, begins with a ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage on March 7th. Originally beginning in Seward, the Iditarod covers 1000 miles of the toughest terrain in Alaska. Witness the mushers begin in Anchorage, end in Nome, or cheer them on along the way. The events leading up to the Iditarod are as big as the race itself, with the Fur Rendezvous winter festival in Anchorage from February 28th – March 8th. This 10-day celebration of life in the Last Frontier is filled with culture, arts, contests, a carnival, and lots of uniquely Alaskan festivities like the Running of the Reindeer, Frostbite Footrace, and Outhouse Races.
One of the top attractions that brings visitors to Alaska in the winter is the aurora borealis. This incredible solar display is most visible during the coldest and darkest times of the year, from September through April. The aurora borealis, also called the northern lights, can be seen throughout the state. The handy Aurora Forecast provides data on expected aurora activity for the next month. You can venture out on your own to experience this incredible event or you can join one of the many Alaska Northern Lights Tours that are available throughout the state.
There are plenty of other outdoor activities in the Seward area to enjoy this winter, including cross country skiing, snowshoeing, winter hiking, fat tire biking, heliskiing, and so much more. The Alaska SeaLife Center is open from 12:00pm-5:00pm, where you can get up-close views of the wildlife found in the Kenai Fjords including sea lions, sea otters, harbor seals, and birds. A little ways down the road is the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, located near Portage. This wildlife rehabilitation center is open year-round and houses rehabilitated Alaskan animals including bears, moose, caribou, wolves, and foxes.
Need a place to stay? The Harbor 360 Hotel is open all winter long! Whether you’re coming down for outdoor adventures or a relaxing weekend away in Seward, Harbor 360 Hotel is the perfect place to stay for your winter getaway.
It may be cold this time of year, but it is definitely worth getting outside and enjoying the beauty that winter brings. Our cruises will start up again before you know it, with our Spring Gray Whale Watching Cruise starting on March 7th!