Why March is the Best Time to Visit Fairbanks Alaska

Last Updated on February 15, 2024

I might be the only person to tell you that March is the best time to visit Fairbanks Alaska but it’s true. Stay with me here and remember that I lived in Fairbanks for years and still visit regularly (in the winter) before you decide I’m nuts.

Fairbanks in winter is absolutely magical but the middle of winter (December, January, early February) can be bitterly cold and it’s harder to enjoy everything Fairbanks has to offer. March is absolutely perfect, with longer days and slightly less frigid temperatures. This article is specifically about the month of March and my Fairbanks in winter guide includes even more information about where to stay and some of my favorite restaurants for winter.

Fairbanks is such a unique place it makes sense to visit it when the things that make it unique are on display at their absolute finest.

4 reasons why March is the best time to visit Fairbanks, Alaska

  1. March is the BEST time of year to see the Northern Lights in Fairbanks and Fairbanks is the best place in Alaska to see them! It has clearer skies than fall but isn’t as bitterly cold as mid winter.
  2. March is the best month of the year to enjoy various winter activities – longer days, plenty of snow and it’s not as cold as the darker months just before. It’s still plenty cold to be real winter!
  3. March is when the World Ice Art Competition happens. This is such a unique and incredible experience. If you’re there in early March, you might get to see some of the artists finishing up their carvings. In addition to the small (single block) and large (multi block, the size of a small house!) sculptures, there is also a play area with slides and other fun all made out of ice. Go at night and see the colorful lights on the sculptures.
  4. NO BUGS!! Interior Alaska has epic mosquitoes and a great strategy for avoiding them is visiting when everything is frozen
You can visit the Ice museum at Chena Hot springs year round, but it's extra fun in winter. In the ice museum you can enjoy a drink in an ice martini glass in an ice bar!
Me enjoying my drink from an ice glass, sitting at an ice bar on an ice stool in the ice museum at Chena Hot Springs, a favorite March activity!

Things to do in Fairbanks in March

The most important reason why March is the best time to visit Fairbanks, Alaska is because of all the unique winter things to do that you just can’t do in the summer, but the longer and slightly less cold days that make it easier to enjoy them.

Go Aurora Hunting

One of the reasons March is the best time to visit Fairbanks Alaska is it's the best time of year to look for the northern lights swirling and waving across the sky
March is an especially good time to see the northern lights in Fairbanks Alaska
Photo Credit: Jay Flaming

Fairbanks is the best place and March is the best time to see the Aurora so join the chase by watching the Aurora forecast and staying up late.

All you really need to do is look up, a lot, when it’s dark and clear. However, you can also take a tour and have your guide help you keep watch and do the driving. Another good option is Aurora Pointe Activity Center, where you stay in one spot (a spacious heated building with hot drinks and cookies!) and learn about the Aurora while waiting in the comfort of a heated room.

Visit Chena Hot Springs

March is the best time to visit Fairbanks Alaska to enjoy the wintry hot springs surrounded by icy and snowy rocks

I love to go to hot springs in winter! Chena Hot Springs is a developed hot spring resort with changing rooms and showers and you can go even if you’re not staying there. They also have an indoor pool but soaking in the outdoor pool on a winter day is amazing. There are also lots of winter activity tours offered here, including dog sledding, skiing and snowmobiling.

There’s nothing quite like sitting in the hot springs and being surrounded by snow. Sometimes at night you can even see the Aurora from the pool.

Pro tip: Combine this with going dog sledding or walking with Reindeer on the way out or back. Chena Outdoor Collective is about halfway between Fairbanks and Chena Hot Springs.

See the World Ice Art Competition

The ice art competition is one of the reasons why March is the best time to visit Fairbanks Alaska. For a few weeks the fairgrounds becomes a winter wonderland of intricate ice carvings large and small, as well as an ice playground!
One of the amazing ice carvings at the world ice art championship, a highlight of a late winter visit to Fairbanks

Every year in late February and March, Fairbanks is host to the World Ice Art Competition. Ice artists come from all over the world (mostly arctic countries) to carve ice blocks. If you get there in the early part of the competition, you can watch the carvers as they work on their ice art.

Once the art is completed and judged, you can walk around the park and see all the sculptures, ranging from smaller sculptures to ones as big as a garage. Every year they are different and they are especially magical at night when they are all lit up.

An ice checkerboard with ice chairs next to it.
Ice Checkers at Ice Alaska in March

There is also an ice playground that is fun for kids and adults to check out from slides to teeter totters and more to board games made of ice. The ice toys and ice playground are different every year.

Go Cross Country Skiing

The groomed ski trails on the campus of the University of Alaska Fairbanks

Cross country skiing is one of my favorite activities and Fairbanks is where I learned! There are so many world class trail systems in and near Fairbanks. These are my five favorite places to cross country ski in and around Fairbanks.

Another reason why March is the best time to visit Fairbanks is that the cross country skiing is usually excellent in March.

Try Dog Sledding

Dog sledding with Chena Outdoor Collective near Fairbanks

Dog sledding is exciting and super unique! You can take a tour and ride behind a dog team and learn more about the sport. You can also check the calendar of the Alaska dog mushers association to see if there are any races happening during your visit. Dog sledding is really fun to watch and super exciting to participate in.

Chena Outdoor Collective is my favorite and one of the many wonderful dog sledding tour operators near Fairbanks. Great opportunity to do this on the way to Chena Hot Springs.

Try Snowmobiling

Try Ice fishing

If you’re a fisherperson, you might want to try ice fishing! You can find a guide or tour to set everything up for you. One of the best places for ice fishing near Fairbanks, and one most guides will take you to is Chena Lake. They even have the huts to keep you warm while you’re waiting for those fish to bite. This is another classic Fairbanks activity and honestly it’s a lot more fun when the days get a bit warmer and longer.

Take a winter day trip to Denali National Park

Denali in the distance with closer mountains in the foreground and a forest of small trees under a blanket of deep snow on a sunny day in Denali National Park in winter
Denali in winter

Take a winter day trip to Denali National Park – much of the park is under deep snow, but you can enjoy exploring the trails by snowshoe or skis, visit the sled dog kennels and see some great views of Denali.

Take a hike to Castner Glacier and Castner ice caves

Me at the entrance to Castner Ice Cave

If you’re up for the (very scenic) 3 hour drive each way from Fairbanks and you enjoy hiking in the snow, don’t miss Castner Glacier! A 1.25 mile mostly flat hike takes you to the edge of the glacier and the entrance to the ice caves.

This is a more enjoyable day trip in late winter while things are still frozen but there are longer days for driving in daylight – one more reason why March is the best time to visit Fairbanks!

The trip is short but there can be deep snow and it can be very cold and windy, so make sure to be prepared in this remote wilderness area. Ice caves are by nature dangerous to enter so this adventure is at your own risk. I recommend going with a guide if you want to check out the ice caves. Learn all about how to get to there here.

What to Pack for Fairbanks in March

My standard packing list for Alaska, is a good resource for this trip if you’re looking for specific items that I wear and pack for winter. Additionally, here are a few key items to keep you warm and happy.

One reason March is the best time to visit Fairbanks is that there is more daylight (with plenty of night for Aurora chasing) and it is usually not as frigid as mid winter. One downside of March is that the temperature can vary a LOT from day to day and night today. Nights of -30 followed by a day above zero degrees are not uncommon.

Make sure you have the following:

  • Very warm puffy coat that is hip length and has a hood
  • Boots with good traction and enough room for warm socks
  • Sunscreen and sunglasses – it may be winter in Alaska but the sun is building intensity, especially on the snow. You’ll need sun protection for sure.
  • Lip balm – Fairbanks is VERY dry
  • Snow pants or rain pants to wear over leggings (only if you’re doing outdoor snow activities)
  • Gloves and mittens to wear over them
Jennie wearing her winter gear for Fairbanks on a sunny day
What I typically wear in March in Fairbanks. At the time of this photo, the temperature was about zero.
The hot water of Chena Hot Springs and the cold winter air of Fairbanks create steam and frost on the rocks and trees surrounding the hot pools
The hot springs pool and the cold air make for impressive snow and frost
A hot springs pool is surrounded by rocks covered in snow. There is steam coming up from the pool. There are a few log buildings nearby and the area is surrounded by forested hills. Text reads 5 reasons why March is the best time to visit Fairbanks Alaska

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      Jennie Flaming
      Hi! I'm Jennie. I’m a fourth generation Seattleite. I lived in Alaska for many years and I still spend lots of time there every year visiting friends and working as a tour director. I've been a guide for many years in both Alaska and Washington, am a field editor for the Milepost and host the Alaska Uncovered Podcast about Alaska Travel as well as the Washington State Hiking Podcast. I love to share the places I love with visitors, newcomers and my fellow locals. I’m so glad to have you here!