Photography by Eric Yang
Ended the year with a last minute trip to see the Northern Lights in Alaska with the boyfriend’s family! Seeing the Northern Lights has always been on his Mom’s bucket list so away we flew to Alaska. The Northern Lights has also been on my bucket list but I never imagined I would have the chance to see it! It was a once in a lifetime experience to see the Aurora Borealis.
Read on for our stay at the 100-year-old private Chena Hot Springs Resort, soaking in the hot springs, experiencing negative temperatures, dog sledding through the snow, and seeing the Northern Lights.
Big thank you to Saint Bernard for helping me pick out all the winter gear to keep me warm! If you’re visiting Alaska or anywhere below zero, here’s what you need:
SNOW JACKET: Canada Goose (c/o) – Canada Goose is the top of the line and is designed to conquer extreme temperatures. The Kensington Parka is water resistant, wind resistant, and has a TEI (thermal experience index) of 3, which guarantees against 15°F to -5°F. It’s definitely an investment that will last you years to come. Canada Goose kept me protected against -5°F in Alaska.
FLEECE JACKET: North Face 1/4 Zip – Your second layer to keep you warm.
PUFFER JACKET: Columbia Woman’s Puffer Jacket – The synthetic down insulation is another layer to keep you toasty warm and it’s super comfy.
SNOW SHOES: Sorel Joan Of Arctic Boot (c/o) – Waterproof snow shoes are a must in any snowy climate. The last thing you want is for your feet to be cold and wet. Sorel guarantees against -25°F. I loved romping through the snow with my Joan of Artic boots!
BEANIE: Keep your head warm and protected from the snow.
GLOVES: North Face Apex Etip Glove – I had to use my camera and phone so I opted for these etip gloves.
HAND WARMERS – these kept our hands warm during the trip. I also got some feet warmers for my boots.
The flight from DFW to Fairbanks, Alaska was around 9 hours (3.5-hour flight from DFW to Seattle, 2-hour layover, and then 3.5-hour flight from Seattle to Fairbanks). We were only in Fairbanks for two days, the day before going to Chena Hot Springs Resort, and the day after to fly back to Dallas.
Alaska is in the negative temperatures during the winter (it can go down to even -40°F!) and covered completely with snow. The days are long and dark with only 4 hours of daylight every day (the sun rises at 11 and sets at 3pm). Whereas during the summer, Alaska has 22 hours of daylight and experiences a high of 80°F.
WHERE TO STAY
SPRINGHILL SUITES FAIRBANKS
We stayed at the SpringHill Suites in Fairbanks before and after Chena Hot Springs Resort. Comfy rooms, free wi-fi, and complimentary buffet breakfast make it a great option in Fairbanks!
575 1st Ave, Fairbanks, AK 99701, marriott.com/hotels/travel/faish-springhill-suites-fairbanks/
WHERE TO EAT
Lavelle’s Bistro is located conveniently inside SpringHill Suites but before you turn up your nose like I did, give it a try. Options are limited in Fairbanks and out of the restaurants that we tried, Lavelle’s Bistro was my favorite. The prime rib is spectacular.
575 1st Ave, Fairbanks, AK 99701, lavellesbistro.com
CHENA HOT SPRINGS RESORT
The goal of the trip was to see the Aurora Borealis, and the best spot to see the Northern Lights is at Chena Hot Springs Resort.
WHERE TO EAT
CHENA HOT SPRINGS RESORT RESTAURANT
There’s only one dining option at Chena Hot Springs Resort and it’s the Chena Hot Springs Resort Restaurant. The dining room serves breakfast starting at 7am, lunch, and dinner until 10pm. Chena grows their own produce in their greenhouse like the “chena fresh” lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and herbs.
WHAT TO DO
SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS (AURORA BOREALIS)
Obviously the reason why anyone travels to Alaska is to see the Northern Lights. We went on the Aurora Viewing Snow Coach Tour at Chena Hot Springs – the staff took us through the woods in a snow couch at 9pm and then we returned at 2am. Bundle up because it was SO cold (around -10F). We stayed in a yurt while waiting for the Northern Lights to come out. Sadly, the night we went the sky was too foggy.
Thankfully, Eric’s Mom was taking a walk around the property one of the mornings around 4am when she spotted the Northern Lights so we were able to catch a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis. Truly breathtaking.
SOAK IN THE HOT SPRINGS
Soaking in the natural hot springs while it was snowing was surreal. It was around -5°F outside while the hot springs was 106°F (the average temperature year around).
The hot spring was discovered in 1905 and has since welcomed people from all over the world to bathe in its waters. The healing waters of Chena Hot Springs has been rumored to relieve skin conditions such as psoriasis, muscular pains, and arthritis.
GO DOG SLEDDING
I was super excited to go dog sledding in Alaska! There’s over 50 dogs at the Chena Sled Dog Kennel and you can even adopt one to take home. The dogs whisked us through the woods on a wintery wonderland ride.
DRINK APPLE MARTINIS IN THE AURORA ICE MUSEUM
Chena has the world’s largest year-round ice environment in the world, the Aurora Ice Museum. It’s created from over 1,000 tons of ice and snow, all harvested at the resort. The museum stays a cool 25° Fahrenheit (-7° Celsius) inside, even during the summer.
They even make the martini glasses out of ice right in front of you for the apple martinis.
HIKE THROUGH THE WOODS
Cross-country skis, snowshoes, and ice skates are available for rent at the activity center. We spent most of our time hiking through the snowy landscape.
Alaska, you were breathtaking!