The best time to visit Anchorage is in May. Most tourists visit in the peak season from July-August, but this shoulder season month has the same pluses without some of the drawbacks.
Although a little cooler than the mid-summer months, May is often drier, with less chance of rain. All the main attractions in Alaska, from national parks to cruises and more, are also open by May.
Of course, the best time to visit Anchorage isn’t the same for everyone. I’ll tell you what to expect in each season. Plus, break down all of the different factors you need to help you pick the perfect time for your trip to Anchorage.
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When is the Best Time to Visit Anchorage?
May is the best overall time to visit Anchorage. It has the best combination of low prices, good weather, and availability of attractions and activities.
Many times you’ll hear the midsummer peak season given as the best time to come to Anchorage. The weather is best, the days are long, and there’s plenty to do and see. This is true, but it also means lots of crowds and higher prices.
Depending on your tastes, there might be other great times to visit this city in Alaska. Because of cold temperatures and short days, most people say the winter months are the “worst” time to visit. At the same time, winter months are also the best for northern lights viewing and uniquely Alaskan winter festivals
Other months, such as September and October, offer a balance of factors such as weather, prices, and activities. Ultimately, it depends on your travel tastes.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common factors in determining when to travel to Anchorage.
When to Visit Anchorage for Good Weather
The summer months of June, July, and August have the best weather for visiting Anchorage. Temperatures are at their highest, with the average temperature hovering in the 60s (Fahrenheit) during the day. Clear weather is more likely, and the long summer days allow you to enjoy activities until (and even past!) midnight.
The month of May is the dry season, usually seeing only about 2” of rainfall. The average temperature will be cooler than in the summer months, though, often in the 50s during the daytime– ”warm” by Alaska standards.
When to Visit Anchorage for Cheap Prices
Winter, especially January, has the cheapest prices for Anchorage. As well as the lowest amount of visitors and activities overall. Of course, things will be a little more expensive around Christmas and New Year’s.
There will also be a higher demand for Anchorage hotels around events such as the Iditarod and Fur Rondy (more on those below), but prices will remain on the lower side.
Late September-October offers a great balance of low prices and activity opportunities. Hotel prices decrease, and, if you don’t mind braving cooler, rainier weather, you’ll have few crowds to deal with.
When to Visit Anchorage for Families and Kids
May is a great time for a trip to Anchorage if you’re traveling with children, especially if their school gets out earlier in the month. The weather is warming up (especially towards the end of the month) and often dry, making it a good time for visiting local parks or the Anchorage Zoo.
You’ll also beat the summer crowds, which is always a plus when traveling, with children or without. This shoulder season month also has lower prices for hotels and tours, which, while not as cheap as winter prices, are still better than peak season ones.
🚗 Where to Rent a Car: Renting a car is the best way to get around Anchorage when traveling with a family. Check out Kayak.com for great deals on Anchorage car rentals!
When to Visit Anchorage for Fewer Crowds
October is the best month for having the Anchorage to yourself. Summer crowds have long since left and the weather is cooler. The snow hasn’t come yet, so it’s prime time to explore local hiking trails. If the weather gets a little too cold or wet, it’s also a great time to visit local museums, minus the crowds.
When to Visit Anchorage for Winter Sports and Activities
Late February-March is the best time to make the most of Alaska’s winter attractions. The days start getting longer and Alaska’s biggest winter festivals, such as the Fur Rendezvous (aka Fur Rondy) happen around this time. The Iditarod dog sledding race begins on the first Saturday in March.
It’s also a great time for other winter sports such as skiing at Alyeska or other local hills, and for viewing northern lights.
When to Visit Anchorage for Wildlife Viewing
In Anchorage, summer is the high season for wildlife tours. All of Alaska’s creatures are out and about–from seasonal visitors to year-round inhabitants. The last of the bears have woken up from hibernation by now. Several species of whales (such as gray whales, humpback whales, and beluga whales) have returned to local waters.
Although Anchorage’s port is largely commercial, the city serves as a hub for day-cruise tours out of nearby towns such as Seward and Whittier. Anchorage also has a reputation for urban wildlife viewing, so don’t be surprised if you see moose enjoying a local trail or park!
Anchorage Travel Seasons
Spring (March – May)
- 🐕🦺 The Iditarod – Alaska’s most famous dog-sledding race begins early in March. The beginning in Anchorage is the most accessible event. Adventure seekers can venture further out to the remote checkpoints or the end of the race in Nome for a uniquely Alaskan experience.
- 🐳 Whale-watching – April sees the beginning of whale-watching tours, as gray whales return to local waters. As the months go by, more and more whales show up, but April offers a less-crowded early-bird opportunity.
- 🖼️ The Anchorage Museum – If the trails are still a little too soggy or the weather too cool, this downtown museum has tons of great exhibits to pass the time with. Some of the highlights include Native Alaskan artifacts such as ceremonial masks and robes.
Summer (June – August)
- ☀️ Midnight Sun – With long summer days comes plenty of time to enjoy summer activities. The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail makes for great walks or bike rides. Kincaid Park on the south end of town is perfect for throwing a frisbee or football around.
- 🧊 Portage Glacier – In the summer months, the Alaska Railroad’s Glacier Discovery Train offers visitors a truly scenic route. This towering glacier south of Anchorage is one of the stops and a must-see for lovers of natural beauty.
- 🦅 Wildlife Viewing – Whether on land or sea, summer is the prime time to encounter wildlife in Alaska. Day cruise tours based in Anchorage visit places such as Prince William Sound and Kenai Fjords National Park, famed for their natural beauty and abundant wildlife.
Fall (September – November)
- 🥾 Hiking – Autumn sees cooler weather, with the average temperatures in the 40s and 50s (Fahrenheit). The leaves on the birch trees turn to brilliant golden hues, so it’s a great time for hikes in the woods. There will also be significantly fewer tourists on the trails. If you love a good silent hike, October is prime time for exploring local trails.
- ✨ Northern Lights – As the nights grow darker and longer, the chances of seeing the aurora borealis get better. In general, the less artificial light pollution there is, the better your chances of seeing this natural light show. Capture this incredible experience by booking this tour with a professional photographer guide.
- 🎣 The “Tail-end” of Fishing Season – Summer is the best time for king and sockeye salmon, but the fall sees the silver salmon return to the rivers in greater numbers. Rainbow trout runs also tend to peak in September and early October. With fewer tourists in this season, there will sometimes be less competition from other anglers, too.
👉 Pro Tip: Kings, reds, and silvers are the most popular fish to fish for in Alaska. Kings are the largest and tastiest, but also the rarest. Reds are the smallest of the three but often considered second only to kings for taste. Silvers, on average, are larger than reds, and, while not as rich, are still delicious.
Winter (December – February)
- ⛷️ Winter sports – Once the snow falls, a winter wonderland of activities opens up. This is the best time to hit the slopes at Alyeska ski resort or local hills such as Hatcher Pass. Cross-country skiing is another great option. Or you can book a private dog-sled tour to get a taste of the classic winter activity.
- ✨ Northern Lights – With the longest nights of the year, winter gives the most opportunities to see this natural phenomenon. It will be even colder than in the fall months, but, if you bundle up well, it will definitely be worth it.
- 🎉 Fur Rendezvous – This festival in late February and early March continues the tradition begun by early Alaskan pioneers. Dog-sled races, snow sculpture competitions, concerts, and much more help chase away any trace of cabin fever and winter gloom.
Anchorage Weather and Climate
Anchorage has a subarctic climate. Summers are warm and sunny and the days are long. Average temperatures hover in the 50s and 60s (Fahrenheit).
Fall is brisk, with the average temperature dropping from the 40s-50s range in September to the 20s by November. Rain also becomes more frequent in the fall.
Winters are cold and snowy, and the average temperature stays below freezing (high teens to 20s) and even below zero at times. Anchorage often sees heavy snowfall, averaging about 79” per year.
In spring, Anchorage begins to thaw, with temperatures steadily rising, so that, by May the average has returned to the 40s-50s range.
📚 Related Reading: Thinking about turning your visit to Alaska into a long-term stay? Check out our guide 11 Best Places to Live in Alaska for a look at several of the state’s most popular communities!
Tips for Visiting Anchorage
Pack Layers and Waterproof Clothing
Even in summer, the nights can be cooler. It’s always a good idea to have an extra layer or two of warm clothing just in case it gets a little too chilly.
The weather in Alaska, especially on the coast, often changes quickly, so a rain jacket is always useful (the wind often makes umbrellas less than optimal, trust me on this one). Waterproof hiking boots or shoes are the best choices if you plan on exploring Alaska’s hiking trails, especially during early spring thaws.
For advice on what to bring, reference my Alaska packing checklist.
Bring an Eye Mask
Another good addition to your Alaska gear list is an eye mask. The skies stay light well into the wee hours in summer, which makes getting to sleep difficult for some visitors (and locals).
By the way, if you need a hotel, check out my guide to the best hotels to stay at in Anchorage.
Don’t Forget Bug Spray
Pack plenty if you plan on hiking into the backwoods. Swarms of Alaska’s unofficial “state bird,” the mosquito, start showing up in spring, peak in summer, and taper off as fall rolls around and temperatures drop. As a rule, the wetter or swampier an area, the more of these pesky creatures there will be.
Respect the Wildlife
Bears are not the only aggressive animal in Alaska. Moose, despite being herbivores, are quite aggressive when they feel threatened.
They have been known to meander through neighborhoods and wooded areas, so if you encounter one, give it plenty of space. The Alaska Department of Fish & Game provides some useful moose-related info for visitors and locals.
👉 Read Next: Best Day Trips from Anchorage
Avoid the Flats at Cook Inlet
If you venture south of Anchorage, you’ll see broad mudflats open up at low tide in Cook Inlet. These are actually extremely strong quicksand and, together with rapidly rising tides, make the mudflats, in all honesty, a deathtrap. Only a few rescue attempts have ever been successful.
FAQs About When to Visit Anchorage
What is a good month to go to Alaska?
How many days do you need in Alaska?
You need 10 days in order to see plenty of Alaska’s many attractions, but without feeling too rushed.
I hope I’ve helped you decide what the best time to visit Anchorage will be for you! For a great companion article, check out my guide to the Best Time to Visit Alaska!
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