Post Travels: Chase the Northern Lights in Fairbanks

Seeing the northern lights, also known as the aurora borealis, is something many folks dream about. But freezing temperatures, long airplane flights, remote locations, and predicting Mother Nature’s whim can put a damper on even the most enthusiastic travelers’ plans.

But what many don’t realize is that one of the best locations for viewing the northern lights is located in the United States. Aurora Season runs from August 21 through April 21 in Fairbanks, Alaska, meaning there are plenty of nights you can watch the lights dance through the sky when there’s no snow on the ground.

A Taste of Alaska Lodge

Just a 20-minute drive from Fairbanks, family-owned and operated A Taste of Alaska Lodge offers easy access to the city, while still boasting a remote location that makes you feel as though you’ve ventured into the Alaskan wild. Set on 280 acres, on clear days it serves up brag-worthy views of the Alaska Range. Once the sun sets, it’s an ideal location to watch the northern lights blaze through the sky. And with only eight rooms in the main lodge, and three separate cabin-like structures on the property, you practically have the sky to yourself.

Snow-capped mountains in the distance
A view from A Taste of Alaska Lodge. (Dana Rebmann)

The best spot to view the aurora borealis is from an open field behind the lodge. Chairs are scattered about for folks to relax while waiting for the lights to appear. A heated yurt provides a spot to warm up and socialize with fellow watchers. Guests that head back to their room often find it difficult to venture out again. Rates from $195.

Borealis Basecamp

Northern lights seen over shelters
Borealis Basecamp. (Dana Rebmann)

One look at Borealis Basecamp, and it’s hard not to get excited. Six white domes each boast a wall made of windows, precisely positioned so you can curl up in bed while watching the northern lights. Set on nearly 100 acres of boreal forest, domes have king beds, a kitchenette with small refrigerator and sink, and a bathroom with sink, stall shower, and dry flush toilet. Powerful heaters keep domes toasty, but keep your shoes by the door. It’s next to impossible not to run outside when the aurora appears. Borealis Basecamp is about a 45-minute drive from Fairbanks. Rates from $339. A two-night minimum stay is required. (Four more domes are currently under construction.)

Chena Hot Springs Resort

Hot springs
Chena Hot Springs Resort. (Dana Rebmann)

A bit more than 60 miles outside of Fairbanks, Chena Hot Springs Resort requires the longest stretch of time behind the wheel, but there’s plenty of incentive to make the drive. As the name implies, natural hot springs averaging 106 degrees Fahrenheit are open for soaking daily from 7 a.m. to midnight. Even during summer, guests searching for an Alaskan chill can visit the onsite Aurora Ice Museum. Kept at a cool 25 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s home to a handful of rarely used guest rooms, sculptures, and a bar that pours strong Appletinis. Those hoping to see the northern lights can make the short walk to the property’s heated Aurorium or book a tour to a remote spot near Charlie Dome that boats panoramic nighttime sky views. A heated yurt is well-stocked with warm drinks and snacks. The bumpy ride up to the viewing point, in the back compartment of a unique off-road vehicle, helps keep travelers awake and alert. Eighty rooms with rates from $210.