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There are some months that I just don’t hear many questions about visiting Alaska – and November is one of them.
It’s not that there’s nothing to do in the winter (there’s lots in both Anchorage and Fairbanks!) or that you can’t see the aurora (you absolutely can!) – it’s more that people maybe just think about visiting in the heart of winter (December & January) or in the late winter (February & March). All this to say, if you’re planning to visit Alaska in November, you’re in for a treat: it’s one of the lesser visited months!
Other than that, there’s lots to know about visiting Alaska in November. The weather can be challenging and cold; snow is a real possibility – more like probability!; and there are lots of fun things to do and events happening so you’ll need to make some decisions to maximize your winter trip.
Below you’ll find a guide to visiting Alaska in November specifically. I’ll address all of the common questions I get about visiting during this month, and if you have any additional ones, be sure to let me know in the comments below.
Weather in Alaska in November
Talking about the weather in Alaska in November – or any time of the year, to be honest – is hard as it can vary significantly based on the region. Below I’ve written what temperatures and weather you can expect in the different regions of Alaska.
- Southcentral and Southeast Alaska: Coastal regions in Alaska tend to experience milder temperatures compared to the interior and Arctic regions. In November, temperatures can range from around 20°F to 40°F. These areas may also see more precipitation, including rain and – far more often – snow.
- Interior Alaska: The Interior region of Alaska has a colder and more extreme climate compared to the coastal areas. November in the interior can bring colder temperatures, with highs ranging from 0°F to 20°F and lows potentially dropping to -20°F to -30°F.
- Arctic Alaska: The Arctic region of Alaska experiences some of the most severe weather conditions. In November, temperatures can be extremely cold, with highs ranging from -10°F to 10°F (-23°C to -12°C) and lows often plummeting to -30°F to -40°F (-34°C to -40°C) or even lower. It’s very uncommon to visit this part of Alaska in the winter – perhaps you can guess why!
Daylight Hours in Alaska in November
November in Alaska experiences significant decreases in daylight hours due to its northern location and proximity to the Arctic Circle. Same as with the weather, here’s an approximate breakdown of daylight hours for the different regions:
- Alaska’s biggest city of Anchorage starts out getting about 8.5 hours of daylight at the beginning of November and receives only a little more than 6 hours of daylight by the end of the month.
- In November, Fairbanks – which is further north – starts out getting about 8 hours of daylight but drops rapidly, receiving less than 5 hours by the end of the month.
- The capital city of Juneau is a little further south than both of these other cities and sees about 9 hours of daylight at the start of the month, dropping to just 7 hours by Thanksgiving at the end of the month.
Top Events in Alaska in November
Despite all the darkness, there are tons of things to do in November in Alaska. Below you’ll find all the events you can include in your itinerary.
Sitka Whalefest (November 3-5)
If you have an interest in the animal kingdom, Sitka Whalefest is an annual event that celebrates marine life and the migration of whales.
The primary focus of this event is educational and there are lots of interactive activities. As part of the event, you can attend seminars, workshops, and art shows centered around marine science and conservation; you can even snorkel in the cool waters of the eastern channel of Sitka Sound. (That’s on my bucket list!)
There’s also a market; this year there will be marine-themed crafts, jewelry, delicious foods, and a silent auction.
Fairbanks Holiday Marketplace (November 10-12)
You may not think of Alaska as a shopping destination. But you can still have a little shopping spree! Fairbanks hosts the Fairbanks Holiday Marketplace, the perfect opportunity to kick-start your holiday season.
This event gathers the best local artisans and vendors to showcase their unique crafts, art, and goods, providing a chance to find unique gifts for loved ones.
Thanksgiving for the Birds (November 18)
This is probably the cutest event to attend in Alaska in November, especially if you’ll be up north hunting the aurora.
Thanksgiving for the Birds is organized by Creamer’s Field and you get the chance to make birdfeeders! You will learn how to build bird feeders from natural materials and upcycled items. The event offers different activities, but they haven’t announced their program for 2023. Check out their website to stay tuned!
Juneau Public Market (November 24-26)
The Juneau Public Market is another opportunity to browse some souvenirs during your visit to Alaska in November – and an excellent opportunity to support local artisans!
At this event, you can discover a wide range of handmade crafts, jewelry, art, and Alaskan foods. There’s a great selection of a wide variety of jewelry and Alaska Native arts, too. When hunger kicks in, the market has a food court to sit in to enjoy an entreé, dessert, and beverages. Coffee lovers also can enjoy an espresso bar.
Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony (November 30)
To welcome the jolly season, Homer hosts the Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony. There are not a lot of details safe for the date, November 30. I’ll update this section as soon as their website gives more details. Or you can check it closer to the date!
Anchorage Zoo Lights (TBD)
The Anchorage Zoo Lights is already an iconic event celebrated in Alaska in November – it’s perfect if you’re visiting with your family and were already planning a visit to the Zoo during the winter months.
The Zoo Lights is a Christmas event hosted at the Alaska Zoo. It is a beautiful combination of outdoor holiday lights walking tours with the traditional zoo experience. Bear in mind this event requires tickets in advance.
Bright Up the Night (TBD)
Sticking to the festive season, Bright Up the Night is Alaska’s largest drive-through holiday light display. It is hosted in November in Alaska on Thanksgiving and runs through New Year’s Eve; it takes place out at the Alaska State Fairgrounds, so is most easily accessible if you’re staying in Anchorage or the Mat-Su Valley.
The event offers guests the opportunity to drive through almost a mile of festive light displays – it features more than 70 different light displays! Dates and hours for the 2023 edition haven’t been confirmed yet, but you can check closer to the holiday season and confirm the details.
What to Pack for Alaska in November
I have an entire Alaska winter packing list, which is a great place to start to see the basics I recommend for packing, but the absolute best packing advice I have for winter is the same advice I give in the summer: Layers.
Layers are the key to staying warm, but also allow you to adjust how much heat you’re keeping in to avoid overheating and sweating, which can make staying warm in the winter harder. To give you more specific advice on how I layered to stay warm in the Alaskan winter, here’s what I’m wearing in both of the photos above:
- On top, I’m wearing a base layer (I love Unbound Merino), a long-sleeve cotton shirt, my favorite North Face green jacket, and a heavy, down jacket from Columbia. I have links for both of those jackets in my Alaska jacket guide.
- On the bottom, I have a base layer (usually also Unbound Merino) and a pair of UNIQLO jeggings for the day; at night, I added on my snowboarding pants from Burton (recommended in my winter packing list linked above).
- On my feet, I have Smartwool socks; during the day I was wearing my favorite Norwegian-style snow booties, and I switched to heavy-duty snow boots at night when it got colder. Both are linked in my Alaska shoe and boot guide.
- On my head, I’m wearing a simple synthetic beanie. I also have a synthetic scarf (not the best choice, I’d choose a merino wool today).
- On my hands, I have liner gloves as a base layer, and my snowboarding mittens to layer them up, especially at night.
I also had hand and foot warmers that I tucked into my boots and mittens to help keep my fingers and toes warm at night – I visited at an especially cold time in February 2020 when the lowest temp we experienced was -35°F in Fairbanks! BRRRRR! As these temps and conditions can definitely occur in November too, I recommend using this as a guide to pack the right layers for your trip.
Have any other questions about visiting Alaska in November? Let me know in the comments so I can help you tie up those last details with a bow – just like those Alaska souvenirs you’ll bring home as holiday gifts!
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