Countdown to Christmas, Alaska-style

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With just over one week until Christmas, the crowded shopping malls, hyped-up kids and one too many fruit cake deliveries may have some Alaskans feeling slightly less than jolly. Luckily, there are options to get out of town for some winter fun, and just in the Saint Nick of time. Fairbanks has a host of family-friendly activities to burn off some of that pre-gift-getting energy and spend some quality time together too.

Ice skating is a great outdoor activity for the whole family. It doesn’t matter if one family member can perform a triple axel while another hugs the rails, the ice rink will keep everyone happy and moving. If you’ve never gone, the best piece of advice is to keep your head up and you knees bent. Kids as young as three or four can start learning how to skate, just make sure they are wearing a helmet. Here are some local rinks to try out around town:

Fairbanks Curling Club Ice Skating Rink
1962 Second Avenue
(907) 452-2875

Polar Ice Center Ice Skating Rink
1087 Dennis Rd
(907) 488-9525

If you’re not an ice skating enthusiast, pile the kids into the car for a short 20-minute road trip to the Santa Claus House in North Pole.  They have an array of Christmas décor, ornaments and toys for the kids. If you are already done with your shopping there are still plenty of opportunities to take some great Christmas photos. Get a photo of you and loved ones in a life-size nativity scene, next to a moose or polar bear, or posed in front of themed Christmas trees. Or grab a photo of you or the kids hopping into Santa’s sleigh that sits right in front of the store’s 40-foot Santa.

After all the photo ops, check out the Christmas in Ice festival right next door. The ice park features holiday-themed art sculptures by local and international artists. The kids will love the ice maze, spinning twirlers, and multiple ice slides. Don’t worry about packing meals for the day, food and drinks are available for purchase. There is even a heated warm-up area. Kids five and under are $4 and adults are $6. For more information, go to

Grab your coat and a warm pair of shoes and head to downtown Fairbanks for the Winter Solstice Festival, kicking off on Saturday, Dec. 18. Sip on a soothing cup of hot cocoa while listening to live music and finishing up the Christmas shopping at local businesses.  The event also includes door prizes, kids crafts, fireworks and more.

Finally, for the do-it-yourself procrastinators out there, it’s not too late to go cut down a Christmas tree to take home. The Alaska Department of Natural Recourses has maps of the places you can go in Fairbanks to cut down a tree on public land: There is nothing quite like walking into a fresh pine tree scented home to get the Christmas spirit going.

Book your stay at the Fairbanks Princess Riverside Lodge to enjoy all that Fairbanks has to offer this holiday season. Have fun and stay warm!

Tags: ice, shopping, winter