Embracing the wild beauty of winter takes on a whole new dimension in Sitka. Nestled amidst breathtaking landscapes and framed by snow-capped peaks, Sitka offers an extraordinary winter vacation experience. Beyond its serene charm and welcoming community, this hidden gem of Alaska presents a playground for adventurers, nature enthusiasts, and culture seekers alike. Join us as we unravel the captivating allure of Sitka and invite you to consider this enchanting destination for your next winter getaway.
Soak Up The Sights
Not as Cold as You Think
Alaska’s freezing winter temperatures are a common perception, but Sitka surprises many with a comparatively mild climate. Thanks to the warm currents of the Pacific Ocean, Sitka experiences more temperate conditions than other Alaskan regions. Winters here are notably milder, with temperatures hovering around the mid-30s to 40s Fahrenheit, a far cry from the bone-chilling cold associated with the broader Alaskan landscape. Visitors often find themselves pleasantly surprised by the manageable cold even during the winter months and appreciate the opportunity to explore without enduring extreme Arctic temperatures. Check out our current weather below!
Snow Capped Mountains
Our community is nestled by skyscraper-like mountains on one side and the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean on the other. However, it’s in the winter months that these towering mountains undergo a magical transformation. Cloaked in a mesmerizing blanket of pristine white snow, they resemble scenes straight from the pages of a fairytale. The contrast between the rugged peaks and the soft, snowy covering creates a stunning visual contrast, painting a picture that seems almost surreal in its beauty. The serenity and majesty of the snow-capped mountains stand as a testament to the untamed and breathtaking landscape that defines Sitka.
Winter Wildlife Viewing
The bears may be hibernating, but Sitka’s skies are still full of eagles and the occasional whale spout rises on the horizon. Even as the weather gets colder and a soft layer of snow blankets the Three Sisters mountains, there are many opportunities for winter wildlife viewing in Sitka. Read more about other wildlife opportunities in this article on winter wildlife viewing.
It’s no secret that Sitka is a popular summer destination, but few know about the charm of visiting in the winter or over the holidays. When planning your trip, seize the opportunity to take advantage of off-season rates in hotels. Imagine cozying up in a hotel with breathtaking views of snow-dusted landscapes and serene waters, all while enjoying reduced accommodation costs. These lodging options are our favorite spots that keep warm, comfortable beds open year-round.
• Baranof Lodge
• Westmark Sitka Hotel
• Sitka Hotel
• Aspen Suites Hotel Sitka
• Longliner Lodge & Suites
• Eagle Bay Inn
• Wild Strawberry Lodge
Check Things Off Your Shopping List
Made in Sitka Markets
The Made in Sitka Markets are vibrant and dynamic pop-up vendor fairs celebrating the unique creations of local artisans, from delectable Sitka delicacies to exquisite, handcrafted treasures. Drawing in both residents and visitors, these markets offer a delightful blend of a festive flea-market ambiance and a treasure trove of locally made crafts. It’s a bustling hub where visitors can immerse themselves in the charm of Sitka’s culture, discovering one-of-a-kind, handcrafted goods while relishing the lively atmosphere created by passionate artisans showcasing their talents. Watch the Made in Sitka Markets Facebook page for planned market dates.
Our Downtown Stores are Open!
Contrary to the assumption that Sitka’s stores shutter during the off-season, our vibrant community keeps its businesses thriving year-round. While summer brings an influx of visitors, the spirit of commerce and community doesn’t dwindle once the snow blankets the streets. Locals and businesses alike understand the importance of continuity, ensuring that shops remain open to cater not just to summer visitors, but visitors year-round and Sitka’s locals. The winter season sees a shift in offerings, with stores adapting their inventory to accommodate essentials for the colder months while still showcasing local crafts, artwork, and Alaskan specialties. Check out some of our favorite local shops here.
Get Festive with Holiday Events
Light-Up Lincoln Street
Experience the enchantment of Light-Up Lincoln Street, a new annual event by the Greater Sitka Chamber of Commerce. Mark your calendars for the first Saturday of December, as downtown Sitka transforms into a haven of festivity. Immerse yourself in a delightful shopping escapade along downtown Sitka, where each purchase becomes a potential ticket to exciting prizes. Don’t miss the holiday party, where the aroma of hot cocoa fills the air, and the chance to meet the jolly duo, Santa and Mrs. Claus, adds an extra sprinkle of joy to this winter celebration. More information about next year’s Light-Up Lincoln Street event can be found at the Sitka Chamber’s event calendar.
Share Your Spark Annual Holiday Lights Map
Annually, the Sitka Chamber crafts the ultimate Holiday Lights Map, highlighting the most dazzling holiday displays across town. Enhance your visit by opting for a car rental and embarking on a festive adventure following the map’s planned route. Traverse Sitka’s streets aglow with festive charm, taking in the splendor of beautifully decorated locations. With the holiday lights map as your guide, you’ll unravel a tapestry of twinkling lights and seasonal joy, creating unforgettable moments throughout your Sitka experience.
Sitka’s vibrant arts scene remains ever-present, even in the serene winter months. Among the emerging traditions is Jazzmas, a delightful addition courtesy of the Sitka Music Festival. This exclusive event infuses the town with world-class jazz performances adorned with a sprinkle of Christmas magic. Planning your visit around Jazzmas promises a unique and enchanting experience, where the allure of exceptional music converges with the spirit of the holidays, adding an unforgettable artistic touch to your Sitka adventure.
Sitka Nutcracker – An Alaskan Tale
Prepare to be captivated by a winter wonder that reimagines the classic tale – the Sitka Nutcracker promises an unmissable experience. This enchanting rendition brings a uniquely Alaskan twist to beloved characters, introducing iconic elements like bears, bald eagles, forget-me-nots, and even the infamous Alaskan mosquito. Delivered by local performers, this show is another testament to Sitka’s creative spirit and a performance that simply cannot be overlooked during your visit.
Experience Our Favorite Winter Activities
Ice Skate on Swan Lake
If you’re fortunate to be in town when Swan Lake freezes over, make sure you join the dozens of other Sitkans on the ice. Just a few minutes’ walk from downtown Sitka, Swan Lake provides a wide-open space for ice skating with the colossal Three Sisters mountains in the background. Bring a pair of ice skates, a sled, a hockey stick, or even just your own two shoes!
Tip: You’ll be sure to get a smile if you gift your toboggan to a local who you shared the hills with.
Embarking on a winter trek through our intricate trail system adds an extra layer of challenge to the terrain, yet for those bold enough to embrace the adventure, the rewards are unequivocally worth it. The winter season significantly decreases the likelihood of encountering bears on your hike, though it remains crucial to adhere to all bear-aware safety tips. Prior research is essential, but venturing into the winter landscape on foot offers a spectacular opportunity to witness the sights.
Northern Lights Viewing
While not as widely known for this phenomenon as some other Alaskan destinations, Sitka surprises lucky spectators with occasional displays of the Aurora Borealis. If you’re looking for the Northern Lights, your best friend is going to be the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. They monitor and predict aurora activity, publishing an aurora forecast up to one month in advance. Of course, there are other factors to take into account. You need clear, dark skies – so no rain or full moon. The long nights of September to March are the best time of year, with peak aurora activity usually occurring around midnight. Be ready around 10 pm, and prepare to stay up until 1 or 2 am if need be. Read more about northern lights viewing in Sitka in this article.
As you bid adieu to Sitka, the memories crafted amidst its winter wonderland will linger as cherished souvenirs. From the ethereal Northern Lights painting the night sky to the quiet majesty of snow-draped forests and the warmth of local hospitality, Sitka offers a tapestry of experiences waiting to be woven into your travel story. Whether it’s the thrill of outdoor adventures or the tranquility found in its serene landscapes, Sitka beckons you to embrace the magic of winter in a way that’s both invigorating and profoundly serene. Start planning your magical winter getaway today!