Alaska has plenty to offer the adventurous family in the fall. There are lots of festivals and activities going on during the late season, and they’re perfect for travel van camping. Pick a couple and take a long weekend or even a week or two to enjoy Alaska in its slow(er) season. (Also, the Shoulder Season Special kicks in after Labor Day, so take advantage of the lower rates, too!)
Plus, Alaska is beautiful in the fall, and you don’t have to wait long to see it! Here, fall begins around late August, and continues until the snow flies, which sometimes happens in the early part of October. It’s a short season, but oh is it sweet!
Come get a van, and experience Alaska in the fall for yourself, and take in a few festivals along the way:
Alaska State Fair
August 22 through September 2
The Alaska State Fair is the culmination of the Northern summer of long days and short nights. All that time spent growing means we have huge vegetables to show off by the time the fair rolls around. One of the highlights is the Giant Cabbage Weigh-Off, happening this year on August 30, when all of the cabbages are weighed and the largest is given the blue ribbon. Don’t forget to place your wager and guess the weight beforehand, and keep in mind that the fair record—and also the world record—is 138.25 pounds!
If you’re at the fair before the cabbage weigh-off, you can still wander through the vegetable displays and marvel at all of the other giant vegetables, including 29-pound zucchinis, 39-pound turnips, and 1470-pound pumpkins!
And of course, it’s a fair, so there’s fair food galore, including chocolate-covered bacon, funnel cakes, donut burgers, cream puffs, halibut-and-chips, and, being Alaska, plenty of coffee and ice cream. If you’re feeling healthy (or guilty), you can also purchase a few of those giant vegetables for yourself.
You can also camp in your travel van right at the fair! If you’re staying for one of the late-night shows, or if one day at the fair just wasn’t enough, save yourself a little hassle and camp right on the fairgrounds. You can also stay at one of the nearby campgrounds in the town of Palmer.
Fall Family Adventure Day
Get the whole family outdoors this fall in an Alaska State Park! Hosted by Parks Ambassador Erin Kirkland, of AKontheGO.com, the Fall Family Adventure Day will showcase skills and activities you can use to enjoy the parks year-round! We will be participating in the event with a van, so come join us at Bird Creek Campground and learn how to use a van or brush up on your fire-starting and s’mores making skills (it’s really an art)!
Denali Road Lottery
September 13 through 17
Did you win a space in the Road Lottery? Have you booked your camper van yet? Make your reservations now, and don’t forget to book your campsite as well! Campgrounds near the park entrance usually fill up for this event, so don’t wait!
The annual event allows you to drive your own vehicle onto the park road on one day in September, something that’s not allowed during the rest of the season, and it’s usually a spectacular day, no matter what kind of weather you get. If you see Denali, it’s an amazing sight with its white peak framed against the glorious fall colors of the tundra. Wildlife is abundant in Denali at any time of year, so keep your eyes open for caribou, moose, grizzlies, Dall sheep, ptarmigan, golden eagles, and even wolves and foxes.
Seward Music & Arts Festival
The Seward Music Festival is held annually in the fall, a warm and festive weekend to welcome the cold weather and say goodbye to summer. Held in the Dale R. Lindsey Alaska Railroad Intermodal Facility (also known as the ferry terminal building), it’s a large, heated venue in the boat harbor area of Seward. The lineup of musicians this year includes local favorites Aspenyarrow, Hwy 9 and more. Along with workshops, dance performances, local Alaskan food and crafts vendors, the event is family friendly and a great way to welcome the fall and winter.
Seward campgrounds are still open until the snow flies, so provided there’s no snow on the ground yet, you should have a great opportunity get one of those oh-so-precious waterfront campsites!
Fall Camping Advantages
And even if you’re not headed to a festival or event, fall is actually a great time to go camping in Alaska! For one, once it gets colder, there are fewer bugs. Fewer mosquitoes, flies, no-see-ums, and any other biting or stinging insect! Hiking, biking, and just sitting around the campfire are all so much more pleasant when you can do them without being swarmed.
Alaska’s fall colors happen close to the ground, as the tundra turns various shades of orange, and the fireweed leaves turn red. The spruce hang onto their blue-green hue year round, but the cottonwoods and birches go from green to gold almost overnight, and the bright yellow leaves falling onto the dark loam of a trail that cuts through the forest is one of my favorite fall sights to see. In fall, the trails are not overgrown anymore, which means more hiking and less bushwhacking.
Also, you just might see the Northern Lights! We’ve already started to see them, and right now it’s only dark for a few hours each night. As we move into the fall, the nights start to get longer, and the chances of seeing the lights increase. All that’s really needed to be able to see them is darkness, and we’ll have that in abundance after a while.
So, buy your festival ticket, pack a couple of extra layers and book your camper van to take advantage of the myriad ways to experience Alaska in the fall. You’ll return with plenty of photos, a cool story to tell your friends, and only a couple of mosquito bites!