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September in Alaska is the shoulder season—offering the promise of lower prices on hotels and excursions, fewer crowdsno bugsfall colorsand northern lights viewing by mid-September. While brochures wax poetic about how early fall can be the perfect time to visit Alaska, the days are shorterand it can also be rainy and cooler. But not always. Often, we have beautiful Indian Summer.
That's why locals say, "September is a gamble. September is a time of dramatic transformation: the tundra is ablaze in color, autumn colors peak by mid-September even earlier farther north, or in Denali and you even have a chance of seeing the northern lights after 11pm if you are away from the city. You also start seeing snow on the mountain tops, which we locals refer to as "Termination Dust. The only problem is, it can also be rainy and cool. What we tell our friends is, "Come earlier in the summer, if you can.
But if you can't, September could be great. What is certain is that the days are shorter. But there's still more daylight than many places in the U. During the first half of the monthit can still feel like Alaska summer, with temps in the high 50s and 60 maybe even 70and about 14 hours of light every day sunrise at 7 a. But by the end of the monthtemperatures are about 10 degrees lower overalland daylight starts slipping away. Fall colors in Alaska are beautiful but different from the Lower In Alaska, very few trees turn red. Most of ours turn yellow and orange.
On the other, the tundra can glow bright red --and smell fragrant beyond words. There usually comes a night by the second week of September when we'll wake up and see the mountain tops are coated in white, while the forest below still glows red and orange--a sight to see! We locals call these early snows T ermination Dust, as in aling the end of summer and that old man winter is just around the corner.
Labor Day is not the end of the tourist crowds in Alaska. Cruise ships run through the third week of September —docking in Whittier and Sewardand with buses and trains departing for AnchorageTalkeetnaDenali and Fairbanks. But, to be fair, those cruises and buses are less crowded than they were in June, July or August. The demographics have changed a little by September, too more families with small kids, since bigger kids have gone back to school.
Selected excursions, transportation like the railroadand lodges offer shoulder season pricing in September-- but not all do. You can find the same shoulder season pricing in late May or early June. And because many operators don't discount September, we advise you not to let saving a few bucks be the reason you come then. Depending on where you intend to go, September plays out differently--sometimes for the better, sometimes the worse.
Here's an insider's rundown:. For one thing, since this is more of a business hub than a tourist spot, hotels stay open year round, though they can offer better rates in September than you would find during the peak summer months. September in the Anchorage area has another unique draw: The Alaska State Fairlocated just 40 minutes north of the city in Palmer. That brings concerts, plenty of local goods, and the world-famous, massive vegetables that have grown all summer long under the midnight sun. It may not be a huge fair, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in character.
A little over an hour south of Anchorage, the small town of Whittier is situated on the shores of Prince William Sound. Lazy Otter Charters offers small group sightseeing tours into Blackstone Bay through the month of October.
View massive tidewater glaciers and keep an eye out for wildlife. Weather pending, you can also enjoy a jet ski or kayak tour through the middle of the month. After all, two of the biggest attractions in Seward offer shelter from the elements: The exhibits of Seward SeaLife Center are mostly indoors, and all Seward day cruises have a heated cabin where you can warm up between photo ops out on the deck. Seward Ocean Excursions offers small-group custom charters year-round. First the bad news: Most tours and hotels around here close between the 15th and 20th of the month, and many summer activities draw to a close by the middle of the month.
Meanwhile, the national park starts offering abbreviated versions of their summer bus tours —basically, the tours only drive as far into the park as you can go without seeing s of winter along the road as in, snow. So, if you want to experience the entire park road—all the way to Kantishna and Wonder Lake—September is likely a no-go. September is actually the beginning of the peak season of this Alaskan city: Fairbanks is a nice destination year round, but really starts to shine when the night skies finally become dark enough to view the northern lights.
You can check them out on your own, or opt for a guided excursion or overnight experience. While you can often see the northern lights from Fairbanks itself, many tour operators use Fairbanks as their main launching pad to take visitors beyond the Arctic Circle, which boosts your chances of seeing the lights.
Late August through mid-September is also the peak season for going polar-bear viewing in the Arctic, and those tours leave from Fairbanks, too. This area is similar to Denali in the sense that many hotels and tours shut down by mid-September—after which things are really shut down.
So, if you want to experience this area, you just have to come in the early part of the month. For most travelers, Southeast Alaska means cruising—and cruising in September offers just as much of a gamble as a land tour. You still have that increased chance of rain and clouds, so your shipboard views of the coastline could be shrouded in fog.
On the other hand, if you get a nice day, your experience will be crisp and crystal clear. And, many cruise lines discount their September cruises.
One interesting alternative that works for the whole month of September is the Alaska Marine Highway Ferry System check their for more details. Expert Advice First Trip to Alaska? How to Plan and Book? What to Wear in Alaska? Which Departure Port? Cruise or Land Tour First? Cruise Only or Cruise Tour? Alaska in September: What's It Like? Should You Visit Then? Questions about September? Let's Talk. Explore Further.Juneau Alaska to maybe more later
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Alaska in September: What's It Like? Should You Visit Then?