Imagine a postcard-perfect waterfront town with dramatic snow-covered peaks and few, if any, tourist crowds. That’s Homer, Alaska in the winter. Holidays in Homer are like a dream, with all the twinkling lights and festive cheer. While the cold might keep most visitors away, that just makes it more enjoyable for those who decide to venture here, with many things to do during the season.
Most assume winters in Homer and the rest of Alaska are frigid with endless days of darkness, but thanks to its location on the coast and its maritime climate, daytime highs average just below freezing, and the lows don’t dip much more than 17 degrees Fahrenheit. Even on December 21st, the shortest day of the year, Homer gets six hours of daylight, and by early February, that increases to eight hours.
Bundle up, get out there, and enjoy your winter holidays in Homer by taking advantage of one or more of these activities and events.
1. Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony
The holiday season in Homer officially kicks off with the Annual Tree Lighting ceremony. It takes place in early December every year and includes a visit from the man himself: Santa Claus.
The holiday tree sits just outside the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center. The mayor or another prominent community member will switch the lights on while locals and visitors enjoy hot chocolate, treats like s’mores, and the beautiful songs of Christmas carolers. There’s no better way to start off the holidays in Homer.
2. The Nutcracker
The Homer Nutcracker Faire, held annually over the first weekend of December at Homer High School, features arts and crafts that are exclusively made here on the Kenai Peninsula. And don’t forget the main event: Homer’s own ballet production of The Nutcracker, performed at the high school’s Mariner Theatre.
3. Fishing for Winter Kings
Alaska is one of the world’s best fishing destinations, and while summer is the peak season, a fishing charter is possible during the wintertime in Homer.
King salmon (Chinook) famously return to spawn during the warmer months, but they can be targeted during their winter ocean phase when they’re eating as much as they can, growing bigger and bigger before they come back to their streams to spawn. The Winter King Salmon Tournament takes place annually around March or April.
October through March is the “winter” season for fishing here, with O’Fish’ial Charters offering full-day trips to catch the kings that primarily feed on forage fish like herring and small invertebrates here in Kachemak Bay. From October through February, you might be able to reel in snow crabs (Tanner crabs) too.
While calm seas can’t be guaranteed, your odds are great for a catch – and breathtaking scenery is a given! If scenery is your No. 1 priority, consider taking a water taxi for a winter sightseeing tour. Some operate year-round, including Coldwater Alaska.
4. Holiday Shopping and Tasty Eats
Homer is an amazing place to shop for Christmas presents. As an arts and foodie mecca, there are many fantastic restaurants and shops selling original works of art, including Wild Honey Bistro. There’s probably nowhere else on Earth where you can enjoy mouthwatering crepes with house-made caramelized honey while shopping for original local art.
5. Skiing and Sledding
Homer doesn’t have a ski resort, but 10 miles from downtown is the Homer Rope Tow for some fun downhill skiing if you bring your own equipment (rentals are available in Anchorage). It includes 20 acres of terrain with a lower slope for beginners and a steeper upper slope and gullies for the more experienced. Kachemak Nordic Ski Club maintains around 50 miles of trails for cross-country skiing at Baycrest, McNeil/Eveline, and Lookout Mountain.
Sledding is something that locals and visitors of all ages enjoy in Homer. Some will just find a hill on their own, but Ohlson Mountain is the perfect spot when conditions are right. Sleds are relatively inexpensive and can usually be found at Ulmer’s Drug & Hardware right in town.
6. Ice Skating
Imagine skating on the ice while surrounded by Homer’s spectacular winter wonderland beauty. You can do just that at Beluga Lake once it’s frozen over for the winter and it won’t cost you a thing.
Alternatively, head over to Kevin Bell Arena, an indoor arena on the Homer Spit. The arena will be offering free public skates on Sundays this winter, thanks to a grant from the Alaskan Community Foundation.
7. Winter Carnival Celebration
The annual Homer Winter Carnival takes place in mid-February, with a new theme every year. Floats that appear in the parade are designed with the theme in mind bringing the opportunity to see the unique creations locals have come up with.
Spectators will line the streets of Old Town to watch the displays and floats before enjoying other events and activities like a chili cook-off and basketball tournament, providing a perfect opportunity to get to know the locals.
8. Waterfront Holiday Retreat
The cozy accommodations at Land’s End Resort are the perfect place to warm up and unwind after a day of winter festivities. Our beachfront lodges are fully furnished and equipped with full kitchens – exactly the “home away from home” you’re dreaming of.
The Homer Spit is also one of the best places in town to marvel at the night sky thanks to the lack of light pollution, which makes the famous constellations easy to spot. Land’s End Resort happens to be right on Homer’s Spit, so if you stay in one of our beachfront or lake cabins, you’ll be able to step right outside your door for epic stargazing and breathtaking views of Beluga Lake. Plan your holidays in Homer for a vacation of pure winter enchantment!