Dreaming of seeing the Northern Lights? Taking in the magical phenomenon that is the Aurora Borealis is the experience of a lifetime at any age. The remote snowy wonderlands of the north create the scene for the ultimate treasure hunt. But, with so many options, where are the best destinations to see the Northern Lights with kids?
From kid-friendly activities and accommodation to weather, let’s break down the basics.
Where to See the Northern Lights with Kids: The Common Picks
Far from the palm-tree-lined beaches and wild rides of the amusement parks that are oh-so-popular with families, the Northern Lights aren’t your average vacation destination. When you are searching for the best place to see the Northern Lights, you’ll be looking for options near the Arctic Circle.
Most lists of the best Northern Lights viewing destinations will feature Iceland, Canada, Alaska, Norway, Greenland, and Finland. While those are all gorgeous destinations, some are more kid-friendly than others.
Gateway to the Arctic, Tromso is easily amongst the most comfortable options. When it comes to things to do with kids in Tromso, you’ll have a dream array of options. Watch whales swimming by the shore. Go on a sled pulled by reindeers. Get up close and personal with the seals at Polaria. Tromso is a family-friendly destination that will keep you busy every day of the week.
Another perk of Tromso is that the weather is relatively mild. While you won’t need to pack your flip-flops, you can bundle up and be comfortable. The record low is -4 degrees F / -20 degrees C, which is certainly cold but undoubtedly mild for the Arctic region. In most winters, you’ll find only the coldest nights dip down to 7 degrees F / -13 degrees C.
At the same time, it’s an incredibly snowy region. This means that you can build snowmen and have snowball fights while staying relatively comfortable.
When to go: September to April
Where to stay: The Clarion Hotel The Edge is a choose-your-adventure accommodation pick that is perfect for families, work conferences, or anything else that you might have in mind.
Planning Tip: Visit in January if you can to check out the Northern Lights Festival!
The ultimate road trip destination, you can have a blast in Iceland year-round without ever seeing the Northern Lights. Take a camper van around the ring road and see some of the most gorgeous sights on this planet.
Before you go, be sure to check out our Essential Tips for Taking a Road Trip with Kids.
Of course, this can be a stressful way to go if you’re not used to driving in the snow. For those fair-weather families, check out the tours that will take you hunting the Northern Lights. After your excursions to the north, plan plenty of time to soak in the geothermal pool.
When to go: August to April
Where to stay: Center Hotels Laugavegur is an affordable, family-friendly Reykjavik hotel pick that ticks all the boxes.
Looking for a place in the United States to see the Northern Lights? Get to Alaska! Fairbanks is one of the best places in the USA to see the Northern Lights. There are incredible family-friendly events all year round along with a welcoming small-town atmosphere.
Explore the retirement sanctuary for mushing huskies and visit the town of North Pole (a Christmas crowd-pleaser!).
When to go: November to February
Where to stay: For a reliable and comfortable accommodation pick, you can’t get wrong with the SpringHill Suites by Marriott Fairbanks.
Located just beneath the Aurora Borealis ring, this is actually a year-round Northern Lights destination. You can travel there in August and enjoy the mild weather. Hike the lush forests and meet the local wildlife while you enjoy afternoons up to 70 degrees F / 12 degrees C. The nights are shorter compared to the nearly 24 hours of darkness in the winter, but you still have good odds of seeing the Northern Lights.
When to go: Most of the year, especially August to March
Where to stay: The Explorer Hotel is a great family-friendly hotel in central Yellowknife. With suites featuring separate living rooms with fireplaces as well as kitchenettes and whirlpool tubs, it feels like a home away from home.
Tips for Visiting the Northern Lights with Kids
For an unforgettable experience the whole family will love, there are a few things to keep in mind.
- You might not see the Northern Lights! This is a natural phenomenon, not a scheduled show you can buy tickets to. There are forecasting tools that will boost your odds considerably (check these out) but you can enjoy the trip either way. Make it more about the journey than the destination for your kids.
- Plan other kid-friendly daytime outdoor activities. From making a snowman to going reindeer sledding, there are countless adventures.
- Dress for the weather. The more layers, the merrier!