It's no secret that the northern lights are a true gift, a bucket list experience, and something we all should see. But what if we can't make it to Iceland? No worries on that, because we have six great places where you can see this wonderful phenomenon—and some of them may be right in your backyard. So get ready people, and place this experience on those New Year's adventure lists.
6 Places To See The Northern Lights That Aren't Iceland
1. Yellowknife, Canada
Yellowknife is the capital of Canada's Northwest Territories. It lies on the north shore of Great Slave Lake, and is actually one of the best places to view the northern lights during the fall and winter months. There's even a place in the town called the Aurora Village, which offers packages to people to hunt for the lights in the sky. The village even has its own website. This city has been dubbed the coolest of the North both in terms of the freezing temperatures and hip atmosphere. However, this place will have you forgetting about the cold in no time with loads of fun activities to experience, plus amazing cuisine from sushi to Ethiopian.
Best time to visit: Mid-August to late April for warm temperatures. Northern light sightings will be from September through February.
2. Fairbanks, Alaska
This city is said to be the best place to view the aurora borealis in the United States. Heck, it even has its own Aurora forecast system so you can always check and see if you’re in luck. Something that makes Fairbanks sound even better for your northern lights adventure is that you can watch the show from the comfort of a steaming hot tub in the small village called Manley Hot Springs.
Best time to visit: Late August to mid-April
3. Michigan's Upper Peninsula
This past July, Michigan was treated to a rare northern lights display because of a geomagnetic storm from the sun. Although it doesn’t occur that often, the state is known for being a good vantage point for the celestial light display, due to its latitude and relatively low light pollution in the upper peninsula. Lake Superior provides some of the best Northern Lights views, due to its very dark night skies. Go along the South Shore, where one can see right down to the horizon and be treated to an 180-degree unobstructed view of the night sky.
Best places to see lights: Marquette or Keweenaw Peninsula
4. Acadia, Maine
The state of Maine has a lot of great things going for it, including abundant starry skies. The farther north you go in Maine, the darker the night becomes, giving better chances towards glimpsing the aurora borealis.
Compared to other parts of the U.S., the northern lights don’t showcase themselves as often in Maine. However, some of the best opportunities to see them can be found in places like the Aroostook National Wildlife Refuge or Acadia National Park, specifically along the Schoodic Peninsula. East Coasters, this is perfect for your next road trip. Just make sure the weather is clear before heading up to Vacationland.
5. Northern Minnesota
As with many of the aurora borealis states of the U.S., the farther north you travel in Minnesota, the more vibrant northern lights you can expect to see. If you hope to add a little adventure to the experience, then northern Minnesota is the perfect place. Head to Voyageurs National Park to catch the show. Cook County is at the northernmost tip of Minnesota along the shores of Lake Superior. This area is also home to Minnesota's tallest waterfall which would make for a beautiful view against the backdrop of the night sky. Many locals will tell you to check out Oberg Mountain to catch a glimpse of those multi colored skies.
Best time to visit: Late fall and early spring.
6. Northern Idaho
It takes just the right combination of things to see the northern lights in Idaho, and there are certainly residents of both states that might go their whole life without seeing them. Not only are clear skies and low light pollution needed, but a large solar storm is normally necessary to catch a glimpse of the aurora borealis in Idaho.
But when those perfect conditions hit, get ready to head as far north as you can to places like Idaho Panhandle National Forest. The best viewing spot will be looking out over Priest Lake, where the lake will reflect the sky with silhouettes of mountains in the background.
These places are good starting points for northern light viewing in the United States, but they aren't the only areas. Some conditions and general knowledge to remember when searching for the auroras are that it will have to be a dark and relatively clear night with little light pollution. This doesn't mean that the longest day of winter will be the best time. It's typically around the equinoxes at the beginning of fall and spring. Also, the best places to witness this phenomenon will be above the 55 degree latitude mark. Also, don't forget to try going during a new moon, and keep an ear out for news about incoming solar storms.
Happy Northern Lights hunting, everyone!