5 Best Cities to See The Northern Lights - United Hub
Places

5 best cities to see the Northern Lights

By Bob Cooper, December 04, 2017

It looks like psychedelic art, even though the explanation for the Northern Lights is scientific—the collision of “solar winds" (charged particles drawn by the magnetic pull of the North Pole) with Earth's atmosphere. Also called the aurora borealis, the Lights appear intermittently year-round and are most visible in the darker skies of far northern latitudes during the colder, longer nights of winter. Once you arrive, you need to get away from city lights—which isn't difficult in these five cities—to see the swirling, phantasmagoric greens, purples, yellows, pinks and blues. You will never forget them.

Northern Lights with mountains in the distance in Alaska.

Anchorage, Alaska

Alaska is easily the best place to see the Northern Lights in the U.S. and Anchorage is the logical arrival city, with daily flights even throughout the winter when the viewing is best. If you're bold enough to arrive in the winter, be sure to pack your warmest clothes, even though recent Alaskan winters have had record warm temperatures and record low snowfall totals. Or you can wait for spring, when the Lights are still visible, but for fewer hours. They're seen as early as 8:00 p.m. in the winter, but the best viewing is around midnight on cloudless nights outside the city. Go here for information on Northern Lights photo tours, as well as skiing and dog-sledding winter tours from Anchorage.

Northern Lights along the waterfront in Nova Scotia

Halifax, Nova Scotia

Its location northeast of Maine on the Atlantic shore makes Halifax, the business and cultural hub of the Maritime Provinces, another good spot for admiring the Lights. Before you head out of town at dusk to await their appearance, you can take in this city of 400,000 people, which boasts a two-mile-long waterfront boardwalk and the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic's Titanic exhibit honoring the ship that sank off the coast of Nova Scotia. Afterward, you can drive outside the city to any of these 12 parks, villages or beaches to see the aurora borealis in all its glory.

Green shade of the Northern Lights in Alberta

Edmonton, Alberta

You can gaze upon the Lights anytime during winter in central Alberta, which is easily reached by flying to Edmonton. At 340 miles above the Montana border, you're plenty far north, but far from alone, as Edmonton is a city that has nearly one million residents and its own NHL team and symphony hall. Many spots can be reached from the city for aurora viewing at night. During the day, you can visit the city's attractions—all indoors so they're open all winter—including major art, science, history, aviation, military and telephone museums.

Purple and yellow glow of the Northern Lights in Scotland

Glasgow, Scotland

Situated at a higher latitude than southern Alaska, Glasgow is another English-speaking destination where the night sky dazzles during the winter. “Mirrie dancers" is the Scots' charming nickname for the Northern Lights, which can be seen “dancing" in the skies outside Glasgow and even more so if you drive to the rugged Northwest Highlands of Scotland. Some of the best parklands and coastal stretches for viewing appear here. By day, visitors can take the time to see the sights in and around Glasgow, including medieval Glasgow Cathedral, Loch Ness (home of the mythical creature “Nessie"), Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, Edinburgh Castle, and Edinburgh's Old Town and New Town—a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Blue shades to the Northern Lights in Iceland

Reykjavik, Iceland

Iceland is one of the hottest destinations on the planet—though not literally—and its proximity to the the Northern Lights is just one reason why. Located farther north than Oslo, Stockholm and Anchorage, the Lights are a common sight there. With most of the island country's population concentrated in Greater Reykjavik, there are plenty of dark spots in the countryside to witness them. There are many tours that take Reykjavik visitors to view the Lights from September to April, ranging from three-hour minibus and boat excursions to week-long tour packages where you can take in all of Iceland's sights.

If you go

United Airlines offers nonstop flights from U.S. cities to all of these destinations. (Seasonal flights to Reykjavik begin in May, but winter connections are available from United airline partner Lufthansa.) Visit united.com or use the United app to see the Lights.

Why we fly

By The Hub team, November 27, 2020

In October 2019, we launched a first-of-its-kind airline miles donation platform, Miles on a Mission. In the inaugural year, MileagePlus members donated over 70 million miles, with United matching over 20 million miles, to 51 organizations. These miles have allowed for these organizations to do important, life-changing, life-saving work in the communities we serve around the globe.

United cargo connects products to people all over the world this holiday season

By The Hub team, November 23, 2020

Critical medical shipments – Check.

High-tech electronics – Check.

2.7 million pounds of lobster? Check.


While this year's holiday gatherings will look a little different, millions of people around the world will still carry on the tradition of celebrating the holidays with a meal.

As the appetite for different types of food from all over the world increases, so does the need for safe and reliable transport. Fish caught in the United Kingdom can depart at breakfast and arrive in Washington D.C. in time for dinner. Thanks to United Cargo's expansive network, we are longer constrained by global distance or the seasonality of a product,

United Cargo plays a big role in transporting shipments with a limited shelf life around the world. Packed in between the latest electronics from Asia and the hottest fashion items from Europe, our aircraft carry a variety of perishable shipments like flowers, fruit, meat and vegetables, where speed and careful handling keeps them fresh. Whether it's cherries from Washington State or vegetables from Peru, our temperature-controlled shipping processes and vast global network helps move these commodities all over the world.

While the holidays are an exceptionally busy time of year for shipping perishable items, United Cargo transports these critical goods for people all over the world year-round. Earlier this year, United Cargo moved nearly 190,000 pounds of fresh produce to Guam for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Coronavirus Farm Assistance Program to support communities impacted by COVID-19. Additionally, with the holiday season here, we anticipate the cargo holds of our aircraft to be full of grocery store replenishments, including staples like turkey and ham, hitting shelves across the globe.

We take pride in our role to make sure perishables and produce arrive on time and at the peak of freshness. These products sustain, feed and nurture the world, and consumers around the globe depend on them every single day.

Since March 19, United has operated nearly 8,000 cargo-only flights, moving over 272 million pounds of cargo on those flights alone. United Cargo is proud of the role we play maintaining the global food supply chain and helping people access commodities from all over the globe.

Bon appetit!

10 travel tips for the holiday season

By The Hub team, November 19, 2020

Whether you haven't flown with us for a while or just need a quick refresher before your holiday travels, read this list of tips to know before your flight and arrive travel-ready:

1. Download the United app for contactless bag check, payments and more

Before your flight, download the United app to view your flight status, check in, sign up for flight notifications, locate departure gates, access our free personal device entertainment when available and more. We've also updated our app with new features that can make your trip a little safer, including contactless bag check and touch-free onboard payments.

2. Read and sign the Ready-to-Fly checklist

Before completing check-in, all United travelers will need to read our Ready-to-Fly checklist and confirm that they understand and agree to our policies. These include:

  • Acknowledging that you haven't had any symptoms of COVID-19 in the last 14 days
  • Agreeing that you will not fly if you have tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 21 days
  • Confirming that you will follow all policies regarding face coverings, social distancing and other health and safety measures we've adopted

3. Get familiar with CleanPlus

United CleanPlus℠ is our commitment to delivering industry-leading* cleanliness, plus putting health and safety at the forefront of your experience, in partnership with Clorox and Cleveland Clinic. We've implemented CleanPlus in a number of ways that you'll notice throughout your trip, as well as with some behind-the-scenes enhancements like:

  • Disinfecting high-touch areas on board and in the terminal
  • Using electrostatic spraying, Ultraviolet C lighting wands and more advanced measures to clean aircraft cabins before boarding
  • Redesigning our mobile app to allow for touchless check-in and contactless payment, along with enhanced travel assistance features

Studies show COVID-19 exposure risk is minimal when air filtration systems and masks are in use, so you can rest assured that the steps we've taken to keep you safe truly make a difference.

4. Don't forget essential documents

We've made a list of travel requirements and restrictions for every destination that you can check twice, or as often as you need before your trip. Just visit united.com/travelrequirements to get the details on COVID-19 testing, health documents and other things you may need before you fly.

5. Wear your mask

You may not notice our smile behind our face covering, but you can be sure that we're appreciative of all our travelers who arrive to the airport with their mask on, and continue to wear it over their nose and mouth at all times in the airport and on board. Make sure you review our requirements for face coverings, including what an acceptable face covering looks like. Bonus points if your mask infuses some holiday cheer!

6. A better boarding process for your safety

If you haven't flown with us in a while, you might want to get familiar with our new boarding process. To make boarding even safer, we now have travelers board their aircraft from back to front. At the gate, just listen for your row number to be called – we'll ask a few rows at a time to board, starting with the last row of the plane. This helps everyone maintain a safe distance from each other during boarding without slowing things down. As you step onto the plane, flight attendants will hand each passenger a sanitizing towelette, which you can use to wipe down your seat to ensure it's extra clean.

7. Pack smart

Before packing your bags, check to see what exactly you can carry on and what you should plan to check. You can also copy your confirmation number into our Baggage Calculator tool to learn about the bag allowance included with your reservation, as well as the cost of checking any additional bags.

8. Check your flight status, important notices and weather

Check the United app regularly for the latest updates, weather conditions, flight status, gate and seat assignments. You can also visit our Important Notices page to find essential information and updates about travel waivers, international travel, TSA and security, airports and United Club locations.

9. Arrive early; avoid the stress

Airports can be busy, especially during the holidays. The TSA advises arriving at the airport two hours before your flight for domestic travel and three hours for international travel in anticipation of long security lines. This can help ease the stress when navigating busy check-in areas, security lines and crowded boarding gates.

10. Relax and enjoy your flight

Once you're on board, it's time to sit back and enjoy your flight. Our flight attendants will be happy to help you with anything else you need.

Scroll to top