If you are visiting Alaska, Fairbanks is a destination that has to be on your list. Whether you want to relax in hot springs, or take part in more adventurous activities, Fairbanks has a plenty to offer! Without further ado, here are my top 10 things to do in Fairbanks!
Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitor Centre
The Fairbanks visitor center is a great way to get introduced to the city. The center is free to visit, and you can walk around the various exhibits that talk about the native Alaskan way of life. You can also talk to the very helpful staff there to plan out your visit and get great recommendations for things to do. While you’re there, don’t forget to stop by the antler arch for a photo op!
Riverboat Discovery Cruise
If you want to enjoy a great introduction to the history and culture of this region of Alaska, taking a riverboat cruise down the Chena river is a wonderful way to do so. The riverboat discovery is a local, Alaskan owned business, and the family has been running it for five generations. On this three hour tour, you will enjoy a relaxed sail down the river and see an Alaskan bush pilot take off and land on the water. You will also sail past the Trail breaker kennel (home of Susan Butcher, a 4 time winner of the famous Iditarod). Finally you get to enjoy a guided tour of a native Athabascan village. If you’re short on time, this is a perfect way to experience the highlights of what Fairbanks has to offer.
Enjoy Thai food
Fairbanks has a surprisingly large number of Thai restaurants for its population. Going all the way back to the 1980s and the Gold rush, has attracted people from Thailand. Now, Thai restaurants flourish in the community, and no trip to Fairbanks can be complete without a Thai meal. We ate at Lemongrass Thai, and the food was absolutely delicious!
Watch the northern lights
If you are visiting Fairbanks, there is a high chance that you are coming to see the Northern lights. In order to maximize your chances of seeing the beautiful light display, try to stay for at least three nights, which gives you a 90% chance of catching it. You will also want to ensure that you are visiting at the right time of the year and avoid the summer months. Longer daylight hours and shorter nights means you are much less likely to see the aurora in the summer. Most of the hotels in Fairbanks offer an aurora wake up call service, so you won’t have to stay up all night.
Chena Hot springs and Aurora Ice Museum
What better way to unwind on vacation than by soaking in some hot springs? The Chena hot springs resort gives you the opportunity to do just that! You can either stay at the resort to experience the various activities and have access to the hot springs, or you can buy a day pass for about $15 on site. Make sure you bring plenty of quarters for the lockers!
The other famous attraction at this site is the Aurora ice musuem. This is world’s largest year-round ice environment, and you can get a tour of all the various ice sculptures. Don’t worry about the cold though, as parkas are provided before you enter. Note that tickets can sell out fast, so make sure to book in advance.
Experience Dog Sledding
Huskies are a vital part of Alaskan life, especially away from the cities. Even today, dog sleds are a vital way to transport people and goods in the interior during the winter months. You can experience the feeling of being pulled along on one of the multiple tours that are available. In the winter, when snow is on the ground, is the best for an authentic experience. However, no need to fret if you are visiting in the summer, as dog carting gives you the same thrill without the snow!
Visit Pioneer park
Pioneer park is a historic village, built to commemorate 100 years of the purchase of Alaska from Russia. The park showcases the history of Fairbanks with shops, museums and artifacts such as a historic sternwheeler and an operational narrow gauge train. Take a step back into the days of the gold rush as you wander around the park! The park itself is free to enter, though some of the museums charge a small fee for looking around.
Dinner at Salmon bake
Right next to Pioneer park is one of Fairbanks most famous restaurants: the Alaska Salmon Bake. Loved by both locals and tourists alike, this is the place to go if you like seafood. Be sure to get there early to avoid long lines, as they don’t take reservations.
Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum
I did not expect Fairbanks to have such an extensive collection of antique automobiles. However, the Fountainhead museum houses over 90 pre WWII classics. Even if, like me, you are not an auto enthusiast, this place is worth a visit. Here, you can see the first automobiles that were used in the region. You can also read all about the challenges that needed to be overcome, and how it was vital to the development of Alaskan tourism. In addition to learning about the fascinating history of Alaskan transport, the museum also houses the most extensive vintage fashion collection in the Pacific Northwest.
Experience the great outdoors
Even if you aren’t a particularly outdoorsy person, you will likely find a pull to be one in the great Alaskan wilderness. Be it hiking, fishing or simply enjoying a leisurely scenic drive, make sure that you set aside time to take it all in.
Have more time?
If you have extra time in Fairbanks, there is more to do! Take a short drive to the town of North Pole, and visit the Christmas store that is open year-round. You can also take a short flight to the Arctic Pole, if you are so inclined.
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