Fairbanks, Alaska is a fascinating destination known for its stunning natural beauty, rich history, and unique cultural experiences. Whether you’re planning a trip during the summer months or any other season, Fairbanks offers an abundance of activities and attractions to explore. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the best things to do in Fairbanks, Alaska, providing you with a memorable travel experience.
Explore the Outdoors
Fairbanks is surrounded by breathtaking natural landscapes, providing ample opportunities for outdoor adventures. Here are some must-visit outdoor attractions in and around Fairbanks:
1. Denali National Park
Embark on a thrilling hiking adventure in Denali National Park. Explore well-maintained trails that offer breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes and a chance to spot wildlife such as bears, moose, and caribou.
Take a wildlife viewing tour in Denali National Park to observe and learn about the diverse fauna that call this area home. Keep your eyes peeled for grizzly bears, wolves, Dall sheep, and more.
Drive along the park’s scenic roads and enjoy the spectacular views of Denali, North America’s tallest peak. The Denali Park Road offers stunning vistas and opportunities for wildlife sightings.
2. Chena Hot Springs
Relax in the natural hot springs at Chena Hot Springs, located about an hour and a half from Fairbanks. Experience the soothing and therapeutic properties of the geothermal waters while enjoying the surrounding wilderness.
Chena Hot Springs is also an excellent location for viewing the Northern Lights. Stay overnight in one of their accommodations and venture out during the night to witness the mesmerizing display of colors in the sky.
Engage in outdoor activities such as dog sledding, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing during the winter months at Chena Hot Springs. Experience the thrill of gliding across the snow-covered landscapes and explore the winter wonderland.
3. Dalton Highway
Embark on a scenic drive along the Dalton Highway, a famous road that stretches over 400 miles through the Alaskan wilderness. Marvel at the vast landscapes, rugged mountains, and pristine wilderness along the way.
Get a close-up view of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, an engineering marvel that transports oil from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez. Learn about its construction, history, and the role it plays in Alaska’s economy.
Keep an eye out for wildlife during your drive on the Dalton Highway. Look for caribou herds, foxes, birds of prey, and other animals that inhabit the area.
Discover Fairbanks’ Unique Attractions
Fairbanks is home to several attractions that showcase its rich history and unique cultural heritage. Here are some must-visit spots:
1. Pioneer Park
Explore the historic buildings at Pioneer Park, which replicate the early days of Fairbanks. Visit the cabin of renowned Alaskan dog musher Susan Butcher, the Captain E. T. Barnette Cabin, and other structures that tell the story of Fairbanks’ past.
Discover the diverse cultures of Alaska’s indigenous people at the Alaska Native Museum. Learn about their traditions, arts, and way of life through exhibits, artifacts, and interactive displays.
Take a ride on the Tanana Valley Railroad, a historic narrow-gauge railway that offers scenic views of the park. Enjoy a leisurely journey while learning about the region’s history and its connection to the railroad.
2. University of Alaska Museum of the North
Immerse yourself in the art and culture of Alaska at the University of Alaska Museum of the North. Explore the extensive collection of indigenous art, including sculptures, masks, and textiles that represent the rich cultural heritage of the region.
Discover the natural wonders of Alaska through exhibits that showcase the diverse ecosystems, geology, and wildlife of the state. Learn about the unique adaptations of Alaskan animals and the geological forces that have shaped the land.
Experience a captivating Northern Lights display inside the museum’s Aurora Borealis Theater. Watch the mesmerizing lights dance across the domed ceiling and learn about the science behind this natural phenomenon.
3. Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center
Start your Fairbanks adventure at the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center, where interactive exhibits provide insights into the local culture and history. Learn about the indigenous people, the Gold Rush era, and the region’s natural wonders.
Gather valuable information about local events, festivals, and activities from the knowledgeable staff at the visitors center. Get recommendations on the best places to eat, shop, and explore in and around Fairbanks.
Browse the gift shop for unique souvenirs, local artwork, and handcrafted items that showcase the talent of Alaskan artists and artisans.
Embrace Fairbanks’ Natural Wonders
One of the most awe-inspiring experiences in Fairbanks is witnessing the captivating Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis. Fairbanks is one of the best places in the world to view this celestial phenomenon due to its location within the Auroral Oval. To increase your chances of seeing the Northern Lights, plan your visit between September and April, when the nights are darker and the auroras are more visible.
1. Chena Lakes Recreation Area
Head to Chena Lakes Recreation Area, located just outside Fairbanks, for an ideal spot to witness the dancing lights of the Aurora Borealis. The dark skies and beautiful surroundings make it a popular destination for both locals and tourists.
Explore the recreation area during the day by engaging in activities such as hiking, fishing, canoeing, or picnicking. Enjoy the scenic beauty of the lakes and forests while keeping an eye out for local wildlife.
2. Aurora Borealis Lodge
For a truly immersive Northern Lights experience, consider staying at the Aurora Borealis Lodge. Located outside of Fairbanks, the lodge offers cozy accommodations where you can relax and enjoy unobstructed views of the night sky.
Join guided Aurora tours organized by the lodge, where experienced guides provide insights about the Northern Lights and help you capture stunning photographs. Witness the magical display of colors and learn about the science behind this natural phenomenon.
3. Aurora Ice Museum
Visit the Aurora Ice Museum, located at the Chena Hot Springs Resort, to admire stunning ice sculptures created by world-renowned ice artists. Marvel at the intricate details and the beauty of the frozen art pieces.
Step into the ice bar within the Aurora Ice Museum and enjoy a drink served in a glass made entirely of ice. Experience the unique ambiance and sip your favorite beverage in this extraordinary setting.
Enjoy Outdoor Adventures
Fairbanks is a playground for outdoor enthusiasts. From riverboat tours to dog sledding, here are some thrilling outdoor activities to consider:
1. Riverboat Discovery Tour
Embark on a memorable riverboat tour on the Chena River. The Riverboat Discovery takes you on a journey through Fairbanks’ history and culture, showcasing the unique lifestyle of its residents and offering a chance to see a working sled dog kennel.
As part of the Riverboat Discovery Tour, you’ll have the opportunity to visit Pioneer Park and explore its historical buildings and exhibits. Immerse yourself in the Gold Rush era and gain insights into the early days of Fairbanks.
Learn about the rich culture and traditions of the local Athabascan people through engaging demonstrations and presentations on the riverboat. Gain an appreciation for their way of life and the importance of the Chena River to their community.
2. Gold Dredge 8
Experience the excitement of gold panning at Gold Dredge 8. Learn about Fairbanks’ gold rush history, try your hand at panning for gold, and keep any gold flakes you find as a memento of your adventure.
Take a guided tour of an authentic gold dredge and see how gold was extracted from the ground during the early days of mining. Gain a deeper understanding of the challenges and rewards of gold mining in Alaska.
Watch a captivating gold-digging demonstration where experts showcase the techniques and tools used by miners to extract gold. Get a sense of the hard work and determination required to strike it rich.
3. Dog Sledding
Discover the thrill of dog sledding by taking a tour with experienced mushers and their team of sled dogs. You’ll not only enjoy the exhilarating ride but also learn about the fascinating history and traditions of this Alaskan mode of transportation.
Gain insights into the world-famous Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, known as “The Last Great Race on Earth.” Learn about the challenges faced by mushers and their dogs as they traverse the rugged Alaskan wilderness.
Get up close and personal with the sled dogs and learn about their training, care, and unique characteristics. These incredible animals are a crucial part of Alaskan history and culture.
4. Arctic Circle Adventures
Embark on a scenic flightseeing tour to the Arctic Circle and witness the breathtaking landscapes of Alaska’s remote northern region. Enjoy aerial views of the vast wilderness, glaciers, and maybe even spot wildlife from above.
Experience the thrill of crossing the Arctic Circle, a significant milestone for any adventurer. Take a photo at the marker and commemorate your journey to the northernmost regions of the planet.
During your Arctic Circle adventure, take the opportunity to explore the unique tundra landscapes and learn about the flora and fauna that thrive in this harsh environment. Gain a deeper appreciation for the beauty and resilience of the Arctic ecosystem.
Fairbanks, Alaska, is a destination that captivates visitors with its natural wonders, rich history, and unique cultural experiences. Whether you’re exploring the outdoors, discovering the city’s attractions, embracing its natural phenomena, engaging in outdoor adventures, enjoying free activities, or experiencing the different seasons, Fairbanks has it all.