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Exciting Things to Do in Fairbanks, Alaska

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Okay, let’s be honest: when you think “summer vacation,” Fairbanks will never be your first choice. It’s just another cold, dull, and dry city that no one likes to visit, especially in summer. That’s the common perception. On the contrary, Fairbanks combines outdoor adventure and city excitement. From heart-pumping outdoor activities to watching beautiful Northern lights, there are many things to do in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Want to know about them? Then read this blog because, after plenty of research, we have listed the most incredible things you should do when visiting Fairbanks. So, let’s explore what this city has to offer.

Fairbanks, Alaska: An Overview

Scenic view of Chena River
Image Source: iStock

Fairbank is located in the interior region of the state. Generally, it’s known for its beautiful scenery, cold winter nights, and unique culture. Being the second largest city, it serves as the region’s hub for transportation, commerce, and tourism. 

Moreover, it’s famous for its sparkle and glowing Northern lights display. You can enjoy various recreational opportunities, including fishing, hiking, and dog sledding. It’s also the home of the world-renowned research institution, the University of Alaska Fairbanks. 

Well, this was a brief introduction to the city. Now let’s learn about what things you can enjoy there.

Things to Do in Fairbanks in the Summer 

As discussed earlier, unlike other cities in Alaska, Fairbanks has much to offer its visitors. There are many activities you can enjoy there. Some of them include,

Go, Gold Panning

Gold Nugget Mining
Image Source: iStock

Fairbanks has a history with gold. Earlier, people used to rush here, hoping to find a fortune and get rich. Still, people celebrate that exciting time. If you want to learn more about it, check out Gold Dredge 8. It was a huge machine that was earlier used for digging gold. It has become a part of the National Register of Historic Places. 

You can also go for a fun train ride to learn everything cool about the old gold rush days if you want to try your luck and gold panning yourself. A few places in Fairbanks will teach you everything about it. Some of them even guarantee that you will find some for yourself. It’s just another way to get a feel for what it felt like to be a gold prospector.

Visit Chena River and Go for Boating

Floating Bridge at Chena River and a boat on the river bank
Image Source: iStock

The famous Chena River flows right through the Fairbanks. It’s located in the northeast of the city. In winter, the river froze and became a playground for outdoor enthusiasts. Tourists and natives enjoy ice fishing, ice skating, and snowmobiling on the river’s surface.

In the summers, you can explore the river by renting a kayak, canoe, or a standup paddleboard. You can also go for a riverboat ride. It’s approximately a 3.5-hour tour in which the guide will teach you about the native culture of Alaska, the history of the river, and sled dogs. They also show you the point where Chena and Tanana Rivers meet.

Visit Cultural Centers and Museums

Do you know what makes Fairbanks so special besides the outdoor adventures?  The rich Alaskan culture, strong pioneers who lived here, and, of course, gold panning. If you want to learn more about it, then there are many museums and cultural centers you can visit there, including:

Pioneer Park

Palace Theater ,Pioneer Park, Fairbanks
Image Source: iStock

Formerly known as Alaska land, this beautiful park was established in 1967 as a part of Alaska’s centennial celebration. It showcases the heritage and rich history of the state. The park features many exhibits and attractions, including the Alaskan Native Village, Pioneer Museum, and Gold Rush Town

Moreover, it offers a range of family-friendly entertainment options. You can go for a ride on the Tanana Valley Railroad or enjoy picnic and playground areas. 

Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center

Morris Thompson Cultural Center
Image Source: Tripadvisor

This cultural center plays a significant role in preserving and celebrating the cultural heritage of the natives of Alaska. It’s a renowned educational and cultural facility. The center features various displays and exhibits that demonstrate the history, culture, and heritage of the state, including the Inupiat, Athabascan, Aleut, and Yup ‘ik communities.

The center is home to an extensive collection of artifacts and artworks. The items preserved there include traditional clothing, baskets, tools, and carvings. The place speaks a lot about the people who lived there.

UA Museum of the North

University of Alaska Museum of the North
Image Source: iStock

Have you ever seen those big treasure chests that have a lot of cool and precious stuff stored in them? UA Museum of the North is just like that. It’s the institution that showcases the cultural and natural Alaskan heritage. From geological wonder and fossils of ancient animals like dinosaurs to contemporary artwork, you will find everything there. 

Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum
Image Source: Tripadvisor

Are you a fan of classic cars? This place is a must-see. It’s a museum that showcases antique automobiles. From vintage tucks to cars, you’ll find various early 20th-century vehicles. The best part? These vehicles are carefully preserved by the authorities to give visitors a glimpse of automotive design and engineering in the golden age.

Some of the antique vehicles preserved there include Cadillacs, Chevrolets, and Fords. There are a few lesser-known brands that played a significant role in automotive history. 

Witness the Beauty of the Northern Lights

Aurelia Borealis in Fairbanks. Alaska
Image Source: iStock

Remember the beautiful scene from the film, ‘The Proposal, ’ featuring Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock, in which the protagonists witness the magnificent northern lights while staying in a small cabin in a remote area of Alaska? Those were the northern lights seen in the Fairbanks. 

It’s definitely the ideal place in the world to see the colors dancing in the sky. However, if you don’t want to miss the show, then stay there for at least three nights as the weather in Alaska is unpredictable, and sometimes the clouds hide the show. 

For a better view, drive or fly to Coldfoot. It’s above the Arctic Circle. It’s a place where the sky is super clear, and it’s the best place to view the incredible northern lights. 

Dog Sledding

Dogs attached to a sled
Image Source: iStock

Have you played the game, ‘The Red Lantern’? It’s a game in which the player plays the role of the musher. He manages a team of sled dogs and competes in races on the snowy landscapes of Alaska.

Moreover, in the olden days, people of Alaska used it as a means of transportation, but today, it has become a popular recreational activity to enjoy in Fairbanks. You can also rent a dog sled and go for a ride yourself. 

From November to March, you can enjoy this activity. There are many dog sled guides in the area who are super experienced, and they can teach a lot of cool stuff about this sport. 

Artic Tours

A woman standing in a yacht in a sea
Image Source: iStock

The Arctic region in Alaska is a significant aspect of the city’s culture and identity. Fairbanks is the gateway to the Arctic. Even though Fairbanks is not located in the Arctic, it influences many aspects of it, including the culture, wildlife, and climate. The winters in Fairbanks are cold and long as the temperature drops below freezing point. 

During summer, the Arctic is serene and beautiful because you get 24 hours of light, which means you have enough time to enjoy all the outdoor adventures. It’s also home to many wildlife species, including whales, polar bears, and sea birds.

There are two ways to visit the Arctic Circle. You can either rent a car like a big SUV and drive to the Arctic Ocean. This whole trip will take up to 3 to 4 days. The view from there is amazing, but there aren’t many gas stations or food points, so prepare in advance. You can also book a tour to Artic via flights, bus, boat, or hikes. 

Wildlife

Moose Standing in a lake
Image Source: iStock

The wildlife in Fairbanks, Alaska, is majestic. You get the opportunity to view different kinds of species. The Creamer’s Field and the Wedgewood Wildlife Sanctuary are home to more than 100 species of mammals and birds. The two reserves are joined via trails that take you to the habitats of the wildlife. 

During your trip, keep an eye out for species like flying squirrels, beavers, foxes, snowshoe hares, and moose. There are many birds, too, which you can spot, such as kingfishers, tundra swans, sandhill cranes, mallards, owls, and many others.

Events and Festivals in Summers

Midnight Sun Festival in Fairbanks, Alaska
Image Source: iStock

Compared to other destinations in Alaska, summers in Fairbanks are quite hot. After chilly winters, summer is the time to celebrate and enjoy all the activities that were not able to because of the harsh winter. 

The Midnight Sun Festival is a joyous event celebrated to welcome the summers in full swing. This 12-hour festival is packed with hundreds of delicious food stalls, lively live performances, and loud music. You can enjoy many recreational activities such as sled dog petting, gold panning, and participating in BBQ cooking competitions. 

Don’t forget to try out the local farmer’s market. There, you’ll find the most organic veggies.

Fishing on the Riverside

A man fishing beside a river
Image Source: iStock

 Fishing in Fairbanks offers a fantastic chance to experience the beauty of Alaska. There are a variety of fish to catch, such as several types of salmon like King, Silver, or Chum, as well as feisty Rainbow Trout, Dolly Varden, or even lake trout. The beautiful Arctic Grayling is also abundant and fun to catch. Other potential catches include Northern Pike, burbot, and different whitefish species.

The Chenna River in Fairbanks is home to different species like salmon, grayling, trout, and pike fishing. The larger Tanana River is excellent for salmon and other species. You’ll also find many lakes around Fairbanks, both naturally formed and stocked, where you can fish for trout, grayling, and occasionally salmon.

For those who are visiting as tourists, it’s best to hire a local guide as they can teach you the right techniques to catch the fish, and you’ll find plenty of salmon during the summers (June to August). In contrast, other fishes like trout, grayling, and pike are available throughout the summer and till fall. 

Other Activities to Enjoy in Fairbanks, Alaska

If we start discussing each activity in detail, then this blog will never end, so to save up your time, here’s a list of other activities you can enjoy when visiting Fairbanks:

Snowmobiling: Explore the spruce forests of Alaska and take a snowmobile tour.

A man riding a snowmobile
Image Source: iStock

Chena Hot Spring Resort: Visit the most desired attraction in Alaska and soak up the natural geothermal hot springs of the world.

People enjoying in the Chena Hot Spring Resort
Image Source: Alaska.org

Running Reindeer Ranch: Get closer to nature and witness the majestic flying creatures of Fairbanks yourself. 

A man petting a reindeer in Running Reindeer Ranch
Image Source: Tripadvisor

Santa Claus House: 20 minutes drive from Fairbanks, this is the official Santa house, which has been turned into a beautiful holiday shop. The store has a lot to offer.

Usra Major Distilling: This distilling is known as the first legal distillery opened in Fairbanks. You can enjoy different beverages there, including rum, akavit, canned cocktails, mocktails, spirits, vodka, and whiskeys. 

Wickersham Dome Trails: These majestic mountains are part of the White Mountains National Recreation Area. From there, you can see panoramic mountain views. They are located on the Eliot highway, 28 miles away from Fox. The tail consists of a Ski Loop Trail and a Summit trail. There are more than 200 trails in the area for different skill levels and training. 

Wickersham Dome Trails, Alaska
Image Source: Alaska.org

Tabletop Mountain Trail: Like the Wickersham Dome trails, this trail is also located in the White Mountains National Recreation Area. The trail is moderately difficult to hike. You can spot various creatures there, like bears, moose, caribou, birds, and marmots. 

Table Top Mountain Trail , Alaska
Image Source: Alaska.org

Chena Riverwalk: This river walk is a paved path in Fairbanks. It’s a great place for the sidewalk, but you can also take a stroll on the bike because it’s paved. 

Chena Riverwalk
Image Source: Alaska.org

Tips to Note When Visiting Fairbanks, Alaska

A woman on an airport holding tickets
Image Source: iStock

Packing additional layers: The weather in Alaska is highly unpredictable, so be sure to pack extra layers so that if the weather changes drastically, you are prepared. Pack warm clothes, comfortable shoes, and rain gear.

Beware of the wildlife: Alaska is home to animals like moose and bears. So, stay alert in case of an encounter with any wildlife species, act calmly, and don’t run.

Plan in advance: If you want to enjoy all the recreational activities, plan your whole trip in advance. You can visit the Visitor Center in Fairbanks to get more useful information. Also, book your hotels in advance if you’re planning to visit in the summer.

Other tips:

  • Always carry a bug spray in your bag. 
  • Try out the live seafood here. 
  • Alaska is expensive compared to other states in the US, so plan your budget accordingly.
  • Always pack light. Pack versatile and essential clothing instead of bringing everything to the kitchen sink.
  • Always check the weather conditions before driving to nearby areas to avoid disruptions.

Bottom Line

Chena River, Fairbanks
Image Source: iStock

As now we have reached the end of this blog, we hope you will find it useful and enjoyable. As Fairbanks is the state’s largest city, there are many things to enjoy there as a tourist. 

If you plan to visit Fairbanks, plan your itinerary beforehand so you won’t miss out on any special activity. If you want us to explore other cities in Alaska, do let us know. Also, we have published a special category of blogs covering other aspects of Alaska, so ensure to check them out. 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is Fairbanks, Alaska, worth visiting?

Yes, Fairbanks is worth visiting. You should check out many destinations for thrill and adventure, including Northern Lights, Midnight Sun, Hiking, Ice fishing, Dog Sledding, and more.

2. Is Fairbanks, Alaska, a cheap holiday destination?

Fairbanks is an expensive destination to visit on holidays. The cost of accommodation, restaurants, recreational activities, and transportation is usually higher in the summer season.

3. How many days should you spend in Fairbanks, Alaska?

Your visit to Fairbanks should be at least three to five days. This much time is enough to enjoy different activities.

4. Why is Fairbanks popular?

Fairbanks is famous for various reasons. It’s a fantastic base 4 viewing the Northern Lights and a gateway to outdoor experiences. It showcases the culture and heritage of the state and people who used 2 live here in the 20th century. 

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