Just 200 miles away from Arctic Circle, the Fairbanks region is home to the finest in Alaska’s tourist sights and natural beauty spots. This city houses the vast University of Alaska Fairbanks campus and is home to a myriad of cultural and museum attractions. A number of state parks in the area offer wilderness adventures and all-year-round outdoor fun and unique cultural experiences are packed with activities for families.
1. Gold Panning Tours & Gold Rush History, Fairbanks
Fairbanks is a result of its gold-rush era that erupted in the Tanana Valley. Fairbanks has a proud history of history as a gold-rush city that you can read about by visiting the real Gold Dredge.
Go to Goldfields in Interior Alaska on an open-air train as you listen to the legends and lore of the time. The Gold Dredge 8 is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Gold Dredge 8 is an amazing mechanical marvel which is a massive device with a huge footprint that “walked” through the earth and sifted up the pay dirt. You can also scoop up your own gold by learning how to make gold pans.
Gold Dredge 8 Gold Daughters, and Chena Outdoor Collective provide panning adventures that guarantee gold and the excitement of finding a nugget. You can try your luck and you’ll be able to capture the excitement of gold and gain an understanding of the experience of being a first-timer in the remote setting.
2. The Water is Clear: Chena River Riverboat Discovery & Fishing
The Chena River winds through Fairbanks offering opportunities for easy strolls or a paddle. Enjoy a self-guided walk of the Chena Riverwalk’s 3.5-mile stretch that takes you through parks and museums as well as historic districts. It is also possible to find local kayaks, canoes as well as stand-up paddleboards for rent to enjoy an enjoyable paddle through the river’s twists and turns.
Between mid-May and mid-September from mid-May to late September, Riverboat Discovery offers a historical option to get off the Chena as the sole passenger on a traditional sternwheeler. The 3.5-hour excursion includes interesting stops that will teach you about mushing dogs, bush pilots, and Alaska Native culture. The tour also takes you towards the confluence of the Chena as well as the Tanana rivers in which the currents meet in a spectacular way.
Fairbanks and its surroundings, including lakes and rivers are also great places to fish your line. Anglers who are novices and veterans alike will appreciate a day out the Why Knot Adventures. You’ll catch, fish, and release trout, arctic char, burbot, and much more.
3. Museums & History
Discover what influences have formed the modern present Fairbanks as well as its fascinating history of gold mining as well as its pioneering spirit and extensive Alaska Native culture. In the Morris Thompson, the Cultural and Visitors Center is an excellent place to begin. It’s open all year long and offers information for public and visitor lands film screenings, as well as Athabascan cultural programs. Pioneer Park is home to museums and exhibits focused on mining and the early pioneers, along with transportation and industry.
The majority of them are closed during the winter months, but you can still walk around the park and discover the homes of pioneers that have been moved here, as well as the sternwheeler riverboat as well as a railcar. It is a delight to see the old designs and antique vehicles that are still in operation at the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum which is open all year round. More than 80 vehicles showcase the evolution of automobiles between 1898 and 1936.
The UA Museum of the North provides galleries of natural and cultural artifacts that span five different regions of Alaska and the largest public exhibit of gold.
4. Northern Lights
Fairbanks is among the most popular places to view Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights because it is located in the “Aurora Oval,” the zone over the northern reaches of the continent that is dominated by aurora activity. The weather affects the view and you should make sure to stay for at minimum three nights to have the best chances of seeing an amazing display. The official tours to view the Aurora provide information, tips for photography, and an opportunity to escape the city lights to enjoy the best view.
Take a break at Aurora Pointe Activity Center situated just outside Fairbanks and where you can go in and out at your own pace, relax by the warmth of the fire and warm your body with hot beverages. Also, take a dip in warm natural hot springs as you gaze at the northern lights at the popular local attraction Chena Hot Springs Resort. Combine a classic Alaska experience of fishing with northern light watching during an Aurora Ice Fishing tour.
Stay in an isolated camping lodge or a dome that has a clear roof. Also, you can travel by plane or car to remote Coldfoot which is located over the Arctic Circle, where crisp clear and clear skies create breathtaking aurora spectacles. Michael DeYoung offers a 6-day / five-night Aurora Winter Landscapes Tours with the possibility of taking pictures of the auroras in all their glory.
5. Dog Sledding
Dog teams were an integral part of travel through Alaska’s wintertime days and the tradition of mushing continues to be popular. Get yourself on a sled to witness the excitement of dogs working hard to go for a run. The tour guides are enthusiastic mushing mushers who enjoy the life and sport of mushing dogs. Black Spruce Dog Sledding is located about 45 minutes away from Fairbanks and offers tours of three to four hours. In the summer months, the dogs are pulling you in the five-passenger utility vehicle. In winter, you can enjoy beautiful trails through thick Black spruce woodland. Take a ride, or learn to drive the sled!
From November to March, Rod’s Alaska Guide Service provides dog sledding adventures throughout the Alaska wilderness. The options range from one-hour rides up to five hours of tours which could be combined with watching the aurora and ice fishing or both! The majority of Rod’s team members participated in these challenges, such as the Iditarod and Yukon Quest, so you’ll gain a better understanding of this sport that is unique.
Paws For Adventure which is run by musher Leslie G. Goodwin-Williams is among the longest-running dog tours in the region. They offer day tours but specialize in mushing-school tours as well as long-distance and overnight dogsled excursions that are based on the old Tolovana Roadhouse. They also offer camping on the trail!
Arctic Dog Adventure Co. offers the opportunity to go on hikes with dogs in the summer. When winter comes around, they offer mushing excursions that are multi-day and overnight including aurora viewing excursions sleeping in heated tents to hot springs, and the hut-to-hut experience.
6. Arctic Tours
Fairbanks is the ideal starting point from which to travel to the north of the Arctic Circle and take in the beauty and life of the northernmost regions. For a trip on yourself, take a rental SUV and take along the Dalton highway to the north, all the way towards Deadhorse/Prudhoe bay, which is situated on the shores of the Arctic Ocean.
The northernmost road offers stunning views, limited amenities, and endless adventures! (Plan for a 3-to-4-day rental for the entire trip). If you have shorter durations, Northern Alaska Tour Company provides a variety of choices to explore the Arctic such as buses, flights with guides, guided walks, scenic floats, as well as overnight trips. Fly to towns such as Anaktuvak Pass, where you’ll be able to learn about the life of the village living in the rural areas of Alaska. You can also fly into Coldfoot, Gates of the Arctic National Park as well as The Arctic Ocean.
7. Wildlife, Fairbanks
Interior Alaska has abundant wildlife with numerous viewing opportunities in Fairbanks. Find out more about muskoxen and reindeer on the campus of the university’s Large Animal Research Station (LARS), offering daily tours all year round.
Discover more about reindeer with the passionate and knowledgeable hosts of Running Reindeer Ranch. One hour of the tour allows you the chance to walk the animals, and even take photos with a small herd of reindeer.
China Outdoor Collective is located situated in The community known as Two Rivers just beyond Fairbanks Also, they offer reindeer visits. Enjoy a chat with the reindeer on an hour-long tour or take the more extended Taste of Two Rivers tour which includes a visit to the reindeer along with gold panning, and the husky dog sled display. Do you want to experience more reindeer? Opt for a hike with reindeer!
Take a trip on your way through the Fountainhead Wedgewood Wildlife Sanctuary or Creamer’s Field where more than 100 species of birds and mammals have been found in Fairbanks. The two are linked by numerous trails that take visitors through various habitats. Be on the lookout for foxes, flying squirrels, beavers, the snowshoe hare, and moose. Bird enthusiasts love spotting the sandhill crane, tundra swans as well as owls, kingfishers mallards, and many others.
8. Winter Wonderland
Being active outdoors in winter months is a normal life for Alaskans and is a lot of enjoyable! A variety of winter excursions take you out into the cold and fresh, crisp air for an exhilarating Alaska adventure. Sledding on the canine is a fantastic method to experience the thrill that Alaska dogs bring to each excursion. Their joy to get out on the trails is contagious!
You can also opt for modern winter vehicles or take an exciting snowmobile ride that places you in the driver’s seat, and explores trails through the forest as well as a frozen lake in Fairbanks. If you’re looking for a peaceful wander through the woods on your own, cross-country skiing is a very popular winter activity that’s an excellent workout. (There are a handful of local stores that can hire equipment.)
If you’re like the majority of travelers to Alaska fishing is a big attraction. Fishing on ice is quite different from sitting on the banks of a river. And it’s lots of enjoyable! Join the pros and you’ll be fishing for King salmon and rainbow trout, as well as grayling and much more, all from an exclusive ice fishing shelter.
9. Midnight Sun and Festivals, Fairbanks
Situated in the Interior part of Alaska, Fairbanks gets hotter and with more “summer-like” climate than many similar Alaska destinations. After the cold winter months, summer is a great time to enjoy long hours of sunlight and take advantage of the great outdoors! Midnight Sun ATV Tours provides an unforgettable tour to help you do exactly that. The evening tour isn’t scheduled to return until around 11:30 pm at night — which is dark at that point of the night, until about mid-August.
Vegetables and flowers grow to massive proportions in the sun’s long hours! Take a stroll through gardens like the Georgeson Botanical Garden or the area farmers’ markets and you’ll be able to see a lot of these amazing plants, particularly in the late summer. The garden is situated within the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus and is a wonderful oasis of alpine plants and trees, as well as shrubs, and plants. Find farmer’s markets that sell local vegetables as well as reindeer sausage, locally-produced art, and jaw-dropping huge fruit and vegetable gardens.
If you’re planning to visit town for Solstice day, you’ll be able to miss the light or the huge Midnight Sun Festival with crowds that can reach 30,000. The 12-hour celebration is jam-packed with performances, live music, and a variety of souvenirs and food items. Have a go in gold mining, cuddle dogs in sleds and cheer on those BBQ-cooking contestants.
10. Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum, Fairbanks
Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum is part of the 105-acre Wedgewood Resort, which also includes a wildlife sanctuary of 75 acres as well as a 2,000-acre sanctuary for waterfowl.
The museum chronicles the evolution of technology in automobiles and transport across the state and features more than 80 of the state’s most iconic automobiles, including the only ones that remain from the year 1920 Argonne and 1905 Sheldon Roundabout, the first automobile built in Alaska. Multimedia exhibits bring Alaska’s beginnings to life by showing the role of automobiles in shaping Alaska’s current landscape, such as the development of the Valdez-Fairbanks Trail as well as the Richardson Highway. An exhibit on vintage clothing showcases flapper dresses and fashionable attire from the 20th century’s beginning.
11. Running Reindeer Ranch
Running Reindeer Ranch offers one-of-a-kind excursions on the private Fairbanks ranch that showcases reindeer owned by a family. The experience at the ranch was the winner of the 2013 Jim and Mary Binkley Award. They have also been featured in international programs and magazines like The Washington Post, Conde Nast Traveller, and The Travel Channel.
Tours led by reindeer showcase a gorgeous boreal forest, complete with tour guides offering information on the region’s natural history as well as the lives of animals. The seasonal tours also showcase the aurora borealis of the region and the ranch’s organic vegetables and flower gardens. Light refreshments are provided to everyone who joins the reservation-only tour.
12. Morris Thompson Cultural & Visitors Center, Fairbanks
Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center was inaugurated in 2009 and was the culmination of a decade-long effort through The Fairbanks Convention and Visitors Bureau as well as The Alaska Public Lands Information Center as well as the Tanana Chiefs Conference. The center, which is named in honor of the civic and political leader Morris Thompson, serves as an information center for visitors to the inner Alaska region.
It is home to an array of interactive exhibits as well as cultural programs that are based on the region’s history of social and cultural diversity, with a particular emphasis on the indigenous communities of the region. The regular programming for culture at the center is a daily schedule of documentaries, performances, and demonstrations given by the local Athabascan artists. The center is also the central point for a variety of regional organizations, such as the Denakkanaaga Native Alaska Elders Organization as well as The Alaska Geographic Store, and the Tanana Chiefs Cultural Program.
13. McKinley Explorer, Fairbanks
McKinley Explorer is part of the largest dome railcar fleet in Alaska that is operated through Princess Cruises and Holland American Line. Ten McKinley Explorer cars carry a total of 88 passengers on the train’s higher-level dome sections. They offer stunning 360-degree views of the wilderness from dome windows on the roof and amenities like footrests as well as tray tables that fold down.
Tour guides provide comments on the scenic views from Anchorage to Denali National Park, a full trip lasting around eight hours. However, intermediate stops are also available to make shorter journeys. A restaurant and an outdoor viewing platform are at the lower level of the train and bar service is offered on the upper levels.
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