You’re Here, Now What? A Guide to Fairbanks, Alaska

Welcome to Fairbanks—the great Alaskan community where nearly 100,000 residents can, on any given day, step out their front doors and into a thousand paintings and postcards.

Beyond the Chena River to the south you can see mountains—the Alaska Range’s epic peaks standing tall within the legendary Denali National Park.  To the north, the mighty Yukon River snakes by the White Mountains, sandwiching Fairbanks in a wilderness unparalleled elsewhere in the United States.

Despite the fact that the year’s snowpack is established by mid-October and the nighttime lows can reach negative-25 degrees in winter, there is no shortage of ways to get your blood boiling out in The Last Frontier.

  • Hiking and backpacking – Just 150 miles away is Denali National Park, home to Mt. McKinley (also called “Denali”), North America’s highest peak at 20,237 feet. In ancient history, the park was home to mammoths, which feasted on what were predominately grasslands. Now, tundra has taken over, the mammoths are buried, and humans climb and slide around the enormous glacial playground best reached by air taxis. Forget a walk on the beach—this is real adventure. Campers can also whet their appetite in the numerous public parks that surround Fairbanks, including the Chena River State Recreation Area and Tanana Valley State Forest.

  • Stargazing and bird watching – The aurora borealis, or the northern lights, can be seen as many as 200 nights a year around Fairbanks. Pack some coffee, moose jerky, and a comfortable chair and find a spot in one of the many public parks around Fairbanks to relax and enjoy one of nature’s most colorful dreams. Or, grab your binoculars and head to Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge to catch some graceful gliders and winged wanderers. The new Sandhill Crane Festival takes place the final weekend in August.

  • The Yukon Quest – Billed as the “toughest race in the world,” the 1000-mile sled dog race between Fairbanks and Whitehorse, Yukon, pits competitors against the world’s most extreme elements—and each other.

Fairbanks is also home to many unique attractions and festivals that you simply won’t find in other regions around the world, much less the rest of the country.

  • The Golden Days Festival – For five days each year, the city’s biggest festival includes The Golden Days Parade, Can-Can shows, a half-marathon, a rubber ducky race, a traditional gold dredge, street fair and variety shows. Oh, and everyone gets dressed in Wild West gear or Victorian-era clothing.

  • The El Dorado Gold Mine – The 110-year-old historical point-of-interest offers several tours a day from May to September. Visitors will see firsthand why so many gold miners traveled by steamboat to the Great White North in the early 20th century.
  • The Riverboat Discovery – Speaking of steamboats, here’s another May through September attraction. Visitors and locals alike can hop aboard real sternwheelers and cruise the waters around Fairbanks. Take a ride and see what it was like to be Captain E.T. Barnette—the man who founded Fairbanks in 1901 after his steamboat ran aground and he set up an outpost at the behest of local prospectors. But don’t worry; steamboats have come a long way in the past 110 years.

If you haven’t satisfied your appetite for adventure already, check out the competitive and recreational sporting leagues the locals have established to round out the hours of the day.

  • Cross-country skiing – The Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks is highly active in hosting races and other events, such as the annual Sonot Kkaazoot 50k and 20k cross-country ski race, skiathalons, junior championships and multiple other series and individual races.
  • Roller derby – The Fairbanks Rollergirls (“Derby with a heart of COLD”) is a nonprofit amateur sports team owned and operated by the girls themselves. Strap on your skates and pads and let loose—right after you pick the kids up from ski practice.

Fairbanks also provides families the opportunity to learn about The Last Frontier while having a great time. The Pioneer Air Museum and Fairbanks Ice Museum, hot air balloon rides, recreation centers and parks are just a few fun things to do. Also think about ice fishing, hunting, snowmobiling, sledding, the list goes on. Get in touch with your inner child and play in the biggest playground you’ve ever seen.

So, If you’re looking for a place where you can experience year-round adventures on glaciers and mountains, Fairbanks is that place.

Or maybe you want a calm spot to build a snowman with your kids before lounging in front of the fireplace. Still, Fairbanks is calling your name.

Whatever brings you The Golden Heart City, you’re sure to find two things: a city with gold at its heart, and a city with a heart of gold.