You’re lucky enough to visit Alaska’s second-largest city – situated at the gateway to Alaska’s interior – but maybe you don’t have time to wander the backcountry. Even if you’ve only got a day to spend in this historic, culturally vibrant town, here are a few of the can’t miss activities you’ll want to plan while you’re staying in Fairbanks.
Pan for gold
It’s a requirement, right? If you visit a place that’s built on Gold Rush history, this is one of the best ways to get a feel for the fever that attracted droves of settlers and passers-through. Gold Dredge 8 lets you explore the gold fields of the Tanana Valley, ride aboard narrow-gauge railroad cars, tour the dredge, and try your hand at gold panning. Whatever gold you find, you get to keep! Your tour also will give you a close-up view of the TransAlaska Pipeline.
Riverboat Discovery Cruise
If you have limited time in Fairbanks, this is one of the best activities to get a sampling of the best of Alaska. This 5-hour cruise takes you up the scenic Chena and Tanana rivers on board a historic sternwheeler. You’ll see a bush pilot taking off and landing along the river, and you’ll get to stop at the home of an Iditarod champion and see a sled dog demonstration. You’ll also learn about Athabascan Native culture at a village replica. It’s a great way to get a taste of Alaska culture and history. Departures are at 8:15 and 12:30 p.m., so it’s a perfect way to spend either your morning or afternoon in Fairbanks.
Visit sled dogs
If a riverboat cruise isn’t your thing, you can still get to know these dynamic dogs on your own. Numerous outfits offer tours of sled dog kennels, some with classes in mushing and demonstrations in dog sledding. Some of these amazing canines have run the challenging 1,000-mile Anchorage-to-Nome race. And they still have time to greet their fans. The Fairbanks Convention & Visitors Bureau lists area kennels that welcome the public.
Check out the wildlife
Likely, you’ll get a chance to see some of the large wildlife that makes Alaska individual, considering that about 16,000 moose live in and around Fairbanks. But to guarantee seeing other large critters, you might want to stop by the University of Alaska’s Large Animal Research Station. You can have a naturalist tour and see musk ox, caribou, and reindeer. Just don’t get in the way when the musk ox decide to butt heads.
Have a cold one at the ice bar
The Chena Hot Springs & Ice Museum let you experience Alaska’s extremes, no matter when you visit. Sip an appletini in a glass made of ice while sitting on a bar stool made of ice in a museum of sculptures carved from more than 1,000 tons of ice. After a little while, you’ll be glad that the property is also home naturally heated geothermal springs. Get rid of the chill by sliding into the hot water.
You’ve spent the day exploring, and now it’s time for the big show: northern lights. You might have a chance to see them while soaking in the hot springs, or you can venture out to find another viewing spot. Fairbanks is one of the best places in the world to view this magical display, and your chances of seeing them are highest in the fall, winter and spring when the nights are longer. One of the favorite places to view the lights is from Ester Dome, giving you an unobstructed view of this solar phenomenon.
Looking for more ideas while you’re staying in Fairbanks for the day? Ask the knowledgeable staff at the Westmark Fairbanks Hotel for their favorite must-see stops in before you have to pack up and say goodbye.