Fairbanks, Alaska – Perfect viewing platform for the Northern Lights
Fairbanks is considered the “Golden Heart City” of Alaska. There is a lot of history within Fairbanks and it is the largest city within the interior of Alaska. Even though the population is about thirty-two thousand, people from all over the world come and experience Fairbanks in new ways. At the old Gold Dredge No. 8, you can experience Gold Rush era and pan for gold, just as people would have done then. The town’s gold-mining heritage is beautifully represented at the University of Alaska Museum. Alaskaland Pioneer Park, a Wild West-style theme park, recreates early Fairbanks and includes a replica of a Native American village. Fairbanks is a starting point for some great wild adventures, such as the scenic 160-mile Steese Highway Drive or the McKinley Explorer train that runs to Denali National Park and Anchorage. For instant adrenaline rush and outdoor experience you can choose either to hike, mountain bike, canoe, cross-country ski or take a slow river-float trip while others can relax on a river cruise aboard an authentic sternwheeler riverboat.
What to See and Do
A majority of people visit Fairbanks in the summer when parts of Alaska get nearly or more than 22 hours of functional daylight. This is why Alaska is also known as “Land of the Midnight Sun”; (make sure to bring a sleeping mask!). In the far north of Alaska, this phenomenon goes to extremes. In the town of Barrow, the sun rises early on a May morning and won’t set again until the beginning of August. Considering the sun is out all the time, the northern lights are very rare to be seen; which is why many tourist come back in the middle of winter. Fairbanks serves as the perfect viewing platform for the Aurora Borealis, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. In Fairbanks, the Aurora season, begins in mid-August and continues through the spring. Whether it is summer or winter, natural hot springs are always popular spots with tourists. Nearby there are cabins for rental, an ice museum with a bar, horseback riding and several hiking trails. If you are lucky, you may get to see a moose during hiking.
Alaska has animals everywhere. To be guaranteed to see some, the University of Alaska, Fairbanks has a research farm where there are reindeers, musk ox and caribou. They offer tours to go in and see the animals closer, which is fun for all ages. Birds are migrating the whole summer to Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge including geese, herons, swallows, and much more. Most noticeable of the migratory birds visiting the sanctuary are sandhill cranes, mallard ducks and Canada geese. They are easy to see and the area has a lot of nice trails waiting to be explored. The bird sanctuary is located within the city limits of Fairbanks and consists of wetlands, fields, and forests.
Food and Restaurant
Fairbanks has no dearth of good restaurants and some of the favorites with locals are Ivory Jacks, Big Daddy’s BBQ and the Chowder House. Ivory Jacks is a bit of a drive to what seems to be the middle of nowhere and it definitely hosts mainly locals. It offers great American food and has a huge bar. You will be mesmerized at all the wall décor while you wait for your food. They do have gluten free items with a separate part of the kitchen for that too. Big Daddy’s BBQ is located downtown, and be sure to try the Cowboy Sundae. The Chowder House is a local spot for really good soups, salads, and sandwiches, and it’s also close to downtown. For some great food you can head to Pita Place for amazing pita, Bad 2 Da Bone for great smoked BBQ, The Crepery for delicious crepes. You can taste authentic Thai and Asian food at Thai House Restaurant and Fuji Japanese Restaurant. Chatanika Lodge is an amazing place to enjoy your food while watching Northern Lights.
The culture in Fairbanks is different than what one may find in the lower forty-eight and there are definitely a lot of individuals. Fairbanks definitely needs a few days to explore because there is so much to do, and even more in the nearby areas like the North Pole.