The Land of the Midnight Sun is famous for its stunning nature. Not only do these natural wonders define the city, but Fairbanks is also the doorway to discovering the beautiful remote-country of Alaska.
Travel to Fairbanks to get first-hand experience of the rich Native Alaskan heritage. The town provides endless opportunities for authentic Alaskan activities, cultural exploration, and Santa!
1. Travel Like an Alaskan
If you haven’t tried dogsledding, then Fairbanks is the best place to do so. Hop aboard a dogsled to be towed five miles of snowy trails by spirited dogs.
You can also dog sled without snow. In Fairbanks, you can take a ride on ATVs and mush through the extraordinary fall landscape (there are both Morning Excursions and Evening Excursions to choose from).
For an intimate dog sledding experience, look no further! With just your guide and a small group for company, you’ll get to know the huskies and malamutes up close and personal. Then You’ll learn basic commands and finally get to try your hand at dog sledding along a 4-5 mile trail. Of course, you’ll walk away with plenty of souvenir photos!
Address: 2270 Hattie Creek Rd, Fairbanks
Hours: By reservation
Cost: Excursions start at $179
2. Take a History Tour
A visit to Fairbanks won’t be complete without exploring the unique past of this wonderful town. You can book a city highlight tour, or you can make your own itinerary.
An excellent place to start is the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center to introduce the city’s prolific history and culture. The center provides information about the town, its history, and the indigenous people in Tanana Valley.
Visit the famed Museum of the North to discover Alaskan Native cultures, 2,000 years of art, diverse wildlife, and natural wonders, including Arctic dinosaurs.
I recommend taking this tour, it’s the most complete one I know of. It’s packed with sightseeing and interesting (and some funny) information, and as a bonus it has the Badge of Excellence from Viator. Click here for more up-to-date information and for pricing.
Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center
Address: 101 Dunkel St, Fairbanks
Hours: Jan 2 – May 29, Open Mon – Sat, 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM
May 30 – December 31: Open daily, 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Closed New Year’s, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day
Cost: Admission is always free.
Museum of the North
Address: 1962 Yukon Dr, Fairbanks
Hours: August 22 – May 21, Open daily, 10:00 AM – 5:30 PM
May 22 – August 20: Open daily, 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM
Closed New Year’s, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day
Cost: $9 to $16
3. Enjoy the Northern Lights or the Midnight Sun
It doesn’t matter what time of the year you visit Fairbanks. You are sure to see either nearly endless hours of daylight or experience the fantastic aurora borealis amidst clear and dark skies.
These two highlights are highly unique to Fairbanks. From May to the beginning of August, you get to experience all night daylight. During fall, winter, and early spring, you can enjoy the Northern Lights.
You’ll want to sign up for one of these amazing tours. Choose between the ‘Incredible Aurora Viewing Adventure‘ for the best and the most complete experience, or this cheaper option for a shorter tour (but you’ll have less time to enjoy the Aurora). Whichever you choose, you’re sure to be in for a treat!
4. Go Flightseeing
You can catch a scenic flight from Fairbanks and fly above the Arctic Circle. You’ll see the village of Fort Yukon and learn how the Athabascans thrive in a punishing environment of the stark Arctic terrain. You will explore Prudhoe Bay, Coldfoot, and other regions.
The midnight sun will illuminate your one-hour trip as you learn about subsistence, the historic 85-degrees-below zero winter, and the successful expedition to Mt. McKinley summit. If you’re lucky, you can spot local wildlife.
5. Enjoy the Chena Hot Springs
If you happen to schedule a trip to Fairbanks during winter, be sure to do some soaking in the famous Chena Hot Springs. They have an outdoor and indoor pool.
Swimming costs $12 for kids aged 6-17, $15 for adults, and $13 for seniors. Children aged 5 and below, accompanied by an adult, can swim for free. The resort also offers arctic circle flight tours, dog sled rides, equipment, gear rental, and other fun activities.
I recommend booking a relaxing day trip and enjoy the 60-mile picturesque ride to Chena. The tour includes admissions to the hot springs as well as to the Ice Museum.
Address: Mile 56.5 Chena Hot Springs Road, Fairbanks
Hours: Open all year-round
Cost: $12 to $140
6. Chill out at the Aurora Ice Museum
While you’re at Chena Hot Springs, take time to visit the Aurora Ice Museum and see incredible ice sculptures. The museum is open all year round and costs $15 for adults and $10 for kids to visit. For an additional $15, you can enjoy a cocktail or two served in a martini ice glass from the dimly lit, extremely cool Aurora Ice Bar.
Or you can take a Chena package that includes admission to the Hot Spring and the Ice Museum, as long as the transfer from Fairbanks.
This would be my recommendation actually to save time and avoid planning/transfer headaches. Click here for more details and pricing.
Address: 17600 Chena Hot Springs Rd, Fairbanks
Hours: 11 am – 7 pm
Cost: $10 to $15
7. Go on a Riverboat Discovery Cruise
Take a voyage on a classic Chena sternwheeler and get to know the life and culture of the indigenous Athabascans. Through the decades, these mighty sternwheelers have connected distant communities and built new ones by hauling passengers and freight along the big Alaskan rivers.
The stately riverboats with open-air seating now take visitors on 3-hour tours along the Chena River. Part of the cruise is a walking tour of the Chena Native Village led by Indigenious Alaskan tour guides. Explore the village on your own and see caches, spruce cabins, smokehouses, and various crafts made by Athabascans.
Address: 1975 Discovery Dr, Fairbanks
Hours: May 29 – September 6|
Cost: $42.95 to $69.95, Kids under 2 are free
8. View the Trans-Alaska Pipeline
The 48-inch diameter TransAlaskan Pipeline winds through 800 miles of wilderness and along three major mountain ranges in the country. There are opportunities to view and photograph the famous pipeline along Steese, Richardson, and Dalton Highways.
The formal viewpoint is 140 miles from Fairbanks at Milepost J 56, the BLM Yukon River Crossing Visitor Contact Station. Some city tours include a round-trip transport to see the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and provide an informative guide on its construction and history.
It is a remarkable engineering landmark. Imagine millions of dollars of black gold flowing through the pipes every hour, coursing through earthquake zones, permafrost, rivers, and mountain ranges.
The Trans-Alaska Pipeline is included in this tour that I talked about earlier in this article. Taking the tour is a good way to visit multiple interesting places in one day. More info and pricing here.
Address: BLM Yukon River Crossing Visitor Contact Station, Milepost J 56
Hours: Open Year Round
9. Mine for Gold
Get on an original narrow-gauge train and travel to Gold Dredge 8. The frontier city of Fairbanks was founded following the gold rush boom in the early 1900s. The attraction is very touristy, but an exceptional place to learn about the town’s history and mining.
You can see numerous mining equipment ranging from very traditional ones to the most modern devices. A tour offers a short course discussing the history of the dredge and gold panning. If you try your hand at gold panning, you can even bring the gold you find.
If you visit during the summer you can also take this tour which visits an Iditarod dog kennel to learn about sled dogs and reindeer, and then participate in a 45 minutes gold panning experience.
Address: 1803 Old Steese Hwy N. Fairbanks
Hours: May 9 – September 6
Cost: $31 to $50, Kids under 3 are free
10. Celebrate the History of Fairbanks
Pioneer Park is an assembly of historical edifices, artifacts, and recreation that celebrate and preserve the unique history of Fairbanks. It is open all year long, but it is best visited during the summer, so you can walk around the park grounds on a self-guided tour.
There is no admission fee to visit the park. Children can enjoy the Bear Art Gallery, outdoor playground, and carousel. Pioneer Park is on the south bank of Chena River, lined with shops and food stalls.
There are museums and recreational activities that charge a nominal fee. You can also bring your pets; if you have an RV, dry camping is available for $12.00 per night.
Address: 2300 Airport Way, Fairbanks
Hours: 12 pm to 8 pm
11. Enjoy an Auto Museum
Even if you are not a car enthusiast, you will enjoy visiting the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum. You will be impressed by the immaculately perfect restoration of a significant number of vintage cars. It is one of the top five attractions in Fairbanks.
It takes visitors from the Victorian era through Art Deco with its collection of antique automobiles, period fashions, exciting exhibits, stories, archival videos, and photographs.
Address: 212 Wedgewood Dr, Fairbanks
Hours: May 23 – mid-September, open 7 days a week, 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM
September 16 – mid-April, Sundays and Wednesdays, 12:00 AM to 4:00 PM
Cost: $9 to $15, Kids under 5 are free
12. View Wildlife
On Creamer’s Refuge, various wildlife live in the wetlands, ponds, forests, and open fields. The venue is not just a safe habitat but also well-suited for public uses such as research, nature education, and wildlife viewing.
The tiny outpost used to function as a dairy back in the 1920s, but when it went up for sale in 1966, people raised money to preserve the place to protect the wildlife.
Address: 1300 College Rd, Fairbanks
Hours: The Farmhouse Visitor Center is open Monday through Friday from 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Saturday from 12:00 PM – 4:00 PM; the guided nature walks are available Tuesdays and Thursdays at 1:00 PM
Cost: Free. Donations are encouraged.
13. Take a Trip to Denali National Park
Denali National Park operates in two distinct seasons: summer and winter. If you visit during the summer, you can go on organized tours, bike, and camp.
Because it’s a two-hour drive from Fairbanks (this shuttle service is great), I highly recommended to spend at least one night in Denali. You can check into a hotel in the area like this highly-rated one or go camping.
Spending some nights there will allow you to make the most of your Denali National Park visit. Here are some activities you can engage with during your stay:
- Rafting on the Nenana river
- Wilderness ATV Adventure
- Denali Park Zipline Adventure
- Horse-Drawn Covered Wagon Ride with Backcountry Dining
- Backcountry Photo Excursion by Helicopter
- and many more …
If it’s not possible to spend the night there, make a day trip to visit the park entrance area, dog kennels, the visitor center, and go hiking at Mount Healy. If you visit during the winter, the park road and all the facilities are closed, but you can still walk around a bit or cross-country ski. A ranger is available from 9 AM to 4 PM daily (except on major holidays).
Address: Parks Highway, Denali National Park, and Preserve, Entrance at Mile 237, Highway 3
Hours: 9:30 am to 5 pm
Cost: $10 to $50
14. See the Musk Oxen
If you are in Fairbanks during the summer, don’t forget to drop by the Large Animal Research Station (LARS) at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The LARS maintains various animals for research and educational projects such as biomedical principles and sciences, behavior nutrition, energetics, teaching wildlife protocols, and Alaskan agriculture.
The most visited attraction is the musk oxen farm. The musk ox is considered an ice-age relic that roamed the tundra thousands of years ago. A guided tour for $10 per person is recommended to learn more about the musk ox’s unique arctic adaptations.
Address: 2220 Yankovich Road, Fairbanks
Hours: For Winter Season, tours are offered Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday at 12 PM.
15. Visit Santa’s Home in the North Pole
Check out The Santa Claus House and get a load of Alaskan souvenirs, Christmas gifts, toys, and collectibles. Located 14 miles from Fairbanks, the icon of Christmas boasts of a giant Santa Claus in the front of his well-decorated gingerbread-style house in the community of North Pole, Alaska.
The Miller family continues the Santa Claus House family tradition that started over 65 years ago, answering children’s letters and sending Christmas cheer. You can check out reindeer while you are enjoying an espresso from Santa’s Coffee.
Address: 101 St. Nicholas Drive North Pole
Hours: Open Daily 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM; November 24, December 24, and 31: 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Closed: January 1, 2, 3, Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, December 26 and 27
After visiting the red old man’s house, you can engage in a snowmobile adventure just nearby to explore the region and encounter Alaskan wildlife. Check out this page for more info and for pricing details.
16. Walk with Reindeer
Walk with reindeer at the Running Reindeer Ranch. The place offers guided walking tours with reindeer along the beautiful Boreal Forest. You can watch them stroll lazily beside you or leap and bound among the trees.
You can even stay the night in a chalet with porch views at the Reindeer House to make the most of your visit.
Address: 1470 Ivans Alley, Fairbanks
Hours: Appointment only
Cost: $40 to $100
17. Enjoy the (Midnight) Summer Sun
Devote a full summer day to the sun in Fairbanks by driving to the Chena River State Recreation Area.
There are multiple fishing spots for a relaxing afternoon. You can also go up the hiking trails and see the incredible views.
Address: 3700 Airport Way, Fairbanks
Hours: Open all year-round
Cost: Parking $5, Camping $20 to $30, boat launch $15
18. Eat and Be Merry
Several top-quality restaurants in Fairbanks offer a variety of local and international cuisines. Pump House, Pike’s Landing, Wolf Run Restaurant, Lavelle’s Bistro, and Chatanika Lounge are some dining places you can visit.
You can also select a robust menu from food trucks all over town. Since you’re in Fairbanks, why not eat what the locals eat? Try the reindeer sausage with home-grown sweet baby carrots on the side, or the grilled Alaskan salmon with Yukon gold potatoes.
19. Engage in Spectator Sports
Be one with the locals and cheer on Fairbanks’ sports teams. Check out the Fairbanks Curling Club, Canoe Alaska Fairbanks Tennis Association, or Trax Outdoor Center.
You can even join the fun and register to participate in some games. Check out these spots if you want to be more than a spectator:
- Fairbanks Curling Club: 1962 2nd Ave, Fairbank
- Canoe Alaska Fairbanks Tennis Association: Dan Ramras Community, Fairbanks
- Trax Outdoor Center: 310 Birch Hill Rd, Fairbanks
Fairbanks is Calling…
When you plan your trip to Fairbanks, I would recommend you include these two highlights for a winter trip: view the Northern Lights and pay Santa a visit at his home.
Fairbanks is a beautiful community that offers a wide variety of activities to do no matter what time of year you visit—activities that you won’t find anywhere else. It is a place worth visiting for its uniqueness not only in Alaska but also in the world!