Despite having just over 30 inhabitants, Fairbanks is there second largest city in Alaska. However, its importance derives above all from being the only inhabited center that can be defined as a city in the center-north of the state. One might think that a village of this size located in the least inhabited area of one of the least populated states in the world has little to offer to an external visitor: this is not the case. Fairbanks is one of the unmissable destinations on a trip to Alaska! The main reason is probably that Fairbanks is the best place to see the Northern Lights throughout the American continent. This intriguing atmospheric phenomenon is typical of freezing winter nights, but even in the warmer months it can make sense to go here.
It is gold that is why we have this important urban settlement today in the middle of the Alaskan plain. The foundation of the city it dates back to 1901, when ET Barnette, in an attempt to lay the foundations of a trading post on the great connecting route formed by the river Tenana, got stuck with his steamer. Having no alternative, he laid the first stone of the city where he had been trapped: on the bank of the Chena River. The subsequent discovery of gold in the surroundings meant that the village, born by chance, was transformed into the current town.
- How to get to Fairbanks
- Climate and temperatures
- Attractions in the city
- Fairbanks museums
- Ride on a dog sled
- Attractions around Fairbanks
- Chena hot springs
- The Arctic Circle
- Where sleeping in Fairbanks
How to get to Fairbanks
Like most Alaskan cities, the quickest way to get to Fairbanks is by plane. There are no direct flights from Europe, but it is possible to reach Fairbanks Airport with a stopover in the USA or Canada. There are regular internal flights from other major Alaskan airports, such as Anchorage or Juneau.
- Read our tips on how to book a flight to the USA
However, most visitors choose to reach Fairbanks by land. In this case, there are two options. The railway connects Fairbanks with Anchorage and the train is therefore an excellent way to reach the city in a simple and direct way. Alaska Railway convoys also allow you to enjoy spectacular views in complete safety. The alternative is to rent a car and exploit the road network that crosses the internal territories of the country. I recommend that you take a look at the article on how to organize a trip to Alaska for more detailed information on transportation.
Climate and temperatures
If you have already learned about the climate of Alaska you will know that the plain where Fairbanks rises, enclosed between the two mountain ranges of the country, is the one with the most continental climate in the whole state. This means that the temperature difference between summer and winter is considerable. Compared to other areas of the country it is also a relatively dry area, with about 300mm of annual rainfall. July and August are the wettest months, followed by June and September.
In Fairbanks, despite the latitude, it exceeds 20 ° in summer days: the maximums between June and July are on average 22-23 °, with occasional peaks above 25 °. The minimum night temperatures, however, in the same months are around 10 °. The half seasons (May and August-September) are cold but acceptable and the thermometer drops below zero a few times even at night. The long winter is very cold. As early as October, the highs are around zero and the lows close to -10 °. In November, the temperature drops by about 15 ° compared to the previous month and remains permanently below freezing until March. The coldest month is January, with an average high of -17 ° and a minimum of -27 °.
Despite the harshness of the climate, consider visit Fairbanks in any season. Unlike other Alaskan locations, in fact, this city offers interesting alternatives for both summer and winter.
Attractions in the city
As I mentioned, the frequent opportunity to raise your eyes to the sky and be enchanted in front of anorthern Lights it is one of the main reasons why those who go to Alaska include Fairbanks among the stops on their itinerary. The city, however, offers others as well good reasons to be visited.
Although small, Fairbanks offers its guests some interesting museums that are well worth a visit.
Fairbanks Ice Museum
It is perhaps the most famous museum in Alaska, being almost one of a kind worldwide. With exhibition halls kept even in summer at -7 °, it contains works of art made of ice, which do not leave indifferent. In addition to admiring the sculptures, visitors will be able to attend an ice carving demonstration, have a drink served in ice glasses at the Ice-bar and slide on the Big slide: a long slide made, of course, of ice.
Those who suffer from the cold can instead admire the works from a special heated room. The museum also shows a video showing the artists at work and Northern Lights shows. The museum is located at 500 2nd Avenue and admission costs $ 15 (concessions for children aged 6-14 are $ 10). All updated info can be found on the official website.
An exceptional event ... Every year in March the city hosts the World Ice Sculpture Championships, where artists from all over the world come to perform. Some of the works created are truly colossal: in recent years, 6 meters high ice statues have been made!
On the official website you can see the images of some of the most beautiful works created, as well as the event calendar of the current year.
Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center
Go here if you are looking for an in-depth study on the peoples who have inhabited the lands of Alaska over the centuries. In addition to the permanent museum area, various kinds of exhibitions are hosted here and there is a theater and an artisan laboratory. The center is located at 101 Dunkel Street. All updated info are available on the official website.
Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge
A few steps from the houses of the historic center, 809 hectares of the city soil of Fairbanks are dedicated to a place that you would never think you would find in the city. This green area is the favorite stop for ducks, geese, swans and other migratory birds which, in spring and autumn, stop here and can be admired from special platforms, with the telescopes offered by the visitor center or walking along the paths. On the website of the 'Friends of Creamer's Field' association, it is possible to check when specific activities are organized to be able to take part.
University of Alaska activities and museums
The University of Alaska's Fairbanks campus doesn't restrict access for its students, but it does offer some public attractions that are of great interest to outside visitors.
- The Northern Museum it is a futuristic structure that houses the main collection concerning the Alaskan territory. The entrance is guarded by Otto, a 2,7m tall embalmed grizzly, behind which there are five museum itineraries that speak of nature and the cultures that have evolved in the cold northern lands. Among the most evocative rooms, the 'Rose Berry Alaska Art Gallery', built in such a way as to make the visitor feel like inside a glacier.
The museum is located at 1962 Yukon Drive and admission costs $ 14 (concessions for children aged 5-14 are $ 8). All updated info are available on the official website.
- Il Georgeson Botanical Garden it is the northernmost botanical garden in the world: this fact should already arouse interest in flora lovers. The best time to visit is late summer, when the effect of 21 hours of sunshine a day is noticeably felt on the vegetables, which reach record size. From mid-July onwards you will find yourself strolling among 14kg beets, 36kg cabbage and other vegetables with decidedly out of the ordinary sizes.
The botanical garden is located at 117 W. Tanana Dr. and is only open from Memorial Day (last Monday in May) to Labor Day (first Monday in September). The ticket is a suggested offer of $ 5. All updated info are available on the official website.
- The Institute of Geophysics, during the summer, offers a guided tour of three laboratories: the Alaska Earthquake Information Center, the Alaska Satellite Facility and the Alaska Volcano Observatory. Tours usually take place on Wednesdays, alternating from week to week.
The institute is located at 903 Koyukuk Dr. and you can consult the official website to find out if and when the visits take place.
- La Large Animal Research Station (LARS) it is one of the most interesting places you can visit in Fairbanks, especially if you are fond of animals. Large mammals are studied here, especially musk oxen, reindeer and caribou. These last two animals, almost identical to each other, are the two versions (European and American) of the same species. LARS is open from May 28th to September 2nd and admission costs $ 9 ($ 6 for students). All updated info are available on the official website.
Tour dell’Alaskan Heritage
Ride on a dog sled
Much of Alaskan territory is difficult, or impossible, to cross by car during the winter. For this reason, one of the most used means of transport by the inhabitants is the dog sled. Siberian huskies are the predominant breed in this type of activity and it is easy to find in all the cities of Alaska a tour, more or less long, aboard a sled. In summer, due to lack of snow, many farmers put the wheels on the sleds to offer tourists an opportunity, which, although less suggestive than sliding on the white snow, is still an interesting opportunity to forge a relationship with these extraordinary animals.
The best experience it is the one that allows you to go into the snowy woods with the sled and maybe spend a night in a tent, but also short tours around the city allow you to print a great emotion in the memories of a trip to Alaska. Fairbanks is one of the best cities to look for one of these tours in.
Dog sled tour:
- 1-Hour Winter Dog Mushing e Sledding a Fairbanks
- Husky Hike con Wilderness Lunch
- 4 hour sleigh tour
Other types of activities:
- Fort Yukon guided tour by plane
- Guided fishing excursion
- River rafting
- Local dinner with a vision of the Northern Lights
All activities and tours available in Fairbanks
Attractions around Fairbanks
If you plan to stop in Fairbanks for a few days, you'll find that the city's surroundings also have a lot to offer in terms of unique scenery and activities.
Chena hot springs
Less than 100km from Fairbanks is the Chena thermal spring. The 91 km that separate it from the capital wind up one of the most scenic roads in Alaska (the Chena Hot Springs Road), which in itself is worth the trip and which is bordered by Chena River State Recreation Area: 102.870 hectares of mountains, forests and rivers where nature is still master of itself and man seems to have not yet managed to affect it. Along the way it is easy to spot moose, beavers and maybe a few grizzlies. There are a few camping pitches and numerous hiking trails are indicated, but it is important to watch out for bears.
After the forest has given way to the alpine tundra, there is one of the most evocative places, the Plain of Monuments: a flat area dotted with numerous granite spikes, some a few centimeters high, others up to 30 meters high. The terminus of the road is the Chena Hot Springs Resort, where it is possible to stay overnight and access numerous ancillary services. In addition to the thermal baths, here it is possible to fish and go on trips with sled dogs, trekking and mountain biking.
Tour di Chena Hot Springs
The Arctic Circle
Even if you don't intend to go the full length of the adventurous Dalton Highway, you may want to consider a day or two trip to the Arctic Circle. In the article I dedicated to Dalton you can find details on how to get there and where to stay overnight. Consider that from Fairbanks it takes 5 hours of driving outward and the same amount back. However, there are also organized tours that take you here.
Arctic Circle Tour from Fairbanks
Where sleeping in Fairbanks
The city is small and certainly doesn't offer hundreds of hotels, but some accommodations are really curious. The Aurora Express, for example, is a B&B created inside 7 railway carriages from the early twentieth century, placed in the heart of the forest and transformed into elegant accommodations.
If you want to sleep in a hotel surrounded by nature, I recommend the Fairbanks Moose Manor, a simple but well-kept bed and breakfast that finds its strong point in the surrounding environment.
Below you can find all the accommodation available in Fairbanks.
All accommodations available in Fairbanks