Fairbanks On a BudgetFairbanks is the only 'city' in the interior region of Alaska, and the largest settlement for hundreds of miles, but it has many characteristics of a small town where everyone seems to know everyone. Because the city sits at the nexus of some truly epic routes - north to the Arctic, east to Canada and south to Denali - you'll almost inevitably end up spending time here, and that time is rarely boring. The residential streets of compact downtown are pretty as a picture, and during winter, this is ground zero for viewing the aurora borealis.
SightsAlaska is full of natural beauty. It's all around you, but there are some places you may want to explore in anchorage for even better vistas.
Take a scenic drive. The scenic, essential 323-mile-long Parks Highway connects Anchorage and Fairbanks, threading its way past some of Alaska's most iconic Alaskan areas, including Denali National Park and Mt. McKinley.
Drive the Chena Hot Springs Road. When you're driving Chena Hot Springs Road, keep in mind that it's best not to rush. This journey defines "scenic route" as a one-day road trip primed for spotting wildlife, exploring a new trailhead, and pulling over to cast a line. If it weren't for the hot spring at the end, this road probably wouldn't exist. The springs were discovered in 1905 and it didn't take long for Fairbanksans to want permanent access from town. At their behest, the U.S. War Department built the first trail to the hot springs in 1913. Today, Chena Hot Springs Road is fully paved and well-maintained. The journey from Fairbanks to the trail's end at Chena Hot Springs Resort is 56.5 miles. You can drive it in about an hour, but factor in more time for stops. And if you don't have a car the Chena Shuttle, operated by the resort, can be booked for round-trip transport from the airport or any hotel in Fairbanks. Wildlife spottings are common throughout the entire road.
The picturesque Wedgewood Wildlife Sanctuary borders the Wedgewood Resort and is preserved by Fountainhead Hotels, Fairbanks' locally owned hotel group. You won't find any cyclists, swimmers or fishing here, so that the focus can stay on what matters: the wildlife. Come visit and you might see up to 15 different kinds of mammals-from beavers to red foxes, flying squirrels, snowshoe hares and even moose-but this is also a birder's gold mine. Pick up the checklist of more than 100 bird species commonly seen here. In the winter, visitors can go cross-country skiing, snowshoeing or, of course, aurora-watching. You can also check out the Taiga Center, an interpretive center where you might see a live owl show.
NeighborhoodsDowntown Fairbanks is the main neighborhood in Fairbanks. It is a delightful blend of old and new. Historic buildings dating back to gold rush days, a vibrant contemporary art scene, an array of delicious eating and drinking establishments, museums, shops, a cultural and visitors center and, in the center of town, iconic Golden Heart Plaza. Year-round, one can always find a variety of unexpected public artworks around town. Steam vents are painted, murals abound and sculptures-both permanent and seasonal ice-sculptures-adorn downtown streets and businesses. Downtown Fairbanks also hosts outstanding events like the Winter Carnival in March, the Midnight Sun Festival in June and Golden Days in July. During winter months, Fairbanks has a storybook-like quality. The Chena River freezes over, snow blankets the ground and lighted snowflakes adorn lamp posts.
ActivitiesAlaska activities including famous wildlife, spectacular mountain vistas, fascinating cultures and icy blue glaciers all await your discovery. Here are just a few options to keep you entertained on your trip:
Experience Pioneer Park. The 44-acre Pioneer Park is a centrally located, historically themed park beloved by visitors and locals alike. The park offers a wide array of family- and visitor-friendly activities showcasing Fairbanks history through a bounty of museums and outdoor recreational areas. Many engaging attractions call the park home including the Bear Art Gallery, a historic sternwheeler, a carousel, a miniature golf course, a notable operational narrow gauge train, relics from the gold rush era and more. Historic log cabins that were moved to the park turn into summertime shops and eateries.
Visit the Ice Museum. Devoted to all things ice, this museum will put you in a winter mood no matter what the summer temperatures are like. You'll see several large ice displays, a freezer you can go in to feel like it's 20 degrees below zero, a huge-screen slide show with the annual World Ice Art championships, and freezers with huge ice tableaux.
Take an adventure on a dog sled. Plenty of people come to Fairbanks to look at the sky-for northern lights, or to bask in the midnight sun. But a dog-mushing experience in Fairbanks will prove that there's plenty more of Fairbanks to be seen at eye-or even paw-level.