Fairbanks Travel Guide
Northern Lights in Fairbanks © Kabacchi
Like many other cities in Alaska, Fairbanks' history is full of explorers, gold prospectors, swindlers, and other colourful characters associated with the Gold Rush that populated much of the state. Now Alaska's second-largest city, with something like 33,000 residents, Fairbanks nonetheless maintains a quirky small-town attitude that is both wary and welcoming to the hoards of tourists that make their way here each year.
The city of Fairbanks is spread across the flat base of the Tanana Valley, straddling the Chena River. There are few architectural gems in the low-rise buildings that make up the downtown area and the skyline is far from dramatic. Within one or two hours visitors will be well-orientated and have no trouble getting around in Fairbanks, which is best done by car (although there is an infrequent bus service).
There are several attractions in Fairbanks worth visiting, including museums dedicated to uniquely Alaskan activities like ice carving and dog sledding, as well as one designed solely to show summer visitors just how cold the weather in Fairbanks can get. Children in Fairbanks will love the rides at the low-key Pioneer Park amusement park, including the Whiskey Island Railroad and the carousel. Finding a satisfactory bite to eat is also fairly easy, with everything from well-known fast food joints to fine-dining bistros, pioneer-themed grills and a surprisingly broad range of international dining options, including Thai, Eastern European, Indian and Vietnamese cuisine, on offer.
While the city offers some urban diversions, the most popular activities and attractions in Fairbanks take advantage of the abundance of natural beauty surrounding the city. Riverboat tours stop in Athabascan Indian fishing villages, dog sledding tours add a sense of adventure to city excursions, and the Chena Hot Springs Resort is only 60 miles (96km) out of town. Of course the most spectacular attraction in Fairbanks is the unforgettable sight of the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights). Fairbanks is considered one of the best places to see the Northern Lights, a phenomenon that occurs with some regularity in the dark months from September to April. Whether it's sunny and warm or cold and dark you're after, a holiday in Fairbanks always has something to appeal to the adventurous traveller.