At 65 degrees north latitude, Fairbanks is renowned for the northern lights, also known as the aurora borealis, the midnight sun, and sunsets and sunrises that last forever. Basecamp to Denali National Park & Preserve, the Interior and the Arctic – Fairbanks is the Golden Heart of Alaska. Home to just over 100,000 hearty souls, the Fairbanks region is the second-largest population center in Alaska.
About Fairbanks (Tanana Athabascan: Ch'elaat'uudze Yekh)
Locals embrace the natural world and have created a vibrant river city in the far north. Where else can you travel to such a remote locale and still enjoy all the amenities of a charming downtown, a thriving arts community, rich Alaska Native culture, authentic Alaska activities and attractions, and endless opportunities for exploration!
Things to do
Fairbanks is one of Alaska's best year-round destinations and visitors will find plenty to do whether they come for the long, warm summer days or to watch spectacular northern lights coloring the night sky during Aurora Season. With the summer sun shining up to 24 hours a day during the Midnight Sun Season from April 22 to August 20, the subarctic summer is filled with action and brimming with growth. In fact, from mid-May through mid-July Fairbanks experiences 70 straight days of daylight!
Whether you plan on going on a nature hike, watching a glorious garden grow, floating down the Chena River or having a late-night dessert on an outdoor deck, the rousing Midnight Sun Season is awesome and energizing. Summertime middle-of-the-night activities include running, golfing, gardening, walking the dog and even baseball—where the Alaska Goldpanners start their historic solstice game at 10 p.m. With the chance of a truly rainy day low, the average temperature hovering at 70 degrees and the midnight sun simply refusing to set, this town enjoys one of the best summers the earth has to offer.
Fairbanks's top-of-the-world location also makes it one of the best places on earth to see the captivating light of the aurora borealis, view amazing outdoor ice sculptures, and experience the exhilarating sport of dog mushing. This surprising trio of events makes winter a traveler's snowy paradise. Not to mention that there are always a multitude of other winter activities, cultural celebrations, art exhibitions, and sporting events happening during throughout the winter.
While the northern lights can be seen from anywhere in town, the best opportunities for northern lights viewing happen away from the city's ambient light. Join a guided tour to let the locals take you to the best spots for northern lights viewing. For a more immersive experience, book a multi-day northern lights package, which will include northern lights viewing excursions, meals, and overnight stays at unique, remote lodging options specifically-designed for northern lights viewing.
Skiing, ice skating, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, ice fishing, curling, tubing, and ice hockey abound. Challenge snowcapped hills or birch-laden trails or mush a team of huskies across the wilderness. Behold three-ton pieces of ice being turned into works of art and visit Santa in North Pole. Journey above the Arctic Circle or discover the incredible warmth of an Alaska hot spring at the end of an adventure-filled day.
Built alongside the Chena River, downtown Fairbanks is bustling year-round with a variety of shops, restaurants, museums, the Golden Heart Plaza, and historical buildings. Just a couple miles away from downtown is Pioneer Park, Alaska's only historic theme park. This 44 acre, family-friendly park brings the area's history to life through museums, art galleries, a historic sternwheeler, an operational train and carousel, and buildings that date back to the gold rush era.
Fairbanks is home to the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the University of Alaska Museum of the North, where the collections feature both natural history and art items. It’s rightfully considered one of the finest museums in the state.
Fairbanks is also a gateway for trips further into the Interior and the Arctic. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is accessible by small plane, and any trip up the famous Dalton Highway to Prudhoe Bay – also known as the “Haul Road” – begins in Fairbanks. Check out the city’s Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitor Center for planning help. The center houses the Fairbanks Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Alaska Public Lands Information Center, including world-class exhibits of Alaska’s four seasons and stunning displays of Alaska Native art.
Chena River State Recreation Area is a great place to see moose or launch a canoe, kayak or raft on the Chena River. The Angel Rocks Trailhead is located in the Chena River State Recreation Area, and an eight-mile hike leads to nearby Chena Hot Springs Resort, where tired hikers can soak their bones in the soothing hot springs pools. The year-round resort features indoor and outdoor pools, accommodations (lodge, cabins, and camping), an ice museum, and tours, with a focus on renewable energy and sustainability. There's nothing quite like watching the northern lights dance above you while soaking in a natural hot spring on a dark winter night.
Getting to Fairbanks
Fairbanks sits at the confluence of the Richardson Highway, George Parks Highway, Steese Highway and Elliott Highway, which is why it’s known as a hub city. The Fairbanks International Airport also serves Fairbanks with frequent flights from within Alaska as well as from the Lower 48 and even some international destinations. The Alaska Railroad offers service from Anchorage via Denali National Park & Preserve.
Staying in Fairbanks
From large hotels to cozy cabins, Fairbanks has a wide variety of accommodation options. Several national and locally-owned hotels and lodges can be found in town, some featuring riverfront views of the Chena River. If you're interested in connecting with locals, book one of the many bed & breakfasts for cozy accommodations both in and outside of town. Cabins can be rented in town and in remote areas for a true Alaska experience. Prefer to camp? Fairbanks is home to several campground and RV parks.
Fairbanks dates back to 1901, when E.T. Barnette cruised up the Tanana River on the SS Lavelle Young with 130 tons of supplies bound for the Tanacross goldfields. The next year an Italian prospector named Felix Pedro struck gold 12 miles to the north and Barnette’s trading post became a boomtown with hordes of miners stampeding into the area.
The construction of the Alaska Railroad, the Alaska Highway and the trans-Alaska oil pipeline all contributed greatly to the growth of Fairbanks. The city still has gold at its heart: the nearby Fort Knox Gold Mine is Alaska’s largest.