Explore Alaska Native Culture

Fairbanks and surrounding area

Fairbanks honors the cultural heritage of Alaska Native people with unique local events and museums that offer a glimpse into Alaska Native village life, past and present. History and culture enthusiasts will treasure this four-day visit to the “Golden Heart City,” filled with exciting opportunities to delve into the fascinating history and life of Alaska’s Native people.

Day 1 Fairbanks
Fly into Fairbanks International Airport or take the scenic Alaska Railroad (you can also rent a car and drive) north from Anchorage. Spend the day exploring the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center and its life-sized dioramas, which interpret Native culture and traditions. The center also features Alaska Native storytelling, music and dance. Finish off your experience in the Elder’s Hall, where you can learn about Athabascan culture, view historic and contemporary art and tools and even have a family portrait taken in traditional Athabascan clothing.

Day 2 Fairbanks
Fairbanks is the gateway to the Far North region of the state. Several tour operators offer flightseeing trips north across the Arctic Circle and into the Brooks Range with stops in Alaska Native villages. Hop aboard a flight to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve and several towns and Alaska Native villages, including Barrow, Fort Yukon, Anaktuvuk Pass, Coldfoot and Bettles. You can also opt to travel north via the Dalton Highway or “Haul Road,” now famous from the TV show “Ice Road Truckers,” which reaches all the way to the Arctic Ocean. Although most rental-car companies prohibit visitors from driving their vehicles on the unpaved Dalton Highway, Fairbanks-based tour companies can do the driving for you. As you explore the Arctic tundra, watch for caribou, bears and other wildlife.

explore Alaska Native culture

Day 3 Flightseeing in the Surrounding Area
Experience rural life in Alaska on an authentic “bush plane” as it delivers the mail to rural communities. Several tour companies offer visitors the chance to fly to these communities and deliver packages, goods and mail on scheduled routes. Day tours from Fairbanks range from a few hours to full-day excursions. Upon your return to Fairbanks, stop by the University of Alaska Museum of the North to learn more about Alaska’s history, including Alaska Native heritage.

Day 4 Fairbanks
Each summer Fairbanks is home to Alaska’s largest celebration of indigenous culture and traditions. The World Eskimo-Indian Olympics began in 1961 and is a series of traditional Alaska Native athletic competitions and dances over several days. Time your visit to coincide with the event and spend a day observing some of the toughest athletes from Alaska, the Pacific Northwest and Canada. More than 15 event categories test athletes’ strength and agility, including unique competitions like ear pulling, the knuckle hop, a greased pole walk, and the well-known blanket toss. When you are ready to stroll, take time to see some of the sights in nearby Pioneer Park. Coined as “Alaska’s Only Historic Theme Park,” the 44-acre park showcases the history of Fairbanks with several museums, shopping, dining and activities.