Northern Explorer
Photo Credit: ATIA, Michael DeYoung

Culture and History in Fairbanks & the Arctic

Culture and History in Fairbanks & the Arctic

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 Iñupiat and Athabascan peoples

Day 1: Fairbanks

Fly into Fairbanks International Airport or get there on a scenic, all-day Alaska Railroad train ride from Anchorage (you can also rent a car and drive). Spend the day exploring the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center, which houses life-sized dioramas that interpret local history and Alaska Native culture, and sometimes hosts demonstrations of traditional storytelling, music, and dance, too. Next, stop by the University of Alaska Museum of the North to learn more about Alaska’s history and the region’s rich Alaska Native heritage.

Day 2: Arctic

Sample life north of the Arctic Circle by booking a tour that takes you into the Arctic aboard a regional air carrier, then drives you back on the mostly unpaved Dalton Highway, AKA the Haul Road. It makes for a long day, but along the way you’ll get to visit the isolated work camps of Coldfoot and/or Wiseman, see the mighty rivers that form the lifeline of transport between villages in this region, take in a surprisingly beautiful multi-agency visitor center in the middle of nowhere, stroll on the Arctic tundra, and maybe even see caribou, bears, or other wildlife.

Day 3: Mail Plane or Local Communities

Want a quick taste of real life in Alaska’s rural communities? Several local tour companies will let you ride along on an authentic bush plane as it delivers mail to isolated communities that can only be reached by air. If you want longer to explore a given community or visit with the locals, book an all-day tour to a nearby community like Anaktuvuk Pass, in the company of a guide who’ll help you understand local culture and traditions. If you’re here for wilderness, Fairbanks is the perfect gateway for a day flight into nearby wilderness areas like the famously remote Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve.

Day 4: Fairbanks

Each summer, Fairbanks is home to the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics, a series of traditional Alaska Native competitions of mental and physical toughness that started in 1961. Time your visit to coincide with the event (usually held in July) and spend a day enjoying unique competitions like the ear pull, the greased pole walk, the one-foot and two-foot high kicks, and the well-known blanket toss. When you’re ready for a break, sample the sights in nearby Pioneer Park, a 44-acre, free-to-the-public park that’s equal parts community gathering place and museum, with a number of historic buildings, old mining artifacts, and even an old paddleboat on the grounds. There are also several opportunities in the park for dining, shopping and other activities.


Alaska: AKA Your Next Adventure

Where will your Alaska adventure take you? Order our Official State of Alaska Vacation Planner and plot your course.