Fairbanks truly is the land of the midnight sun, with only vestiges of nighttime darkness from mid-April to mid-August. Get to know this warm-hearted city with a five-day itinerary that includes everything from dog mushing to tame reindeer and a small plane flight above the Arctic Circle.
Day 1 Fairbanks
Arrive in Fairbanks. Get to know the history of Alaska’s “Golden Heart City” with a visit to the University of Alaska Museum of the North, one of the state’s premier attractions. Don’t forget to visit the university’s Large Animal Research Station too, where you can see animals like musk ox and reindeer. End the day with a visit to Pioneer Park, Fairbanks’s history-themed public park, where you can wander among historic buildings, mining equipment, and even a full-sized paddleboat. While at the park, enjoy a feast of all-you-can-eat Alaska seafood and top off the evening with a hilarious turn-of-the-century comedy revue.
Day 2 Fairbanks
Fill your second day in Fairbanks with one or more of the town’s many tour options. They include a cruise aboard a historic stern-wheel paddleboat, a relaxing float down the Chena River (which runs straight through downtown Fairbanks), several opportunities to try your hand at gold panning, and a chance to practice mushing your own dog team. Leave yourself time at the end of the day to visit the Trans-Alaska Pipeline viewing station on the Steese Highway, then kick back and relax with dinner on the outdoor deck of one of Fairbanks’s excellent brewpubs or riverside restaurants.
Day 3 Fairbanks and Chena Hot Springs
After a leisurely breakfast, take the stroll of your choice—either exploring the 2,200-acre Creamer's Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge, where sandhill cranes and other migratory birds flock en masse, or hiking through the panoramic vistas of the Chena River or White Mountains Recreation Areas. Next, make the 60-mile drive east to Chena Hot Springs, where you can enjoy a number of day tours or relax in a rock-lined lake fed by the natural hot springs. Go ahead and spend the night, so you can indulge in one more soak before you head back to town.
Day 4 Chena Hot Springs to Fairbanks
Once you’ve had your morning soak in the mineral-rich waters of the hot springs, take in the scenery on the 60-mile drive back to Fairbanks. Once there, you can look forward to an afternoon of short adventures: Choose from a nature walk in the company of a herd of tame reindeer, a half-day fishing trip, or visit an unusual “specialty” museum: The Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum, which showcases some 85 historic vehicles dating all the way back to the early 1900s, plus the accompanying ladies’ clothing of the era. Go to bed early; tomorrow’s big adventure will start in the wee hours.
Day 5 Arctic/Arctic Circle
Today, you’re going north—far north, above the Arctic Circle. Several companies offer tours along the famed Dalton Highway (the “Haul Road”), the only highway in the USA that crosses the mighty Yukon River and connects the highway system to the Arctic Ocean. You can make it all the way to the Arctic Ocean, complete with a short van ride to dip your toes in the water, if you fly there and back; or take a small plane halfway there, landing in the isolated work camps of Coldfoot or Wiseman, then enjoy a scenic van ride—and possible wildlife sightings—on the way back. Rest up with one last night in Fairbanks before you begin tomorrow’s journey home.