Getting to Fairbanks is easy! If you’re starting in Anchorage, it’s roughly 360 miles via the Glenn and Parks highways. You can drive it in a day, or take a couple of days to stop along the way for scenic detours, leisurely lunches, and hikes along the way (see our driving itineraries for ideas). Or, let the Alaska Railroad do the driving for you – it’s approximately 12 hours by train from Anchorage to Fairbanks.
Once you’ve arrived in Alaska’s Golden Heart City, plan for a few days to explore all Fairbanks has to offer.
Start with a visit to the Morris Thompson Cultural Center to learn about Fairbanks and the area’s Athabascan people. The center overlooks the Chena River, and you can stroll an easy 1.5 miles along the Riverwalk to Pioneer Park. Pioneer Park, built in 1967 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Alaska’s territorial status, is a fun mix of historic buildings, playgrounds, shops, and a narrow-gauge train that will take you around the park. In the afternoon, rent a canoe to paddle the calm waters of the Chena River, or – in August of September 2020 – let a paddlewheel do the work on a riverboat cruise to the Tanana River.
Start early with a visit to Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge in Interior Alaska is a must-see for birders. More than 150 species of migratory birds pass through this former dairy farm during their spring and fall migrations, and visitors will often see sandhill cranes walking through the fields throughout the summer. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game plants barley on a portion of the 2,200-acre site, providing prime habitat for the birds as they wing their way south in the fall. In the afternoon, head over to the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus to tour the natural history and art exhibits at the Museum of the North – including Babe the Blue Ox, a 50,000 year-old mummified steppe bison – and visit the musk ox and caribou at the University’s experimental farm.
Take a leisurely, 60-mile drive to Chena Hot Springs. On your way, stop along the Steese Highway to see some reminders of the area’s gold rush history and views of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. Once you reach Chena Hot Springs, soak your cares away in a rock-lined pool warmed by the natural hot springs. Chena Hot Springs is also home to the Aurora Ice Museum, a year-round marvel that was created by two of the world's preeminent ice carvers. Sip an appletini in your very own sculpted ice glass at the Aurora Ice Bar. Overnight at the Hot Springs or back in Fairbanks.