If you’re looking for serenity and solitude, Fairbanks, Alaska should be at the top of your bucket list. Located in the interior of Alaska, it is far from any coast and offers a totally unique experience than most parts of Alaska.
Here, the expansive land is dominated by mountains, lakes, rivers, and endless forests. Because Fairbanks is so remote, during the winter months it is one of the top places in the world to view the Northern Lights, also known as the aurora borealis. Once it gets warmer, Fairbanks is the land of the midnight sun where the area sees endless hours of daylight.
Despite its remoteness, Fairbanks is a thriving river community where locals welcome outsiders with pride and enjoy sharing everything Fairbanks has to offer.
Fairbanks offers nature lovers and adventure seekers the experience of a lifetime no matter what season you’re visiting. Here are 27 things to do in Fairbanks Alaska that you can’t miss.
COOLEST PLACES TO STAY IN FAIRBANKS ALASKA
- Rustic Resort Option. Alaska Grizzly Lodge is a beautiful European style lodge located 10 scenic miles from downtown Fairbanks, surrounded by spruce forest and hiking trails. This lodge sets itself apart from the competition with its friendly hosts, cozy common areas, comfortable rooms, delicious food, and stunning Aurora viewing from September through March. Plenty of activities are available through the lodge.
- Standard Hotel Option. Candlewood Suites is a 3-start property located near downtown Fairbanks. Suite options are available here making it a great choice for families.
- Best Budget Option. Billie’s Backpackers Hostel has both private rooms and dorms, and provides a garden and a shared lounge with cable television. What better way to explore Alaska affordably than by staying in an extremely well-rated hostel?
DALTON HIGHWAY SCENIC DRIVE
Featured on “World’s Most Dangerous Roads” and “Ice Road Truckers,” the Dalton Highway is best explored in the summer months or by booking a tour. The road is over 400 miles long and mostly made of dirt and gravel, so many rental cars are restricted from driving the highway.
Starting in Livengood, the road takes you through Alaska’s most remote areas, across the Arctic Circle, all the way up to Prudhoe Bay and the town of Deadhorse. Originally built in 1974, the highway was created to assist in the building of the Alaskan Pipeline.
Today, the highway is mainly used by truckers to transport necessities and amenities to people working in Deadhorse. Driving the Dalton takes you on the highest pass in Alaska, known as the Atigun Pass, which is where the highway crosses the Continental Divide. The pass lies at 4700 feet and takes you through the Brooks Mountain Range.
Not many people travel this highway, but if you decide to be one of them, you will be rewarded with indescribable landscapes and the chance to see some of Alaska’s most elusive wildlife. Keep your eyes open for muskoxen, arctic foxes, caribou, bears, and the very rare Dall Sheep. If you’re a birder, keep your eyes to the sky for a chance to see tundra swans, red-throated loons, peregrine falcons, gyrfalcons, rough-legged hawks, Smith’s longspurs, bluethroats, and golden eagles. My mom and I took a trip down the Dalton Highway in the summer and got to swim in the Arctic Ocean. We witnessed a baby bear playing in the tundra and a heard of caribou.
If you plan to drive the Dalton Highway on your own, make sure you are well prepared for steep, slippery and muddy roads, as well as massive trucks flying past you. Stock up on snacks and fuel, and download a good playlist.
POLAR BEAR EXPEDITION
There are less than 30,00 polar bears left in the wild, and a trip from Fairbanks to view these evasive creatures is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Due to climate change, the polar bear population is shrinking. Booking a polar bear expedition is one of the last chances to see one in the wild.
August and September are the best months to view these mysterious bears and you can book a day tour right from Fairbanks. Polar bears are the largest carnivores in the world and an iconic symbol for arctic lands. Taking an tour to see these amazing animals is truly one of the most unique things to do in Fairbanks Alaska.
Tip: GoAlaska Tours offers safe, ethical tours to see polar bears.
RUNNING REINDEER RANCH
One of the most popular activities in Fairbanks is visiting the Running Reindeer Ranch. Located deep in the Boreal Forest, the Reindeer Ranch offers several opportunities to get to know the reindeer living at the farm.
You can take a hike through the woods as the reindeer walk alongside you, followed by cookies and drinks while you learn more about these beautiful creatures. The Reindeer Walk lasts about 2.5 hours and you’ll want to wear appropriate clothing, depending on the season you’re traveling in.
In the summer months, you can take a yoga class while reindeer mosey alongside you and dragonflies buzz around you. This gentle yoga flow will leave you feeling relaxed and connected to nature. Classes are an hour long and are open for all levels and anyone above 8 years old.
You can also explore the ranch in a less formal setting where you can meet the deer up close and personal along with the staff.
Running Reindeer Ranch is open year-round and can be visited by appointment only.
CHENA OUTDOOR COLLECTIVE
The Chena Outdoor Collective was founded by people who fell in love with the real Alaska lifestyle. Offgrid cabins and adventures give you an authentic Alaskan experience. Here you’ll find Alaskan huskies and reindeer in abundance and they offer 12 tours to really explore and get to know the area.
Tours include summer and winter mushing experiences, gold panning opportunities, a northern lights tour, and the Taste of Two Rivers Tour. The Taste of Two Rivers tour offers a little mix of everything. It can be booked during the summer months and includes a 1.5-hr sled dog run, a 45-minute interactive reindeer and off-grid lifestyle presentation, and 45 minutes of gold panning.
UNIVERSITY OF ALASKA FAIRBANKS MUSK OX FARM
The University of Alaska Fairbanks is involved in large animal research projects that they make available to the public. Muskox, Bovine, and Reindeer are among the animals being studied for reproduction, nutrition, energetics, and behavior purposes.
The Large Animal Research Project aims to educate the public about the importance of such animals.
MUSEUMS AND ATTRACTIONS
UNIVERSITY OF ALASKA MUSEUM OF THE NORTH
The UAMN is open all year for visitors to come and enjoy the only research and teaching museum in Alaska. The museum houses over 2,000 years of Alaskan art, natural and wildlife exhibits, cultural exhibits, and dinosaurs.
There are nearly 3 million artifacts and specimens in the museum, broken down into categories to make your visit easier to explore. These categories include archaeology, birds, documentary film, earth sciences, ethnology/history, fine arts, fishes/marine invertebrates, insects, mammals, and plants.
The Rose Berry Alaska Art Gallery is one of the most popular areas in the museum to visit. Here is where you can find Sydney Laurence’s painting Mt. McKinley; the Okvik Madonna, and a 2,000-year-old ivory carving from the culture of the Bering Strait region.
The Museum of the North has several outdoor exhibits as well. This includes Denali by Christiane Martens; Totem by Bernard Hosey; totems by Nathan Jackson and Amos Wallace; a Trans-Alaska pipeline cleaning pig, and an 1841 Russian-American Blockhouse.
You can find Pioneer Park in the heart of Fairbanks. Situated on 44 acres, this historical park is home to the famous Salmon Bake. The park is also filled with shops, boutiques, and other food options. Pioneer Park also features a volleyball court, a bocce court, a 3-hole disc golf course, and a playground to enjoy in the warmer months.
The park offers train rides, carousel rides, and live entertainment. The park also has several museums and historical sites. This includes SS Nenana, Kitty Hensley House, Harding Car, Pioneer Air Museum, Pioneer Museum, Tanana Valley Railroad Museum, and the Wickersham House Museum.
FOUNTAINHEAD ANTIQUE AUTO MUSEUM
The Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum is one of the best auto museums in the states, if not the world. Their collection of antique cars includes some of the rarest cars in the world. The extensive array of one-of-a-kind cars includes a Compound, an Argonne, an Argo Limousine, a Columbia Mark XIX, and a McFarlan Type 125. All of these are the last models in the world. The collection also includes a Sheldon, Heine-Velox Victoria automobile, and Hay Motor Vehicle which are the only ones ever built. Adding to the excitement of such a rare collection is the fact that all but 3 of the cars are drivable.
The Fountainhead Auto Museum also has a large compilation of vintage fashion. They have more than 1,000 pieces ranging from the 18th to the mid-20th centuries. The collection consists of men’s and women’s fashions including silk bustle dresses, dusters, flapper shifts, and tuxedos.
From May to September the museum is open 7 days a week, and during the months of September through April, the museum is open Sundays and Wednesdays.
MORRIS THOMPSON CULTURAL AND VISITOR CENTER
If you really want to learn about the interior of Alaska, its culture, history, and native peoples, then take time to explore the Morris Thompson Cultural Center. The center is open daily from 8-5 and you can get information on activities, tours, and accommodations.
The center also offers public lands information, cultural programs, and world-class exhibits, most of which you can access online as well. Exhibits include three life-sized dioramas depicting each season in Alaska.
Online and onsite you can find a Native Alaska gift shop.
GOLD DREDGE 8
Taking a visit to Gold Dredge 8 is your chance to strike it rich by panning for gold. This historic site flourished from 1928 to 1959 and through the Gold Rush.
Today, you can take a tour through the dredge where you’ll get a full history lesson as well as the Living Mining Museum. The Living Mining Museum goes in-depth about the entire gold mining process, from cleaning the land and thawing frozen ground, to how the gold is actually recovered.
To get to the dredge and the museum, you will take a short ride on the Tanana Valley Railroad, and finally at the end of your tour, you’ll get the chance to pan for gold with real Alaskan gold miners.
AURORA ICE MUSEUM
The Aurora Ice Museum is the world’s largest year-round ice environment and stays at a chilly 25 degrees F. The museum was created over 1,000 tons of ice and snow and incorporates the Ice Bar, an Ice Chapel, and Ice Sculptures.
The museum is open every day and offers tour times of 11 AM, 1 AM, 3 PM, 5 PM & 7 PM. Inside the museum, you will find chandeliers that mimic the northern lights, a two-story observation tower, a kids’ fort, jousters on horseback, a giant chess set, a Christmas tree bedroom, a polar bear bedroom, and an ice outhouse.
Make sure you dress warm enough and if you do get a little chilly, the museum offers free parkas for use during your visit.
CREAMERS FIELD NATURE TRAIL
Creamer’s Field is a 2,200–acre Refuge that has forests, fields, and wetlands. Accessible all year long, the park has walking trails, skiing/skijor trails, mushing trails, wildlife viewing platforms, and accessible trails. During the spring and fall months, Creamers Field is popular with birders. The fields have a massive role in giving thousands of migratory birds a place to feed and rest.
There is a visitors center onsite open Monday through Friday 10-5 pm and they offer guided nature walks Tuesdays and Thursdays at 1.
IN, ON, AND ALONG THE WATER
The Chena Riverwalk is a popular path to follow for visitors and locals. The main strip, between Airport Way and Pioneer Park, is about 3.5 miles. You can park in downtown Fairbanks and have quick access to the path.
Along the way, you’ll pass Carlson Center, Fairbanks Curling Club, Growden Park, and a dog park. You can also find an antler arch, created by 100+ moose and caribou antlers collected locally.
The Riverboat Discovery Tour takes you on a three-hour cruise where you will experience the Chena Indian Village Living Museum, a bush pilot demonstration, and the steamboat landing.
The steamboat stops at the Athabascan Indian Village, where you’ll get a walking tour to view cabins made of spruce logs, a cache used for storing supplies, a spruce bark hut and fur pelts. The pilot puts on the demonstration will also share personal life stories of growing up in rural Alaska.
At Steamboat Landing, you’ll get the chance to go to a traditional trading post where you can find gifts, souvenirs, and other items that are unique to Alaska and the Native culture.
RENT A CANOE OR KAYAK
During the warm, summer months in Fairbanks, the sun doesn’t set, and renting a canoe, kayak, or going rafting is a popular way to explore the interior of Alaska. There are several places to rent kayaks, paddleboards, canoes, and rafts.
The Chena River is the best place to do water activities, as it offers miles and miles of river flow. For experienced rafters, or if you want to book a guide, you can float the entire Chena River in 5-7 days.
WHY KNOT ADVENTURES
A great way to experience the vast outdoors of Alaska is to book a trip with Why Knot Adventures. They are open year-round and offer river and lake fishing, as well as ice fishing in the winter for a chance to catch Kokanee salmon. You can book rafting trips and adventures to see the northern lights.
Tours provide all equipment you may need, as well as meals, snacks, and transportation if needed.
CELEBRATING THE AURORA BOREALIS
People come from all over the world for a chance to see the famed Aurora Borealis, better known as the Northern Lights. Considered an ideal location because of the location in the Aurora oval, hours of darkness in the winter, and auroral activity.
Creamer’s Field Refuge is a great place to see it, because of the wide-open fields. The Chena Lake Recreation Area, located in the nearby town of North Pole, is also a great place to see the lights.
AURORA POINT ACTIVITY CENTER
Aurora Point is the premier location to go view the Northern Lights. You can book a viewing experience tour where you can get your portrait taken under the dancing lights. Gates are open from 10 pm to 2 am however, reservations need to be made prior to arrival.
While viewing the aurora is never guaranteed, the best months to see them are late August through early April. The facility at Aurora Point Activity Center welcomes you with snacks, interesting facts, and plenty of space to view the night sky. You can also wait inside and track the lights from the webcam and step outside when they are showing.
CHENA HOT SPRINGS RESORT
The Chena Hot Springs Resort offers day tours and other adventures to experience the natural hot springs and the northern lights. The springs were discovered in 1905, and have been open for people to enjoy and heal different ailments.
The resort is open year-round and offers several single-day and multi-day packages.
AURORA ICE FISHING
Another great tour to book for a chance to see the lights is by going ice fishing. These tours will take you out onto lakes that are perfect for seeing the Northern Lights, while trying your luck at catching a fish.
Located above the Arctic Circle, Coldfoot Camp is open to visitors all year long. You’ll have to travel the legendary Dalton Highway to get here, but it is well worth the long drive.
In the warmer months, it serves as a great basecamp for activities such as flightseeing, hiking, rafting, fishing, and exploring, and during the cold winter months, it is an ideal place for aurora viewing, dog mushing, or snowshoeing tours.
Coldfoot is home to Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, as well as the Arctic Interagency Visitor Center and features a cafe, rustic but super clean overnight accommodations, tour services, fuel, and minor tire repairs.
My mom and I stayed in Cold Foot during our tour on the Dalton Highway, and were quite comfortable.
MORE OUTDOORSY THINGS TO DO IN FAIRBANKS ALASKA
Dog Sledding is the backbone of Alaska and going mushing is a must-do when in Alaska. There are numerous kennels to experience this thrilling adventure. The best part about mushing and learning about the dogs is the bond you see between the dogs and their handlers.
Some of the best kennels to visit are Black Spruce Dog Sledding, Paw’s For Adventure, which offers overnight options, Trail Breaker Kennel Tours, and Rod’s Alaska Guide Service, which teaches about the legendary Iditarod, Alaska’s last great race.
Dog sledding is available all year long and it’s definitely an experience you can’t miss out on. I have a retired sled dog from a kennel outside Fairbanks. When sled dogs are retired, they are often rehomed to families or people who are super active so the dogs can still do what they love. Sled dogs are highly intelligent and are incredibly loveable.
Snowmobiling is another great way to explore the Alaskan tundra. Snowmobiles work when it’s too cold for trucks and cars to start. There are various tours you can book in combination with other winter activities.
CROSS COUNTRY SKIING
During the winter months, cross country skiing is another great option to explore the vast outdoor region that is Fairbanks. Some of the more popular areas to go to are the Birch Hill Recreation Area, Creamer’s Field, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and the Skarland System.
MIDNIGHT SUN ATV TOURS
During the summer months, it doesn’t get dark, which leaves ample time for all the outdoor activities. Taking an ATV tour in the middle of the night when it’s still bright outside is one of the most unique adventures you can have.
DELIGHTFUL DAY TRIPS
DENALI NATIONAL PARK
Denali National Park is named for the tallest peak in North America. Denali shoots over 20,000 feet into the sky. The park that surrounds the mountain is massive at 6 million acres of wilderness. Denali is open all year long and has dozens of activities to satisfy any outdoor enthusiast.
During the winter months, many people cross country ski, winter biking, snowshoe, and go mushing. During the summer months, you can hike, bike, fish, and backpack through the park. However you will want to carry bear spray or a bear bell.
Denali National Park is home to moose, caribou, Dall sheep, wolves and grizzly bear, black bear, fox, wolverines, golden eagles, gyrfalcons, and the only amphibian, the wood frog.
One million acres of Denali National Park is considered glaciers, and the park frequently has avalanches and earthquakes.
The Alaskan Railroad stretches from Fairbanks to Seward and covers 470 miles. The tracks connect 13 towns and offers several tour packages.
The Coastal Classic takes you round-trip from Anchorage to Seward with a 7-hour stopover. The train goes through Turnagain Arm and the backcountry wilderness of the Kenai Peninsula. You will see glaciers and waterfalls along the way. Once you reach Seward, you can explore the shores of Resurrection Bay as well as the Kenai Fjords National Park.
The Denali Star runs during the summer months and is a 12-hour journey through Wasilla, Talkeetna, and Denali National Park.
Glacier Discovery is a round-trip venture that takes you to Girdwood, Whittier, Portage, Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop, and Grandview. This trip is ideal for people looking for a quiet day trip from Anchorage.
The Hurricane Turn route is an important service for locals who live in the backcountry. In the warmer months it runs Thursday through Monday and during the colder months it operates the first Thursday of the month October – May. The train goes from Anchorage to Hurricane Gulch.
The Aurora Winter trip travels from Anchorage to Fairbanks with a varying number of stops. Trips run from mid-September to mid-May and take you through the wild backcountry of Alaska with a rewarding amount of sightseeing.
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO ALASKA
- YOUR ALASKA VACATION
- ANCHORAGE: 24 Amazing Things To Do In Anchorage You’ll Love
- ALASKA NPS: 9 ALASKA NATIONAL PARKS YOU’VE GOT TO EXPLORE
- ALASKA: 21 BEST THINGS TO DO IN ALASKA YOU CAN’T MISS
- SEWARD: 12 Absolute Best Things To Do In Seward Alaska
WHERE TO STAY IN FAIRBANKS ALASKA
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