Fairbanks: Remote, but Not Boring

A guide to this northern city that offers spectacular sights, craft brewing, flightseeing and more

Whether you come seeking the mesmerizing aurora borealis, the dazzling midnight sun, the pristine wilderness or some other distinctively Alaska adventure, Fairbanks is sure to please.

Where else can you travel to such a remote locale and enjoy all the amenities of a charming downtown, a thriving arts community, rich native culture, one-of-a-kind attractions, amazing natural phenomenon and endless opportunities for exploration? Once a Gold Rush boomtown, now called the “Golden Heart City,” Fairbanks is inviting and engaging—the heart  of the Last Frontier.

Aurora Borealis in Fairbanks
The Aurora Borealis are seen in Fairbanks. (©Roman Krochuk/Shutterstock)

From Aug. 21 to April 21, during the Aurora Season, shift your gaze toward the night sky for a great chance of seeing the northern lights. In summer, embrace the everlasting sunshine and go golfing, watch a baseball game or head outside for a leisurely walk in the middle of the night.

If it’s an off-the-beaten-path experience you yearn for, you are in for a treat because Fairbanks is a veritable island in a sea of trees—wilderness in every direction as far as the eye can see.

Besides natural wonders, Fairbanks simply bursts with attractions and activities. Pan for gold, float the Chena River, mingle with reindeer and musk oxen, cool off in an ice museum, take a refreshing hike and look for birds and wildlife; or be inspired by art galleries, museums and historic sites.

Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum
Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum in Fairbanks, Alaska (©Amy Meredith/Flickr, Creative Commons)

Three must-see attractions are the University of Alaska Museum of the North, with a collection spanning thousands of years of art, culture and natural history in a contemporary take-your-breath-away venue; the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum, with its incredible collection of impressive, drivable historic cars; and the not just beautiful but informative Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center.

After a day filled with remarkable adventures and attractions, wind down with a meal at a local bistro or perhaps soak in a little more sunshine on one of the restaurant decks along the Chena River. Fairbanks eateries are surprisingly eclectic.

Ubiquitous Thai restaurants rival those found in Thailand (no exaggeration). Outstanding made-from-scratch meals that incorporate home-grown produce abound, and multiple coffee roasters and two breweries are fundamental to the food scene.

At the happening HooDoo Brewing Co. taproom, you can rub elbows with university students, workaday stiffs, cabin dwellers, artists and more.

If you are in the mood for a drive, head out past the Trans-Alaska Pipeline viewing station to the town of Fox, 10 miles north of Fairbanks, and have a seat at the Silver Gulch Brewing and Bottling Co. Here, you can indulge in a Northern Light Ale or a Coldfoot Pilsner and come to appreciate their clever slogan, “Fairbanks, where the people are unusual and the beer is unusually good.”

Winter months bring snow (guaranteed) and plenty of things to do such as ice carving, dog mushing and snowshoeing. Locals will tell you to dress in layers because of the the wide temperature fluctuations and that the sub-zero temperatures aren’t really so bad since the weather is “dry and still.”

Needless to say, snow and ice sports and host of other fascinating activities and events are unveiled during the winter. The Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race in February and the World Ice Art Championships during March are two outstanding Fairbanks events that draw worldwide spectators and participants.

A plane lands on the Chena River in Fairbanks
A plane lands on the Chena River in Fairbanks. (©tonympix/Shutterstock)