A wide range of trips throughout Southcentral Alaska.
Fairbanks: -24°/-1°/Partly sunny
It may have been the ugliest dinosaur ever. But Pachyrhinosaurus perotorum, an arctic-dwelling relative of the three-horned Triceratops, was uniquely Alaskan, a species whose existence was only announced by scientists last fall. In the atrium of the main entrance of University Center Mall, Anchorage artist James Havens is depicting the beast on a 10-foot-by-10-foot canvas daily from noon to 8 p.m.
People coming to Alaska often get on the state ferry at Bellingham, Wash., and float north to Haines, where they head up a road to the Alaska Highway. How long is the Bellingham-Haines trip?
A flight to Anchorage from Seattle, the most commonly used connection point, takes about 3 hours 30 minutes.
Vacationers have a wide variety of ways to get to Alaska.
Interior hub has lots of rooms and restaurants
Accommodations in Fairbanks range from fancy hotels to campgrounds. During the summer, they are often packed, but a call ahead can guarantee you a place to relax at the end of the day.
Fairbanks, with 30,000 people the largest city in the Interior (the Fairbanks North Star Borough counts 83,000 residents altogether), thrives on summer tourism. It's the northern terminus of the Alaska Railroad's passenger service and the hub of bush air travel. The Parks, Steese and Richardson highways come to Fairbanks, bringing traffic also from the Elliott, Dalton and Alaska highways.
The Golden Heart City boasts two dozen motels and hotels, more than three dozen B&Bs and several hostels. In addition, lodges welcome visitors to locations outside Fairbanks such as Chatanika, Chena Hot Springs, Ester and Salcha.
Fairbanks has family-owned lodging, as well as a number of establishments operated by national chains. Several hotels are new, built in the past couple of years to handle summer tourism. There are also a half-dozen RV parks and campgrounds in Fairbanks and 12-miles-distant North Pole.
Chena Hot Springs Resort, an hour's drive east of Fairbanks and close to a state park and campground, is popular with Alaskans year-round. In addition to the 156-degree springs used for bathing, it has lodging and a restaurant. The Angel Creek Lodge, a Yukon Quest checkpoint, and hostels are nearby.
Dining in the region runs from solid meals served at riverside to national hamburger chains.
Restaurants -- including national hamburger chains and the world's northernmost Denny's -- are available throughout Fairbanks. Most of the larger hotels have restaurants.
Locals dine along the water at three Chena River establishments: Pike's Landing, Chena's Fine Dining & Deck at the River's Edge Resort, and the Chena Pump House, which is as much a museum as a restaurant.
Downtown has several restaurants, among them Gambardella's Pasta Bella, which has garden seating, and the Co-op Plaza on Third Avenue, which includes a diner.
A popular spot with tour groups is the Alaska Salmon Bake at Alaskaland Pioneer Park. North of town, Alaskans get nice cuts of meat at The Turtle Club in Fox and pizza at the Vallata Restaurant on Goldstream Road. Hot Licks Homemade Ice Cream is a favorite near the university.
Near Fairbanks, the Chatanika Gold Camp, Mile 28 of the Steese Highway, has a popular restaurant and saloon. Off Mile 351 of the Parks Highway south of Fairbanks, the Ester Gold Camp has a dining hall, inn and revue.