Alaska Excursions

Alaska Excursions

A wide range of trips throughout Southcentral Alaska.

Iditarod 41

Photos and stories from the last great race.

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Fairbanks

A statue of Alaska's unknown first family stands along the Chena River near the city's visitors center and old church.

Alaska Division of Tourism

A statue of Alaska's unknown first family stands along the Chena River near the city's visitors center and old church.

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More on Fairbanks

Fairbanks

A statue of Alaska's unknown first family stands along the Chena River near the city's visitors center and old church.

Within seconds of walking outside the Fairbanks International Airport on a sunny May day in 2012, I turned and looked at my travel companions and said, "Why have I never come here in springtime before?"

Bus service in Fairbanks

Fairbanks has city bus service -- the MACS, or Metropolitan Area Commuter System. It covers the Fairbanks North Star Borough, including Fairbanks International Airport, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the city of North Pole and Fort Wainwright.

Flying to and from Fairbanks

Fairbanks has jet and propeller-plane service to Anchorage and the world beyond.

Trains in Fairbanks

Fairbanks has big and little railroads.

Driving around Fairbanks

Fairbanks sits at the hub of the Interior. Highways leading to the Golden Heart City are the Richardson, Parks, Elliott and Steese highways and Chena Road. The Dalton Highway to the Arctic Coast springs off the Elliott Highway north of town.

At its finest in arts, attitude and ambiance

Within seconds of walking outside the Fairbanks International Airport on a sunny May day in 2012, I turned and looked at my travel companions and said, "Why have I never come here in springtime before?"

Local tip: Fairbanks
"If you’re into mountain biking, the Birch Hills Ski Area has great trails in the summer. Those laid-down trails are practically reinforced roads; they are so solid and so well maintained. They even have a Frisbee golf course there.” – Bill Wright, public relations manager, Fairbanks Convention and Visitors Bureau

I’ve lived in Alaska 17 years, and in all that time had only visited Fairbanks during the winter- a frigid treat in itself, with great northern lights, dog mushing events and ice-carving competitions galore. Little did I realize that the same extreme that plunges Fairbanks into negative double-digits in the winter applies equally to spring and summer. Here, it feels like real summer, with long sunny days and temperatures climbing into the 80s and even 90s. The state’s communities to the south don’t experience such extremes, so while the rest of us are still wearing sweaters in May, Fairbanksans are donning shorts and T-shirts.

Fairbanks is the Interior’s most bustling community, with a year-round population of nearly 98,000, if you count the many surrounding communities. It’s a frontier-infused mix of old and new: Modern hotels and shopping malls stand beside log cabins and historic wooden buildings. The city has managed to retain a small-town atmosphere with sourdough individuality, yet thrums with a youthful vitality that comes with being a college town, home of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Nanooks.

“We really are diverse,” said Bill Wright, public relations manager for the Fairbanks Convention and visitors Bureau. “If you get around and walk around on your own, you’ll see the youth, military and old-timers converging. You get out to a place like the farmers market, and you really get to know the people. The people here are hardy people, and they wear that as a badge of honor and want to share that with people.”

Wright said some of the highlights of Fairbanks include all of the outdoor opportunities – from hiking and boating to birding and biking – as well as a vibrant arts and culture community. The Fairbanks Drama Association will be wrapping up its 50th anniversary season in the spring, and the Opera Fairbanks (http://www.operafairbanks.org/) will put on a July performance of “Carmen,” featuring a special visit from Fairbanks’ own Vivica Genaux, now a renowned opera singer living in Italy. Visitors also can enjoy Fairbanks Shakespeare Theatre’s summer outdoors performances, usually set on the UAF campus. (http://www.fstalaska.org/).

Wright said summer visitors will not be disappointed in Fairbanks, his home since 1982. It is one-stop shopping for the best Alaska has to offer: scenery, activities and people. Fairbanks has a unique vibe that can be experienced first-hand.

“To some extent [that vibe] is palpable, but you have to get off the beaten path to see,” he said. “An independent traveler, moving about on their own will find it.”

FAIRBANKS ATTRACTIONS

Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge: The 2,000-acre refuge used to be a dairy farm in the mid 1900s and now is home to such migratory and resident birds as Canada geese, sandhill cranes, pintails, golden plovers, ravens, owls and a host of ducks. About five miles of nature trails crisscross the property, and the surrounding outbuildings are on the National Register of Historic Places. The annual Sandhill Crane Festival, held each August, is a highlight.
Where: 1300 College Road
When: Open daily
Cost: Free
Phone: 907-452-5162
Web: creamersfield.org

University of Alaska Museum of the North: The University of Alaska Museum of the North is a must-see for locals and visitors alike with a stunning 1.4 million artifacts and specimens on display. Highlights include the state’s largest gold exhibit, an extensive collection of Alaska Native artifacts, the world’s only restored Ice Age steppe bison mummy, and videos on the aurora, a whale hunt and Alaska Native dances. Art ranges from 2,000-year-oldivory carvings to contemporary paintings and sculptures. Be sure to experience the auditorium’s multimedia programs on the aurora borealis, winter and Alaska’s art.
Where: UAF campus, 907 Yukon Drive
When: 9 a.m.- p.m. daily, May 15 to Sept.15; winter hours 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday
Cost: $10 general admission, $9 seniors, $5 youth, free for children under 7; movies are an additional $5
Phone: 907-474-7505
Web: www.uaf.edu/museum

Fairbanks Ice Museum: The Fairbanks Ice Museum chronicles the creation of ice art in a slide show. The museum also offers ice-carving demonstrations and tours of sculptures. From 8-9 p.m. evenings, be sure to take in the Northern Lights show, which displays 25 years worth of aurora photography into a spectacular big-screen presentation.
Where: 500 Second Ave., at Lacey Street
When: 10 a.m.-8 p.m. daily from May 1through mid-September
Cost: $12 for adults, $11 for military and seniors, $6 for children, $2 for children 5years and younger
Phone: 907-451-8222
Web: www.icemuseum.com

Fairbanks Community Museum: Take a step back in time when you visit the Fairbanks Community Museum. Exhibits include the history of dog mushing from the early races through the Iditarod and Yukon Quest; the Klondike Gold rush and climbing Chilkoot Pass; the early days of Fairbanks are interpreted through exhibits on mining, the Great Flood of 1967 and the original winter carnival in 1934. There is a new exhibit featuring local artists every month.
Where: 410 Cushman Street
When: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday through Friday: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday
Cost: Free admission, donations accepted
Phone: 907 457-3669
Web address: www.fairbankshistorymuseum.com

Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum: More than 70 rare cars from the late 1800s through the 1930s are paired with vintage clothing from their times. Walls feature a collection of historical Fairbanks photos. New for this summer is the Midnight Sun Cruise-in and Car Show, set for
June 22-23.
Where: 212 Wedgewood Drive
When: Summer hours, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday through Friday, and 11 a.m.-6p.m. Saturday; winter hours noon-6 p.m. Sunday only
Cost: $8 adults, $5 ages 3-12; discounts for Fountainhead Hotel guests
Phone: 907-450-2100
Web: fountainheadhotels.com

Georgeson Botanical Garden: With so much summertime daylight, flowers and vegetables flourish in Fairbanks. Explore the gardens, many of which are named in honor of well-known Fairbanksans. The gardens also are a great spot for picnics.
Where: 117 W. Tanana Drive
When: 9 a.m.-8 p.m. daily, May through
September
Cost: $5;free for children younger than 6
Phone: 907-474-7222
Web: www.uaf.edu/snras/gbg

Large Animal Research Station: See musk oxen and caribou up close at the University of Alaska Fairbanks facility. The tour presenters have science backgrounds and provide authoritative information about the Alaska animals.
Where: 2220 Yankovich Road
When: 45-minute to 1-hour tours are given Tuesdays through Saturdays at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m., June 1 through Aug. 31
Cost: $10 for adults, $9 for seniors, $6 for students, free for those 5 and younger
Phone: 907-474-5724
Web: http://lars.uaf.edu/tours

Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center: This is the starting point for a visit to Fairbanks and the Interior. The center, which opened in 2008, includes the Alaska Public Lands Information Center, the Fairbanks Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Alaska Geographic Association Bookstore and other helpful resources. Free films are shown daily at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m.
Where: 101 Dunkel St.
When: Summer hours 8 a.m.-9 p.m. daily; winter hours 8 a.m.-5 p.m. daily
Cost: Free
Phone: 907-459-3700
Web: morristhompsoncenter.org

Pioneer Park: Activities at the historic theme park include a Gold Rush town featuring Alaska gifts and crafts in authentic log cabins, picnic areas, canoe and kayak rentals, an art gallery, train rides, playgrounds, President Warren G. Harding’s railroad car, folk dancing, museums showcasing early Alaska life, and a diorama of the Yukon River aboard the sternwheeler SS Nenana. The park also has live shows with music and comedy skits about early Fairbanks. Park wide Wi-Fi is available.
Where: 2300 Airport Way
When: Noon-8 p.m. daily, Memorial Day to Labor Day
Cost: Free; many activities have separate prices
Phone: 907-459-1087
Web: www.fnsb.us/pioneerpark

Riverboat Discovery: Enjoy a relaxing cruise on the Chena and Tanana rivers, including a walking tour of the Chena Indian village. See late Iditarod champion Susan Butcher’s kennel, a floatplane display and the wedding of the rivers.
Where: 1975 Discovery Drive
When: 9 a.m., 2 p.m. mid-May to late-September
Cost: $54.95 adults, $37.95 children ages 3to 12
Phone: 907-479-6673, 866-479-6673
Web: riverboatdiscovery.com

Santa Claus House: This gift shop in North Pole celebrates Christmas year-round, with an assortment of Christmas gifts, collectibles, apparel and local crafts. This year is the operation’s 60th anniversary, although Santa himself is ageless.
Where: 101 St. Nicholas Drive, North Pole
When: Open daily 8 a.m.-8 p.m. from mid-May to mid-September; winter hours (Jan. 2 through mid-April) are Saturdays 10 a.m.-6p.m. and Sundays from noon-5 p.m. Closed Jan. 1, Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and Dec. 26
Cost: Free
Phone: 907-488-2200, 800-588-4078
Web: santaclaushouse.com

Alaska Bird Observatory: The nature center provides information,
exhibits and programs on Alaska birds and offers guided bird walks and local birding information.
Where: 418 Wedgewood Drive
When: Summer hours 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday to Wednesday; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday and Friday; Sunday hours vary; winter hours Tuesdays through Fridays 10a.m. to 3 p.m.
Cost: Free; donations encouraged
Phone: 907-451-7159
Web: alaskabird.org

FAIRBANKS EVENTS CALENDAR

Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival: Each summer, artists visit Fairbanks to celebrate and teach dance, drumming, jazz, opera and fine arts. Individuals can register for workshops and classes on topics including
theatre and opera.
Where: University of Alaska Fairbanks
When: July 14-28
Cost: Daily free concerts; prices from $10-$25 for other individual events
Phone: 907-474-8869
Web: www.fsaf.org

Midnight Sun Festival: The largest one-day event in Fairbanks offers music, food and family fun on the longest day of the year. Enjoy a vintage and classic car show, children’s rides, petting zoo, gold panning, military display, Alaska craft vendors, strolling entertainers and more.
When: Sunday, June 23rd, 2013- Noon-Midnight
Where: Downtown Fairbanks
Cost: Free
Phone: 907-452-8671
Web: downtownfairbanks.com

108th Midnight Sun Baseball Classic: The Alaska Gold panners of Fairbanks baseball team begins this contest at 10:30p.m. and continues past midnight without artificial lighting. The “high noon at midnight” game is an annual ritual on the longest day of the year.
Where: Growden Memorial Park
When: 10:30 p.m. June 21
Cost: $15
Phone: 907-451-0095
Web: goldpanners.com

Golden Days: The annual Golden Days celebration includes five days of summer festivities, including the largest parade in Alaska, pancake breakfasts, historic re-enactments, a beer festival, a river regatta, music and the Rubber Ducky Race.
Where: Downtown Fairbanks
When: July 17-21
Cost: Free
Phone: 907-452-1105
Web: www.fairbankschamber.org

Tanana Valley State Fair: With arts and crafts, live entertainment
and food, the Tanana Valley State Fair highlights the extensive farming, and the resulting large vegetables, for which Interior Alaska is widely known. The fireworks finale is set for the last night, Aug. 11, at 11 p.m.
Where: College Road in Fairbanks
When: Aug. 2-11
Cost: $10 for adults, $5 for children and seniors; season passes also available
Phone: 907-452-3750
Web: www.tananavalleyfair.org

Equinox Marathon: The 50th annual event takes place over one of the most challenging marathon courses in the country, beginning at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and crossing the summit of Ester Dome before returning to campus. Also available is the Equinox Relay, consisting of three-person teams.
Where: UAF campus
When: September 15
Cost: Fees for early online registration and day-of-race registration have not been established as of press time
Phone: 907-347-1061
Web: www.equinoxmarathon.org

World Eskimo-Indian Olympics: Indigenous people compete in traditional athletic games and celebrate through pageants and dances. The event includes a show of authentic Native arts and crafts.
Where: Carlson Center
When: July 17-20
Cost: Free for watching daytime games; prices for evening events are $8 for elders and for those 5 to 15, and $10 for those 16 and older
Phone: 907-452-6646
Web: weio.org

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