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Fairbanks Travel Guide + 12 Things to do in Fairbanks
Updated April 2020, Fairbanks Travel Guide + 12 Things to do in Fairbanks was originally written in January 2020
At 65ºN Fairbanks earns its nickname as Alaska’s golden heart city. Whether your visiting in the heat of the midnight sun or braving subzero temperatures for the chance to watch the northern lights dance above you, Fairbanks has plenty of activities to offer. In this Fairbanks, travel guide find out the 12 best things to do in Fairbanks, the best restaurants, where to stay, day trips from Fairbanks, hikes near the city, and more.
Start planning here: The Ultimate Alaska Travel Guide
Things To Do In Fairbanks
Explore Downtown Fairbanks
With historic buildings that date back to the gold rush, a myriad of restaurants and bars, museums, arts and more, Downtown Fairbanks mixes old and new.
Click here to join this highlights of Fairbanks sightseeing tour
The Chena Riverwalk is a 3.5 mile maze of paved trails along the riverfront that will take you from Pioneers Parks and around Downtown Fairbanks. This is a great walk if you’re wanting to give yourself a self-guided tour of the city and want to get a little exercise while you’re out and about.
Thaw Out & Watch The Northern Lights From Chena Hot Springs
About 90 minutes drive East of Fairbanks along the Chena Pump abroad will bring you to Chena Hot Springs. No matter what time of year you visit a dip in the bubbling waters is well worth it, but winter is a truly magical time with hoarfrost covered trees and if you’re lucky a chance to see the northern lights from the comfort a boiling hot pool. Entrance to the hot spring for the day is $15 for adults (18+) and $12 for kids (6-17). Children 5 and under are free with a paying adult. It’s possible to stay overnight at Chena Hot Springs as well
Book your Chena Hot Springs day trip here
Take A Riverboat Discovery Tour Down The Chena River
Dive into the heart of Alaska’s interior by way of riverboat on the Chena River. You’ll get the chance to visit an Athabaskan village along the river to learn more about the culture. You can book your tour online here. Adults (13+) are $69.95, kids are (3-12) $42.95 and children 3 and under are free.
Hang Out At Tanana Lakes
On the edge of Fairbanks’ southside is Tanana Lakes Recreational Area, a great place to relax and enjoy a day at the beach in the interior of Alaska.
Get Outside The City & Hunt For Aurora
The main draw to Fairbanks in the winter is for the chance to see the aurora borealis. There are several great spots around Fairbanks in which to try and view the aurora from, click here for some of the best locations.
Worth noting is that the aurora is best viewed in winter from September to March when dark skies are abundant. September and March are typically the months with the most auroral activity. It’s still possible to see the northern lights as early as mid August and as late as early May in my personal experience.
Not a DIY style traveler? No problem, check out there aurora tours on offer from Viator
Visit The Aurora Ice Museum
Built by the 16 time world champion ice carver Steve Brice and his wife Heather this year round ice environment is well worth the visit to admire the beautifully carved ice architecture. Don’t forget to grab one of their signature appletinis served up in a glass carved from ice in the 25°F climate-controlled Ice Bar and then smash your glass afterward outside. Entrance to the Aurora Ice Museum is $15 for adults (12+) and $10 for kids (6-11).
Go To Santa Claus House In North Pole
North Pole is a small town just outside Fairbanks with the main attraction being the Santa Claus House, where it’s Christmas every day of the year. You can buy unique toys, Christmas Tree ornaments, and treats, get photos with Santa and even inside his sleigh, and have Santa send a letter to friends and family back home.
Wanna visit Fairbanks on your Alaska road trip? Check out my Anchorage to Fairbanks highlights in a week post
Play Around At Pioneer Park
Pioneer Park features a carousel, train, museum, mining equipment, the SS Nenana- a sternwheel ship, restaurants, shops, mini golf, and the ‘Gold Rush Town’ with historic original buildings from Downtown Fairbanks. Spending 2 weeks in Fairbanks in summer when I was about 7 years old was my first vacation and to be honest, I thought this place was Alaskan Disneyland.
Check Out Antique Cars At The Fountainhead Auto Museum
Even if you aren’t into cars, the Fountainhead Auto Museum is still worth a visit (unfortunately I’ve never been despite having visitors Fairbanks countless times!) but my cousin who lives there always raves about it and recommends it to our out of state friends and family. The Fountainhead Auto Museum has over 80 antique cars on display. Entrance to the Fountainhead Auto Museum is $12 for adults (13+), $6 for kids (6-12), and free for children under 5.
Get your tickets to Fountainhead Auto Museum online
Museum Of The North
The University of Alaska’s Museum of the North is well worth the visit for those that want to see and learn about culture, history, and wildlife of Interior Alaska with numerous artifacts and animals on display. There is also is a contemporary art collection on display featuring local artists that’s not to be missed. Entrance to the Museum of the North is $16 for adults (13+), $12 for Alaska residents, $9 for kids (5-12), and free for children 4 and under.
Check out this Fairbanks sightseeing tour, including a stop at the Museum of the North
Morris Thompson Cultural Center
If you’re looking for even more ideas for things to do in Fairbanks, the Morris Thompson Cultural Center will help with that. The staff of Explore Fairbanks can be found here to help.
How To Get To Fairbanks
By car: Renting a car and driving to Fairbanks is likely your cheapest option would if you’ll be combining your visit with other destinations, such as Anchorage in Alaska.
By plane: Multiple flights run between Anchorage and Fairbanks every day. Direct flights are also available between Seattle and Fairbanks. In the summer it’s possible to fly direct between Frankfurt, Germany and Fairbanks. Several operators offer flights and charters to bush communities outside Fairbanks.
By train: It’s possible to get in and out of Fairbanks by train to Denali, Anchorage and beyond. One way fares between Anchorage and Fairbanks start at $251 for adults 12 years and over, and $126 for kids 2-11 years. Lap children under 2 ride free. Anchorage to Fairbanks by train takes about 12 hours.
Get your train tickets to and from Fairbanks
| Viator |
Trying to see Alaska on the cheap? Check out my Alaska budget travel guide
Where To Stay In Fairbanks
Billie’s Backpacker Hostel
| Booking.com |
Lux Stay Waterfront
| Booking.com |
Best Aurora Hotels Outside Fairbanks
Borealis Base Camp
| Hotels.com |
Chena Hot Springs
Best Restaurants In Fairbanks
The best Thai in Fairbanks
Great for breakfast
Hilltop Truck Stop
The best sourdough pancakes that you’ll ever eat
Located in nearby North Pole. The best Chinese food in the Fairbanks area
Lulu’s Bread & Bagels
Don’t miss the chocolate croissants
Library bar & Bites
Awesome new spot serving up cocktails and tapas
Blue Roof Bistro
One of the best lunch spots
Day Trips From Fairbanks (Or Longer!)
Visit The Arctic Circle
Around 5 hours north of Fairbanks along the Dalton Highway you’ll officially cross the Arctic Circle. If you are opting to take on the Dalton Highway road trip, it’s worth stopping for a quick photo with the sign, just off the highway.
Don’t wanna drive yourself? Check out this Dalton Highway Arctic Circle tour from Fairbanks
About an hour and 45 minutes drive along the Richardson Highway will take you from Fairbanks to Delta Junction. Along the way, you’ll be able to see the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline, Quartz Lake, Delta Flats, and more as you travel deeper into Alaska’s interior.
Click here to book this day trip from Fairbanks to Delta Junction
Hit the Richardson Highway from Fairbanks and head southeast to Harding Lake Recreational Area where you can enjoy a day out in the sun, swimming in the lake, barbecuing, paddling. and more.
Denali National Park
Denali National Park is one of the main attractions for travelers visiting Alaska. The park definitely warrants more than a day trip, but if you happen to be flying in and out of Fairbanks and don’t have much time to spare you can visit the park in one long day. Denali National Park Visitor Center is about a 2 hour drive from Fairbanks.
Need a shuttle to or from Denali? Book one here for $80 each way
Plan your visit to Denali National Park here
Nenana is located about an hour outside of Fairbanks. Things to do in Nenana include gold panning, whitewater rafting, the Alfred Starr Cultural Center and Museum, and the Alaska Railroad Museum.
Book a Nenana whitewater rafting trip here
Manley Hot Springs
Manley Hot Springs is located about 3 and a half hours from Fairbanks. The journey will take you on an exciting ride along the Elliott Highway into the interior. While it is possible to visit in one long day, you could opt to spend a night at the historic Manley Roadhouse. A visit to the hot spring is a must- it consists of 3 concrete pools covered by a greenhouse, which uses geothermal energy to grow an array of flowers, fruits, and vegetables including hibiscus flowers and Asian pears.
Hikes In & Around Fairbanks
Start the trek to Wickersham Dome located in the White Mountains from the Elliott Highway. The hike to Wickersham Dome is about 7 miles in total, however, there are over 200 miles of trails into the White Mountains.
Join a guided hike to Wickersham Dome here
Granite Tors is known for its unusual rock formations created by molten rock that cooled as it was being pushed upward before reaching the surface approximately 70-90 million years ago. As time has gone on the Granite Tors have been eroded by the harsh Alaskan weather which has helped to shape their distinct shape. The Granite Tors Trail is a 15 mile loop.
Angle Rocks is one of Fairbanks’ most popular hikes. The 3.5 mile loop will take you into the Chena River State Recreational Area for epic views of Angel Creek Valley and the Chena River.
Join a guided hike to Angel Rocks here
Table Top Mountain
Table Top Mountain is another trek into the White Mountains, not far from the Wickersham Dome. In total, the Table Top Mountain Hike is 3 miles.
Ester Dome can be done as 2.7 mile inner loop or a 5.8 mile outer loop.
Creamer’s Field Nature Trail
The Creamer’s Field is a 2,200 acre refuge for migratory waterfowl. The 2 mile Creamer’s Field Nature Trail was constructed to give visitors the chance to get up close with the interior plant life and waterfowl.
Have Any Questions About Visiting Fairbanks Or Any Of The Mentioned Things To Do In Fairbanks?
Ask your Fairbanks travel questions in the comments section below.