Fairbanks is the largest city interior of Alaska. It is also called Golden Heart City. At a latitude of 65 degrees north, the city is mostly known for Aurora Borealis (northern lights), dog sledding, and wildlife. This remote locale means you can experience Alaska’s wildest and still come back the comfort of your hotel room and wind down with a pint of beer.
It is very important to note that the activities varies a lot depending on when you decide to visit Fairbanks. For example, there is little to no chance of seeing Northern Lights during summer as night could be as long as only 1 hour. If your bucket list includes Northern Lights, then we suggest going from anytime between fall and end of winters. It will be dependent on other activities you want to do in this area and also how much cold weather you can tolerate and that should determine what time you decide to go to Fairbanks. It is also suggested that you at least stay in Fairbanks for three days anytime to ensure that you get to see Northern Lights at-least once during your stay as lights are dependent on the place’s weather and also solar activity. Your sleep cycle will be a bit weird if you do not see Northern lights on your first day or two as you will be waking up middle of the night chasing Aurora Borealis. This itinerary will need to be modified depending on when Northern Lights are most predicted. If your bucket list includes dog sledding, then the only time you can go here is winters.
Getting around: Renting a car would be the best as that would help you go around Fairbanks. Car can be rented right by the airport or if you are driving from Anchorage, it takes around 5 – 6 hours. You can also come to Fairbanks via train and then rent a car or take tour buses for various activities.
- Day 1 – Roam around Fairbanks downtown, Creamer’s Field and see Northern Lights:
- [1 – 2 hours] Start with the statue of Unnamed people and walk along Chena river to go to visitor center, churches, and antlers park.
- [2 – 4 hours] Creamer’s Field: The field’s Migratory Waterfowl Refuge offers year-round birding and wildlife viewing. The mosaic of open fields, forest and bogs is surrounded by the town of Fairbanks. Originally a dairy farm founded in the early 1900s, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game began management of the area in 1968. A three-mile-long network of nature trails crosses the 2,000-acre refuge, passing through boreal forest, seasonal wetlands and open fields.
- You will see sandhill cranes, canada goose, northern pintail, canvasback, peregrine falcon, redpoll, alder flycatcher, american golden plover, american wigeon depending on the time you are visiting
- Visitor center has the details around the trails, birds and also their migration routes. It is at the entrance of Creamer’s field on the left side.
- If you plan well ahead and also interested in guided nature walks, then please visit for their schedule, it is different depending on which season you are visiting and is also open in winters http://www.creamersfield.org/visit.shtml
- [3 – 4 hours] Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis: It is a phenomenon that you have to see in your lifetime. Before you see it, you may want to know what they are. The sun emits high energy ion particles (also called solar wind) and when it reaches earth, some of the particles are trapped with the edges of earth’s magnetic field. These particles are drawn down to the ionosphere, where they collide with gases, producing green, red, blue or violet colors. The colors are dependent on the types and quantities of gases in the ionosphere. There are four ways to get notified of Aurora Borealis:
- If your hotel gives a wake-up call for Aurora Borealis, let them know that you would want to be notified. It may not work for you in the off-season.
- Go to Facebook page of ‘Aurora Borealis Notifications’, you would hear notifications on when the lights will be out and other people post comments stating where are they seeing it from.
- Auroranotify.com also has a webcam somewhere in Fairbanks to show you the current state of how visible aurora is
- You can also download Aurora Fcst app to see Kp value by time and in Aurora nowcast, you can see you location and how aurora is trending
- Finally and most importantly, go to gi.alaska.edu and see aurora forecast for your time in Alaska. Their green bank shows the region and score provides the likelihood of seeing Aurora
- Go to Clearly Summit to watch Aurora if you are in Fairbanks; you will see a lot of people which can be slightly annoying but also helpful if you do not want to spend money on a tour and want to be up to see the lights
- You can also pull over by the highway towards Fox or Chena Hot Springs Road
- If you want to be in Fairbanks and do not want to drive, than best places would be to go to Creamer’s Field or University of Alaska, Fairbanks
- Day 2 – Dog Sled Tours, Chena River State Recreation Area and Hot Springs Resort: Drive to Chena Hot Springs and at Chena Hot Springs Road stop by at following places:
- [30 min – 1 hour] Dog Sled or Mushing Tours – During summer and fall, you can just go and pet huskies, learn how they are trained, what they are used for and what characteristics make an Alaskan Husky a great sled dog. There are some tours that also include a short cart ride. During winters, you can ride in a sled dog basket with a professional musher into the wilderness.
- [2 – 4 hours] Hike to Angel Rock (3.5-mile round trip; 2-3 hours): Angel rock is part of Chena River State Recreation Area. Climb up 900 ft for spectacular views of the valley. Once you’re at the top, you can continue on the loop, return back by the trail on which you came, or make your way to the lip of the ridge to try and glimpse the Alaska Range. This trail is 1,750 ft. in elevation at its highest point. The hike takes two or three hours, but you should allow plenty of time to take in the scenery, climb on the rocks, or have lunch at the top.
- [2 – 4 hours] Chena Hot Springs (7 am – 12 am for $15 per person): After getting tired from the hike, jump into the hot springs at Chena Hot Springs Resort. Hot springs is only 4 foot in depth and at 160 deg F. You will have a beautiful view of the hills from the hot springs.
- [1 hour] Stroll around the resort as you will get a chance to see Caribous, mountain goat, and other animals
- Drive back to Fairbanks, if you are not staying at Chena. You can also see Aurora Borealis from here but it will be a very late night long drive back to Fairbanks, which you may not prefer as there are no street lights on the way.
- Day 3: Go to University of Alaska museum and visit rural villages in bush Alaska
- [2 – 3 hours] University of Alaska museum: Discover fascinating stories about Alaska’s people, places, and wildlife in the museum’s award-winning exhibit galleries – your best introduction to this vast and diverse state. From Alaska’s wildlife to contemporary Alaska Native art, whatever your interest, you’ll find something appealing on exhibit. There are also a couple of films running on sea-life, aurora borealis and others.
- [3 – 4 hours] Visit rural villages in bush Alaska (join on a mail run): Join on a mail run to any of more than 12 villages including Beaver, Bettles, Anaktuvuk Pass and many more. Escape the tourist traps, possibly travel above the Arctic Circle —go where few visitors travel and meet the people who live there. http://www.warbelows.com/bush-mail/
- Local diners and pizza places are around
- Chinese and Thai places are open till late and allow for take-out food
- Hand-crafted Ulus: Alaska ulu knife has been used for centuries by Native people of the Arctic. Ulus were first shaped from slate and used to skin, fillet, sew and eat. The ullu is still a most popular cutting tool.
- Alaska native art
- Mammoth carvings
- Walrus tusk ivory
- Jade carvings
- Alaska t-shirts