See the northern lights, pan for gold like a pioneer or enjoy the spectacular ice festival in Alaska’s rugged but beautiful heart.
Feast your eyes on the kaleidoscope of color that is The Northern Lights from one of the best places to see them in the world. Sights like this and the annual Ice Alaska Festival, where the world’s best ice sculptors converge to show off their talents make the cold in Fairbanks well worth bearing. When you do need to warm up, a soak in Chena Hot Spring is the perfect tonic. Elsewhere you can learn about the city’s gold rush past in museums and try your hand at panning for gold.
Fairbanks was founded in 1901 when a trader’s boat became stranded on an impassable section of the Chena River. Less than a year later gold was discovered in the region, and the town soon grew. Now the second largest city in Alaska, Fairbanks or “The Golden Heart”, as it’s known to locals, is home to a large population of hardy souls. It is also frequented by tourists who flock here to see the northern lights, the migrating birds and the region’s many other charms.
Come in February or March and you’ll catch Ice Alaska, one of the world’s finest ice festivals. The Fairbanks Ice Museum features a film of highlights among its displays year-round. Learn more about the region in the University of Alaska Museum of the North. This has information on glaciers and other features of Alaskan geography, a strong collection of native art and a recreation of the Northern Lights.
Pan for gold at Gold Dredge 8, a fascinating attraction which runs informative tours about the gold rush at the beginning of the 20th century. The presence of the Fort Knox Gold Mine just north of Fairbanks attests to the area’s continued importance for gold mining. Visit Pioneer Park, a 44-acre (17-hectare) park that shows how life would have been for the early gold panners.
Rent a car to get around Fairbanks in summer and enjoy the novelty of driving under a midnight sun. In winter the roads are hazardous and its best to let someone else do the driving. Catch a bus, taxi or rent a driver to explore the wilderness.