Ever since I was little, Alaska was high on my list of places to visit. I finally got the chance to go when one of my best friends had her wedding there last year! The bridal party flew out a few days early to do some exploring with the bride and groom before the wedding.
Fairbanks, Alaska is absolutely beautiful, it’s perfect for someone who loves the outdoors. The weather was overcast and rainy the weekend we went, but that didn’t stop us from getting outside and exploring. It actually made our hikes nicer, because we probably would have been miserable in the heat.
When to Visit Fairbanks:
This depends on what you want to do because different times of the year will be better for different activities. Summer is a great time to visit Fairbanks because it’s warmer (think no sub zero temperatures) and it’s lighter. Because of the Earth’s Axial Tilt and it’s location, it receives more or less sunlight in certain times of the year.
So if you’re planning to see the Northern Lights, you will want to go when there is less daylight. While you can start seeing them in late August, you should plan to visit between October and March for best viewing. Our cab driver told us that March was the best time to visit because you can still see the Northern lights but the weather is warming up. Plus this is often considered still part of the off season. See pictures from my winter trip to Fairbanks in March 2018!
So if you want to do more outdoor activities like hiking or riverboat tours, plan your visit in the summer. The temperatures drop pretty low in the winter, so many tourist attractions are closed during the off season.
Traveling to Fairbanks can get expensive, so if you’re looking to save some money, try going sometime during the off season, October – April. The warmer months are a more popular time to visit so it’s a more expensive time to visit. Having been in the summer and the winter, both seasons are equally fun and magical! So it depends on what you want to do!
Where to Stay in Fairbanks:
We stayed at the Hampton Inn & Suites Fairbanks by Hilton which was really nice. The hotel room was large and the bed was really comfortable. There were blackout curtains on all the windows to keep the light out while we slept. The hotel offered a complimentary breakfast, but we never took advantage of it because we stayed up late every night. Note: I signed a notice warning me not leave money or valuables in our room. The hotel provides a safe in the lobby to lock valuables inside. I just kept the Do Not Disturb sign on the door the entire trip. And while they do offer a free shuttle to and from the airport, they weren’t running it the weekend we were there. A cab ride to the airport is about $25.
I planned to stay in a lakeside cottage at the Rivers Edge Resort but I waited too long and they booked up. It looks beautiful and private, each cottage is detached and has its own private deck with a view of the Chena River.
More resorts and hotels are listed on the Alaska.org website here, but I only listed the hotels which we considered and the one we actually stayed at.
How to Get Around Fairbanks:
You can get around by taxi pretty easily if you’re staying local to downtown but it adds up quickly. If you plan on venturing out of downtown Fairbanks, I recommend getting a rental car.
Where to Eat in Fairbanks:
We were only there for a few days and didn’t get to try all of these amazing restaurants. But these are all places my friend suggested and recommended to friends and family.
Shogun’s Hibachi: We went to dinner here one night and it was really fun atmosphere!
Alaska Salmon Bake Restaurant at Pioneer Park: Everyone ate dinner here the night we I flew up so unfortunately we missed out. But everyone kept raving about this place all weekend!
Great Harvest Bread Co: A great bread bakery with delicious sandwiches!
The Pump House: Fine dining with outside deck and great brunch.
Chena’s Alaskan Grill: Fine dining with outside deck, this restaurant is located by the Rivers Edge Resort.
49th State Brewing Company: This is actually outside of Fairbanks, but worth the trip! I recommend stopping here on your way back from hiking in Denali National Park. There is also a replica of the bus that Christopher McCandless lived in outside.
Banks Alehouse: Sports bar and restaurant.
Silver Gulch Restaurant: “America’s Northern Most Brewing Company” – pub and restaurant.
Lemon Grass Thai Cuisine: I’m not personally a fan of Thai food but my friend says it’s amazing! And it has 4 stars on Yelp so it must be good!
Fuji Japanese: Sushi
Things to Do in Fairbanks:
Antique car museum: Our cab drive told us this is a must see place when visiting Fairbanks. It’s on our list for next time since we didn’t have the time to go this trip!
Chena Lakes: A great recreational spot to visit during the summertime. Chena Lakes is located about twenty minutes outside of Fairbanks. The campgrounds offer a variety of family friendly activities, including hiking, volleyball courts, fishing, picnic tables, as well as canoes, kayaks, and paddle boats that can be rented for a small fee. In the winter, you can go ice fishing on the lake!
Running Reindeer Ranch: Take a walk with the reindeer at running reindeer ranch! Make a reservation as this is their home.
Museum of the North: The same cab driver also told us that the Museum of the North, located on the UAF campus, is a really fascinating place to visit. Again we didn’t have time so I’m also adding this to the list for next time! For more information about the exhibits, hours, prices, etc. visit the Museum of the North site here!
Morris Thompson Cultural Center: Home of the Fairbanks Convention & Visitors Bureau, Tanana Chiefs Conference, and the Alaska Public Lands Information Center – these three organizations work together to educate residents and visitors about the history of Fairbanks.
Dog sledding: This is something I’m going to do on my next trip and it’s a bucket list item for me. Get a real feel for the Alaskan lifestyle by learning about dog sledding, its history, and how to be a musher. Some places let you take the dogs out for a day trip or even an overnight camping trip. Definitely research what exactly you want to do, but here are a few options to start: Black Spruce Dog Sledding, Sirius Sled Dogs, Paws For Adventure.
Northern Alaska Tour Company: Take a sight-seeing excursion of Fairbanks by ground or air.
Chena Hot Springs: The hot springs are a must visit when you go to Fairbanks. You can take relax in the hot springs or grab a drink at the Ice Bar. Or you can do both! Note: you must be 18+ to swim in the natural hot springs.
Riverboat Discovery: Take a boat tour to see and discover the history of Interior Alaska – this is only available May – September.
Pioneer Air Museum: Discover the history of aviation in Alaska at the Pioneer Air Museum.
Denali ATV Tour: Choose from a variety of different guided ATV tours near Denali National Park. A great and fun way to experience the wilderness of Alaska.
North Pole & Santa Claus House: Located 15 miles SE of Fairbanks, Santa Claus House is a popular tourist destination.
Hiking in Fairbanks:
Denali National Park: Home to North America’s tallest peak, Mt. McKinley. While we didn’t hike Mt. McKinley, I wish we would have had more time to explore and hike the trails.
Angel Rocks: This is a popular option for nature lovers because of the stunning views it offers. This is about 40 minutes outside of Fairbanks on the way to the Chena Hot Springs. You have the option to take a 3.5 mile loop or hike 8.3 miles one way to the hot springs. You’ll have to hike back or have someone leave a car at the hot springs first.
Wedgewood Wildlife Sanctuary: These walking/hiking trails wind through a 75 acre forest with a variety of wildlife in the sanctuary.
Creamers Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge: Great for bird watching and wildlife viewing. Originally a dairy farm, the grain and fields provided the optimal habitat for waterfowl. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game manages the 2,000+ acre refuge and offers a network of nature trails and viewing platforms and towers.
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