If you have ever imagined what it would be like to get away from it all in the wilderness then Fairbanks is probably that place. Here you will find mountain ranges, flowing rivers and sparking lakes, amazing wildlife and that feeling you are in the middle of nowhere with no one else around. Sat at 65 degrees North Latitude, its position makes it a unique place to visit and with an ever-changing sky means it feels very special.
The city has everything you could need, with fast food chains, plenty of places to eat and drink and things to do. Including interesting history, museums and art galleries to visit too. But there is so much more in terms of landscape surrounding the area which makes it a truly unforgettable visit.
One of the most popular reasons visitors come to Fairbanks is to see the midnight sun or the Aurora Borealis. Aurora season is between August and April, then from April to August is the midnight sun.
I was born and raised in Alaska and have visited Fairbanks many times. Here is my selection of the best things to do in Fairbanks.
1. Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum
When you walk into the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum it is like stepping back in time. You can learn so much about the motoring history of the area whilst enjoying an amazing collection of classic and antique cars.
Expect to see over one hundred exhibits including horse less carriages, vintage racing cars and even some classics that are still driven today during the summer months.
The range of cars are from 1890 all the way up to the 1950’s and the exhibits also showcase pictures and clothing from the time along with some of the autos.
Located within the Wedgewood Resort in Fairbanks it is easy to get to by car and there’s free parking for visitors at the site.
2. Morris Thompson Cultural & Visitors Center
If you are new to Alaska, then this informative center is a must visit and I suggest visiting it at the beginning of your trip. The exhibits give you an insight into the history of the local area and what it means to live in Alaska today.
You will also get information about things to do and recommended places to eat and pick up maps to use for the rest of your visit. The exhibit area also includes a theater where you can see free films about history and diversity including the fabulous aurora.
Find the visitors center near in the north of the main city area on Dunkel Street.
3. Running Reindeer Ranch
A lovely experience to have in Alaska, walking with and observing wild reindeer up close and personal. At the running reindeer ranch, you meet with the home owner who will take you out from their house to the woods where the reindeer live.
The reindeers are used to people, so you can observe them closely without disturbing them, whilst your guide will tell you more about these magnificent creatures.
You must book in advance as they don’t take walk ups and cannot guarantee same day bookings. So, to ensure you can join the tour contact the ranch and book prior to your visit. You can find the running reindeer ranch on Ivans Ally in the Goldstream Valley.
Read also: 15 Best Small Towns to Visit in Alaska
4. Northern Lights tour
One of the big draws for out of town visitors to Alaska is the chance to see the fantastic Northern Lights. Here in Fairbanks you can take a tour to get the best views of the colors of the sky and an unforgettable experience. Here’s the tour I took: Arctic Circle Northern Lights Full-Day Trip
There are a few different tour companies that offer the same kind of tour with the ultimate aim of finding the best spots to see the lights.
Drive from Fairbanks to the Arctic Circle and enjoy a beautiful view of the sky and get tips of how to best photograph the spectacular Aurora Borealis.
5. University of Alaska Museum of the North
Wildlife and history combined, this spectacular museum takes you through 2000 years of Alaskan art and history. Highlights include the state’s largest collection of gold and a mummified steppe bison.
The museum covers a wide range of topics. Such as, the native people of Alaska and their culture, the geology and climate, and of course the animals, from Arctic dinosaurs to current species.
University of Alaska Museum of the North is the only research and teaching museum in Alaska. If you are lucky you may be able to book on the behind the scenes tours of the museum’s labs and research space to see what interesting work is going on here.
Find the museum at the University of Fairbanks, north of the city and an easy drive from the central areas of the city.
6. Chena River State Recreation Area
Get out into the wilderness and take a hike through this beautiful national park. There are plenty of trails to take and maps can be picked up at the visitor center in main town Fairbanks.
The lakes are gorgeous here too and you may want to hire a kayak or take a kayaking tour to explore the area even more deeply.
There are also the hot springs which are a bit of a tourist hotspot, especially in the cold weather. It’s a long but scenic drive but an excellent chance to explore the area further.
7. Angel Rocks Hiking Trail
A fantastic hike which takes you to a lovely panoramic view of the surrounding landscapes. The trail is around 3.5 miles in a loop, and it took me a about 2.5 hours to complete and is amenable for even the beginner hiker.
Just make sure you wear the correct footwear and you will have no problems reaching the peak and enjoying the view. There are also longer trails for the more experienced or those looking for a bigger challenge. If you are unsure of your route you could always book on a walking tour or hire a local guide for extra confidence.
Further reading: 15 Best Things to Do in Alaska
8. The Palace Theatre
Seeing a show at the Palace Theatre gives you a mix of entertainment and fun as well as a lesson in the history of Fairbanks.
The comedic sketches and musical numbers give you funny and fabulous night out in the city. The theatre is quite small so no mater what seat you choose, there are no bad seats.
Find the Palace theatre on Airport Way in Pioneer Park and book tickets online prior to visiting to ensure you can visit during your stay.
9. HooDoo Brewing Company Tour
If you are interested in larger and ale, then you will love this brewery in the heart of Fairbanks. Take a tour (by appointment) with the brew master and learn in depth about the brewing process on the 3-vessel system.
Then you will have the opportunity to sample lots of different types of beers including the Pumpkin Ale, made with local pumpkins and good old American IPA. My personal favorite was the IPA.
If it is cold you can sit around the outdoor firepits and get some food from the local food truck. A great stop near to downtown and the airport.
10. The Aurora Ice Museum
For a bit of fun, you can spend a little time at this museum exploring the ice sculptures and seeing a sculpting demonstration.
You are provided with big parka jackets to wear because it is -24 degrees C inside, and because of the temperature you won’t want to stay inside too long.
It is a nice place to visit and worth it for the photos of sculptures created by talented artists.
11. Antler Arch
You may want to take a walking tour along the Chena River which incorporates this iconic structure the Antler Arch.
This idea behind the arch is really interesting. The artist developed the art piece by incorporating 100 moose and caribou antlers transported from people all over Alaska.
Each antler has a story to tell, and the meaning behind bringing these parts together was a way to bring together shared memories of the traditions of hunting in this part of the world.
It is also seen as a gateway to downtown Fairbanks due to its position at the edge of the river. Interestingly the arch is monitored by web cams 24 hrs a day, so you can view it at any time.
12. Pioneer Park
Pioneer Park is a theme park which includes a mock gold-rush town and authentic pioneer log cabins which have been moved here from across different parts of Fairbanks.
There’s also mining equipment, interesting museums and a Native American village replica to explore. There is a train that takes you around the whole park, so you can take it all in then decide which parts you want to visit first.
The admission is free and it’s a great place for photo opportunities with the mock town and village. Its also great if you want to pick up a souvenir as there are lots of little artisan and craft shops to browse.
13. Two ST Gallery
Located in the center of Fairbanks, this little art gallery has plenty to keep its visitors interested. This fine art institution showcases art from over twenty local artists in many different formats.
There are watercolours, sculpture, print work, jewelry and photography among others. You’ll find a new show each month as well as permanent exhibits, so it might be an idea to check the website to see what’s on before you visit.
If you are interested in certain pieces some of the artists works are for sale, meaning there’s the potential to pick up an amazing piece of local art.
Read also: 28 Amazing Hidden Gems in Alaska
14. Arctic Circle Monument Sign
If you want a special memento photograph from your visit to the Arctic Circle, then you must drive up to see this sign.
It is an iconic sight for visitors to Fairbanks and proves you have reached your destination! It is a five- hour drive from Fairbanks but the scenery is fantastic, so it is not a boring journey.
Find it on Dalton highway and make sure you set your destination correctly as it is easy to miss the turnoff.
15. Georgeson Botanical Garden
These gardens are part of the School of Natural Resources at the University of Alaska. You will find many different species of native plants, a children’s garden and an outdoor hedge labyrinth maze.
It is a nice place to visit in the summer for a different type of scenery and a lovely place for a stroll.
As well as being a beautiful place, it is an active research center where the plants are studied and plant trials and experiments are taking place.