Photo Credit: Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

Fairbanks Museums & Cultural Centers

Fairbanks is a young city where the people who made history are often still alive to tell it. Local museums are prized community gems that quietly share remarkable stories of Fairbanks’ uncanny ability to “beat the odds” (as a local historian puts it in the title of his book) rather than die out like so many other gold rush towns. These stories are told through historic exhibits, black-and-white photos, oral histories, and living legends on staff at the Fairbanks Community Museum, Tanana Valley Railroad Museum, and Pioneer Air Museum. This is what people are referring to when they say Fairbanks has “character.”

The UAF Museum of the North is consistently ranked as one of the top museums in the state and is a “must” for first time visitors or repeat guests who want to brush up on their trivia of the last frontier. The Gallery of Alaska walks you through relevant cultural touchstones from regions around the state, providing a solid overview for new arrivals to get their footing in Alaskan history.

History and culture also “comes alive” at several venues in Fairbanks with shows and demonstrations at Pioneer Park, Fairbanks Ice Museum, and Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center. Look for opportunities to live it, instead of just reading about it. The machinery of the frontier days still runs full throttle at Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum for a noisy, clinkety, gas-fueled blast into the pioneer past.

Though it’s easy to stroll through these facilities on your own, many of the best stories remain in the minds of museum staff. Don’t be shy—say hi, and ask for a favorite story or memory from their time in the Golden Heart City.

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Museums, Cultural Centers

Expe­ri­ence the Alas­ka of 100 years ago! Pio­neer Park is an his­toric vil­lage that fea­tures orig­i­nal build­ings moved from down­town Fair­banks, as well as muse­ums and a Gold Rush town street. But it’s also a theme park with a carousel and train that runs the perime­ter, shops, and restau­rants. Stay a few hours or spend a full day; Pio­neer Park offers fun for the whole family.

The Mor­ris Thomp­son Cul­tur­al and Vis­i­tors Cen­ter in down­town Fair­banks has brochures, maps, free WiFi and tele­phone, dai­ly lodg­ing avail­abil­i­ty, and local walk­ing and dri­ving tours. Serv­ing as the region­al vis­i­tor facil­i­ty, the friend­ly and knowl­edge­able staff have answers to all your questions. 

Season: Year Round $10

Alaska’s road to mod­ern­iza­tion a cen­tu­ry ago was a dra­mat­ic jour­ney, and the Foun­tain­head Antique Auto Muse­um explores that jour­ney in fun, vivid detail. On the grounds of Wedge­wood Resort — a mem­ber of the city’s pre­mier, local­ly owned hotel group — the muse­um show­cas­es dozens of his­tor­i­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant pre-World War II auto­mo­biles, and offers vis­i­tors a trip back to Alaska’s rugged and excit­ing for­ma­tive years.

The gold rush that start­ed Fair­banks relied heav­i­ly on an ear­ly rail­road to quick­ly and effi­cient­ly move peo­ple and valu­able goods along a string of mines and sup­port­ing com­mu­ni­ties. The Tanana Val­ley Rail­road Muse­um illus­trates the role of this rail­road in Fair­banks’ first indus­try through his­tor­i­cal exhibits, inter­pre­tive train rides, and on-site restoration.

From Alas­ka native art to polar dinosaurs, you’ll find some­thing inter­est­ing on exhib­it here. Head to the cen­ter­piece of this muse­um, the Rose Berry Alas­ka Art Gallery, to see the full spec­trum of Alaskan art, from ancient Eski­mo ivory carv­ings to con­tem­po­rary paint­ings and sculptures.

You can’t miss it — the muse­um looks like a round gold­en air­plane hangar with a mod­el air­craft from Air North mount­ed on beams out­side in a sim­u­lat­ed take-off. Inside, you’ll find a few of the ear­li­est air­craft in the state from the 1930s and 1940s used in mil­i­tary, com­mer­cial, and bush flights. All this is inter­pret­ed for vis­i­tors by local experts, who have lived and breathed the avi­a­tion indus­try for decades in Fair­banks, and shared it here  ...more

Devot­ed to all things ice, this muse­um will put you in a win­ter mood no mat­ter what the sum­mer tem­per­a­tures are like. You’ll see sev­er­al large ice dis­plays, a freez­er you can go in to feel like it’s 20 degrees below zero, a huge-screen slide show with the annu­al World Ice Art cham­pi­onships, and freez­ers with huge ice tableaux. 

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