Best Things To Do In Fairbanks
1. Gold Panning Tours & Gold Rush History
Fairbanks owes its existence to the gold fever that descended on the Tanana Valley. The city is proud of its gold rush history, which you can learn about on a visit to the authentic Gold Dredge 8.
Head off to the goldfields of Interior Alaska on an open-air train car as you listen to lore and legend of the day. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Gold Dredge 8 is a mechanical wonder, a huge machine that “walked” across the land, scooping up pay dirt. You can scoop up your own pay dirt by learning to pan for gold.
Gold Dredge 8, Gold Daughters, and Chena Outdoor Collective offer panning experiences with guaranteed gold, along with the thrill of a potential nugget. Try your luck, and you’ll capture gold fever and an understanding of what it was like to be an early pioneer in this remote environment.
2. On the Water: Chena River, Riverboat Discovery & Fishing
The Chena River winds through Fairbanks, creating opportunities for an easily-accessible stroll or paddle. Take a self-guided tour along the Chena Riverwalk's 3.5- mile stretch, taking you past parks, museums, and historic districts. You can also find local canoe, kayak or stand-up paddleboard rentals for a leisurely paddle along the Chena’s twists and turns.
From mid-May to mid-September, the Riverboat Discovery offers an historic option for getting out on the Chena as a passenger on an authentic sternwheeler. The 3.5-hour tour includes engaging stops where you’ll learn about dog mushing, bush pilots, and Alaska Native culture. You’ll also voyage to the confluence of the Chena and Tanana rivers, where the currents collide in epic fashion.
Fairbanks, and its surrounding lakes and rivers, are also a great place to cast your line. Novice and experienced anglers alike will appreciate an outing with Why Knot Adventures. You'll fish, catch and release, for trout, arctic char, burbot, and more.
3. Museums & History
Learn about the influences that have shaped modern day Fairbanks, including its fascinating gold rush history, pioneering spirit and rich Alaska Native culture. The Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center is a good place to start. It’s open year-round and offers visitor and public lands info, films, and Athabascan cultural programming. Pioneer Park has museums and displays dedicated to the gold rush and early pioneers, as well as industry and transportation. Most are closed in winter, but you can still stroll through the park and find pioneer homes that have been relocated here, along with a sternwheeler riverboat and railcar. You’ll marvel at the vintage fashions and still-operable antique cars at Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum, open year-round. More than 80 cars showcase the evolution of the automobile from 1898 to 1936.
Finally, the UA Museum of the North offers natural/cultural galleries from 5 distinct regions of Alaska and Alaska’s largest public display of gold.
4. Northern Lights
Fairbanks is one of the premiere destinations for seeing the Northern Lights, due to its location under the “Aurora Oval,” the zone over the far north with concentrated aurora activity. Weather does affect viewing conditions, so plan to stay at least three nights to get the best chance for a mesmerizing display. Formal aurora viewing tours offer info, photography tips and a chance to get away from city lights for optimum viewing. Relax at the Aurora Pointe Activity Center just outside Fairbanks, where you can step in and out at your leisure, enjoy the fire, and warm up with hot drinks. Or soak in natural hot springs while viewing the northern lights at local favorite Chena Hot Springs Resort. Combine a quintessential Alaska experience – fishing – with northern lights viewing on the Aurora Ice Fishing tour. Stay at a remote wilderness lodge or a clear-roofed dome. Or, you can fly or drive to remote Coldfoot, above the Arctic Circle, where crisp, clear weather makes for truly spectacular aurora displays.
5. Dog Sledding
Dog teams were essential to wintertime travel in Alaska’s early days, and the mushing tradition is still strong. Hop on a sled yourself to capture the excitement of working dogs eager to hit the trails. Tour guides are active mushers who love the lifestyle and the sport of dog mushing. Black Spruce Dog Sledding is based about 45 minutes from Fairbanks and offers tours from 1-3 hours long. In summer, the dogs will pull you on a five-passenger utility terrain vehicle. In winter, enjoy picturesque trails through a dense black spruce forest. Ride along, or even take a hand at driving the sled!
Closer to town you can learn what dog mushing is all about in a historic setting: The kennel of iconic musher Susan Butcher. At Trail Breaker Kennel, tours are available year-round, with custom tours available in winter.
From November-March, Rod’s Alaska Guide Service offers dog sledding experiences through the Alaska wilderness, from a ½ hour ride up to 5-hour tours that can be combined with aurora viewing, ice fishing or both! Many of Rod’s team have completed the Iditarod or Yukon Quest, so you’ll get a deeper understanding of this unique sport.
Paws for Adventure, owned by musher Leslie Goodwin-Williams, is one of the longest-running dog tour companies in the area. She offers day tours, but specializes in mushing school tours, as well as overnight and multi-day dogsled adventures based from the historic Tolovana Roadhouse, or camping along the trail!
6. Arctic Tours and Polar Bear Viewing
Fairbanks is an ideal jumping-off point to venture north of the Arctic Circle and take in the landscapes and lifestyles of the far north. To explore on your own, rent an SUV and travel the Dalton highway all the way north to Deadhorse/Prudhoe Bay, on the shores of the Arctic Ocean. This northernmost route promises amazing vistas, limited services and unlimited adventure! (Plan for a 3-4 day rental for the entire journey). For those with shorter time frames, Northern Alaska Tour Company offers several options for exploring the Arctic, including bus tours, flights, guided hikes, scenic floats and overnight trips. Fly to communities like Anaktuvak Pass, where you’ll learn about the village lifestyle in rural Alaska. Or fly to Coldfoot, Gates of the Arctic National Park, or the Arctic Ocean. The Polar Bear Expedition is limited to just 114 guests each year. The one-day excursion takes you to the small village of Kaktovik, where 20-60 polar bears gather in late summer waiting for the ice pack to return.
Interior Alaska has abundant wildlife, with several viewing opportunities Fairbanks. Learn about muskoxen and reindeer at the University of Alaska’s Large Animal Research Station (LARS), offering daily tours year-round.
Learn about reindeer from the knowledgeable and passionate owners of Running Reindeer Ranch. A one-hour tour gives you time to walk with, pet and take pictures with a small reindeer herd.
Chena Outdoor Collective, in the community of Two Rivers just beyond Fairbanks, also offers reindeer encounters. Mingle with the reindeer on a short 45-minute tour, or partake in the longer Taste of Two Rivers tour that includes the reindeer visit, gold panning, and a husky dog sled demonstration. Want more reindeer time? Opt for a reindeer hike!
Explore the Fountainhead Wedgewood Wildlife Sanctuary or Creamer’s Field where more than 100 species of mammals and birds have been identified. The two are joined by miles of trails that take you through a variety of habitats. Watch for foxes, beavers, flying squirrels, snowshoe hare, and moose. Bird lovers enjoy spotting sandhill cranes, tundra swans, kingfishers, owls, mallards and many more.
8. Winter Wonderland
Staying active outside in the winter is a way of life for Alaskans – and it’s fun! Several winter tours get you out in the snow and the crisp, refreshing air for an invigorating Alaska adventure. Riding along in a dogsled is a fun way to experience the excitement that Alaska sled dogs bring to every excursion. Their happiness to be out on the trail is infectious!
Or opt for more modern winter transport, and book a thrilling snowmobile tour that puts you in the driver seat and exploring forests trails and frozen lakes. If you want a quiet explore of the woods on your own power, cross-country skiing is a popular local winter activity that is also a great workout. (There are a few local stores that will rent equipment.)
And if you’re like a lot of visitors to Alaska, fishing is a big draw. Ice fishing is completely different than standing along the shore of a river – and it’s a lot of fun! Go with the pros and you’ll fish for King salmon, grayling, rainbow trout and more from a custom-built ice fishing shelter.
9. Midnight Sun and Summer Festivals
Located in the Interior region of Alaska, Fairbanks gets hotter, more “summer-like” conditions than other Alaska destinations. After cold winters, summer is a time to celebrate long hours of daylight, enjoy the outdoors! Midnight Sun ATV Tours has an incredible ride to do just that. Their evening tour doesn't return until about 11:30 at night -- and it's still light out at that time of night until mid-August.
Flowers and veggies grow to epic proportions under the long days! Stroll through the Georgeson Botanical Garden or area farmers markets and you’ll see many of these wonders, especially in late summer. The garden is located on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus and is a lovely sanctuary of alpine flowers, trees, shrubs, and herbs. Explore farmers markets for local veggies, reindeer sausage, locally-made art, and gawk-worthy giant produce.
If you’re in town for summer solstice, you can’t escape the daylight, or the massive Midnight Sun Festival, which boasts crowds up to 30,000. The 12-hour celebration is packed with live music, performances, and hundreds of food and souvenirs. Try your hand at gold panning, pet some sled dog puppies, and cheer for the BBQ cook-off contestants.
Fairbanks Day Tours & Attractions View All
Just a short 15-minute drive from downtown Fairbanks, wait for the northern lights to appear in a warm, inviting space. Cozy up to the fire, sip on cocoa and coffee, and step outside when mother nature puts on a show. Although the center is a short distance from town, it is far enough away so that you won’t have to worry about light pollution interrupting your view as you stand gazing under the vast, starlit sky.
Join Alaska Wildlife Guide in exploring one of Alaska’s most desired attractions, Chena Hot Springs Resort. From visiting the most northern Ice Museum, soaking in the all-natural hot springs to viewing the breathtaking Northern Lights dance across the sky, this tour will be a highlight of your Alaskan experience.
Located on a quiet ridgeline outside of Fairbanks, the Borealis Basecamp offers 20 elegant igloos and a new village with 5 aurora-viewing cubes, including a family suite custom-designed and specifically positioned to maximize your viewing of the Northern Lights. You’ll also have the chance to take advantage of the camps many winter activities like dogsledding, snowmachining, snowshoeing, and fat-tire biking.
A guided day trip out of Fairbanks reveals the quiet winter landscape of the Tanana Valley and Denali National Park. Walk or snowshoe on picturesque trails through the boreal forest, deep in the heart of the Alaska range.
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.
Ursa Major was one of the first distilleries in Alaska and the first legal distillery in Fairbanks. Today they’re dedicated to the fine craft of small-batch spirits, and you can enjoy their akavit, rum, vodka, gin, canned cocktails, and seasonal releases of whiskey. Visit the tasting room, join a tour, or take a mixology class!
Take a deep breath and explore Fairbanks! With the midnight summer sun shining nearly 24 hours a day, Fairbanks is bursting with energy and things to do. Explore Fairbanks is headquartered at the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center which is also the hub of year-round staffed visitor information and services.
Gold Daughters provides a fun, hands-on way to learn about Fairbanks’ gold rush history, and get a glimpse of the same thrill that brought so many people to Alaska in the first place. Your entrance fee provides you with a poke of paydirt with guaranteed gold and lets you pan all day.
Seeing the Northern Lights is an unforgettable wintertime experience. Of course, you never know quite when (or even if) Mother Nature is going to unleash the display into the night sky. So while you wait, you’ll be trying your hand at another activity that’s unique to the Alaskan winter: ice fishing!
Climb on board an authentic Alaskan sternwheeler, the Riverboat Discovery, and take a journey back in time along the Chena and Tanana rivers. Sternwheeler boats transport you out into the Alaskan wilderness, and also back to a time when Gold Rush fever was sweeping across the state. The Discovery II and Discovery III offer fully narrated three-and-a-half-hour tour. But all your time isn’t spent on the boat. You’ll make an unforgettable one-hour ...more
Stand out on the Arctic tundra under the northern lights, experiencing their eerie glow on a one-day tour you won’t soon forget. From October to April, you’ll depart from Fairbanks on this one-day adventure and get a majestic flightseeing trip to the remote town of Coldfoot, above the Arctic Circle. Explore this fascinating town and look for the mysterious lights overhead. Then drive south and get a close up of all the terrain in between, seeing ...more
The folks at Arctic Outfitters are travel specialists, and they’ll work hard to help you plan a trip to fit your needs. Arctic Outfitters rents reliable, stable vehicles that are specially equipped for remote travel.
The lakes and rivers of Interior Alaska teem with fish, and charters from Why Knot Adventures offer a great opportunity to go catch them. Cast in summertime while floating out on a shimmering lake, or experience the unique thrill of ice fishing in winter. If you’re lucky, you may even be under the famous northern lights!
Wondering how folks up here deal with Alaska’s long winter days? It’s easy when the inky night sky comes alive with an amazing light show like the aurora borealis. Braving the cold is nothing if you get a chance to see the lights dancing and waving overhead. Combine your aurora viewing trip with a few other highlights planned out by Salmon Berry Tours, and you’ll experience the best of winter in Alaska.
Spend some time above the Arctic Circle under the mysterious, eerie northern lights. From mid-September to late April, when you have the best chance of witnessing phenomenon of the aurora borealis, you’ll fly from Fairbanks to the remote village of Coldfoot, in the Brooks Mountain Range. After the spectacular flightseeing experience, you’ll have either 3 days/2 nights or 4 days/3 nights to explore this rugged, fascinating landscape, with ...more
Glide over the snow on a sled that’s being pulled by a team of dogs — many of whom have run the Iditarod, Yukon Quest, or other races. Go with Rod’s Alaskan Guide Service and experience the thrill of dog sledding with dogs that love to run and passionate mushers who will offer a deeper understanding of this unique sport.
Take part in the thrill of winter and fall dog sledding out of Fairbanks. You’ll experience the sport with one of Alaska’s longest-running dog tour companies. Go for a ride, attend mushing school, or go on a multi-day adventure to the historic Tolovana Roadhouse.
Join Alaska Wildlife Guide in experiencing one of Alaska’s most desired attractions, Chena Hot Springs Resort. From visiting the most northern Ice Museum, soaking in the all-natural hot springs to learning more about geothermal energy and visiting reindeers, this tour will be a highlight of your Alaska experience.
Plunge into a winter wonderland of spruce forests, wide open spaces and wildlife. This snowmobile tour in North Pole (just outside of Fairbanks) offers an unparalleled peek at Alaska’s interior and a serious thrill, whether you take a first-timer’s tour or embark on an overnight adventure.
Hop aboard a narrow-gauge train and get ready to stake your claim to gold on this two-hour tour of Gold Dredge 8. Learn all about how 100,000 gold rushers fought the permafrost in their quest to get rich. Then grab some gold of your own!
Sample a variety of Alaskan activities year-round through this organization that’s all about showcasing the community of Two Rivers. The signature Taste of Two Rivers Tour includes a dog sled demonstration, gold panning, and an opportunity to meet & pet reindeer. Other summer tours include hikes with reindeer and visiting a peony farm. In winter, go dog sledding (day or multi-day expedition) and view the northern lights.
Northern Alaska Tour Company offers several tours that transport visitors to the Arctic Circle. You can fly, drive, or do a combination of the two, depending on your travel preference and how much time you have. The most popular tour is the fly-and-drive excursion, which gives you incredible views from the air and a tour of the town of Coldfoot, followed by a drive back to Fairbanks.
You may think of reindeer as flying creatures of the imagination, but here in Alaska they’re very real. And this unique tour gives you the opportunity to get up close and personal with these magnificent animals. Walk among them and pet them — it’s truly a moment made for Instagram.
Fly from Fairbanks and travel 80 miles above the across the Arctic Circle on a scenic and historic adventure. Departing in the evening, you’ll pass over the stark terrain of northern Alaska and land at the Athabascan village of Fort Yukon. Then, with your guide, you’ll spend an hour learning all about this fascinating area — the history, how people take care of themselves in a punishing environment, and some of the characters who have called this ...more
Plenty of people come to Fairbanks to look at the sky — for northern lights, or to bask in the midnight sun. But this dog-mushing experience outside of Fairbanks is proof that there’s plenty more of Fairbanks to be seen at eye — or even paw — level. May through October, take a a trail ride with 16 dogs hitched up to an ATV. November through April, take a mushing tour through the snow!
This train travels through the forested areas north of Anchorage into the boreal forest, and eventually into the tundra regions further north. On a clear day the train will slow down to allow you to see beautiful vistas of Denali. You may also spot wildlife along the way. Day Trip from Anchorage: Talkeetna Day Trip from Fairbanks: Denali Multi-Day Trip from Anchorage: Talkeetna, Denali National Park, and / or Fairbanks Multi-Day Trip ...more
Fairbanks Parks & Trails View All
Easily one of the most scenic drives in the Interior, the trip out to Table Top Mountain from Fairbanks winds deep into the center of White Mountains National Recreation Area, rising up hillsides and dipping down into valleys for a rolling picture show of spruce forest and snaking riverbeds. The hike to Table Top Mountain is just as spectacular, providing panoramic views of the White Mountains from the center of the range, and is a short “must ...more
The White Mountains National Recreation Area is home to 200+-miles of trail traversing a million acres of wilderness and a mountain range named for the dominant color of its limestone foundation. To get there, drive 28 miles on the Elliott Highway from Fox (where it splits with the Steese) and look for signs marking the trailhead. The trailhead is the starting point for both the Summit Trail, and the Ski Loop Trail, a 5‑mile loop and a nice ...more
This 15-mile loop is well worth the moderate to strenuous hike. This trail provides views of tors, unusually shaped outcroppings that were formed 70 million to 90 million years ago when molten rock pushed upward and cooled before reaching the surface.
This path was constructed to provide a place for hikers to view the plantlife around interior Alaska. This is a unique trail that allows hikers to view things that would be impossible to hike without a trail. There are all types of wildlife and small plants. Waterboots are recommended in spring.
The Chena Riverwalk makes for a relaxing self-paced stroll along the Chena River and through the most scenic parks and plazas of historic downtown. It’s best when flowers are in full bloom (July-August). The path stretches approximately 3.5 miles between Pioneer Park and Airport Way, with longer options available. Or — park at Immaculate Conception Church or in the Downtown Transportation Center for a shorter jaunt.
One of the ways in which the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) distinguishes itself is through an institution-wide affinity for the outdoors (their newest slogan is “Naturally Inspiring”). And much to the delight of students and residents, UAF maintains an in-town trail network for skiing, hiking, snowshoeing, biking, and running that is directly accessible from campus (also very popular with dog walkers).
This hike is great for the early-rising fly fisherman. The lake is full of grayling and there are often caribou, moose and bears along the trail. The hike follows an old mining trail that parallels the Susitna River to Snodgrass Lake. There are many active mines along this hike and be sure to keep an eye out for grizzleys.
Growden Park is an expansive park situated in downtown Fairbanks. Growden’s playground and open play areas are popular with Fairbanks families, and utilized for a variety of recreational activities ranging from frisbee football to medieval arts and role playing.
The idea of this downtown plaza stemmed from a celebration of the silver anniversary of Alaska’s statehood in 1984. Through the work of Festival Fairbanks, Inc. ’84 Director, William R. Wood, the Fairbanks City Council supported the creation of the Golden Heart Plaza. Construction was completed in 1987 and funded by donations from Fairbanks citizens, families, businesses, and associations.
Grapefruit Rocks is on the short list of favorite spots for local rock climbers, who make frequent weekend trips to these limestone formations and boulders standing 50 miles north of Fairbanks. Grapefruit Rocks is both “off the beaten path” and yet still accessible by road, and offers some of the best rock climbing in the Interior. It makes for a great day hike to watch climbers attempt runs on a variety of limestone facades. Feeling bold? ...more
This is the site of the original airfield in Fairbanks, from which the first airplane to leave the ground in Alaska took flight in 1913. Today, residents often use the grassy open areas to fly kites, exercise their dogs, or have a picnic. School children walk between the library and elementary school that border the park to the east and west. Wildlife sightings are always a possibility, particularly for birds and moose.
A winter use trail that accesses two cabins; Angel Creek Lower Cabin and Angel Creek Upper Cabin. It’s possible to hike in during the summer, but the ground is usually very wet, so it’s advisable to take the new summer trail to the upper cabin. It leaves from near the lower cabin and traverses the hillsides for several miles before descending to the upper cabin.
Once a small dairy owned by a couple named Creamer, this land is now an extraordinary wildlife refuge. More than 100 species of birds and mammals call this wilderness home (sandhill cranes and mallards show up all summer), and there are miles of trails that meander through a variety of habitats.
Murphy Dome is a recreational site most popular with ATV riders and hikers. It lies about twenty miles outside of the Fairbanks, most of which are traveled on Murphy Dome Road off of Sheep Creek Road which can be accessed from the UAF campus. This Dome is also a popular place to watch sunsets in the summer and fall, or to observe the northern lights in winter.
One of the best trips near Fairbanks features incredible views, excellent walking, and easy logistics. For much of the route you’ll follow rock cairns accompanied by mileage posts as you cruise through undulating alpine terrain. This is a suitable trip for a beginner backpacker who has a high level of fitness.
A short or long day hike awaits at Angel Rocks, a scenic drive out Chena Hot Springs Road and within easy range of the rejuvenating waters that have drawn travelers for over a century. The best option for a short day trip in this area is the 3.5‑mile loop that begins on even ground along the north fork of the Chena River and then sharply climbs up 900ft. For a longer hike to end with a refreshing dip in natural hot springs, park at the same ...more