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.
What It’s Like
Take a spin on the carousel, explore the historic sternwheeler, and hop the train that chugs around the park’s perimeter. Then drop by Mining Valley, where old pieces of equipment and signage give you a great feel for what local mining was like. Feeling active? Play the 3-hole disc golf course, then rent a canoe or kayak the Chena River. Shoppers can browse the stores, while art lovers can peruse the fine sculptures and paintings in Bear Gallery. Grab a bite at one of the restaurants, which range from American to Asian to Mediterranean, and enjoy your meal at one of the picnic tables along the river. And be sure to stay for the nightly salmon bake and dinner show about the colorful characters who came here in search of gold.
Pioneer Park is open all winter! While the shops and restaurants close for the season, you can still walk around and get a feel for Alaska’s early years. It’s also a good place to get into the holiday spirit; there’s a tree-lighting ceremony on the Saturday after Thanksgiving each year, and the holiday lights stay up through March. And don’t miss a stop at Bear Gallery (winter hours: 12 p.m.–6 p.m. Tuesday–Saturday) to check out the fine art on display.
Pioneer Park opened in 1967 as part of the Alaska ‘67 Centennial Exposition, celebrating the 100th anniversary of Alaska’s purchase from Russia. The park featured a zoo and rides in those early days, when it was known as Alaska 67 and then Alaskaland. The name was changed to Pioneer Park in 2001, to reflect its focus on history.
The surrounding area also has a fascinating past. Along the park’s northern border lies the Chena River, a name of Athabascan origin derived from “che” (meaning “stick”) and “na” (meaning “river”)—the Stick River. It was this river that Fairbanks’ founding father, E.T. Barnette, traveled up in 1901. He was searching for the town of Tanana Crossing (now called Tanacross), where he hoped to establish a trading post. But his boat, the Lavelle Young, hit a sandbar, and he was forced to spend the winter along the banks of the Chena River. The following spring, miner Felix Pedro found gold in the surrounding hills, and Barnette decided to stay and establish his trading post there. That early community was known as Barnette’s Cache. Within a year, however, it became known as Fairbanks, named after Indiana Senator Charles Fairbanks (who went on to serve as Theodore Roosevelt’s Vice President during Roosevelt’s second term).
Prices & Dates
|Season||Memorial Day - Labor Day|
Points of Pioneer Park
A Fairbanks family favorite, the playground is located at the center of the park and is designed for several age groups with an animal train and three climbers. (Stay tuned for the new cable climber and ADA accessible play equipment scheduled for installation in the fall of 2011!)
Looking for a relaxed dinner after a busy day of adventures? Head to the Alaska Salmon Bake — the only one in Fairbanks — where you’ll enjoy all the food you like, surrounded by a historic park filled with old buildings and mining equipment. Take your pick of Fire Grilled Alaskan salmon, Beer Battered Cod, or prime rib, cooked to perfection.
The Alaska Centennial Center for the Arts was built in 1967 and designed to resemble a southeast Alaska tribal hall. The masks on the outside represent animal spirits. Many people think the building looks more like a birthday cake, which is fitting since it was built for Alaska’s 100th birthday. Some Fairbanksans also refer to the center as the Pickle Barrel. The Alaska Centennial Center for the Arts is rumored to be haunted. The Alaska… ...more
On the north side of the park along the edge of the Chena River, sits Alaska Outdoor Rentals & Guides providing one of Fairbanks’ few, outdoor family adventure activities. Alaska Outdoors rents kayaks, canoes, and bicycles for half-days, a day, or by the week. In addition, they outfits adventurers and hunters for wilderness, fly-in trips, they have a retail store for paddling gear, and they are the local dealer for Thule cargo… ...more
Pioneer Hall was designed to represent a fine 1900’s era building. It houses two historical attractions: The Pioneer Museum which is filled with fascinating artifacts of early Fairbanks. The settlers of Fairbanks probably would have been surprised if they had known their everyday utensils would one day be on display in a museum. Few of the museum’s pieces are a hundred years old. Not very old by most museum standards, but their value is… ...more
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
The Riverboat Nenana is a sternwheeler, nicknamed the “Queen of the Yukon.” She was commissioned by the Alaska Railroad and built in 1933. Her parts were made in Seattle and then shipped to Nenana, Alaska where she was constructed. She plied the Tanana and Yukon Rivers from 1933 to 1954, and her primary run was between Nenana and Marshall — a distance of about 858 miles. She also ran twice a month from May through September. The Riverboat Nenana… ...more
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.