Is the Riverboat Discovery Tour Worth It?

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Riverboat discovery docked at Chena Village in Fairbanks, Alaska.

When in Fairbanks, Alaska, you have access to hot springs, museums, and cultural centers. But one of the best ways to experience the city and learn more about its history and culture is by booking a guided tour.

We enjoyed our experience on the Riverboat Discovery Tour and want to share the highlights with you! It’s on our list of top things to do in Fairbanks!

What Is the Riverboat Discovery Tour?

One of the most popular attractions in Fairbanks, Alaska, is the Riverboat Discovery Tour. This 3-hour tour dives into the history and culture of the Alaskan people. Visitors tour an Athabascan village and learn how these Alaskans survived for 10,000 years. 

They visit the home of the late four-time Iditarod champion Susan Butcher and learn about dog sledding. The Riverboat Discovery Tour also takes guests to the Discovery Trading Post and Steamboat Landing, two trading posts that offer glimpses into this traditional way of life.

people loading onto the disovery III paddle boat for a tour in Faribanks, AK

How Do I Get to the Riverboat Discovery Tour?

Located at 1975 Discovery Drive in Fairbanks, Alaska, the Riverboat Discovery Tour begins just a few miles from the Fairbanks International Airport. It only takes about five minutes to reach the Chena River, where the riverboat sits.

What’s Included in the Riverboat Discovery Tour?

Let’s take a closer look at the different experiences of the Riverboat Discovery Tour. This 3-hour tour isn’t just a boat ride along the Chena River. It dives into the traditions, history, and culture of this Alaskan community. We thought it was a perfect sampler of everything we think of when we think of Alaska!

Chena Village Living Museum

Map of Chena Village

A guided walking tour will showcase the frontier living of this Athabascan village. The village has log cabins, a storage cache, and a primitive hut and fur pelts. 

You’ll learn about the importance of wolves, foxes, martins, and beavers because of the food and winter protection they provided. The Athabascans have survived for over 10,000 years, adapting to the Western culture more recently but holding firm to their traditions.

Tour guide displaying Athabascan clothing in Chena village

Bush Pilot Demonstration

Although the Bush Pilot demonstration isn’t currently happening, it has been part of the Riverboat Discovery Tour in the past. Mechanical issues have sidelined this part of the tour for the foreseeable future. 

But when it’s operating, you’ll watch an Alaskan bush pilot take off and land right next to the riverboat. You’ll learn a little bit about the role planes play in this remote location.

Bush plane tied up on the Chena River

Trail Breaker Kennel

Dog petting area for the trail breaker kennel

After the guided tour at the Chena Village Living Museum, you’ll have time to explore the village on your own. You’ll also visit the home and kennel of the late four-time Iditarod champion Susan Butcher. 

Susan’s daughter shares stories at Trail Breaker Kennel and hosts a dog mushing demonstration. And you’ll see the new puppies in training to join the team. This is a great photo opp!

Dog mushing demonstration for the trail breaker kennel

Keep in Mind: It’s no secret Alaska is huge, but How Big is Alaska Compared to the USA? Let’s dive in!

Steamboat Landing 

Steamboat Landing is the onshore trading post. Alaskan villages often had trading posts where they sold goods and traded for other Western wares. 

On board the riverboat, you’ll also have access to the Discovery Trading Post. Both stores have unique Alaskan-made products that make ideal souvenirs and gifts.

Salmon Dip Tasting

Finally, you can try the salmon dip made from locally caught salmon on the Riverboat Discovery Tour. Even if you’re not a seafood fan, it’s worth trying just to say you had local salmon!

If you love it, before you leave Fairbanks, take home some of Captain Jim’s Gourmet Alaskan Smoked Salmon. You can find it in the souvenir shop or order it online when you get back home.

Close up of chips and salmon dip

Is Food Available on the Riverboat Discovery Tour?

On the riverboat, you’ll get complimentary coffee and donuts. For people wanting more of a lunch, you can visit the Discovery Dining Hall, which serves a miner’s stew.

But you can also get snack options on board or at Captain’s Corner, where you can grab a lunch box with a sandwich or salad, chips, and a drink. Captain’s Corner also serves ice cream and delicious beer!

Beer from the Captains Corner snack shack on the Discovery III

Are Reservations Required for the Riverboat Discovery Tour?

You do need to make reservations to participate in the Riverboat Discovery Tour. We recommend booking a reservation several days in advance, but it’s possible to make a reservation the day of. During peak season, tickets can sell out.

Go to the “Book Now” button on the homepage and select the Riverboat Discovery Tour. Then, select your date and time to complete your reservation. Tours are offered daily at 8:45 a.m. and 2 p.m. You must arrive at the ticket counter at least 30 minutes before departure.

Keep in Mind: After the Riverboat Discovery tour, consider relaxing at Chena Hot Springs!

How Much Does the Riverboat Discovery Tour Cost?

Tickets for children ages 3 to 12 cost $49.95. Children under age 3 can ride for free. Adult tickets cost $89.95 for anyone 13 and older. 

However, additional fees are assessed at checkout. If you cancel your reservation up to 48 hours prior to your scheduled departure time, you can receive a full refund. However, you can’t get a refund within 48 hours of your tour time. You can reschedule, though.

What Other Tours Are Offered?

When you go to make your reservation for the Riverboat Discovery Tour, you’ll see another option for the Gold Dredge 8 Tour.

We also think this is a fun attraction in Fairbanks where you can pan for gold, ride aboard a replica of the Tanana Valley Railroad, and tour the historic site.

Be careful with this tour though! After our visit to Gold Dredge 8, we got the gold fever! We now have all the gold pans we could wish for and have panned all across Alaska, Canada, and California.

Three images of Jason and Rae Miller, Getaway Couple, panning for gold in Alaska

Is the Riverboat Discovery Tour Worth It?

We loved the Riverboat Discovery Tour! We learned more about the Alaskan people, the tradition of dog sledding, and the history of trading posts. If you’re visiting Fairbanks, Alaska, we highly recommend this tour.

You can read more about our other suggestions for activities in our article “3 Day Itinerary of Things to Do in Fairbanks, Alaska.”

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