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Many people who travel to Alaska don’t make it farther than the peninsula. Perhaps they get into Anchorage or drive through the national park to view the majestic Denali in person. But many travelers miss the many things to do in Fairbanks, Alaska.
If you’re planning a road trip to the Frontier State, we highly suggest you spend a few days exploring this city. Its history, culture, food, and beauty will inspire you. We’ve created a three-day itinerary to help make your trip memorable and exciting.
Plus, we’ve added a few other great options if you have more time to explore. Let’s dive in!
Where Is Fairbanks, Alaska?
Fairbanks lies close to the heart of Alaska. It sits at the junction of Highway 2 and 3 and along the banks of the Chena and Tanana Rivers in the Tanana Valley. Highway 3 runs south of Fairbanks and travels along the eastern border of Denali National Park, which lies southwest of the city.
Highway 2 travels southeast out of the city to the Canadian border at the Yukon Territory. Fairbanks, the second most populous city in Alaska behind Anchorage, has about 32,500 residents and many things to do.
What Is Fairbanks, Alaska Known For?
Fairbanks is the base camp for many travelers wanting to visit Denali National Park and Preserve. It sits about two hours north of the main visitor center.
The city is also renowned for its Northern Lights because of its dark winters and northern location and the Midnight Sun Season from late April to late August when the sun shines 24 hours a day.
Your Itinerary of Things to Do in Fairbanks, Alaska
If you’ve never been to this region, we have a list of things to do in Fairbanks, Alaska, so that you can have a fantastic experience. You’ll discover so much rich history, culture, and stunning natural beauty. If you have a few days, here is what we suggest.
Day One: Riverboat Discovery Tour and Eat at the Pump House
The three-hour Riverboat Discovery Tour introduces you to the Alaskan way of life. It includes a guided walking tour of an Athabascan village where you learn about hunting, cooking, and surviving in this region.
You can also watch a dog mushing demonstration at the home of late four-time Iditarod champion Susan Butcher and learn more about the river and its importance to trade and life for thousands of years.
Check out more info in our article, “Is The Riverboat Discovery Tour Worth It?”
After your tour, head over to the Pump House restaurant and national historic site. They serve a variety of seafood options, from Alaskan salmon to King Crab to crab cakes. You also have a selection of beef and chicken options. Pair your meal with a glass of wine or a microbrew and enjoy the scenery as you overlook the Chena River in Fairbanks, Alaska.
Day Two: Gold Dredge 8 Tour and Dinner at a Thai Restaurant
The same company that offers the Riverboat Discovery Tour also offers the Gold Dredge 8 Tour. Although you can do both on the same day, we suggest splitting them up.
On the Gold Dredge 8 Tour, you learn about Alaska’s gold mining history as you tour the Gold Dredge 8, which is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
You also get to explore the Main Camp, Mining Museum, and pan for gold. The two-hour tour starts with a ride aboard the Tanana Valley Railroad.
Check out more info in our article “Is The Gold Dredge 8 Tour Worth It?”
Another restaurant we liked was the Thai House Restaurant. It lies about 15 minutes south of the Gold Dredge 8 and serves all of the traditional Thai favorites like pad Thai, drunken noodles, and egg rolls. If you prefer to eat lunch, they have a special lunch menu that’s a bit cheaper.
Day Three: Soak at Chena Hot Springs and Dinner in the Lodge
Finally, on your third day in Fairbanks, Alaska, take a trip to Chena Hot Springs, where the geothermal waters offer a peaceful retreat.
Purchase a day pass to access the hot springs lake, the indoor heated pool, and both outdoor and indoor hot tubs. The pool house opens at 7:00 a.m., and the last entry is at 11:30 p.m., so you have hours to enjoy a relaxing day in Fairbanks.
Check out more info in our article “Our Honest Review of Chena Hot Springs.”
We loved that there was a restaurant on site. The Chena Hot Springs Restaurant features fresh local ingredients grown in the greenhouses on the property. The geothermal water from the hot springs heats the greenhouses, thus allowing the staff to grow fresh vegetables year-round.
Dinner is served from 5:00-10:00 p.m. Order a savory steak or fresh seafood platter or try a fresh salad with greens and vegetables from the greenhouses.
Other Things to Do in Fairbanks, Alaska
If you have more time to spend in the city or want to fill up your days with attractions and sightseeing adventures, you’ll find plenty of other things to do in Fairbanks, Alaska. Here are a few more suggestions for things we enjoyed during our visit.
Keep in Mind: Are you wanting to try gold panning? Then check out our Guide to Panning for Gold in Alaska!
Pioneer Park is a family-friendly attraction that merges the history and culture of Fairbanks, Alaska, with modern conveniences. The historic village has the original buildings that were moved from downtown Fairbanks. You’ll also find museums, shops, restaurants, and a theme park.
You can play disc golf or paddle down the Chena River if you want outdoor recreation. The park even stays open during the winter and transforms into a winter wonderland with Christmas lights that stay on through March!
Morris Thompson Cultural & Visitors Center
We love to learn more about different cultures as we travel. Fairbanks, Alaska, gives us plenty of ways to do that.
The Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center displays exhibits with information about the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act and how it has impacted Alaskans and their way of life.
The life-sized dioramas depict the seasons and Alaskans fishing, hunting, and viewing the spectacular Northern Lights. The center is free and well worth a stop when you want something to do in Fairbanks.
Moose Antler Arch
When visiting Fairbanks, many people enjoy seeing the Moose Antler Arch, just across from the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center downtown.
Made up of over 100 moose and caribou antlers collected from all over Interior Alaska, its purpose is to draw attention to the walking and biking paths in Fairbanks — and it certainly grabs your eye. It also provides the perfect photo spot.
Keep in Mind: Before driving on The Highway to Alaska, here’s Everything You Need to Know!
HooDoo Brewing Company
Finally, we also love visiting breweries as we travel. The HooDoo Brewing Company is a local favorite with its world-class ales and lagers. You can enjoy a pint of German Kölsch, Maibock Lager, or American IPA in the cozy Taproom or outdoor Biergarten.
You’ll even find their beers served on the Riverboat Discovery Tour in the summer and served year-round at the Pump House.
When Is the Best Time to Visit Fairbanks, Alaska?
If you want to enjoy the 24-hour sunshine, plan your trip to Fairbanks sometime from May through August. You’ll have plenty of time to explore the area, learn about its history, and savor the local cuisine.
All of the attractions will also be open during these months, so you don’t have to worry about a museum or tour that’s closed for the season.
Is A Visit To Fairbanks, Alaska Worth It?
Fairbanks, Alaska is a haul from the Lower 48. But it’s totally worth it to visit at least once. Many travelers have Alaska on their bucket list, and it’s well worth a top spot. The people, the food, the culture, the history, and the natural beauty are amazing.
So if you’re on the fence about whether or not to plan an Alaskan road trip, we’d highly suggest it. Hopefully, our list of things to do in Fairbanks, Alaska will help you plan an itinerary full of memories!
Have you ever been to Fairbanks? Is there anything else you’d add to our list?