My husband and I left for Fairbanks, Alaska one week after we got married in May of 2016. We spent a little of two months living and working in Alaska as assistant camp counselors. We went back in July 2017. Here’s some of our favorite things and what I suggest you check out in Fairbanks and the surrounding area:
Fairbanks, Alaska is in the interior of Alaska and is the second largest city in the state. It’s a college town with rich history and beautiful scenery all around it. At times it reminded me of the eclectic city of Asheville, NC– a bit hippy-ish and outdoorsy. The downtown area is very small and the city itself is easy to navigate.
We visited in the summertime, which meant almost 24 hours of sun. I found this very disorienting when I first arrived, but for Joshua, this was his fifth summer in Alaska and you do get used to it eventually.
- Santa Claus House in North Pole, AK! You see this place on the news when they do a weather report from Santa’s house around Christmastime. It’s outside of Fairbanks on Richardson Hwy. You should totally stop by and get an ornament. They also have a coffee shop with fudge, reindeer on property, and lots of places for a “Kodak moment.” Christmas card picture time, anyone?
- Then as you continue south on Richardson Hwy, stop at the Knotty Shop. And yes, you can laugh at that ridiculous name. The outside looks cool with the unique knotted wood and the ice cream is a great pick-me-up. It has a cute shop with lots of Made in Alaska souvenirs.
- The University of Alaska Museum of the North at UAF is beautiful! It’s $12 for adults but Joshua and I spent all afternoon here. They have Alaskan art of all sorts highlighting the state and Alaskan natural history. We really liked the display about the Alaskan geography and paleontology– it was almost like you were at a real dig. There’s a small café, stunning views from large windows, and a great little gift shop.
- Chena Hot Springs in Chena, AK- aka my favorite place in all the world! This a resort built around a natural hot springs pool. It’s about 60 miles from Fairbanks, but Alaskans are used to driving far distances, so that’s just something to get used to when visiting. The pools are open year round and it’s wonderful. There’s the outside natural pool, hot tubs, and an inside pool (which was under construction when we were there, but a lazy river was in it’s place). We went in the summer and on a beautiful day, so we didn’t get the full experience and I’m looking forward to going back in the winter. Check out the many other things to do here too, like the Ice Castle that looks like something out of the movie Frozen.
- Fred Myer– If you’re from the lower 48 and love Target, then you must visit Fred Myer, if you’ve never been on the west coast. This like a Super Target, with everything you need! This is also the best place for inexpensive souvenirs and postcards.
- The Cookie Jar Restaurant is the place to get giant cinnamon rolls and a menu where everyone will find something they like! Fairbanks is NOT a dining mecca of the world and often we struggled to find good restaurants to eat where the prices weren’t outrageous and we both recommend this one.
- Pioneer Park, formerly Alaskaland in Fairbanks is FREE,so why not visit!? It takes you back to when Fairbanks was a frontier town. It’s a little hokey but very family friendly.
- Fairbanks Visitor’s Center, known as Morris Thompson Cultural & Visitors Center, is a must-see! It’s FREE and really helped me get my bearings in the city and surrounding area. The museum is lovely and there’s lot of brochures about visitor attractions. The staff is really friendly and can answer your questions. The gift shop is overpriced though. Make sure you explore the grounds, which has a live stream video so you can wave to friends watching online (Haha!), the antler arch, a little cabin, and beautiful flowers in the summer time (remember that 24 hour sunlight?).
Other ideas: Escape Room AK; Pagoda Chinese Restaurant in North Pole, AK; Chowder House; Fireweed Boutique; If Only – A Fine Store in downtown
Planning a visit? I’d love to hear your plans and can make more suggestions based on your interests! Joshua and I both loved Fairbanks. We met lovely people, made lots of friends, and are looking forward to going back!