From polar bears to its gold rush past, there is so much to see and learn in Fairbanks! Here’s a list of can’t-miss activities in “The Golden Heart of Alaska.”
Did you know that Fairbanks is one of the best places in the world to see the northern lights, officially known as the aurora borealis? If your permanent home is in the lower 48, chances are you haven’t had the pleasure of seeing this phenomenon. This mysterious event occurs after charged solar particles collide with the Earth’s magnetic field, creating gently moving or pulsing curtains of bright light. You might see white, yellow, green, blue or violet lights. The best viewing will be in the winter since Fairbanks also is home to the midnight sun and you can only see the aurora at night. But if you’re spending the summer working in Alaska, you might catch the northern lights in early September before you leave. We recommend checking out Ester Dome for a chance to check a glimpse.
Experience the midnight sun
Speaking of that never-ending daylight, the city of Fairbanks celebrates this unique and unforgettable event each June. The longest day of the year – which is even longer in Fairbanks, since it’s just 200 miles south of the Arctic Circle – gets the red carpet treatment with the 12-hour Midnight Sun Festival. This special event includes live entertainment, food, vendor booths, kids’ activities, a rock climbing wall and a three-on-three basketball tournament. A 10K Midnight Sun Run, which attracts thousands of athletes each year, starts at 10 p.m. when the sun is still bright overhead.
Chena hot springs
What’s one of the best ways to relax after a day of work? Soaking in a hot spring in Alaska. Visit the Chena Hot Springs & Ice Museum, located about an hour outside the city, and relax in geothermally heated waters. The connected ice museum includes an ice bar (for those over age 21) where you can try an appletini in a glass made of ice (while sitting on a bar stool made of ice). It’s an iconic Alaska experience.
While snow will be in short supply if you’re spending the summer in Alaska, you can still get to know these intrepid pups through various area sled dog kennels, many of which offer classes in mushing. You could even spend your days off volunteering to take care of these canine athletes, many of which have run the 1,000-mile-plus Itidarod. Check the Fairbanks Convention & Visitors Bureau for kennels that are open to public visitors.
Learn about gold mining
You can’t visit Fairbanks without learning about its gold rush origins. On your day off, take the Gold Dredge 8 tour, which includes a train ride, a stop at the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, and a lesson on how to pan for gold. It’s a good way to get the flavor of mining in the region, hands-on style.
Take a hike
You came to Alaska to experience its famous wilderness and now you’ll have the chance. You have your pick of trails and hikes in and around Fairbanks, from the easygoing Creamer’s Field Nature Trail, where you can view Alaska’s native plant life, to the White Mountains National Recreation Area with its 200-plus miles of trails. If you’re up for a challenge, try the 15-mile strenuous Granite Tors Trail and get a view of its distinctive molten-lava formations.
While it’s always a possibility to catch a glimpse of Alaska’s wildlife – particularly moose, about 16,000 of which call the Fairbanks area home, you’ll have a better-than-average chance at the Wedgewood Wildlife Sanctuary. You might see moose roaming here, or smaller mammals like red fox and beavers. It’s also a favorite birding spot, with more than 100 species sighted here. The sanctuary connects with trails at Creamer’s Field.
Ready to spend the summer in Fairbanks? Take a look at the types of jobs in Fairbanks offered by Holland America-Princess and find the position that’s right for you!