20 Fun & Unique Things to Do in Fairbanks | 2023 (with Photos)
Dive into the heart of the Alaskan wilderness with a visit to Fairbanks, a charming city that offers an array of thrilling experiences.
Fairbanks is a gateway to explore the majestic Denali National Park, soak in the rejuvenating Chena Hot Springs, and marvel at the ethereal beauty of the Northern Lights. It's a city where Alaskan native culture thrives, reflected in landmarks like the Museum of the North.
In this article, we'll guide you through the myriad of things to do in Fairbanks, turning your Alaskan journey into a truly unforgettable experience.
Most Recommended Thing to Do
Top Choice Hotel
Pike’s Waterfront Lodge
Our Top Choice Restaurant
I apologize, but I am not able to provide real-time information or access current data. It would be best to consult online review platforms or local directories for the top choice restaurant for food lovers in Fairbanks, United States of America.
Our Top Choice Bar for Nightlife
Best Time to Visit
Winter for Aurora Borealis or Summer for Midnight Sun.
Cold weather prevails in Fairbanks, United States.
Buses, taxis, rideshare, bikes, walking, car rental, airport shuttle.
Average Cost ($, $$, $$$)
My Top Recommendation
In Fairbanks, United States of America, immerse yourself in the breathtaking wilderness by embarking on a thrilling dog sledding adventure through the glistening snow-covered landscapes, feeling the exhilarating rush as a team of powerful huskies pull you along, creating lasting memories of a unique Alaskan experience.
Indulge in a taste of local culture by visiting the Fairbanks Ice Museum, where you can marvel at intricately carved ice sculptures, learn about the fascinating history of ice art in the region, and even try your hand at sculpting ice yourself, leaving you with a newfound appreciation for the beauty and skill that goes into this ephemeral form of art.
What You'll Need to Bring
- Warm clothing (including hats, gloves, and scarves)
- Good quality winter boots
- Thermal layers
- Insulated jacket
- Hand warmers
- Snow pants or waterproof trousers
- Sunglasses (to protect your eyes from snow glare)
- Sunscreen (even in winter, the sun can be intense)
- Camera (to capture the stunning winter landscapes)
- Outdoor adventure equipment (such as snowshoes or skis for exploring)
In addition to these items, it's always a good idea to bring personal essentials such as toiletries, medications, and any necessary travel documents. And don't forget to pack a sense of adventure and curiosity to fully enjoy your time in Fairbanks, United States of America!
Table of Contents
1. Bask in the Spectacle of the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis
Fairbanks, Alaska, is a city that sits beneath a band of the world's highest auroral activity, making it one of the best places on Earth to witness the Northern Lights.
These ethereal lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis, are a natural phenomenon that occurs when solar particles collide with atmospheric gases, creating an entrancing display of dancing colors in the sky.
Fairbanks' location in the interior of Alaska, away from the coastal weather, and its long and clear winter nights, provides optimal viewing conditions for these stunning light shows.
From August to April, visitors and locals alike bundle up and head to dark, open spaces, hoping to catch a glimpse of the shimmering curtains of green, pink, and purple.
There is something truly magical about watching the sky come alive with this celestial ballet, making it an absolute must-see when visiting Fairbanks.
2. Visit the University of Alaska Fairbanks Campus and the Museum of the North
The University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) is the state's flagship university, nestled in the heart of Interior Alaska.
The campus is rich in natural beauty and academic resources, with a commitment to Arctic and Northern research. One of the major attractions on campus is the Museum of the North.
This impressive museum tells the story of Alaska's history, from the cultural heritage of Alaska Natives to the state's unique natural resources.
The museum houses a variety of exhibits, including displays on the Arctic Circle, the Alaskan wilderness, the Trans Alaska Pipeline, and the gold panning history of the region.
Visitors can also explore a collection of artifacts and artworks created by local artists, providing an immersive understanding of Alaska's past and present.
3. Tour the Aurora Ice Museum, a Unique Experience with Ice Glass and Spiral Ice Staircase
The Aurora Ice Museum, nestled within the Chena Hot Springs Resort, is a testament to the icy wonders of Alaska. This unique museum, maintained at a constant 25 degrees Fahrenheit, showcases an array of stunning ice sculptures, all crafted from Alaskan ice.
Visitors are provided with parkas for comfort as they wander through the museum, marveling at the intricate ice glass creations and the awe-inspiring ice staircase. The museum even boasts an ice bar, where visitors can enjoy an appletini served in an ice-carved martini glass.
The Aurora Ice Museum offers a magical, winter wonderland experience year-round, making it a must-visit destination when in Fairbanks.
4. Explore Denali National Park, a Piece of Alaskan Wilderness with the Alaska Range
Covering over six million acres of untouched wilderness, Denali National Park is a must-visit when looking for things to do in Fairbanks. The park is dominated by the towering presence of Denali, the highest peak in North America, part of the majestic Alaska Range.
Visitors can explore vast tundra, spruce forests, and glaciers, providing a haven for wildlife including grizzly bears, wolves, moose, and caribou.
The park offers various activities such as hiking, wildlife viewing, and mountaineering, making it a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts.
Even a simple drive through the park on the Dalton Highway is a rewarding experience, offering stunning views of the Alaskan wilderness and the opportunity to see the park's rich fauna in its natural habitat.
5. Soak in the Chena Hot Springs, Offering an Unforgettable Outdoor Hot Tub Experience
Located at the end of Chena Hot Springs Road, about 60 miles from downtown Fairbanks, lies the Chena Hot Springs Resort. The resort is most famous for its natural hot springs, discovered over a century ago and long reputed for their healing properties.
The outdoor hot tub offers a unique and unforgettable experience, allowing visitors to soak in the warm, mineral-rich waters while surrounded by the stunning Alaskan landscape.
Whether you're visiting in the heart of winter or the peak of summer, the springs remain a steady and soothing temperature.
This geothermal oasis serves as a place of relaxation and rejuvenation for all who enter. After a long day of exploring the wilderness, there's nothing quite like sinking into the therapeutic waters of the Chena Hot Springs under the vast northern sky.
The resort also offers a range of other activities, including dog sledding, ice museum tours, and, if you're lucky, a view of the mesmerizing Northern Lights.
A trip to Fairbanks wouldn't be complete without experiencing this natural wonder.
6. Learn About Vintage Vehicles at the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum
The Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum in Fairbanks is a paradise for car enthusiasts and history buffs alike. Housing an impressive collection of nearly all the cars from the World War II era and beyond, the museum is a journey through the evolution of the automobile.
But it's not just about the cars; the museum also presents the fascinating story of Alaska's early motoring history.
Visitors can explore the museum at their own pace, marveling at the vintage vehicles that range from horseless carriages and steamers to midget racers and 30s classics.
The museum also features historic photographs, vintage clothing, and other artifacts that provide a snapshot of life in Alaska during these transformative years.
The Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum is undoubtedly a must-visit when in Fairbanks, offering an insightful and entertaining experience for all ages.
7. Try Dog Sledding with Alaska Sled Dogs
For an authentic Alaskan experience, try dog sledding with Alaska sled dogs. This popular activity provides an exhilarating ride through the stunning wilderness.
Visitors can take a tour with a professional musher who will guide the sled through snow-covered forests and across frozen rivers.
Along the way, you'll learn about the history of dog mushing in Alaska, the training of the dogs, and their unique personalities.
Not only is dog sledding a thrilling adventure, but it's also a wonderful way to appreciate the beauty of the Alaskan landscape.
Whether you're a first-timer or a seasoned adventurer, dog sledding with Alaska sled dogs is an experience you won't soon forget.
8. Discover Alaska Native Culture at the Morris Thompson Cultural Center
The Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center in Fairbanks is a vital hub for understanding the diverse cultural history of Alaska.
The center offers an extensive array of exhibits that provide insight into the traditions, lifestyles, and arts of the Alaska Natives.
Interactive displays showcase traditional crafts, clothing, and tools, and films and presentations offer further insight into these unique cultures.
You'll also find exhibits detailing the resources of the region and the impact of the changing seasons on the local way of life.
The center also serves as a visitors center, providing information and resources for exploring Fairbanks and the surrounding areas.
9. Visit the Running Reindeer Ranch
At the Running Reindeer Ranch, visitors can get up close and personal with Alaska's iconic reindeer.
This unique ranch offers guided tours where visitors can learn about reindeer biology, history, and husbandry. Visitors can walk through the beautiful boreal forest with the reindeer, feed and pet them, and take memorable photos.
A visit to the Running Reindeer Ranch is not only educational but also a delightful experience for visitors of all ages.
10. Journey to the Arctic Circle
For those looking for things to do in Fairbanks or near it, a journey to the Arctic Circle is a must.
The Dalton Highway, one of the most isolated roads in the United States, provides a unique opportunity to travel north into the Alaskan Arctic.
Along the way, you'll witness the raw beauty of the wilderness, from the expansive Yukon River to the majestic Brooks Range.
Upon reaching the Arctic Circle, you can pose for a photo with the iconic Arctic Circle sign, a memorable souvenir of your journey.
This adventure offers a glimpse into the remote and rugged beauty of Alaska, making it a must-do for any intrepid traveler visiting Fairbanks.
11. Explore Pioneer Park, a Living Mining Museum
When looking for things to do in Fairbanks you should consider stepping into Pioneer Park. This 44-acre city park, once known as Alaskaland, serves as a living mining museum.
The park features an array of historic buildings, including Gold Rush town, which is made up of original buildings from the early 1900s.
Visitors can explore the Tanana Valley Railroad Museum, with its restored steam locomotive, and even take a ride on a narrow-gauge train.
The park also houses the Pioneer Air Museum, which showcases the history of aviation in Interior Alaska.
Amidst the cultural attractions, there's also a playground, mini-golf, and plenty of picnic spots, making Pioneer Park a fun destination for the whole family.
12. Walk Along the Chena River in Downtown Fairbanks, Rich in Cultural Attractions and History
A walk along the Chena River in downtown Fairbanks is a delightful way to soak up the city's rich history and cultural attractions.
The riverfront boasts a variety of landmarks and points of interest. You can spot the iconic SS Nenana, one of the last surviving sternwheelers, or visit the Lacey Street Theater, a historic Art Deco building.
As you stroll along the river, you'll pass by the Golden Heart Plaza, a popular gathering spot, and the Morris Thompson Cultural Center, a hub for understanding Alaskan Native culture.
This leisurely walk offers not only beautiful views but also an insight into the city's vibrant past.
13. Ride the Tanana Valley Railroad in Pioneer Park to Discover Alaskan History
Pioneer Park's Tanana Valley Railroad offers a fun, interactive journey through Alaskan history.
This narrow-gauge railroad takes visitors on a short ride around the park, passing through a gold rush town and offering insights into the state's mining heritage.
The vintage steam locomotive adds to the nostalgic experience, and the engaging conductors entertain with stories about the early days of railroading in Alaska.
The ride ends with a demonstration of gold panning at Gold Dredge No. 8, a National Historic Site.
This railroad experience is both entertaining and educational, making it a must-do for families visiting Pioneer Park.
14. Delve into the History of Interior Alaska
Delving into the history of Interior Alaska provides a deeper understanding of its unique cultural heritage and natural wonders.
This can be done through visits to museums like the Museum of the North at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where you can explore collections of artifacts, art, and specimens that communicate the story of Alaska's natural, artistic, and cultural heritage.
A trip to the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum offers insights into the region's motoring history, while the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center showcases the rich traditions of Alaska Natives.
A journey along the Chena River can also reveal much about the area's history, as many of Fairbanks' historical landmarks are located along its banks.
15. Witness the Midnight Sun
Fairbanks, Alaska, is known as the land of the midnight sun, where the sun shines nearly 24 hours a day during the summer solstice. Witnessing the midnight sun is a surreal and unforgettable experience.
The endless daylight opens up opportunities for various activities at unusual hours, like late-night golfing or fishing.
Many events celebrate the phenomenon, including the Midnight Sun Festival, a downtown street fair with music, food, and games.
Taking a hike or simply relaxing in one of Fairbanks' beautiful parks during the midnight sun gives a whole new perspective on the phrase "daylight savings."
The experience is a true testament to Alaska's unique geographical location and one of the many reasons that make a visit to Fairbanks so fun.
16. Embark on a Guided Walking Tour to Explore Fairbanks at Your Own Pace
To truly immerse yourself in the heart of the city, one of the things to do in Fairbanks is to embark on a guided walking tour.
Explore Fairbanks at your own pace, taking time to appreciate the city's rich history, local art, and charming architecture.
Many guided tours start in downtown Fairbanks, where you'll be captivated by stories of its gold rush past, a history reflected in the vintage storefronts along Main St.
As you meander along the Chena River, your guide will point out landmarks like the Golden Heart Plaza and the Morris Thompson Cultural Center.
17. Visit the Georgeson Botanical Garden
Located on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus, the Georgeson Botanical Garden is a living museum of subarctic horticulture.
It's a haven for nature enthusiasts, with a diverse range of flora, from colorful peonies to hardy vegetables, thriving under the midnight sun.
The garden is also home to various research projects focused on improving the quality of life in the Alaska Interior. Visitors can stroll through the beautiful landscapes, engage with informative displays, and even participate in workshops or guided tours.
A trip to the Georgeson Botanical Garden offers a refreshing blend of education and relaxation amidst Fairbanks' natural beauty.
18. Try Ice Fishing with Rod's Alaskan Guide Service
When talking about things to do in Fairbanks for an authentic Alaskan experience, try ice fishing with Rod's Alaskan Guide Service.
This premier guide service offers expert-led ice fishing tours that are suitable for both novices and experienced anglers.
After being outfitted with the necessary gear, you'll head out onto a frozen lake and learn how to drill through the ice to reach the water below.
As you wait for a bite, your guide will share insights about the local fish species and the art of ice fishing.
The cozy heated cabins ensure a comfortable experience, even in the chilly Alaskan winter. Whether you catch a rainbow trout or a pike, it's sure to be an unforgettable adventure.
19. Enjoy a Riverboat Discovery Tour on the Chena River
Experience the beauty and history when you visit Fairbanks from the water on a Riverboat Discovery tour.
This family-owned business has been offering tours of the Chena and Tanana Rivers for generations, providing visitors with authentic things to do in Fairbanks.
From the comfort of a sternwheeler riverboat, you'll witness a bush plane take off, visit a recreated Athabascan Indian village, and see sled dogs in action.
The tour also passes by the home of the late Susan Butcher, a four-time Iditarod champion.
With live narration from experienced riverboat captains, you'll gain insights into the history, culture, and wildlife of Alaska. This riverboat adventure offers a unique perspective on Fairbanks and its surroundings.
20. Stop by the Large Animal Research Station
Things to do in Fairbanks are not just about the Northern Lights and frosty landscapes.
It is also home to the Large Animal Research Station (LARS), which is part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
If you have a keen interest in wildlife, particularly in Arctic species, this is a must-visit spot.
The station primarily studies large animals that are native to the Arctic and sub-Arctic, such as musk oxen, caribou, and reindeer, aiming to understand their biology, behavior, and interaction with the environment.
During your visit to LARS, you will get a chance to see these magnificent animals up close, with knowledgeable guides on hand to provide fascinating insights into their life in the harsh wilderness.
The station's gift shop or an Alaska department store, also offers a unique opportunity to buy items made from qiviut, the underwool of musk oxen, which is known to be softer and warmer than cashmere.
FAQs About Things to Do in Fairbanks Alaska
In this section, we take a look at and answer some of the most frequently asked questions about things to do in Fairbanks.
How do I spend a day in Fairbanks Alaska?
Spend a day in Fairbanks, Alaska starting with a visit to the Museum of the North at the University of Alaska, where you can learn about Alaska's history and culture. Enjoy the natural beauty with a trip to Denali National Park or relax at the Chena Hot Springs.
In the evening, experience the Northern Lights, one of the most beautiful natural phenomena.
Is Fairbanks worth visiting in Alaska?
It is worth visiting Alaska because of the many things to do in Fairbanks. It offers a unique blend of cultural experiences such as the Alaska Native Culture, natural wonders like the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis, and adventurous activities like dog mushing.
Plus, you can explore the Ice Museum and the Fountainhead Auto Museum.
Which is nicer Fairbanks or Anchorage?
Both Fairbanks and Anchorage have their unique appeals. Fairbanks is ideal for experiencing Alaska's wilderness, viewing the Northern Lights, and exploring the Pacific Northwest's culture.
In contrast, Anchorage, being the largest city in Alaska, offers more urban amenities while still being surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty.
Which is nicer, Fairbanks or Seward?
While there are plenty of things to do in Seward, Fairbanks offers a unique charm with its vibrant culture, breathtaking Northern Lights, and rich history. Its proximity to natural wonders like Denali National Park makes it an ideal destination for adventure seekers.
Can you walk around Fairbanks Alaska?
Yes, you can walk around Fairbanks, Alaska. A guided walking tour is one of the best ways to explore the city.
You can visit key attractions like the Pioneer Park playground, take a short walk through the Museum of the North, and end your day at the Hoodoo Brewing Company. Remember to dress warmly during the winter months.
Summing Up: Fun & Unique Things to Do in Fairbanks, Alaska
In sum, there are many amazing things to do in Fairbanks, Alaska.
From the fascinating Alaska Museum to the exhilarating dog sleds, and from the soothing Chena Hot Springs to the mesmerizing Northern lights, there are things to do in Fairbanks for everyone.
Whether you're an adventurer at heart, a history buff, or someone who just appreciates natural beauty, Fairbanks has something for you.
So, what are you waiting for? Pack your bags, embark on the Alaska Railroad, and prepare yourself for an unforgettable journey into the heart of Alaska's wilderness. Your Fairbanks adventure awaits.