Travel Alaska: Best Way to Spend 24 Hours in Fairbanks

Travel Alaska: Best Way to Spend 24 Hours in Fairbanks

Travel Alaska: Best Way to Spend 24 Hours in Fairbanks

Travel Alaska: Best Way to Spend 24 Hours in Fairbanks

By WAVEJourney

When your travel plans quickly change and you find yourself with far less time in a new destination​ than you originally envisioned, it’s time to really focus on what your primary interests are and just hit the highlights. This is what WAVEJourney did on a visit to Fairbanks (the second largest city in Alaska) when our original plan of spending at least four days in the largest city in the interior of Alaska, shortened to only 24 hours.

Known as the “Golden Heart City”, visiting Fairbanks in June was perfect timing, and local hospitality lived up to its inspiring reputation in the heart of the last frontier. The weather was warm (80s) and sunny, plus we got to enjoy the Midnight Sun Season (24 hours of daylight or civil twilight for 70 days). This city with a gold rush boomtown history, is the gateway to the Arctic and northern parts of Alaska.

With the assistance and expertise of the folks at Explore Fairbanks, they came up with an excellent itinerary for us that we deemed the best way to spend 24 hours in Fairbanks! We had a fantastic overview of this city of approximately 33,000, and had a variety of activities to definitely entice us to return soon and spend much more time exploring.

 

WAVEJourney’s Top Travel Picks in Fairbanks:

STAY

Pike's Waterfront Lodge on the Chena River

Pike’s Waterfront Lodge on the Chena River in Fairbanks

Pike’s Waterfront Lodge on the Chena River (100-mile long river running through Fairbanks). The hotel offers a variety of accommodation styles in 180 rooms and 28 cabins, and is only a few minutes from the airport.

There is an aromatherapy steam room available for guests to use, free WiFi throughout most of the property, guest rooms have Aveda bathroom amenities. Our second floor guestroom had a balcony overlooking the Chena River, was very clean with comfortable beds, and the blackout drapes worked wonderfully. The hotel room rate also includes a free Alaska Railroad Depot and airport shuttle.

We didn’t have enough time to enjoy all the hotel’s amenities, but we’ll definitely stay again (and for longer) on our next visit to Fairbanks.

 

DINE

Pike's Landing Restaurant

Pike’s Landing Restaurant on the Chena River in Fairbanks

Pike’s Landing Restaurant is next door to Pike’s Waterfront Lodge. The indoor restaurant is relaxed, rustic and cozy. The outside patio is open; it’s an ideal place to enjoy a meal or drinks right along the Chena River.

 

SEE

Even if you have less than 24 hours, rent a car and drive around downtown Fairbanks and the surrounding areas. It will make it quicker and easier for you to pack in as much as possible and spend just the right amount of time you want in each place.

Tanana Valley Farmers Market

Tanana Valley Farmers Market in Fairbanks, Alaska

Tanana Valley Farmers Market is the oldest established farmer’s market in the state. It is open seasonally (mid-May through mid-September) and just a couple of days a week (Wednesday and Saturday), but worth adding to the itinerary if you’re in town during the days and hours it operates. The market features Alaskan- grown produce and plants, and local arts and crafts. It’s a fun place to pick up souvenirs and grab a bite to eat from one of the many food vendors – everything from reindeer sausages to crepes to bahn mi sandwiches, and much more.

 

DO

Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center

Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center in Fairbanks, Alaska

Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center is a fantastic place to start any tour of Fairbanks. We love paper maps, magazines and brochures (rather than relying on apps and maps on our phone), so this is the place to pick up as much information as one could possibly need to explore Fairbanks, surrounding areas, and all the way up to Arctic Alaska. It’s also an excellent venue for looking at the interesting exhibits about Alaskan natives and watching a free history and nature film.

Antler Arch

Antler Arch in Fairbanks, Alaska

The center is located on the Chena River in downtown Fairbanks – be sure to see the outdoor Antler Arch made of 100 moose and cariboo antlers.

 

Riverboat Discovery on the Chena River in Fairbanks

Riverboat Discovery on the Chena River in Fairbanks

Riverboat Discovery should definitely be included on everyone’s list during a summer visit to Fairbanks. This is one of the best (maybe THE best) operations we’ve ever experienced, plus it’s the perfect way to get an overview of Alaskan history, native culture, Athabascan life, and flora and fauna.

From start to finish, this tour was unique and thoroughly well organized and operated. We boarded the sternwheeler Riverboat Discovery III for their 3-hour Chena River tour. TV screens throughout the riverboat provided a live video feed of the scenery for passengers that preferred to stay inside, and a guide did a fantastic job of narrating the entire trip in an informative and jovial manner.

Some of the cruise highlights included: watching a bush pilot float plane take off on the Chena River alongside the boat; a sled dog demonstration with Tekla Monson at Trail Breaker Kennel (made famous by her mother, the late four-time Iditarod champion, Susan Butcher); visiting an Athabascan Indian village for a guided walking tour and narrated demonstrations about traditional camp life – hunting, fishing, fur pelts, spruce log cabins, clothing, etc.; watching reindeer along the river’s edge.

Riverboat Discovery Trip on Chena River

Riverboat Discovery Trip on Chena River

Complimentary coffee and fresh donuts were available for guests during the cruise, or a snack shop on the riverboat had food to purchase more substantial offerings.

Steamboat Landing

Steamboat Landing

Be sure to spend some time at the onshore Steamboat Landing to purchase souvenirs and try the Alaska at 40 Below Experience! Reservations are recommended in advance as it’s popular with large tour groups.

 

University of Alaska Museum of the North in Fairbanks

University of Alaska Museum of the North in Fairbanks

University of Alaska Museum of the North is excellent for spending at least an hour (preferably 2-3) going through the exhibits and collections (1.5+ million artifacts and specimens), plus a 2,000 year spectrum of Alaskan art. Located on the university campus, it is the state’s only research and teaching museum.

 

GETTING AROUND

Alaska Railroad train journey to Fairbanks

Alaska Railroad train journey to Fairbanks

Alaska Railroad was the mode of transportation we took to arrive in Fairbanks. We made the 4-hour journey from Denali which departed at 4 PM. We highly recommend this trip.

Alaska Airlines flight service from Fairbanks

Alaska Airlines flight service from Fairbanks

Alaska Airlines was the best way for us to return to Anchorage and the flight only took an hour. The airport in Fairbanks is compact and easy to get around. There are plenty of flights between the two cities at reasonable prices.

 

Next time WJ makes a trip to Fairbanks, we already have a long list of more things we want to see and do during the summer season. But we’re also excited to visit in winter, as snowy activities and seeing the Aurora Borealis are at the top of our must experience list!

 

Note: WAVEJourney were media guests during their June 2018 Fairbanks, Alaska trip. All opinions and recommendations are based on WJ’s experiences during this time. Read the full disclosure statement to see that being media guests has no effect on reviews.

 

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