Fairbanks Insider Guide: Discover Best Activities in Alaska

aurora borealis over valley and mountains

Ready for a new adventure? Explore the snowy wonderland of Fairbanks, Alaska! Fairbanks offers a memorable adventure in nature and culture, with sights like the Northern Lights and the Arctic Circle. With a friendly community, you’ll feel at home quickly.

In this guide, we’ll share all you need to know about reaching Fairbanks, the best times to visit, and must-try activities for both summer and winter. Pack your bags because we’re about to explore the golden heart of Alaska with our list of must-do activities!

Things to Know When Visiting Fairbanks in Alaska

body of water in between mountains
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When to Visit?

  • Summer: The ideal time to go to Fairbanks is June to August. The days are long, with almost 24 hours of sunlight, and the weather is pleasant, around the mid-60s Fahrenheit. It’s a great time to hike in Denali National Park or kayak on the Chena River.
  • Winter: For those seeking a snowy adventure, the best time to go to Fairbanks is from December to March. Winter is characterized by cold weather and short days. However, it also provides opportunities for enjoyable activities such as dog sledding, ice sculpting, and witnessing the Northern Lights.

Weather in Fairbanks

Fairbanks, found in interior Alaska, is famous for its significant temperature changes, showing off the area’s subarctic climate.

Fairbanks sits above sea level at almost 500 feet (132 meters). It has a chilly climate, but it’s a great place to visit throughout the year with lots of fun things to do. Just be ready for significant temperature changes.

July is the warmest, with temperatures usually between 52°F and 73°F. Conversely, January is the chilliest month, with average temperatures ranging from -15°F to 0°F.

Where to Stay?

Fairbanks, a lovely city in Alaska, has a variety of places to stay for all kinds of travelers. You can relax in charming lodges by natural hot springs, surrounded by beautiful views. If you enjoy city life, downtown Fairbanks has friendly hotels. These hotels make it easy for you to enjoy the lively city scene.

Whether you love the outdoors or exploring the city, Fairbanks is the right place to stay and make your experience memorable. 

The 24 Best Things to Do in Fairbanks

1. Explore the Northern Lights

milky way at night
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Watching the northern lights on a clear night is an incredible experience you won’t forget. Fairbanks is one of the best places in the world to see this natural phenomenon, especially in the fall or winter.

It is situated beneath the Auroral Oval, a region known for high Aurora activity. The city has little rain and is far from the coast.

As a result, there are many clear nights. This city has more clear nights compared to other parts of Alaska. All these factors make Fairbanks one of the top spots globally to see the northern lights.

With three days and patience, you’re likely to see the Aurora Borealis. The northern lights can be different colors and can be seen in the sky if clear. You can take a photo of them.

2. Borealis Basecamp

aurora borealis
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How about staying where you can see the northern lights and stars right from your bed? It’s one of the most exciting things to do in Fairbanks or 25 miles away! It’s a truly magical experience.

Borealis Basecamp – It’s a set of modern, luxurious bubble cabins with see-through domes. What’s remarkable is that these are the only glass-roofed igloos in Alaska!

These igloos are on a cliff, offering great views of the surrounding areas and the valley below. Don’t miss the chance to enjoy nature’s beauty in your cozy igloo.

3. Snowmobiling

If you love snowy adventures, snowmobiling in Fairbanks is a must-try. If you stay at Borealis Basecamp, they offer snowmobiling tours and rentals.

But if you’re not at Borealis Basecamp, other places in Fairbanks offer snowmobiling tours. The cost is usually between $80 and $150 for a 30-minute to 1-hour tour.

You can only do snowmobiling in winter when snow is unavailable in the summer!

4. ATV Tours

In the summer, instead of snowmobiling, you can try ATVing! If you enjoy a fast ride with beautiful views, an ATV tour in Fairbanks is necessary. These tours take you through the untouched Alaskan wilderness, providing one of the best ways to explore remote areas.

Fairbanks’ terrain makes the experience unforgettable – rocks, mud puddles, steep parts, and constant natural beauty.

5. Experience Dog Sledding

man and his dog sled
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Dog sledding is super popular in Alaska, especially in Fairbanks during winter. It’s a classic experience and one of the best activities in the area!

Beyond being an incredible interaction between people and animals, dog sledding gets you close to the Alaskan wilderness. It was a crucial way to get around back then, and now it’s a fun sport!

Taking a dog sledding tour is not just fun but also educational. The person guiding the sled, a musher, will tell you about dog sledding. You’ll learn about its history, where it comes from, its cultural importance, and how the whole mushing and sledding works. It’s like stepping into the past and discovering a fantastic Alaskan tradition!

6. Reindeer Ranch Run

Want a unique animal experience? Meet reindeer! It’s great for all ages.

For a fantastic time, learning and interacting with these beautiful creatures, check out Running Reindeer Ranch. It’s a family-run place where you can pet reindeer, stroll with them, and capture incredible photos.

The staff and owners share exciting information during the tour, making each visit unique. The tour goes through a scenic forest with many stops, and you’ll hear how Running Reindeer Ranch started.

Running Reindeer Ranch offers a fun family activity during the day. The tour ends with delicious homemade cookies and lemonade.

No wonder this experience is one of the top-rated things to do in Fairbanks!

7. Chena Hot Springs

Chena Hot Springs has warm water all year, about 106°F. It’s the most accessible hot spring in Alaska; there’s no need to hike!

It’s part of a big resort known for its ice museum, which focuses on geothermal energy and the outdoor hot spring. While the resort offers many activities, most people come for the relaxing hot springs.

8. The Aurora Ice Museum

Next to Chena Hot Springs is the Aurora Ice Museum, a unique igloo-shaped building made from 1,000 tons of ice and snow. It’s open all year and features awe-inspiring ice sculptures.

Book at Chena Hot Springs activity center for $15. They have an ice bar where you can drink a martini in an ice glass. Don’t forget, you can rent a warm parka if needed!

9. Visit the North Pole

small village near snowy mountains
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North Pole is a magical town, just a 20-minute drive south of Fairbanks, where it feels like Christmas all year round. The Santa Claus House, around for about five decades, adds to the charm. There is no Santa Claus here.

However, there are plenty of fun activities for kids. They can enjoy Christmas stuff and take tours of Santa’s house. Additionally, there is a cheerful Santa Claus Lane. You can even send letters with an authentic North Pole postmark.

In the North Pole, cozy shops with handmade gifts and the smell of gingerbread and hot cocoa make it feel like Christmas all the time. The spirit of Christmas is alive in every moment, creating memories that last a lifetime.

10. Riverboat Discovery Tour

This isn’t your typical boat tour; it’s a memorable Fairbanks experience! The three-hour Tanana and Chena Rivers cruise offers beautiful views and information about the area. You’ll visit a sled dog training ground and see adorable, well-trained puppies.

The boat stops at an Eskimo village for 45 minutes, giving a short but real glimpse into their way of life. You can explore the Chena Indian village and interact with locals. You can watch a seaplane take off and land near the sternwheeler, which is exciting.

11. Denali National Park

Fairbanks is an excellent base for exploring Denali National Park, one of the closest towns to it, alongside Talkeetna. Fairbanks remains one of the nearest towns despite being a two-hour drive or four-hour train ride away.

To have a fantastic Denali adventure, you can take an air taxi to Denali Basecamp on Kahiltna Glacier. This base camp is a starting point for climbers planning to climb Denali. If climbing isn’t your thing, enjoy the views from afar.

There are several activities you can do in Denali National Park. You can fly over Kahiltna Glacier and watch climbers on Denali. Another option is to take the Denali shuttle bus to explore the park. Lastly, you can go hiking to see animals.

12. The Alaska Railroad

You can take the Alaska Railroad for a day trip to Denali. You can also connect to popular places from Fairbanks. These places include Anchorage, Talkeetna, Whittier, and Seward. Enjoy breathtaking views along the way, and for a premium train experience, consider splurging on GoldStar Service.

13. Try Ice Fishing

teenager with fishing rod on frozen lake
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Try ice fishing in Alaska for a unique winter experience. Drill a hole, drop a line, and catch fish like Arctic Grayling, Northern Pike, and Trout. Guides will take you to the best spots, provide gear, and teach you how to do it.

14. University of Alaska Museum of the North

Have fun and learn in Fairbanks at the University of Alaska Museum of the North (UAMN). Discover Alaskan history, traditions, wildlife, native art, and the gold rush – it covers everything! Interesting trivia: The only mummified Ice Age steppe bison in the world is housed at UAMN. Check hours and pricing details on their website!

15. Pioneer Park

Explore Pioneer Park in Fairbanks for museums, family-friendly activities, historical artifacts, shopping, dining, and more. The park features actual buildings and cabins from the early days of Fairbanks. Entrance is free, but some museums may have fees. The park is open year-round, with some concession stands having limited hours.

16. Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitor Center

You can visit the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitor Center for free. It is a place where you can learn about Alaskan history and culture. The center focuses explicitly on the Interior and Arctic Alaska. Explore vibrant traditions, savor authentic cuisine, and immerse yourself in the natural wonders that await your discovery.

17. Flightseeing

Embark on an Arctic Circle Air Expedition from Fairbanks to discover the breathtaking Alaskan Interior. Go north to see the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, Yukon River, Brooks Mountains, and Gates of the Arctic National Park. It’s a great way to experience the Arctic Circle in just a few hours!

18. Take a Trip to the Arctic Circle

For more time in the Arctic Circle, consider a full-day tour in and around the area. If you prefer driving yourself, check the last item on this list for helpful information about the Dalton Highway. It could be one of the riskier but visually pleasing activities to engage in Fairbanks.

19. Winter Athletics

Enjoy winter with activities such as cross-country skiing. You can glide on snowy trails and appreciate the stunning scenery. Have fun! Snowboard down mountains, feel the adrenaline rush as you defy gravity and carve your way on the slopes. Play ice hockey with friends, glide on the frozen surface, and chase the puck with skill and determination for a thrilling game.

Winter provides countless opportunities for memorable adventures and lasting recollections. So, wrap up warm, tie up your ice skates, and dive into the season’s enchantment!

Enjoy winter in Fairbanks with skiing, snowboarding, and ice hockey. Winter provides numerous opportunities for memorable experiences. Get ready, put on your skates, and embrace the season’s magic.

Winter offers many chances for memorable experiences. So, get ready, put on your skates, and enjoy the season’s magic!

20. Hiking

Explore Fairbanks through hiking for incredible views of the surrounding nature. Remember to carry bear spray and make noise for safety!

Immerse yourself in the beauty of nature as you explore these captivating trails and embrace the tranquility they offer.

21. Visit the Santa Claus House

Experience Christmas anytime at the Santa Claus House. Shop for unique toys and gifts at Santa’s Workshop, try delicious treats and look for Santa. Take photos with Santa in his sleigh or by the 43-foot wooden Santa statue.

Parents can arrange for their kids on the nice list to receive personalized letters from Santa. Visit the Antler Academy next door to see Santa’s reindeer, learn about their games, and pet and feed them. Capture the magic of Christmas with a particular Alaska ornament.

22. Arctic Village

Located just outside Fairbanks, Arctic Village is a must-visit destination for those seeking an authentic Alaskan experience. This remote village is home to the native Gwich’in people, who have lived in harmony with the land for centuries.

Take a guided tour and learn about their traditional way of life, visit their art galleries, and sample traditional foods. The pristine wilderness surrounding the village offers opportunities for hiking, wildlife spotting, and breathtaking views of the Northern Lights.

23. Wildlife Viewing Spots in Fairbanks

Visit wildlife sanctuaries in Fairbanks to see native birds and local wildlife. Take a guided tour for an interactive experience, mingling with adorable reindeer and creating unforgettable memories.

These spots include Running Reindeer Ranch, Fountainhead Wedgewood Wildlife Sanctuary, Large Animal Research Station, and more.

24. Food and Drink

Enjoy a delicious meal featuring flavorful wild Alaskan salmon and freshly picked berries. Enjoy a tasty stout made nearby by a well-known brewery, giving your taste buds a cozy feeling.

A Dining Must: Pagoda

While in the North Pole area, treat your taste buds at Pagoda, a famed restaurant celebrated by Guy Fieri on “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.” Indulge in their fusion cuisine in a cozy and memorable setting.

Cheap car rentals at Fairbanks International Airport (FAI)

1. Avis Car Rental

Avis is a well-known car rental company that operates at Fairbanks International Airport. They offer many vehicles, including sedans, SUVs, and trucks. Avis offers extras like GPS and child seats, useful for travelers with special requirements.

When comparing prices with Avis, check for any discounts or promotional codes that may be available. Avis often runs special offers to help you save money on your rental.

2. Budget Car Rental

Budget Car Rental is another popular option at Fairbanks International Airport. As the name suggests, they specialize in providing affordable rental options. Budget Car Rental offers a variety of vehicles, ranging from compact cars to larger SUVs.

When considering Budget Car Rental, please use their online booking platform. They often have exclusive deals and discounts that can only be accessed through their website. Signing up for their loyalty program can also provide additional savings and benefits.

3. Enterprise Rent-A-Car

Enterprise Rent-A-Car is a trusted car rental company that operates worldwide, including Fairbanks International Airport. They offer many vehicles, from compact cars to spacious SUVs. Enterprise Rent-A-Car is known for great service and easy pickup and drop-off choices.

 4. Thrifty Car Rental

Thrifty Car Rental is a well-established car rental company at Fairbanks International Airport. They offer many vehicles, including economy cars, minivans, and luxury cars. Thrifty also provides various add-ons, such as ski racks and prepaid fuel options.

When researching Thrifty Car Rental, check their website for ongoing promotions or discounts. They frequently offer special rates for online bookings or extended rentals, which can help you save money.

5. Alaska Auto Rental

Alaska Auto Rental is a local car rental company that provides reliable vehicles for exploring the Alaskan wilderness. They offer various vehicle options, including 4×4 SUVs and trucks equipped for off-road adventures. Alaska Auto Rental is known for its friendly customer service and flexibility.

Alternatives at Fairbanks International Airport

1. King Cab and Alaska Cab

King Cab and Alaska Cab are good choices for getting around Fairbanks, with cheap prices and great service. These cab companies have a fleet of well-maintained vehicles and experienced drivers familiar with the area.

King Cab and Alaska Cab can take you to your hotel or nearby attractions comfortably and affordably.

Their efficient dispatch system ensures you won’t have to wait long for a cab, even during peak hours. If you prefer the convenience of a taxi service, King Cab and Alaska Cab should be at the top of your list.

2. Eagle & Yellow Cab Co.

Eagle & Yellow Cab Co. is another reputable taxi service out of Fairbanks International Airport. With their reliable and affordable transportation services, getting to your destination has always been challenging.

Eagle & Yellow Cab Co. will safely and promptly take you to your hotel, a restaurant, or a tourist spot.

Their fleet includes well-maintained vehicles with professional drivers familiar with the area. Choose Eagle & Yellow Cab Co. for affordable and reliable taxi services without high prices or untrustworthy drivers.

Conclusion

Explore the wonders of Fairbanks, Alaska, with its thrilling outdoor activities and captivating Northern Lights. Fairbanks offers unique experiences like snowmobiling, staying in glass-roofed igloos, and taking riverboat tours.

Enjoy the warmth of Chena Hot Springs, visit the magical Santa Claus House, or embark on an Arctic Circle adventure. From the University of Alaska Museum to the Morris Thompson Cultural Center, delve into Alaskan history and culture. These 27 experiences in Fairbanks let you truly enjoy the destination and create lasting memories.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: What’s the best time to visit Fairbanks?

Fairbanks is best visited during two different periods. The first is from late May to early September, ideal for summer activities. The second is the best time to see the aurora, from late August to April.

Q2: How did North Pole Alaska get its name?

Fairbanks named the North Pole, near it, to attract business and now celebrates Christmas all year. Though it didn’t happen, the city still has a Christmas theme.

Q3: What month is best to see the Northern lights in Fairbanks?

The northern lights are most visible in Fairbanks from late August through early April.

Q4: Is Anchorage or Fairbanks better for the Northern Lights?

Fairbanks is a great place to see the northern lights because it has a higher latitude and clearer skies.

Q5: Is Fairbanks, Alaska, worth going to?

Absolutely! With a range of activities for all kinds of travelers, Fairbanks boasts unique cultural experiences, natural beauty, and a window into the Alaskan way of life.

Q6: Can you walk around Fairbanks, Alaska?

Fairbanks has some walkable areas, especially around the downtown core, but other forms of transportation are advisable to experience the surrounding attractions fully.

Q7: Can I see polar bears in Fairbanks?

Polar bears are not typically found in Fairbanks as they live in coastal areas far north. Organized tours to the Arctic regions where they roam are necessary to see them in the wild.

Q8: Are there mountain lions in Fairbanks, Alaska?

Mountain lions, or cougars, are extremely rare in Alaska and not commonly found near Fairbanks.

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