planner Alaska - the second leg of the great Alaskan
adventure trip: Fairbanks and Surroundings
(more) action-packed days of fun and adventure.
second leg of Trip Planner Alaska is relatively
stationary - meaning we remain in Fairbanks and
enjoy the thrills the city has to offer.
is Alaska's second largest city, but most folks
consider it the premier destination for pure fun
and adventure. Fairbanks
is a summer wonderland of long, warm days, an
ideal backdrop for the endless fun and adventure.
We could easily have extended our stay here, there
was so much to do.
are some of the attractions the city has to offer:
is a must-visit. This quaint 'Tom Sawyer-ish'
little town is located just after Denali Park,
about 60 miles south of Fairbanks on the Parks
a dusty, sleepy riverside barge-stop left over
from a bygone age, riverboats are still loaded
with cargo for delivery to other towns along the
riverfront is also where you can see the cultural
center, with its own little museum and Native
craft shop. The oldest building in town is the
picturesque 1905 log cabin church on Front Street.
Stop in at the visitor center on the Parks Highway
to learn more.
Around Downtown Fairbanks
first thing to do, prior to starting your little
self guided tour of downtown Fairbanks, is to
pick up a copy the walking tour booklet. You can
find it at the log cabin visitor center on the
corner of 1st and Cushman. It will help you get
your walk organized and also help you find places
of interest that normally you wouldn't glance
the city highlights are Golden Heart Park, a waterfront
plaza near the center. Other places of interest
include Fairbanks most impressive building, the
white clapboard 'Church of the Immaculate Conception'.
Built in 1904 the buildings rare and authentic
interior decorations include a pressed tin ceiling
and stained-glass windows - a one-of-a kind example
of gold rush sacred decor. Another interesting
building - a church as well - is the St. Matthew;s
Episcopal Church. This old log church with its
rope-pull bell was built in 1948 to replace the
original structure that was destroyed by fire.
The church was erected in 1904 by missionary and
dogsled explorer Hudson Stuck, who also arranged
the first climbing expedition to Mt. McKinley.
Aurora Borealis, The Northern Lights
you visit in summer, you won't have much chance
of seeing the dazzling Aurora Borealis. Named
after the Roman goddess of dawn, the enthralling
ribbons of light were long thought to be refracted
and reflected light. Current research, however,
seems to conclude that the Aurora is caused by
radiation emitted as light from atoms in the upper
atmosphere as they are hit by fast moving electrons
The best time to view the 'Northern Light' is
from December to March, when they are the most
dazzling. One of the best times to look for the
Aurora is at the time of a new moon, when the
sky is at its darkest.
aurora is most active late at night or early in
the morning, when the sky is clear and the air
chilly. The best time to watch is in spring and
fall, especially February, March, September, and
October. One of the best times to look for the
Northern Lights will be when it is dark because
of a new moon.
sturdy tripod and wide angle lens are a must -
actually, the wider the better but should be less
than 35mm (at 50mm you begin at 15 seconds star
trails begin to show and you don't have much sky
in your picture). If your lens can open to f/2.8,
your exposure time should be about 20 to 30 seconds
on 100 ASA film. You will need to experiment to
get the best shot, so if you are visiting - shoot
a lot of frames at different exposure times.
the best boat trip in North America (by the riverboat
operators, I would imagine), the Riverboat Discovery
has been operated since 1950 by the Binkley family.
3.5 hour hour cruise on board an authentic Alaskan
sternwheeler takes you back in time to when everything
moved at a much slower pace. As the steamboat's
wheel churns up the water, you'll probably find
yourself on the deck, scanning the treeline on
the riverbank for signs of wildlife. The boat
heads out to Nuchalawoya - the 'Wedding of the
Waters' - where the cool waters of the Chena meet
the silt laden Tanana. This creates an awesome
site, as the current of the glacial Tanana creates
clouds of silt which rise and fall as they come
into contact with the clear Chena river. The boat
stops en-route to give everyone on board a chance
to visit the traditional Athabascan Chena Indian
Village, where you get a chance to shop for traditional
trip is interesting and a lot of fun, but priced
at $ 47 for adults and $ 32 for children it seemed
a little expensive to me, even when considering
they give you a free coffee and doughnut during
one hours drive east from Fairbanks, the Chena
Hot Springs resort is a winter favorite for residents
of Fairbanks and a summer favorite with tourists.
The 100 degree temperature of the indoor and outdoor
mineral bath stand in sharp contrast to the outdoor
air. This is the perfect place for a relaxing
soak after a long day of active adventure.
hot springs were discovered in 1905 by gold prospectors
in the area, and were used to ease the rheumatism
brought on by grueling work and poor diets. By
1912 Chena Hot Springs had become the premier
resort of interior Alaska.
for the State's Centennial Exposition in 1967,
the 44 acre Pioneer Park was later renamed Alaskaland,
which was deemed more appropriate. The name was
changed back to the original Pioneer Park in 2001.
park serves as a community park but also serves
as a theme park that emphasizes the history of
Fairbanks. The park contains a taste of just about
everything Alaskan, from a riverboat to a salmon
bake to a Native village.
parking is available while visiting, and RV parking
is available at an extra charge.
addition to tourist attractions open from Memorial
Day to Labor Day, Pioneer Park is also home to
the Alaskaland Civic Center and Theater, and the
Farthest North Square and Round Dance Center,
which are both open year round. There are three
museums, a 40-foot antique carousel and an old-time
total of 29 cabins were moved to the site to form
Gold Rush Town. The cabins form a unique walk
through Fairbanks' history. They include the Kitty
Hensley House, Doc Stearn's cabin, Judge Wickersham's
House, the original First Presbyterian Church,
Alex McRae's dream cabin as well as other cabins.
Lee's house, thought to have once been an establishment
of ill repute, is headquarters to the park office.
The building started out in Nenana in the 1920's,
but was moved to Fourth Avenue in 1928. After
its move to Pioneer Park, its interior was refinished
"in the stylish manner reminiscent of its
other cabins have also been refurbished as close
as possible to their original condition and are
occupied by local merchants offering an assortment
of refreshments, gifts, and Alaskana.
addition to Gold Rush Town, Pioneer Park includes
covered picnic shelters and a large grassy field
and playground area for travelers to stretch their
legs and relax. The park is open from Memorial
Day through Labor Day, although certain buildings
are utilized year 'round.
attraction in the park include:
Riverboat SS Nenana
riverboat which once sailed Alaska's rivers is
permanently docked at the park & features
a diorama of the points of call in its heyday.
The Nenana is listed as a National Historic Landmark,
and has been the subject of a five-year structural
Alaska Salmon Bake, located at the west end of
Pioneer Park, in "Mining Valley" is
known statewide for its generous portions.
The Alaska Native Village Museum takes a look
at Alaska through the Athabascan culture. It houses
such Native artifacts as a wolverine parka and
traditional tools. A mural depicts life along
other attractions are available and the park is
well worth a visit, not to mention it being a
great place to park your RV.
you liked the Riverboat Discovery tour then you
will probably like this as well, as it stems from
the same source.
attraction operated by the Binkley family, here
you can participate in a trip through Alaska's
gold mining history. An amusement- park- type
replica of the Tanana Valley Railroad train takes
you for an adventure in Alaska's gold fields of
the interior. This is actually an impressively
staged educational tour, which includes a trip
through a tunnel in the permafrost.
original Tanana Valley Railroad served over two
dozen gold camps scattered throughout Interior
Alaska in the early 1900s. Supplies arrived in
Alaska on vessels that traveled from Seattle to
the mouth of the Yukon River. Freight was then
transferred to sternwheelers, which hauled it
up the Yukon and Tanana Rivers to Interior Alaska.
From there the Tanana Valley Railroad carried
supplies to the gold camps
Eldorado gold mine is located 9 miles north of
Fairbanks, off the Elliott Highway, and can be
reached by a free shuttle.
Most fishing in the Fairbanks area is in the streams
for Arctic grayling, Northern pike, and burbot,
and in stocked lakes for rainbow trout, Arctic
char, and silver salmon.
can fish right in the Chena as it flows through
town, but I found that getting out of town and
hiking away from the road yielded better results.
Fishing is also very enjoyable and plentiful in
Denali Park, situated south of Fairbanks.