Logo Silver Travellers

Fairbanks, the northernmost major city in Alaska

Fairbanks, the northernmost major city in Alaska

Home » United States » Fairbanks, the northernmost major city in Alaska

Fairbanks was established in 1901 as a trading post due to its strategic location on the Chena River. The subsequent gold rush led to rapid growth in the city. Later, the city played a significant role in the oil trade and the construction of the Trans-Alaska oil pipeline. Today, Fairbanks is the second-largest city in Alaska and is home to a full-fledged university. It may not be the most picturesque city to visit, but there are several interesting places to see in the city and some enjoyable tourist attractions in the immediate vicinity. It is also the place to experience the Northern Lights, making Fairbanks a logical stop for our Alaska tour.

Totem pole

Sights in Fairbanks and surroundings

During our stay in Fairbanks, we visit several interesting sights, most of which are located outside the city or, at the very least, more than walking distance from the city center.

Appealing university museum

This brings us to the first activity we undertake in this place: a visit to the Museum of the North, also known as the anthropological university museum. The building itself is an architectural marvel located on the university campus, just outside the city. The rich wildlife of Alaska in the distant past and the present is beautifully depicted there.

We visit an exhibition about the original inhabitants and art created in this region. For a small fee, a film about the Northern Lights is available. Naturally, one would prefer to see this phenomenon in person, provided there is no cloud cover. Many tourists come to Fairbanks to see the Northern Lights and spend a night there. Seeing the Aurora Borealis (the official name for this phenomenon) is a slim chance at 1 in 3. The film is worthwhile. It showcases beautiful images and provides an explanation for this magical phenomenon. Visiting this museum is more than worthwhile.
Museum interior

Chena Hot Springs

The next day is devoted to relaxation. It is about a 75-minute drive along the Chena Hot Springs Road from Fairbanks to Chena. The well-maintained road literally ends at the springs. The entire complex is operated with a hotel and restaurant, making it a genuine tourist attraction. Access to the springs is through the pool. We spend about an hour floating here, allowing the warmth and sulfur to take effect while enjoying a view of the green surroundings. Adjacent to the springs is an ice museum, but unfortunately, today it’s closed for maintenance.

On the return journey, we take the opportunity to visit several recreational spots along the way. These are places for camping and fishing. Breaking up the journey with these stops provide some variety to an otherwise straightforward trip. It offers insight into what wild camping is like in Alaska.

Hot springs

Large crane colony at Creamer’s Field

At the end of the day, we visit Creamer’s Field, an area unique due to the large numbers of cranes that reside there. The Canadian crane is a very large bird, standing at 1.5 meters or more. Hundreds of them reside in the park. It is particularly captivating to witness them flying in and landing with their huge wingspan of around 2 metres.

This area is also the habitat of many other bird species such as geese and ducks. Additionally, moose, foxes, and lynx also reside there. The sun rises, and we take numerous photos, just like the other birdwatchers who are busy with their impressive lenses. The reserve is ideal for a leisurely walk. There are several routes to choose from, and you can visit various bird observation points along the way. We don’t see any animals other than birds during the walk, unless you count the squirrels that frequently peer curiously at us.


Gold mine excursion in Fox

The following day begins with an excursion to an old gold mine: the “Gold Dredge 8 tour” in the town of Fox, located about 10 kilometers north of Fairbanks. The sun is shining, and the program starts with a train ride. This is not typically something that excites us. However, in this case, the train is a replica of one that used to operate here in the past. That adds a touch of amusement. Along the way, a guide provides an explanation of gold mining. His appearance seems to be plucked straight from the early 1900s.

Gold digger

We then visit a massive gold dredge and are allowed to pan for gold ourselves. The yield is a few small pieces of gold. It is a touristy activity, but enjoyable to do! Afterwards, the gold is weighed (but not bought back). However, it is possible to purchase a necklace to hold the grains.

At the end of the tour, there is a briefing on the Trans-Alaska pipeline. We conclude the tour at a point where the pipeline emerges above ground. Our guide earned his livelihood for many years working on this oil pipeline. It is a fascinating firsthand account. Overall, it is a somewhat touristy but definitely interesting experience. Worthwhile indeed!

Gold digger's boat

Pioneer Park

In the afternoon, we decide to visit Pioneer Park in Fairbanks. It provides an impression of the city in the olden days. There is an old train car belonging to the railway management. In front of it lies a large paddle steamer, unfortunately off-limits for visitors. There are several old-style houses, which now mainly function as shops. There are also play areas for children. We experience the park as more suitable for children. So, we opt to conclude our visit to Fairbanks with a visit to the creperie.

Pioneer Park

Answers to frequently asked questions about visiting Fairbanks

How to get to Fairbanks?

Fairbanks is easily accessible from Anchorage by car. The most logical sequence is to plan a stop at Denali National Park. You can also take the train from Anchorage or fly to Fairbanks.

What are good places to stay?

We stayed at the Cozy Log Cabin: a spacious and pleasant chalet with a private garden and a well-equipped kitchen. This accommodation is located about a fifteen-minute drive outside the city, but it is still central for visiting various activities around Fairbanks. One potential downside is that there is no shower, and the toilet is outside in a small hut – it's actually a 'dry cabin'. However, you have all the privacy as it is a family vacation home. There is also a beautiful veranda where you can relax in good weather with adequate mosquito repellent.


There are also plenty of hotels and B&Bs to be found in Fairbanks.

What are the highlights for a visit to Fairbanks?

In addition to experiencing the Northern Lights, Fairbanks and its surroundings offer various attractions:

  • University Museum (Museum of the North): Also known as the anthropological museum. Here, you will see the fauna of northern Alaska beautifully depicted. You will also learn about the ways of life of the original inhabitants. Optionally, you can choose to watch a film about the Aurora Borealis (the Northern Lights). We found the museum to be very worthwhile.
  • Creamer's Field: Home to a large crane colony. A beautiful place for bird watching and a serene spot for a leisurely walk.
  • Chena Hot Springs: These natural hot springs are a true tourist attraction. The springs are located in a beautiful setting. On the springs' premises, there are various accommodation options. There is also an ice museum to visit. Chena is a little over an hour's drive from Fairbanks.
  • Pioneer Park: Offers a glimpse of the old version of Fairbanks. It features old houses, an old train car, and a large paddle steamer. There are several shops and a playground. The park is free to enter.
  • Gold Dredge 8: A place that has long been used for gold mining. At the same location, you can see the Trans-Alaska oil pipeline emerge above ground. You can visit Gold Dredge 8 through a tour where you can try your hand at gold panning.
What are good restaurants in Fairbanks?

In our quest for enjoyable and delicious restaurants, we have a variety of cuisines to choose from.


Our first choice is the Jazz Bistro due to its positive online reviews. However, we arrive early in the afternoon, and the Bistro is closed at this time. An alternative for us is Thai cuisine. For this, we head to Lemongrass Thai Cuisine. This restaurant is located outside the city centre, and the distances are not conducive to walking. Therefore, we ultimately opt for The Crepery.


The Crepery is a delightful spot in the city centre for lunch or a quick bite. They offer a wide variety of crepes, both sweet and savoury. When the sun is shining, you can enjoy sitting outside. Highly recommended!


According to connoisseurs, these are the best restaurants in Fairbanks.

You may also be interested in