The Old Hometown Looks the Same
plenty to do in Fairbanks. It has a genuine, old-fashioned sense of
community. It’s the social and cultural center for much of Northern
Alaska, and many Alaskans come here to shop, visit, and participate in
traditional Native sports, music festivals, and art shows. Or even a mid-summer race, as in the photograph above.
Although there are some “big box” stores, Fairbanks is a 100% “Alaskan” town with
a strong civic spirit.
E.T. Barnette Was in Luck
Low water levels on the Chena River were too much for a passing riverboat, and passenger E.T. Barnette was dumped
on the riverbank at the site of this monument near the Fairbanks Visitor Center.
went on to start a trading post. Only a year later, Felix Pedro struck
gold 16 miles away, and Fairbanks was off and running. Here’s the
monument to Barnette – on a clear day, (left), and on a day when smoke
from forest fires from northern Alaska have swept into the city.
Dredges of the North
There are still gold dredges that can be viewed in the northern part of the state.
dredges were half-boat, half tractor. They roamed the gold-rich country
tearing up the ground and hauling dirt into the machine with rows of
the rocks and dirt were tumbled, in a deafening roar, and the gold was separated out.
make mining easier in Fairbanks, a 90-mile long “ditch” was built. It
brought water from the Chatanika River to float the dredges. There were
6.13 miles of inverted siphons, crossing ridges and creeks.
Davidson Ditch was a huge project for 1924 – a technological marvel
rivaling today’s Trans-Alaska Pipeline. Sections of the pipe used in
the ditch are still visible along the Steese Highway.
Panama to Pioneer Park
The Davidson Ditch was built before the bulldozer was invented, with equipment from the Panama Canal.
hauled from Panama, was later used to build the ditch.
The pipe used to build the ditch is around 48 inches in diameter, just like the
Like many Alaskan and Canadian gold rush towns, Fairbanks was awash in easy living.
Saloons, dance halls, and easy money
were all available in Fairbanks.
So much so that other towns, including Valdez, at the end of the Fairbanks
Trail, were quick to express
their shock at what was going on up north.
In memory of its racy past, Fairbanks now has its own welcome wagon of dance hall floozies
to amuse the public during Golden Days.
Some of the cabins on display at Pioneer Park were owned by dance halls girls and ladies of the night who lived in Fairbanks
in the gold rush.
Fairbanks Then & Now
Front Street in Fairbanks had dirt roads and boardwalks at the turn of the century.
small historic cabins and other buildings have been salvaged from
modern-day construction sites and arranged along a similar street
pattern at Fairbanks’ Pioneer Park.
(Historic photo, Candy Waugaman)
|Randy Acord (right) spent much of his life as a pilot learning and
teaching others how to fly in extreme cold. This World War II veteran and aviation pioneer has flown all over Alaska and has the stories to prove it. You
can find him at the Pioneer Air Museum in Fairbanks.
The town of Fairbanks has at least nine museums – and counting.
Just as it’s worth stopping at visitor
centers, museums offer an historic picture of the region you are traveling through.
makes many of Alaska’s museums so much fun to visit is that they’re a
good place to meet local historians. Almost every museum in Alaska is
run by volunteers who are interested in discussing their communities
and meeting travelers.
Pioneer Park - It's Free
Formerly known as “Alaskaland”, the Fairbanks Pioneer Park is worth the visit. It’s a great place
to get out of the car and see something. There are boutiques and food vendors, as well as plenty of exhibits.
Ride the Train
You can take a ride on the newly renovated Crooked Creek Whiskey Island Train at Pioneer Park in Fairbanks.
tours the park.
On special occasions, the old Tanana Valley Railroad Engine #1, restored with the help of local train buffs, is also
brought out for a spin around the park.
Take a look at Warren G. Harding’s “Denali” car. It’s at Pioneer Park, and shows the opulence of the
The New UA Museum
One of the most popular destinations in Alaska, this Fairbanks museum offers real insight to your travels.
feature a broad range of subjects. You can see stone tools, scrapers
and arrowheads, wooden artifacts, snow beaters and toys – as well as
ice age fossils, Russian-American exhibits, gold rush displays, Alaskan
animals and birds, and information on the aurora borealis.
museum has been completely renovated and has a new wing.
(Photo, University of Alaska)
Events in Fairbanks
at the Fairbanks Visitor Center for more specific dates and
information. It is at the Morris Thompson Cultural Center on Dunkel
Street in Downtown.
Fairbanks Convention and Visitors Bureau
June Music Festival, Pioneer Park.
June Midnight Sun Run (10k at UAF)
June Midnight Sun Festival (Live music downtown at Golden Heart Plaza)
June Midnight Sun Baseball
June Yukon 800 Boat Race on the Chena, Tanana & Yukon
July 4th Celebrations in North Pole & Pioneer Park in Fairbanks
July Summer Arts Festival (Singing, instrumental, visual arts at UAF)
July World Eskimo-Indian Olympics
July Golden Days
August Tanana Valley State Fair
August Sandhill Crane Festival
November Athabascan Fiddle Festival
A Riverboat Town
The steamboats you see in Fairbanks today are made especially for tourists.
They’re an offshoot of the gold rush
of 1898, when riverboats plied the Tanana and Yukon River – a 2,000 mile round-trip that linked remote villagers, miners and trappers
to the city.
The Riverboat Nenana, also known as “the last lady of the river,” is on display at Pioneer Park in Fairbanks.
boat is 232 feet long and has a 42-foot beam and decks. It traveled
Alaska’s rivers from 1933 to 1952. Inside the boat is a 330-foot long
diorama of river towns.
First Miner's Relatives Given Keys to the City 100 Years Later
Felix Pedro, an Italian immigrant, found gold in 1902 near Fairbanks and
sparked a gold rush.
real name was not “Pedro” at all, but Pedroni. Fairbanks celebrated the
centennial of Felix Pedro’s find by inviting six members of the Pedroni
family from Fanano, Italy, to celebrate.
10 days, the modern-day Pedronis (plus the Fanano town mayor, city
council, and other business people) were given the grand tour of
Fairbanks. They panned for gold, went to Golden Days, saw concerts,
traveled on a riverboat – and received the keys to the city.
They also met 53 members of the American branch of the Pedroni family, who had also traveled north for the event.
Italians took home a moose hide burned with the scene of Felix Pedro
finding gold. In exchange, Fanano donated a massive abstract sculpture
to the Fairbanks city hall.
Observatory in Fairbanks
The Alaska Bird Observatory has a science program that researches and monitors bird migration. It works closely
with Creamer’s Field
in Fairbanks to study migratory birds. It also has done projects involving arctic warblers on the Denali Highway, birds at Chena Lakes, and
projects in Anchorage, Wrangell-St. Elias Park, Delta
Junction and Tok.
The bird observatory is located at 418 Wedgewood Drive, on the grounds
of Wedgewood Resort.
This summer, while traveling, if you see any groups of dead or sick birds, don’t touch them. Give Fish & Wildlife
a call on their Bird Flu Hotline. Their number is 1-866-527-3358.
(Photo, Bird Observatory)
Farm Downtown Attracts Geese, Cranes and in Winter, Dog Mushers
Once a real working dairy, Creamer’s Field is now a migratory waterfowl refuge, located
right in the middle of Fairbanks.
Up to 200,000 sandhill cranes use the Tanana Valley as a flyway. The birds stage at Creamer’s Field
in early August.
One surprising aspect of Fairbanks is its rural nature. You can come here and take the self-guided walk of the trails
including the “farm trail” and
the “boreal forest trail.”
Tons of barley are spread on the field every year to lure waterfowl away from the runway of Fairbanks
A Self-Guided Walking Tour
There are 38 stops along the walking tour of downtown Fairbanks.
It’ll take you along the Chena River,
into the old “red light” district,
and to the cemetery and major buildings downtown.
If you enjoy walking, you’ll also like Pioneer Park, which is closed to cars.
Summer In Fairbanks
The growing season is short and intense in Alaska.
Cold-weather crops like rhubarb, cabbage and lettuce grow easily outdoors.
Warm-weather crops, like tomatoes and squash, are better coddled in greenhouses.
Most of the flowers in hanging baskets and gardens around
Alaska are started in greenhouses, which make their living providing Alaskans with summer color.
Winter In Fairbanks
The northern lights are visible in winter throughout Alaska, but tourists worldwide come specifically to Fairbanks to
see the aurora borealis.
winter activities include the November Athabascan Indian Fiddling
Festival, the Winter Solstice, the February Yukon Quest Sled Dog Race,
as well as ice carving, Native Arts Festival, Winter Carnival and Sled
Dog Races, all in March.
Yukon Quest Dog Race
Considered even more grueling than the famed Iditarod Sled Dog Race, the Yukon Quest runs between Whitehorse and Fairbanks,
changing starting points every other year.
The February 1,000 mile race is billed “the toughest in the world.” Some checkpoints
are 200 miles apart.
The Trans-Alaska Pipeline
The Pipeline runs from Prudhoe Bay on the Arctic Ocean south to Fairbanks and down along the
Richardson Highway to Valdez.
Work started on the Pipeline in 1974, and ended in 1977. The project is 800 miles long, and crosses three mountain ranges – the
Brooks Range, the Alaska Range, and the Chugach Range. There are pump stations along the way.
The 48” diameter pipe can handle around
47,000 gallons of oil a minute, traveling at 6 miles per hour.
There are pipeline viewing points on the Richardson Highway. This one, on
the Steese, just north of Fairbanks, is very popular. The silver exterior that you see is not the pipe itself, but an insulated heat shield.
pipe rests on Teflon-coated bars so that it can move during earthquakes.
+ Activities + Things to Get
+ Where to Stay + Where to Eat
• Fairbanks Visitor Center
• Gold Dredge #8
• Riverboat Discovery
• El Dorado Gold Mine
• Creamer’s Field
• Ice Museum
• Historic City Hall & Museum
• Downtown Fairbanks
• Mining Tours
• Riverboat Trips
• Alaska Bird Observatory
• World Eskimo-Indian Olympics
At The University of Alaska...
• UA Museum
• Large Animal Research Center
• Alaska History Store
• UAF Map Office
• UAF Georgeson Botanical Garden
At Pioneer Park...
• Pioneer Air Museum
• Pioneer Frontier Town
• Pioneer Museum
• Kitty Hensley House
• Wickersham House
• Alaska Native Village
• Sternwheeler Nenana
FAIRBANKS in FIVE
• 358 miles from Anchorage
Easy to maneuver, lively city with a
strong historical bent.
Lots of major tourist attractions. Great university. Friendly people. Hot in the summer, with lots of daylight.
Jumping off point to the wilds of Northern Alaska.
drive up the Parks Highway, you’ll notice the day getting longer.
In Anchorage, on the longest day of the year, June 21st, the sun is up 19 hours and 21 minutes.
In Fairbanks, there are 2 hours more daylight.
North of the Arctic Circle the sun doesn’t go down at all.
you head north, you’ll find people watering their gardens at midnight,
and you can easily read a book outdoors. Even animals are affected.
Where else can you be woken up by a robin, singing at 2 am?
CAR PLUGS 101
sometimes wonder why there are so many short posts with electric
outlets on them in parking areas. This is where people plug in their
cars in the winter. In warmer Alaskan cities, like Anchorage or Kenai,
car plugs are optional. But in cold-weather places like Fairbanks you
either have to plug in your car or leave it running when the
temperature falls to 30 below. You carry an extension cord. One end
plugs into the post, the other into a small cord dangling out of the
front of your car. That cord is attached to heaters which warm your
oil, transmission, radiator and battery.
Several miles of ambling walks on a former dairy farm (now a wildlife
refuge). The field is at 1300 College Road. There are 3 trails. The
Boreal Forest Trail is a 1.4 mile loop. The Seasonal Wetland Trail is
half a mile. And the Farm Road Trail is a third of a mile. Viewing
decks to watch nesting birds. Tours.
University of Alaska Campus. Interconnected set of trails, from 3 to 12 miles. Ask at Fairbanks Visitor Center downtown.
TANANA CHIEFS VOTED "NO"
As early as 1915, the famous Alaska judge, James Wickersham, came up with the idea of Alaska Natives living on
But the Tanana Chiefs, a group of Athabascan leaders who had long been meeting to discuss problems at what is
now Tanana Village, where the Tanana River meets the Yukon, voted against the concept
In 1915, the chiefs also blocked the Alaska Railroad from building its tracks over Nenana burial grounds. It
wasn’t until 1971 that Native claims to land were settled.
The Tanana Chiefs Conference is now a Native corporation, representing 42 Interior Alaska Villages.
Fairbanks Convention and Visitors Bureau
Visitors guide, events calendar, postcards, trivia game, postcards, and guide to Fairbanks businesses. This site even includes
stuff for kids.
Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce
Fairbanks business directory and calendar of events.
University of Alaska Fairbanks
The University Alaska Fairbanks is a world-renowned research
institution. It is also home to two of Fairbanks's main attractions:
the University of Alaska Museum and the Georgeson Botanical Garden.
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
Catch up on the news for Fairbanks and the Alaskan interior at this
site. The Daily News-Miner is Fairbanks's largest newspaper.
Find out when and where to see the aurora borealis, otherwise known as
the northern lights, at this site maintained by the University of
Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute.
Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival
This two-week summer festival brings professional classical and jazz
musicians from all over the world to the University of Alaska
Fairbanks. The evening concert series, possibly the best to be found in
Alaska, should not be missed.
Fairbanks Folk Festival
Perhaps the word 'folk' is too narrow: according to the Fairbanks Folk
Festival's web site, the music ranges from folk to rock, blues, and
celtic. The Fairbanks Folk Festival sponsors festival weekends in
winter and summer, and you can read all about them here.
Fairbanks Concert Association
Find out more about the arts in Fairbanks.