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The Old Hometown Looks the Same

There’s 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 bridge across the Chena River.

Barnette 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.

Gold Dredges of the North

There are still gold dredges that can be viewed in the northern part of the state.

Gold 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 iron buckets.

Inside, the rocks and dirt were tumbled, in a deafening roar, and the gold was separated out.

To 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.

The 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.

From Panama to Pioneer Park

The Davidson Ditch was built before the bulldozer was invented, with equipment from the Panama Canal.

This steamshovel, 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 Alaska Pipeline.

Naughty City

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.

Red Light Cabins

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.

Today, 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 flew all over Alaska, and had the stories to prove it. He was the founding father of the Pioneer Air Museum in Fairbanks.

Fairbanks’ Museums

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.

What 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.

The train 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.

Harding's Train

Take a look at Warren G. Harding’s “Denali” car. It’s at Pioneer Park, and shows the opulence of the 1920’s.

The New UA Museum

One of the most popular destinations in Alaska, this Fairbanks museum offers real insight to your travels.

Exhibits 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.

The museum has been completely renovated and has a new wing.

(Photo, University of Alaska)

Summer Events in Fairbanks

In a typical summer, there are the following celebrations. Check for details at the Vistor Center at Morris Thompson Cultural Center on Dunkel Street in Downtown.
Fairbanks Convention and Visitors Bureau

June Music Festival, Pioneer Park.
(Folk, bluegrass)

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.

The boat is 232 feet long and has a 42-foot beam and decks. It traveled Alaska’s rivers from 1933 to 1952.

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.

His 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.

For 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.

The 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.

Dairy 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 at Creamer’s, 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 International Airport.

Take 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.

Other winter activities typically 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.

The pipe rests on Teflon-coated bars so that it can move during earthquakes.

+ Activities + Things to Get
+ Where to Stay + Where to Eat

pioneer park fairbanks


Explore Fairbanks
Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

Northern AK Tours

Riverboat Discovery & Gold Dredge 8

Fairbanks Subway®

Expressions In Glass

Golden North Inn
Hotel North Pole
Tanana Valley Campground

Alaska Mining Hall Of Fame

Fairbanks Community Museum
Morris Thompson Cultural Center
Pioneer Museum
Wickersham House Museum
UA Museum

Alaska 511

DOT Alaska Navigator

Stan Stephens Cruises In Valdez

Alyeska Pipeline

+ Map of Downtown Fairbanks (w/Museums)
+ Map of Northern Parks Highway
+ Map of Valdez-Fairbanks Road

+ Map of Bearfoot Campgrounds

In Fairbanks, Don't Miss...
• 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


Pop: 31,182
• 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.


As you 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.

As 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?


Tourists 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.


As early as 1915, the famous Alaska judge, James Wickersham, came up with the idea of Alaska Natives living on reservations.

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.

Aurora Forecast
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.

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