Fairbanks, Alaska is the gateway to exploring the far northern stretches of the North American continent. Although the second largest city in Alaska, Fairbanks is never the less a small town with a friendly atmosphere. There is no shortage of things to do in Fairbanks. It’s a perfect destination for those looking to see and explore the remote wilderness of Alaska’s interior.

Top Fifteen Things To Do in Fairbanks

Despite the bitter cold winters, Fairbanks is a year round destination for adventure. To get the best of both worlds visit during shoulder season in early fall and late winter/spring

  1. Wonder at the Northern Lights: Located in the Auroeal Oval, Fairbanks, Alaska is one of the top places in the world to see the Northern Lights. Visit from September to March for a great opportunity to marvel at this natural wonder.
  2. Explore Pioneer Park: Step back in time and immerse yourself in the history of Fairbanks. Pioneer Park is an outdoor living history park with lots of shops and activities throughout the summer months.
  3. Soak in Chena Hot Springs: Discovered in the early 20th century these hot springs are the perfect place to relax after a long day hiking. For a full day experience follow the the Angel Rocks Trail to the resort and then soak your tired muscles in the warm healing waters.
  4. Go to the Beach at Chena Lake Recreation Area: Who even knew you could go to the beach in the interior of Alaska, but this much loved state recreation area is a the perfect place to cool down in the summer.
  5. Immerse Yourself in Arctic Culture at the Museum of the North: Located at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks the Museum of the North gives a thorough introduction in the natural and cultural history of the Arctic.
  6. Snowmobile on the Chena River: As the river freezes solid in winter Fairbanks residents use it as a means of transportation. Pike’s Waterfront Lodge has a ramp (it’s a boat ramp in the summer too) where you can access the “ice bridge”
  7. Hike in Chena River Recreation Area: This was by far my teenagers favorite activity in Fairbanks. We did the Angel Rocks hike which was technical, but not impossible. Our dogs even made it to the top!
  8. Visit Santa in North Pole: In North Pole, Alaska it’s Christmas every day! For those looking to enjoy a quirky experience you can visit Santa’s House and see his reindeer in this themed town just south of Fairbanks.
  9. Strike it Rich Panning for Gold: A perfect activity especially for children, gold panning is a fun way to spend an afternoon during your visit to Fairbanks. Gold Daughters is located just across from the pipeline overlook and guarantees you will find some gold!
  10. Marvel at the Engineering of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline: The pipeline viewpoint located at 1671 Steese Highway gives you a great close of view of the pipeline as well as several informational displays. Free and informative I really enjoyed this stop. (It’s across from Gold Daughters too so it pairs well if you are looking to pan for gold!)
  11. Chill Out and View Ice Sculptures: Known around the world as a haven for Ice Sculpture there are several places around Fairbanks to enjoy ice art.
  12. Drive on the Chena River: Frozen solid in winter you can drive on a river!
  13. Eat Thai Food: Fairbanks is, oddly enough, known for it’s Thai food. After the first Thai restaurant, Thai House, opened in 1989 the city’s residents were addicted. Today Fairbanks boasts one of the highest per capita number of Thai eateries in the United States!
  14. Warm up with some drive through coffee: On almost every corner you will see little drive through coffee shacks offering residents a chance to grab their cup of joe and perhaps a snack without having to get out in the cold.
  15. Visit the Statue of the Unknown First Family: Though I don’t really recommend spending too much time in downtown Fairbanks, this statue in Golden Heart Plaza is just beautiful.

While many of these experiences can be done on your own click here to enjoy guided Fairbanks options. (Disclaimer: We obtain a commission for tours purchased through this link.)

Where to Stay:

Our top pick for hotels is the Pike’s Waterfront Lodge. Conveniently located on the Chena River the Lodge offers a variety of activity and dining options. Please click here to see our review.

How to Get There:

Fairbanks is easily accessible by both car or train. Let Christopher Travel plan a quintessential Alaska road trip for you or if you prefer we can help you put together a relaxing train vacation through the wilderness.

Alternatively Fairbanks is served by several different airlines including Alaska, United and Delta.

Additional Tips:

  • Visit the Visitor Center to obtain maps and other information for your time in the Fairbanks region.
  • While the city of Fairbanks offers a variety of restaurants and other tourist friendly services the real reason to visit is to get outside the city and enjoy the variety of outdoor year round acitivites. We don’t recommend spending time in town.
  • Don’t forget to dress for the weather. Fairbanks is surprisingly warm in the summer and bitterly cold in winter. Appropriate layers and gear will allow you to enjoy the outdoors whenever you visit.

Click here for more random thoughts about our time in Fairbanks.

About Mary

Mary Stephens holds a degree in international affairs from Georgetown University and a Masters in Teaching from the American University. Mary spent almost twenty years homeschooling her four children and is now navigating post homeschool life in Alaska. She offers personal insights, recipes, homeschooling tips and tricks and travel advice on her website penciltreks.com. Mary also owns Christopher Travel, a luxury travel company specializing in exquisite vacations around the globe.


  1. Audrey on October 5, 2020 at 4:57 pm

    Wow, this looks so beautiful!! My FIL used to live in Alaska, funny enough now he lives in Thailand (total opposite weather haha). Looks like such an awesome destination.

    • Mary on October 7, 2020 at 2:02 pm

      Wow Thailand! That’s so incredible.

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