Far North

Fair­banks is the heart of the Last Fron­tier

Where Alaska - - Where Now - Alaska - BY AMY REED GEIGER

Whether you come seek­ing the mes­mer­iz­ing aurora bo­re­alis, the daz­zling mid­night sun, the pris­tine wilder­ness or for some other distinc­tively Alaska ad­ven­ture, Fair­banks is sure to please. Where else can you travel to such a re­mote lo­cale and en­joy all the ameni­ties of a charm­ing down­town, a thriv­ing arts com­mu­nity, rich Na­tive cul­ture, one- of-a-kind at­trac­tions, amaz­ing nat­u­ral phe­nom­e­non and end­less op­por­tu­ni­ties for ex­plo­ration? Once a gold rush boom­town, now called the “Golden Heart City,” Fair­banks is invit­ing and en­gag­ing—the heart of the Last Fron­tier.

From Au­gust 21 through April 21, dur­ing the “Aurora Sea­son,” shift your gaze to­ward the night sky for a great chance of see­ing the north­ern lights weave across the sky. In sum­mer, em­brace the ev­er­last­ing sun­shine and go golf­ing, watch a base­ball game or head out­side for a leisurely walk in the mid­dle of the night. If it’s an “off the beaten path” ex­pe­ri­ence you yearn for, you are in for a treat as Fair­banks is a ver­i­ta­ble is­land in a sea of trees— wilder­ness in ev­ery di­rec­tion as far as the eye can see.

Be­sides nat­u­ral won­ders, Fair­banks sim­ply bursts with at­trac­tions and ac­tiv­i­ties. Pan for gold, float the Chena River, min­gle with rein­deer and musk oxen, cool off in an ice mu­seum, take a re­fresh­ing hike and look for birds and wildlife, or be inspired by art gal­leries, mu­se­ums, and his­toric sites. Three must-see at­trac­tions in­clude the Univer­sity of Alaska Mu­seum of the North, whose col­lec­tion spans thou­sands of years of art, cul­ture and nat­u­ral history in a con­tem­po­rary take-your- breath­away venue; the Foun­tain­head An­tique Auto Mu­seum, with its in­cred­i­ble col­lec­tion of im­pres­sive, driv­able his­toric cars; and the not just beau­ti­ful but in­for­ma­tive Mor­ris Thompson Cul­tural and Visi­tors Cen­ter.

Af­ter a day filled with re­mark­able ad­ven­tures and at­trac­tions, wind down with a meal at a lo­cal bistro or per­haps soak in a lit­tle more sun­shine on one of the res­tau­rant decks lo­cated along the Chena River. Fair­banks eater­ies are sur­pris­ingly eclec­tic. Ubiq­ui­tous Thai restau­rants ri­val those found in Thai­land (no ex­ag­ger­a­tion), out­stand­ing made- from­scratch meals that in­cor­po­rate home- grown pro­duce abound, and mul­ti­ple cof­fee roast­ers and two brew­eries are fun­da­men­tal to the food scene. At the hap­pen­ing HooDoo Brew­ing Com­pany tap­room, you can rub el­bows with univer­sity stu­dents, worka­day stiffs, cabin dwellers, artists and more. If you are in the mood for a drive, head out past the Tran­sAlaska Pipeline view­ing sta­tion to the town of Fox, lo­cated 10 miles north of Fair­banks, and have a seat at the Sil­ver Gulch Brew­ing and Bot­tling Com­pany. Here you can in­dulge in a North­ern Light Ale or a Cold­foot Pil­sner and come to ap­pre­ci­ate their clever slo­gan, “Fair­banks, where the peo­ple are un­usual and the beer is un­usu­ally good.”

Win­ter months bring snow (guar­an­teed) and plenty of things to do like ice carv­ing, dog mush­ing and snowshoeing. Lo­cals will tell you to dress in lay­ers due to the wide tem­per­a­ture fluc­tu­a­tions and that the sub­zero tem­per­a­tures aren’t re­ally so bad since the weather is “dry and still.” Need­less to say, snow and ice sports as well as a host of other fas­ci­nat­ing ac­tiv­i­ties and events are un­veiled dur­ing the win­ter. The Yukon Quest In­ter­na­tional Sled Dog Race in Fe­bru­ary and the World Ice Art Cham­pi­onships dur­ing the month of March are two out­stand­ing Fair­banks events that draw world­wide spec­ta­tors and par­tic­i­pants.

Kayaker pad­dling the Chena River

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