Alaska is also known as the last frontier due to its vast, relentless, and mostly uninhabited lands. There are a ridiculous amount of mountains that haven’t been touched by humans, so many that if you climb one, you get to name it yourself. I know what you’re thinking when seeing this 3-Day Weekend Ribbon on this post, it may be a stretch for some, especially East Coasters, but I did this trip on a 3-day weekend!
I flew to Alaska to witness the Aurora Borealis. That was truly my only mission. However, I got much more than I bargained for. I visited the North Pole and Santa’s reindeer, met some adorable sled dogs and their puppies, and got photograph an elusive juvenile porcupine!
Fairbanks is a fairly small town in Central Alaska. To see most on this list, you’ll have to travel to neighboring towns. Fairbanks isn’t much of a walkable town, so renting a car is a necessity.
1. Learn the Native Culture & Ecosystem
The University of Alaska Museum of the North is a great place to discover Alaska’s culture, resources, and wildlife. Alaska is totally different from the rest of the continental US. The Eskimo-Indian culture and tradition still thrives today, the tundra environment and arctic wildlife is unlike the rest, and they have dinosaurs-exclusively Alaskan dinosaurs. The dinosaur exhibition is a temporary exhibit, but they do have permanent fossils in their collection. Admission is $12.
2. Visit Santa & His Reindeer
One town over from Fairbanks is the North Pole. Okay, so it’s technically not on the north pole, but it’s the City of the North Pole! And it’s where Santa Claus lives with his reindeer. Santa’s house is a fully stocked Christmas store, open year round. Be sure to mail a post card to your Christmas obsessed friends- we all have at least one!
3. Try the Local Cuisine
This far north, Halibut and Dungeness Crab may not be as fresh as it is in Anchorage. Up here, Elk, Bison, and Santa’s Reindeer might be on the menu. I had the Elk Meatloaf at the historical Pump House Restaurant. It was 10/10 delicious.
4. Get into the Wilderness
Denali National Park is a quick 2 hour drive south of Fairbanks. It is home to the tallest Mountain in the ‘US of A’: Mount McKinley, also known as Mount Denali. This is a seasonal park which mostly closes down in the winter. The first 3 miles of road remain open year round, but the entire park is accessible by foot. The viewpoints of Denali are closed to traffic, but just another hour south in Denali State Park, you can see the highest US peak, on the opposite side.
5. Go Dog Sledding
Dog sledding was once a required mode of transportation to Alaskan people. While some bush people still need sleds for travel, most use dog sledding for sport and tourism. It is a traditional Alaskan ride you won’t be able to find in many other places. Plus, your pilots are super adorable! These are the ‘dog rangers’ of Denali NPS.
6. Watch the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights)
The Aurora Borealis can be witnessed from September to mid April when the sky is the darkest. The lights typically begin their show around 11pm and go until early morning. I unfortunately left a crucial piece of my tripod at home so my photos were pretty blurry. I drove to Chena River State Park to escape the city lights. On the red eye flight home, I also got to see the lights from my airplane window- which was pretty amazing as well.
Fairbanks is a great place to see the Alaskan lifestyle. The sparse towns in between really captivate the untapped wilderness that I hope remains for eternity.
Have you visited Fairbanks? Did you get a kick out of the Blockbusters that still remains? What was your favorite place?
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