Seven Fun Summertime Activities in Fairbanks, Alaska
Fairbanks is a great place to visit for northern lights season, but what about the summer season? Perhaps you are visiting before or after a cruise tour, on a road trip, or on a train journey.
Check out the video for seven activities you can do there during the main summer season of May through September.
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Discovery Riverboat Tour
Some cruise tours have this excursion included in their package. You will take a ride to Steamboat Landing to check in for your old stern wheel paddleboat ride with a bit of time to check out the shops.
You will board the boat on the Chena River. You will watch a float plane next to the boat effortlessly take off with little space and land smoothly right in front of the boat.
While on the boat, everyone suddenly gathered on the port side to see more sled dogs in training at the home of the late Susan Butcher, a famous iditarod racer. Susan taught other mushers that if you treat your dogs right and trust them, they will want to perform well.
We continued on to a native Alaskan village replica where we learned about fishing techniques and salmon drying, saw the log cabins with grass rooftops, and saw some native outfits.
There are a few places to try gold panning around Fairbanks. We went to Gold Dredge 8 where we first rode an old train line to the historic gold dredge while watching some equipment demonstrations.
We watched our guide effortlessly pan for gold while showing us the angles to use before we tried it for ourselves. Gold panning is a lot harder than it looks and I ended up with $9 worth of gold flakes after panning.
You can walk onto the historic gold dredge after you try your hand at panning. There are some exhibits about gold panning, a gift shop, and some very welcomed hot chocolate.
Museum of the North
Located on the campus of University of Alaska at Fairbanks, this museum is highly recommended. We watched a video on the Northern Lights, walked through art galleries, saw examples of Native Alaskan clothing such as the waterproof seal gut parka on the left, and taxidermy animals found currently and in the past.
The museum provides at least one-two hours of entertainment and longer if you want to read every informational sign.
Pioneer Park is an interesting place to spend a few hours wandering around. There is free parking and no admission fee to enter the park, but many of the mini museums and exhibits have their own fee or suggested donation.
You can see another old paddleboat, a historic train, many old log cabins that were moved into this park for preservation, an old steam train that provides rides on weekends, and a salmon bake buffet nearby.
Chena Hot Springs
Located about 60 miles outside of Fairbanks, Chena Hot Springs is a very popular destination for locals and visitors. You can rent a towel and enter the hot springs through the locker rooms. There is an indoor pool and hot tub for families with children. There is also a more traditional looking hot tub outside and a large open hot spring surrounded by boulders for adults only.
You can see the steam coming off the surface of the hot spring and the water is surprisingly clear with a sandy bottom. Make sure you bring water with you as it is easy to get dehydrated.
Don’t miss the dragon sculpture near the stream itself.
If you don’t have a car, you can purchase a shuttle ticket here.
North Pole, Alaska
There is a town called North Pole outside of Fairbanks. We visited the City Hall which has Christmas decorations all year. Even the City seal has Christmas-themed imagery!
See the candy-cane light posts in town and visit Santa Claus House. There is a large Santa statue outside, a Santa inside for gift requests, a toy factory inside, plus a gift shop.
You can find letters from the North Pole to send to friends and family back home.
Arctic Circle Tour
While you could take an all day driving tour to visit the Arctic Circle from Fairbanks, a more pleasant trip may be the flightseeing tour in a plane. You can fly up past the Arctic Circle, land on the ground, explore one of the towns, and then fly back. Or you can drive back after flying one way.
Check out the driving tour here.
If you are in Fairbanks in the winter or without a car any time of year, you may want to purchase tours in advance. We do not recommend driving in the winter especially if you are not used to snow and ice. You also cannot take a regular rental car on the Dalton Highway to the Arctic Circle. The road is not paved and should only be driven with 4-wheel drive vehicles and experienced drivers.
Check out a variety of tours in Fairbanks in all seasons here.
If you would like help planning your next trip, schedule a call with us here.
If you are interested in visiting Alaska with a group, check out our group tour in July 2023.