Fairbanks

The big town in the Interior is Fairbanks and you may want to overnight there at some point. The Parks Highway connects Anchorage and Fairbanks, running north-south roughly parallel to the tracks of the Alaska Railroad.  Many people think that the highway is so named because it passes by the only road entrance to Denali National Park, but this is not the case.  It is actually named in honor of George Parks, one of Alaska’s territorial governors in the decades before statehood was achieved in 1959.

There are lots of family-owned bed and breakfasts in Fairbanks, which can be an interesting alternative to hotels and will allow you to mix it up a bit with hikers and rafters, who often prefer B&Bs to the big hotels.  B&Bs function as crossroads and breakfast conversations can be stimulating and informative.  

It’s a bit touristy, but the paddle-wheel steamboat trip on the Chena and Tanana Rivers is a lot of fun and not to be missed. 

Creamers Field is a great place for seeing migratory birds, such as huge flocks of sandhill cranes.  There is also a raised boardwalk that enables eco-friendly, not to mention dry, access to wetlands areas where birds congregate.

Up at the campus of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, be sure to stop by the Museum of the North.  It is an extensive natural history museum, well curated.  The Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center, located in the downtown area, also has excellent exhibits about the natural and cultural history of the Interior.

Fairbanks is also at the perfect latitude for observing the northern lights, but only if you are there in a shoulder season or winter when the night gets dark enough to see them.  Many people go to Chena Hot Springs, less than an hour’s drive outside of Fairbanks, to view the aurora borealis in the winter from the warmth of the geothermal pools.  The hot springs are also open in the summer, but it won’t be dark enough to see the aurora.

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