12 Things To Do In Fairbanks, Alaska

Fairbanks is a beautiful city in Alaska’s interior region, situated between the northern foothills of the Alaska Range and the Tanana and Chena rivers. Founded in 1901 during the Alaska gold rush, Fairbanks is rich in history, culture and stunning natural landscapes that attract visitors year-round.

Visit the University of Alaska MuseumExplore artifacts and exhibits on the circumpolar north.
Gold Mining History at Pioneer ParkExperience Fairbanks’ gold rush era with restored cabins and historical exhibits.
Alyeska Pipeline Viewing StationSee the engineering marvel of the oil pipeline.
Gaze at the Northern LightsWitness the aurora borealis in the night sky.
Dog MushingTour the boreal forests by dog sled.
Flightseeing over DenaliAerial tour of North America’s highest peak and surrounding wilderness.
Craft Beer at Silver Gulch BrewerySample local beers at the USA’s northernmost brewery.
Alaskan Seafood at Pump HouseEnjoy fresh, local seafood by the Chena River.
Hike Angel Rocks TrailTrek through beautiful landscapes to granite formations.
Pan for GoldTry gold panning in Goldstream Creek.
Paddle the Chena RiverCanoe or kayak on this historic waterway.
Ride the Alaska RailroadTravel through scenic landscapes by train.

From exploring the local art scene to embarking on daring adventures, Fairbanks offers something for everyone. Here are the top 12 things to do on your next visit to this unique Arctic city.

Visit the University of Alaska Museum of the North

Things To Do In Fairbanks

Name and Location: Visit the University of Alaska Museum of the North, located at 1962 Yukon Drive, Fairbanks, AK 99775.

History and Significance: The University of Alaska Museum of the North is a renowned research and teaching museum that showcases the natural, cultural, and artistic heritage of Alaska and the circumpolar North.

What to Expect: Visitors can explore extensive collections of Alaskan art, archaeology, ethnology, geology, and zoology through engaging exhibits and interactive displays. The museum’s unique architecture and stunning outdoor sculpture garden add to the overall experience.

Visitor Information: The museum is open year-round, with varying hours depending on the season. Admission fees apply, with discounts for children, seniors, and military. Guided tours are available for an additional fee, and the museum store offers unique Alaskan gifts and souvenirs.

The University of Alaska Museum of the North is a must-see when visiting Fairbanks. With over 2.2 million artifacts and specimens, it’s Alaska’s only museum dedicated to studying and preserving the diverse history, cultures, art and nature of the entire circumpolar north region.

Wander through galleries displaying indigenous artifacts, art pieces depicting early 20th century Alaska, historical photographs, dinosaur bones, preserved animals and an 8,500-year-old steppe bison mummy. The museum also hosts events, classes and traveling exhibits, making each visit a new adventure.

Learn gold mining history at the Pioneer Park

Name and Location: Learn gold mining history at the Pioneer Park, located at 2300 Airport Way, Fairbanks, AK 99701.

History and Significance: Pioneer Park, formerly known as Alaskaland, is a historical theme park that preserves and showcases the rich gold mining history of Fairbanks and the surrounding region.

What to Expect: Visitors can explore a recreated gold rush town, complete with historic buildings, museums, and a narrow-gauge railway. Live demonstrations, gold panning, and interactive exhibits provide hands-on learning experiences about the area’s mining heritage.

Visitor Information: Pioneer Park is open daily from Memorial Day through Labor Day, with limited hours during the shoulder seasons. Admission to the park is free, but some attractions and activities may require a fee. Parking is available on-site, and the park is accessible by public transportation.

Immerse yourself in over 100 years of local history with a visit to Pioneer Park – a 44 acre historical theme park dedicated to preserving Fairbanks’ golden past. Featuring over 30 restored cabins and original buildings from early 20th century Fairbanks, the sprawling park offers a living timeline of life during the gold rush era and World War II.

Inside the log houses are antique furnishings and historical exhibits filled with stories from the city’s frontier days when sternwheelers still sailed nearby rivers. Visitors can also view operating gold panning and dredging equipment, take a ride on the Crooked Creek & Whiskey Island Railroad, catch performing arts shows at the historic Palace Theatre and enjoy local eateries serving Alaskan cuisine. With so much rich culture and heritage to uncover, history buffs could spend an entire day exploring Pioneer Park.

Ride the Alyeska Pipeline Viewing Station

Name and Location: Ride the Alyeska Pipeline Viewing Station, located at 1671 Ballaine Rd, Fox, AK 99712.

History and Significance: The Alyeska Pipeline Viewing Station offers a unique opportunity to see a section of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS), which stretches 800 miles from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez and is a vital component of Alaska’s oil industry.

What to Expect: Visitors can observe the pipeline up close, learn about its construction and operation, and understand its significance to Alaska’s economy and environment. Interpretive displays and exhibits provide insight into the engineering challenges and environmental considerations involved in building and maintaining the pipeline.

Visitor Information: The Alyeska Pipeline Viewing Station is open from late May to early September, with varying hours. Admission is free, and parking is available on-site. Visitors should dress appropriately for the weather and be prepared for a short walk from the parking area to the viewing platform.

One of the most unforgettable things to do in Fairbanks is visit the Alyeska Pipeline. This 48 inch wide, 800 mile long feat of modern engineering carries crude oil from Prudhoe Bay on the Arctic coast across three mountain ranges all the way down to Valdez – and you can see it in action at the Alyeska Pipeline Viewing Station.

Watch in awe as thousands of barrels per hour flow silently past the viewing glass while reading about the logistical challenges overcome constructing the pipeline across such challenging terrain. Curiosity satisfied, you can then explore the Borealis Basecamp exhibits showcasing more Alaskan oil history or take a relaxing stroll on surrounding forest hiking trails littered with birch and black spruce trees when you’ve had your fill.

Gaze at the Northern Lights

Name and Location: Gaze at the Northern Lights, visible from various locations around Fairbanks during the fall and winter months.

History and Significance: The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, have captivated humans for millennia, inspiring stories, myths, and legends across cultures. Fairbanks is renowned as one of the best places in the world to view this awe-inspiring natural phenomenon.

What to Expect: Visitors can witness the ethereal dance of the Northern Lights across the night sky, with colors ranging from pale green to vibrant purple. The best viewing opportunities occur on clear nights away from city lights, typically between late August and early April.

Visitor Information: Several tour operators offer Aurora viewing packages, which may include transportation, warm clothing, and hot beverages. Visitors can also venture out on their own to dark, clear areas for a chance to see the lights. Warm clothing, a camera with manual settings, and patience are essential for a successful Aurora viewing experience.

Of course no trip to interior Alaska is complete without chasing the aurora borealis – or Northern Lights. Caused by solar winds striking the earth’s atmosphere, these dazzling green and purple light displays are an awe-inspiring natural phenomenon. While the Northern Lights can sometimes be seen directly above Fairbanks, your best chances are driving 15-30 minutes outside the city away from light pollution and simply gazing patiently upwards when solar activity is high.

Many hotels offer aurora wake up calls when the sky ignites; however joining a Northern Lights chasing aurora tour often nets the most fruitful viewing thanks to knowledgeable guides tracking real-time weather and solar predictions. Either way – standing small underneath the glowing, dancing bands of color undulating across the stars is an experience one never forgets.

Go Dog Mushing

Name and Location: Go Dog Mushing with various tour operators in and around Fairbanks, such as Black Spruce Dog Sledding, Paws for Adventure, and Just Short of Magic.

History and Significance: Dog mushing has been an integral part of Alaskan life for thousands of years, serving as a primary means of transportation and communication in the Arctic. Today, dog mushing is both a popular sport and a unique tourist experience.

What to Expect: Visitors can feel the thrill of gliding across the Alaskan wilderness on a dog sled, pulled by a team of energetic and friendly huskies. Tours may include visits to a musher’s kennel, hands-on interaction with the dogs, and scenic rides through stunning landscapes.

Visitor Information: Dog mushing tours are available year-round, with different experiences offered in summer and winter. Prices, duration, and included amenities vary by tour operator. Advance reservations are recommended, and warm clothing is essential for a comfortable and enjoyable experience.

The ultimate Alaskan winter experience is touring the frosty boreal forests by dog sled with a team of excited huskies leading the way. From December to March, Fairbanks offers the perfect cold weather for dog sled tours ranging from quick hour long adventures to multi-day remote cabin stays across the isolated winter backcountry. After bundling up in provided winter gear, guests meet the lovable dogs, learn the commands and take turns guiding the sled behind these amazing canine athletes as they dash through snowy trails.

At rest stops one can play with the dogs, take photographs and enjoy hot beverages while veteran mushers relay stories of life on the trail across Alaska’s vast interior. For those seeking the ultimate Iditarod-style challenge, kennels also offer visitors a chance to learn how to handle their own dog team on an authentic mushing expedition.

Go Flightseeing over Denali

Name and Location: Go Flightseeing over Denali with various tour operators based in Fairbanks, such as Northern Alaska Tour Company, Warbelow’s Air Ventures, and Wright Air Service.

History and Significance: Denali, formerly known as Mount McKinley, is the highest peak in North America and a crown jewel of the Alaskan wilderness. Flightseeing tours offer a unique perspective on this majestic mountain and the surrounding landscape.

What to Expect: Visitors can marvel at the breathtaking beauty of Denali and the Alaska Range from the comfort of a small aircraft. Tours may include a variety of routes and altitudes, showcasing glaciers, valleys, and wildlife. Some tours may even land on a glacier for a truly unforgettable experience.

Visitor Information: Flightseeing tours are typically available from May to September, weather permitting. Prices and duration vary by tour operator and route. Advance reservations are highly recommended, and visitors should be prepared for potential schedule changes due to weather conditions.

As winter turns to summer, one breathtaking seasonal activity is embarking on a Denali flightseeing tour. Denali – formerly known as Mt McKinley – is North America’s highest peak, towering 20,310 feet over the Alaska Range and visible on clear days more than 100 miles away in Fairbanks. Flightseeing planes depart local airports, following the Tanana River north towards the towering mountain vistas.

Along the way passengers see endless boreal forests, the Yukon River and even Denali’s famous sled dog kennels before the endless sweeping granite ridges come into view. As the aircraft circles North America’s highest summit, one feels humbled by the grandeur of this wilderness giant and its smaller siblings – hunter’s paradise terrain that is only fully appreciated from the air.

Sample craft beer at Silver Gulch Brewery

Name and Location: Sample craft beer at Silver Gulch Brewing and Bottling, located at 2195 Old Steese Hwy N, Fairbanks, AK 99712.

History and Significance: Silver Gulch Brewing is America’s most northern brewery, taking pride in crafting high-quality beers using innovative and traditional techniques. The brewery is a favorite among locals and visitors alike, offering a uniquely Alaskan taste experience.

What to Expect: Visitors can sample a variety of handcrafted beers, from classic styles to seasonal and experimental brews. The brewery also offers tours, providing insight into the brewing process and the history of the establishment. The on-site restaurant serves delicious pub fare that pairs perfectly with the beers.

Visitor Information: Silver Gulch Brewing is open year-round, with varying hours depending on the season. The brewery and restaurant are family-friendly, and outdoor seating is available during the summer months. Brewery tours are offered daily, and reservations are recommended.

Beer lovers rejoice – Fairbanks is home to its own local craft microbrewery featuring tasty Alaskan style beers and good old fashioned brewery hospitality. Silver Gulch Brewery was founded in 1998, being the USA’s most northernly brewery at the time. Today visitors can enjoy specialty craft brews like the Fox Creek IPA or Old Squaw Barleywine within a cozy, lodge-style restaurant boasting an impressive menu of pub fare classics reinvented with unique Alaskan flair.

Their signature Fox Creek IPA even won a bronze medal at the acclaimed Great American Beer Festival. So for locally crafted beers in a rustic Alaskan setting paired with delicious hot food, Silver Gulch has you covered on chillier Fairbanks evenings. Prost!

Enjoy Alaskan seafood at Pump House Restaurant

Name and Location: Enjoy Alaskan seafood at Pump House Restaurant, located at 796 Chena Pump Rd, Fairbanks, AK 99708.

History and Significance: The Pump House Restaurant is housed in a historic building that once served as a pump station for the city’s water supply. Today, it is a beloved local establishment known for its delicious Alaskan cuisine and stunning riverfront setting.

What to Expect: Visitors can savor fresh Alaskan seafood, such as wild-caught salmon, king crab, and halibut, prepared with locally sourced ingredients. The restaurant’s menu also features prime cuts of steak, as well as vegetarian and gluten-free options. The dining room offers panoramic views of the Chena River, and outdoor seating is available during the summer.

Visitor Information: The Pump House Restaurant is open year-round, with varying hours depending on the season. Reservations are highly recommended, especially during peak tourist seasons. The restaurant offers a fine dining experience, and appropriate attire is suggested.

Situated along the banks of the Chena River, this century-old, log cabin-style eatery is where locals and visitors alike come for the best wild Alaskan salmon, halibut and shellfish in Fairbanks. Dating back to the gold rush era Pump House Restaurant offers unique riverfront dining environment featuring hearty, homemade comfort cuisine sourced from the pristine cold waters of Prince William Sound combined with fresh interior bounty like caribou sausage and bison ribeyes.

Signature menu items also include their renowned baked salmon stuffed with king crab, cedar plank grilled halibut and fps salad heaped with tender snow crab clusters. Enjoy a rotating craft beer selection or choose wine from their extensive Alaskan focused list while relishing delicious seafood boasting flavors as vibrant as the lively summer sunlight reflecting off the river’s flowing currents just outside.

Hike Angel Rocks Trail

Name and Location: Hike Angel Rocks Trail, located in the Chena River State Recreation Area, approximately 49 miles east of Fairbanks on Chena Hot Springs Road.

History and Significance: The Angel Rocks Trail is one of the most popular hiking trails in the Fairbanks area, offering stunning views of the surrounding wilderness and unique geological formations. The trail is named after the towering granite spires that resemble angels.

What to Expect: Hikers can embark on a moderately challenging 3.5-mile loop trail through the boreal forest, ascending to panoramic viewpoints of the Chena River Valley and the distant Alaska Range. The trail features several steep sections and rocky terrain, but the breathtaking vistas are well worth the effort.

Visitor Information: The Angel Rocks Trail is accessible from late May to early October, depending on weather and trail conditions. The trailhead has a parking area and pit toilets, but no drinking water or other amenities. Hikers should come prepared with sturdy footwear, water, snacks, and appropriate clothing for changing weather conditions.

Experience Alaska’s magnificent natural beauty in classic Fairbanks style by embarking on a guided trek along the Angel Rocks trail just 45 minutes outside town. This moderate 4 mile out-and-back route first follows a lovely riverbed stuffed with wild blueberry bushes guests can graze from enroute to the namesake rock formations. Further along the path winds upwards 400 feet onto a ridge overlooking sweeping taiga forest framed by the Outer Range of the Alaska Range.

Here one encounters the angelic granite spires nestled at the edge of the tree line resembling natural works of art. After taking in the views and snapping iconic photos at the overlook, the hike loops back through boreal forest speckled with dwarf birch trees, colorful wildflowers and winding streams before returning to the trailhead.

Pan for Gold

Name and Location: Pan for Gold at various locations in and around Fairbanks, such as Gold Daughters or the El Dorado Gold Mine.

History and Significance: Gold panning played a crucial role in the history of Fairbanks and the surrounding region, with the discovery of gold in the early 1900s sparking a massive gold rush. Today, visitors can try their hand at this historic activity and learn about the area’s rich mining heritage.

What to Expect: Visitors can learn the techniques of gold panning from experienced guides and try their luck at finding real gold flakes and nuggets. Many gold panning attractions also offer tours of historic mining camps, demonstrations of mining equipment, and educational exhibits.

Visitor Information: Gold panning experiences are typically available from May to September, with varying hours and prices depending on the location. Some attractions require reservations, while others accept walk-ins. Visitors should dress appropriately for the weather and be prepared to get a little wet and muddy while panning.

Try your hand at striking it rich with an afternoon of gold panning on the banks of Goldstream Creek – just as hopeful miners over 100 years ago once did seeking their fortunes. A short drive from downtown lies Goldstream Valley – the original site of Fairbanks’ founding discovery claim. Flowing directly from the gold-rich hills north of Fairbanks, Goldstream creek still harbors gold deposits today.

Local operators provide quick lessons then send visitors out into the rocky stream beds to swirl and sort through sediment for a chance find real Alaskan placer gold glinting in the pan. People of all ages will enjoy this hands-on history lesson that vividly transports one back to the early 20th century quest to strike it lucky up north. And who knows – maybe you’ll get get to take home a small vial of genuine Fairbanks gold!

Paddle the Chena River

Name and Location: Paddle the Chena River, with various launch points and rental options available in and around Fairbanks.

History and Significance: The Chena River has been a vital resource for the people of Interior Alaska for thousands of years, providing food, transportation, and recreation. Today, the river is a popular destination for canoeing, kayaking, and fishing.

What to Expect: Visitors can enjoy a peaceful paddle along the Chena River, taking in the scenic beauty of the Alaskan wilderness. The river offers a variety of routes and difficulty levels, from gentle float trips to more challenging sections with swift currents and obstacles.

Visitor Information: The best time to paddle the Chena River is from June to September, when the water levels are suitable and the weather is mild. Several outfitters in Fairbanks offer canoe and kayak rentals, as well as guided trips. Visitors should have basic paddling skills and be prepared for changing weather conditions and cold water temperatures.

For a uniquely Alaskan summer adventure, join a guided paddle tour floating along the peaceful waters of the Chena River – the historic transportation byway connecting remote interior villages long before roads existed. Just minutes from downtown, the Chena River’s calm currents gently flow around forested islands and gravel banks ripe for wildlife spotting opportunities to see local ducks, beavers, moose and bald eagles.

Experienced river guides relay the waterway’s rich history serving as a trading and supply conduit for past Fairbanks residents and Athabaskan Indian tribes for centuries as the scenery lazily drifts along. Halfway through the relaxing 3 hour, 7 mile journey the river grows even more enchanting passing 30 foot bluffs and a series of hidden waterfalls – providing Instagram-worthy photo ops documenting your Alaskan paddling experience. It’s truly one of the most breathtaking ways to appreciate the Last Frontier’s natural splendor floating upon its gentle waters.

Ride the Alaska Railroad

Name and Location: Ride the Alaska Railroad, with various routes and departure points available, including Fairbanks, Denali, Anchorage, and Seward.

History and Significance: The Alaska Railroad has played a vital role in the state’s history, connecting communities, supporting industries, and providing access to remote wilderness areas. Today, the railroad offers a unique and scenic way to experience Alaska’s stunning landscapes and rich heritage.

What to Expect: Visitors can choose from a variety of train routes and service levels, from basic adventure class to luxurious GoldStar dome cars. The trains offer comfortable seating, dining options, and narration by knowledgeable guides. Along the way, passengers can marvel at breathtaking views of mountains, glaciers, rivers, and wildlife.

Visitor Information: The Alaska Railroad operates year-round, with peak season running from May to September. Tickets can be purchased online, by phone, or at the train station, and advance reservations are highly recommended. Passengers should arrive at the station early to check baggage and find their seats, and be prepared for potential delays due to weather or other factors.

The final can’t-miss activity on our Fairbanks bucket list is venturing south to take in spectacular scenery aboard the famed Alaska Railroad. Boasting over 500 miles of track linking Anchorage, Denali National Park and Fairbanks, the railroad offers visitors unique vantage points of the state’s dramatic landscapes.

The Fairbanks to Denali route winds 114 miles through the Nenana River canyon surrounded by towering granite spires dripping with glaciers as riders gaze through panoramic glass-dome ceilings from the comfort of vintage rail cars.

Along the way narration highlights natural sights like an active volcano and abandoned townsites consumed by wilderness and wildfires over the years gone by. For an intimate look celebrating all facets of Alaska, a journey on the Alaska Railroad creates memories sure to endure long after leaving the last frontier’s frozen tundra.


With its pristine wilderness, rich gold rush history and abundance of winter adventures, Fairbanks offers an unforgettable travel experience unlike anywhere else on earth for those bold enough to venture north towards the Arctic Circle. Visitors can easily fill an exciting Alaskan vacation itinerary by exploring local museums showcasing native cultures, trying unique food and craft beer, meeting sled dogs under the northern lights or flying over mountain grandeur few rarely glimpse.

Whether your inner frontiersman seeks gold prospecting fortune, epic scenery captured through a camera lens or the ultimate Yukon river salmon feast – Fairbanks serves it all in rustic style. So the next time wanderlust calls for rugged heart-pumping action or a deeper appreciation of mankind’s intricate bonds amid nature’s towering glory, this distinctive northern destination surely awaits intrepid travelers in any season.

Leave a Comment