By Radu Marculescu
Fairbanks is the largest city in the Interior region of Alaska and the second largest in the state. The city has 31,324 residents. The population of Fairbanks and Fairbanks North Star Borough is 82,840. The city is 370 miles north of Anchorage on the George Parks Highway, near the confluence of the Tanana and Chena Rivers. By car, Fairbanks is 7 to 8 hours from Anchorage, and only 45 minutes by air. By train, the Alaska Railroad provides daily summer service and weekend winter service between Anchorage and Fairbanks.
Fairbanks is located just 188 miles south of the Arctic Circle. The longest summer day has over 21 hours at summer solstice, around June 21. The shortest winter day at winter solstice (December 21 or 22) has less than three hours of sunlight. The weather in Fairbanks is tough, with temperatures ranging from 65° F below zero in the winter to 90° F in the summer. Winter temperatures average 12° F to 19° F below zero. Summer temperatures are between 70° F and 80° F. In the Fairbanks area, the weather is semi-arid with little wind. In winter, snow covers the city from November through March.
Fairbanks is a top tourist destination recognized as the gateway to the Interior and Arctic regions of Alaska. The city is a starting point for travel adventures across the Arctic Circle and to the Prudhoe Bay oil fields. Fairbanks has an international airport connected to 29 cities around the world. The airport is located about six miles from downtown Fairbanks. Alaska Airlines and Northwest Airlines offer services from the Lower 48. Daily flights between Anchorage and Fairbanks are offered by Alaska Airlines. Frontier Flying Services and many other local carriers provide flights from Fairbanks to various remote Arctic locations. Condor provides summer service between Fairbanks and Frankfurt. Japan Airlines charter flights from main airports in Japan are available to Alaska for Anchorage and Fairbanks.
Fairbanks has a long and fascinating history with its beginning immersed in the gold rush era of the early 1900s. Fairbanks was founded in 1901 by Captain Elbridge Truman (E. T.) Barnette, who against his desire established a trading post on the Chena River. When gold was discovered on July 22, 1902 in a creek near Fox, 12 miles north of the trading post, Fairbanks received its development start. It was incorporated in 1903. Every year in the middle of July, Fairbanks commemorates this gold discovery with its annual Golden Days Festival. In 1923, the completion of the Alaska Railroad from Seward to Fairbanks contributed to the development of large-scale mechanized gold mining. In 1942, during World War II, the construction of the Alaska Highway from Dawson Creek, British Columbia, to Delta Junction near Fairbanks added growth, progress and military importance to the city. The discovery of North America's largest oil field at Prudhoe Bay in 1967 and the construction of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline in 1974 have changed Fairbanks forever.
Fairbanks is a modern city which plays an important economic and cultural role for the Alaska‘s Interior and the Arctic region. When it is referred to the discovery of gold in 1902 or to its proximity to the Arctic region and North Slope oil fields, the city is called ``the Heart of the Golden North.'' When it is referred to the character of its people is called "The Golden Heart of Alaska ."
Visitors are attracted to the city’s frontier atmosphere, museums, history of Athabascan people, authentic historic buildings, gold dredges, gold camps, modern gold and oil extraction technologies, natural beauty, wildlife, Aurora viewing, Far North trips, ice art, Interior’s hot springs, riverboats of the Gold Rush traders, and the modern University of Alaska.
If you plan a trip to Fairbanks here are some tips:
- Plan to stay at least 3 days in Fairbanks and one week or longer to visit the region
- Use an internet connection or a travel company to book in advance transportation and lodging
- Make Fairbanks your central point for traveling to the Interior region of Alaska or the Arctic
- Dress appropriately
- The summers are warm; day light is so long and requires no electric lights
- The winters are brutal with excessive cold, dark and ice fog
- After arriving in Anchorage, fly to Fairbanks, take the train, or rent a car to get there
- Rent a car and tour the city
- Stop at the Visitor Center in downtown
- Visit the office of The Alaska Public Lands Information Center, (907) 456-0527, located in downtown Fairbanks for info on hiking and camping
- Buy your fishing license online from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game website
- Read traveler reviews on all city’s attractions
- Visit the city’s main attractions
- See wildlife and find viewing tips and locations at www.wildlife.alaska.gov
- Pan for gold
- See Aurora in winter or spring in a new aurorium at the Chena Hot Springs Resort; The best months for Aurora viewing are: February, March, September, and October; Check the Aurora’s Forecast from the UAF Geophysical Institute; While staying at Chena Hot Springs hike Angel Rock.
- Explore the Interior region or the Arctic with Frontier Flying Services; They sell an Alaska Flight Pass to more than 25 destinations within Alaska at affordable prices
- Visit Fort Yukon – The Aurora Borealis Capital of the World
- Visit the Arctic Circle by plane, car or bus and get your Arctic Circle Certificate at the Visitor's Center
- Drive the scenic highways around Fairbanks: the Steese, Elliott and Dalton.
If you want to see the Real Alaska, plan a trip to Fairbanks, do not miss this place. Fairbanks is a perfect gateway to a cluster of authentic Alaskan experiences.
Top Alaska Vacation Destinations