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Home to the University of Alaska, two large military bases, and the state's largest gold mine, Fairbanks is a study in contrasts. Summer means long days, temperatures into the 80s F, and midnight baseball games, but winters are infamously cold, with the thermometer plummeting into the -20s and sun barely peeking over the horizon. The people of Fairbanks are equally diverse, from gun-toting leave-me-alone miners to greenie scientists. Surrounded by wooded hills, this city of 31,000 straddles the placid Chena River, a popular spot for canoeing, rafting, boating, and fishing. The rich gold-rush history of Fairbanks is exemplified by a multitude ...

Home to the University of Alaska, two large military bases, and the state's largest gold mine, Fairbanks is a study in contrasts. Summer means long days, temperatures into the 80s F, and midnight baseball games, but winters are infamously cold, with the thermometer plummeting into the -20s and sun barely peeking over the horizon. The people of Fairbanks are equally diverse, from gun-toting leave-me-alone miners to greenie scientists. Surrounded by wooded hills, this city of 31,000 straddles the placid Chena River, a popular spot for canoeing, rafting, boating, and fishing. The rich gold-rush history of Fairbanks is exemplified by a multitude of historical structures and a historic riverboat at Pioneer Park, but the university's art museum is dramatically modern, and visitors enjoy excellent restaurants and comfortable lodging options. Be sure to spend time at the recently opened Morris Thompson Cultural & Visitor Center for a fine introduction to the region. Fairbanks is also a jumping-off point for flights to bush Alaska (including Barrow, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and Gates of the Arctic National Park). Nearby Chena Hot Springs features delightful hot springs, a unique ice hotel, and geothermal powerplant.

Don Pitcher
About the Expert

Don Pitcher has written or photographed 10 travel guidebooks to Alaska, Wyoming, Yellowstone-Grand Teton, and the San Juan Islands for Avalon Travel Publishing, Random House, and Sasquatch Books.

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Don Pitcher for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Late summer, especially during Tanana Valley State Fair in August