How to get to Fairbanks
Driving to Fairbanks is an undertaking in itself, but truly is one of the most epic road trips to be had!
The Alaska Highway connects the state (including Fairbanks) with the “lower 48” via Canada.
The good news is that it is a paved road with plenty of services at regular intervals, making the journey entirely doable all year round (though caution should be exercised in winter).
The best way to drive is going by campervan or RV.
That way you have everything you need right with you and will never be caught short looking for a dreary motel to overnight in!
Fairbanks International Airport is a lifeline to the remote villages of Alaska, but also a modern transport hub with direct flights from Seattle and a seasonal direct flight from Frankfurt in Germany.
For other international routes, you must first fly to Seattle, which is well connected to the rest of the world.
Check for the latest deals here.
There is no direct train line connecting the rest of the United States or Canada with Alaska, however, there is a direct Anchorage – Fairbanks train called the Denali Star.
As with the train, there is no direct bus from the Continental US to Alaska via Canada.
There is however a bus service between Anchorage and Fairbanks which takes around eight to ten hours.
Getting to the City from Fairbanks International Airport
It’s easy getting into town from the airport as the distance is just 5 miles! The cheapest option is to take the MACS yellow line bus.
There is also an on-demand shuttle service provided by Alaska Shuttle, or you can pay around $20 for a taxi.
Getting Around Fairbanks
Hiring a Car
Hiring a car is the best way to get around as it gives you the most freedom. If you will be traveling in winter then it will be best to hire a 4X4 with snow tires/chains.
Campervan / RV
One of the best ways to get around Fairbanks (and Denali National Park) is to go by RV/campervan. This is a great way to get around Alaska’s vast wilderness and can save a lot of money on accommodation too! Visit Motorhome Republic for the best deals!
Also be sure to check out our comprehensive guide to the best RV rentals in Alaska. Flying in and hiring an RV is our top way to get around!
Fairbanks benefits from the Metropolitan Area Commuter System (MACS) with nine set routes covering much of the city and is a great way to get around.
Other Ways to Get around Fairbanks
Walk – In the summer months, Fairbanks can be a pleasant city to stroll around. The downtown area along the Chena River and around the Antler Arch has some nice paths perfect for walking.
Cycle – Fairbanks is perfect for cycling thanks to its flat layout and many paths. The city benefits from a shared bike scheme called Fairbikes.
Guided Tour – One of the best ways to see the city and learn all about Fairbanks’ history is to take a guided tour like this one.
Where to Stay in Fairbanks
There are plenty of great accommodation options in Fairbanks and the surrounding areas.
Whether you are looking for a backpacker hostel, a traditional yurt or something a little more comfortable, you’ll be sure to find somewhere to suit your tastes and budget.
Here is a small selection of places to stay in Fairbanks:
15 of the Best Things to do in Fairbanks, Alaska
1. Go Dog Mushing with the Last Frontier Mushing Co-Op
C’mon, admit it. You’ve always wanted to yell “MUSH” and then zoom off across the snow with half a dozen huskies tearing it up in front!
As home to the famous Iditarod dog sled race, Alaska is THE place to be for dog sledding.
The best way to experience this wonderful activity is to take a tour, and the best option for an authentic, ethical experience is with the Last Frontier Mushing CO-OP.
What’s really awesome about this company is the fact that it’s a CO-OP. What this means in basic terms is that different husky owners/guides can bring their own dogs to the forefront for you to engage with. So you not only get to meet all the individual dogs, but you get to meet the person who is raising and training them.
Because of the fact that the dogs at The Co-op are owned by the guides, rather than company itself it allows the guides to receive equal pay share as shareholders per tour and reduces the need for them to maintain large kennel numbers which in turn makes a better experience for dogs, guides and visitors.
Plus, you’ll get to see the awesome bond they have, and it makes for an even better experience.
What’s really cool about the Last Frontier Mushing CO-OP too is the fact that they do tours for summer, autumn and winter, so if you visit in summer (like we did) then you still have the opportunity to learn about mushing, get to know some amazing dogs AND you’ll still get to try mushing on a shorter track.
You can see our experience in our Youtube video here.
But we really enjoyed getting to meet and learn the story of each dog on the team. We love DOGS so it was a dream, and I absolutely loved the passion their owner had for his dogs, and the love they had for him.
It’s really beautiful to see that bond so alive!
We had our tour lead by Chase, who’s own company is Tukaway Sled Dog Kennel.
He’s an awesome guy and has a true passion for his amazing huskies and he had so many amazing stories to tell.
It is so obvious just how much he loves his dogs and the passion he has for training and mushing with them, and it’s truly infectious!
We also learnt SO much about mushing itself. How the dogs train, what the different positions mean, and I really feel like I understand the process a lot better, which is awesome too!
We even got to meet some puppies too, AND what I love about that is the fact that all the puppies are up for adoption. Remember adoption is always the better option if you’re looking for a new furry friend.
The tours on offer range from 1.5 hours to 3 hours depending on what tour you opt for, and of course the winter tours look spectacular in the snow.
You can try both sitting or “mushing” (directing the dogs) and get to learn all about how the dogs are trained.
If you will be in Fairbanks between August and April, then there is a good chance you will be sledding beneath the northern lights, a truly unforgettable experience. And the Last Frontier has a dedicated Aurora Tour which looks awesome.
These guys also offer something else that’s pretty darn cool. A whole range of expeditions, ranging from an overnight Aurora mushing experience to an EPIC 7 day adventure, which looks and sounds fantastic. This is 100% on our bucket list of things to do in the future, and if you’re looking for a truly unique Alaskan experience, then it’s something you should consider.
Find out more here.
2. Take a Selfie at Fairbanks Antler Arch
If you are looking for something unusual to do in Fairbanks, then taking a selfie at the (in)famous antler arch has got to be it!
This slightly macabre attraction is made up of over 100 sets of intertwined moose and caribou antlers, culminating around a central skull.
The antlers have been collected from all across the state including the Yukon, North Pole, Fairbanks and the Tanana Flats.
The arch represents a grisly homage to Alaska’s deep connections to large game hunting. Whether you are a hunter or not, the Antler Arch is definitely one for “the Gram”!
The Antler Arch also serves to highlight the city’s hiking and biking trails.
3. Relax at Chena Hot Springs
What’s the best antidote to a hard day’s sightseeing? That’s right, kicking back at Alaska’s premiere Chena Hot springs.
Boasting a natural thermal rock pool, indoor and outdoor hot tubs and pools plus massage therapy, this is probably the best place in all of Alaska to unwind!
Not only can you while away hours in the thermal pools, but Chena is also home to an excellent restaurant where much of the produce is grown in an onsite greenhouse with a strict “greenhouse to plate” policy!
And that’s not all! Chena also houses a quirky ice museum made up of over 1,000 tonnes of ice and snow that can be visited year-round.
The onsite Aurora Ice Museum is one of the top things to do in Fairbanks thanks to its incredible ice sculpture displays.
So, if you are looking for a little fine dining with your pampering, Chena Hot Springs is definitely the place to be!
4. See the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights)
No trip to Alaska is complete without witnessing the mesmerizing aurora borealis. The best time to see the northern lights is between August and April.
These dancing waves of light are particles from the sun that hit the earth’s atmosphere in a violent explosion of light.
The only place you can see the aurora is in the far north of the northern hemisphere, so Alaska is the perfect place (along with Norway and Iceland in Europe).
If you are staying more than three days in Fairbanks you are almost guaranteed to witness what is one of nature’s most impressive spectacles!
One of the best ways to see the aurora is to take a tour which includes staying in a comfortable and warm yurt from which to view from.
5. Appreciate Ice Sculptures at the Aurora & Fairbanks Ice Museum
Fairbanks Ice Museum is one of the coolest places to visit in the city (motto: “our assets are frozen”) thanks to its awesome ice sculpture displays.
From wildlife scenes carved in ice, to famous landmarks, this top Fairbanks attraction is bags of fun and should not be missed.
You can watch a demonstration of how the ice is cut and sculpted, or enjoy a drink at the ice bar.
Many of the displays are interactive and you can explore inside frozen igloos or hop on a snowmobile before sledding down the giant ice slide!
For more ice sculpture fun, there is the ice museum located on the property of the Chena Hot Springs, and they have a bar inside where you can get a very delicious appletini!
6. Go on a River Cruise Onboard Riverboat Discovery III
What better way to get a true feel of that old pioneer spirit than taking a river cruise on an old steamboat?
This three-hour tour takes in an Athabascan Indian village, a bush pilot demonstration, a kennels and an old trading post.
You’ll learn how the native Athabascans have survived here for over 10,000 years and rely heavily on the local wolf, fox and beaver populations for survival.
Wonder what the life of a bush pilot in Alaska is like? Wonder no more as you will get to hear first-hand from a pilot and witness a landing and take off right next to the boat!
When people think of Alaska, it’s no secret that dog sledding comes to mind. Here you can experience a champion dog sled kennel which has produced three winners of the famed Iditarod race.
This laid back cruise along the tranquil Chena River is definitely one of the best things to do near Fairbanks!
7. Pose for a Photo with the Reindeers at Running Reindeer Ranch
Okay, so if dog sleds don’t come immediately to mind when thinking of Alaska, surely reindeers do!
Have you ever wanted to get up close and personal with Santa’s favorite mode of transport? If so, the Running Reindeer Ranch is the perfect place for you!
Take a trip into the stunning boreal forest of Alaska and watch these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.
The ranch offers a host of unique experiences from reindeer yoga (yes, you read that right), to music with reindeer and reindeer walks.
So, plenty of opportunities to grab that perfect picture with these lovable furry friends!
Chilling with reindeer is definitely one of the best Fairbanks tourist attractions for nature lovers!
8.Visit the Museum of the North
The University of Alaska Museum of the North is one of the top things to do in Fairbanks thanks to its incredible exhibits detailing the history, peoples and nature of Alaska.
There are auditorium shows bringing to life the seasons in Alaska and giving a unique insight into the northern lights.
The museum houses an extensive collection of native art from ancient Eskimo ivory carvings to more contemporary pieces, so art-lovers are in for a treat.
You can marvel at Alaska’s largest gold display (Fairbanks was a gold-rush town after all) or see a real-life mummified bison dating back to the last Ice Age!
This Fairbanks attraction really should be your first stop in Alaska to gain a better understanding of the state and its inhabitants!
9. Wander Around Pioneer Park
The 44 acre Pioneer Park is a historical theme park showcasing the history of Fairbanks.
Within the park you will find a selection of museums such as the SS Nenana; a 90-year-old vessel that used to ply the waters of the Yukon and Tanana Rivers.
There is also the Harding Car; a presidential train carriage that President Warren G Harding used on his 1923 trip to Alaska.
You’ll also be able to discover Alaska’s aeronautical history at the Pioneer Air Museum, plus an assortment of other pioneer and transport related displays.
The park is also home to a diverse array of shops and restaurants. One of the most famous of these is the 40-year-old Alaska Salmon Bake offering a unique Alaskan dining experience.
If you are hankering after some wild Alaskan salmon, Alaskan cod, or Alaskan halibut, then put your fishing rod away and let these guys do the hard work!
Pioneer Park is completely free to enter, though some of the museums charge a small nominal fee to help with the upkeep.
10. Try Out Local Craft Beer and Spirits
Want to know where to go if you start feeling a bit thirsty? Fear not, we’ve got you covered!
Craft beer has exploded in popularity and can be found everywhere from Chihuahua to China, and Fairbanks is no exception.
You may be surprised to learn that there are more than 12 brewing companies in Fairbanks, giving you an excellent selection of tipples to try.
The biggest name in the game is the HooDoo Brewing Company who have been brewing for over 10 years. They have their own taproom and biergarten where you can try out the current draft beers.
Black Spruce Brewing Company is another great option. Although a relatively new kid on the block (formed in 2018), their Aroma Dome IPA is a firm Fairbanks favorite!
If you are looking for something a little stronger, then check out the Fairbanks Distilling Company. You can take a guided tour of the distillery and sample a selection of cocktails at the onsite bar
Most bars in the city will stock plenty of craft options both local, and international. So, if you are fond of a pint after a day’s hike or sightseeing, you surely won’t be disappointed!
11. Visit the Denali National Park
Denali National Park encompasses over 6-million acres of untamed wilderness.
It is home to North America’s highest peak, Denali (sometimes referred to as Mount McKinley) which is one of the famed seven summits (the highest peaks on each continent).
If you want to really experience Alaska’s rich flora and fauna, then Denali is the perfect place to escape to.
From hiking to mountaineering and river-rafting, Denali is a dream for lovers of the great outdoors.
You will find a variety of landscapes from snow-capped peaks to alpine meadows, rushing waterways and boreal forest.
The National Park is home to a large array of wildlife from moose and caribou to bears, wolves and golden eagles.
But be advised that a trip to Denali is no “walk in the park” and you should be well prepared.
Ensure you have adequate supplies (water, extra layers, map, compass etc) and let someone know of your intended route and date of return before heading off into the wilderness.
Need help getting to Denali? There is a handy shuttle bus between Fairbanks and the National Park.
12. Go on a day trip to the Arctic Circle
With a distance of just under 200 miles by road from Fairbanks, a journey beyond the Arctic Circle makes an excellent day trip from the city.
Whether you drive yourself, or take a tour, a trip beyond 66 Degrees north is sure to impress your friends!
You’ll need to take the Dalton Highway, sometimes known as the “loneliest road in the world” thanks to the lack of anything except wilderness for miles around.
You’ll also cross the Yukon River where you might be lucky and spot some wildlife, before reaching the “land of the midnight sun”.
If you take a tour such as this one, you can learn about the native inhabitants of this inhospitable land, its flora and fauna, and even see the northern lights if you are lucky.
13. See the Midnight Sun
Between April 22nd to August 20th you can experience the “land of the midnight sun” in Fairbanks. During this time the sun never sets below the horizon, giving 24 hours of daylight.
The best time to experience this is during the summer solstice (June 20/21) where the city has many different activities and events to celebrate the sun.
Ever gone hiking or played golf at 1am? Well, if not here’s your chance!
Another strange phenomenon of the extended daylight hours is the fruit and veg grown in Alaska is gigantic compared to produce grown in the lower 48!
Whether you will be walking the streets, enjoying a craft beer or partaking in some exciting activity, doing it while the sun shines in the middle of the night will surely be an experience you won’t forget!
14. Discover “Magic Bus”
Magic Bus, otherwise known as bus number 142, is a bus made famous by the movie “Into the Wild” and the tragic story of adventurer Christopher McCandless lived for several months, from April until August 1992, until he sadly died after consuming food which poisoned him.
This bus was actually a shelter for backcountry hikers that was put there purposely in Denali National Park (in case you’re wondering how the hell a bus got into this part of the wild!), and Christopher found it on his travels.
Since his death, many people went in search for the bus, and tragically some have lost their lives on the way.
It was therefore removed (recently) from the National Park and is going to be transferred into the Museum of the North as an exhibition!
This will be a safer way to visit the bus.
But, you can also visit the actual bus they used in the movie.
It’s located at 49th State Brewing Company in the small town of Healy, Alaska, just 10 miles from the entrance of Denali National Park.
You can take a picture in front of the bus, and inside they’ve kind of made it into a little museum with the story of Christopher’s time on the bus.
It’s free of course!
15. Take a day trip to see Santa Claus
Did you know the North Pole is in Alaska? Yes it is! And, Santa himself has a base there. The North Pole is a small Alaskan city, which is only a 20 minute drive outside of Fairbanks.
It’s known for its year-round Christmas decorations, and there is even a chance to meet Santa in his house (all year) there are candy cane–striped street lights, they have the world’s largest Santa statue, and streets have names like Kris Kringle Drive and Mistletoe Lane.
Brad and I LOVE Christmas, so we had an absolute blast here, and we even bought from Christmas baubles to bring back home for our Christmas trees at home.
They even have reindeers on site too that you can visit.
Pretty cool, eh?
Other Fairbanks Travel Tips
When is a good time to visit Fairbanks?
Fairbanks has long, mild summers perfect for enjoying the outdoors, and cold, snowy winters which are great for activities such as dog sledding. .
If you want to be in with a chance of catching the aurora borealis, then you should aim to come between August and April.
If you want to experience the midnight sun, then June is the best month
June and July are both great months for experiencing the summer in Fairbanks and the perfect time to go if you are planning on hiking.
Fairbanks has plenty to offer all year round, so you will be sure to find plenty of activities to suit your needs.
How long should you spend in Fairbanks?
To see the major Fairbanks tourist attractions four days should be enough.
However, to get the most out of your trip to Fairbanks, consider spending at least one week in the city.
This way you can experience many of the Fairbanks activities such as a trip to Denali, dog sledding, and of course the city’s bars and breweries!
What is a good budget for Fairbanks?
You should plan on a budget of around $200 per day for Fairbanks.
This will cover a mid-range hotel, meals out, transport and entrance tickets.
This figure can be reduced considerably if you opt to hire a motorhome, saving you money not only on transport costs but accommodation and even food if you choose to shop at a local supermarket and cook in your RV..
Can You Just Book a Tour to Fairbanks?
Most Fairbanks tours you will find online are just for day trips.
For a tailor-made tour consult a travel agent who will be able to build an itinerary to suit your needs.
Is Fairbanks Safe to Visit?
Fairbanks is a very safe city compared to major metropolitan areas in the lower 48. However, given the city’s location in a vast and sometimes inhospitable region, certain precautions should be taken before embarking on a trip to this wild frontier.
In summer, forest fires present a real danger, so always be sure to pay attention to local news for the latest information.
If you plan on spending time in the wilderness around Fairbanks then be aware that you will be sharing this space with some rather large animals, predatory and otherwise. Practice bear safety by storing all food away from your camp and keeping it in air-tight containers.
Never approach or disturb wildlife, it’s always best to admire from afar. Moose and Caribou are large animals and can attack if they feel threatened.
Where to go After Fairbanks
With so many great things to do in Fairbanks Alaska, this great city will keep you occupied for some time. But where to head next? The obvious choice is Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city.
The city is famed for its hiking trails, glaciers and cultural sites and is located on the south coast 360 miles from Fairbanks..
There are direct trains and buses between the two cities with a journey time of around eight hours.
Alaska truly is an epic destination. So what are you waiting for? Get those bags packed today!