The Great Land: Experiencing the Beautiful Beyond in Fairbanks, Alaska
So hold on to your hat (and mittens) because so much more than the aurora borealis awaits in the Last Frontier. Here are a few of our top picks for travelers with cultural curiosity and a sense of adventure.
Cool Temperatures, Gold Fever
Fairbanks’ history is steeped in gold. Founded at the beginning of the 20th century, the city was primarily built on Gold Rush fervor, with panning being a popular activity for travelers — and that’s precisely how Gold Daughters got its start. Opened by local sisters Jordan and Ilaura Reeves, Gold Daughters teaches its guests the nitty-gritty of gold panning and invites them to be a part of the living history of the Alaskan city. What’s even better? Finders, keepers. “That moment when you find gold, it’s a level of elation. It’s like climbing a peak and seeing a different perspective. You just have that adrenaline rush,” says Ilaura. Come and share in the sensation felt by the first people who, quite literally, struck gold in this wonderful, wild land, and try your hand at gold panning with the best.
All of the Lights, Through a Different Lens
Travelers have long logged “catching the aurora borealis” at the top of their to-do lists. While there are no guarantees of witnessing the Northern Lights show, Fairbanks – which sits on the aurora belt in Alaska’s Interior – is one of the few places in the world where you might bet your money on getting a glimpse. German photographer and “adopted” local Frank Stelges wants to show you the magnetosphere masterpiece through a different lens. Completely taken by the magic and mystery of Alaska, specifically during a 43,000-kilometer motorcycle trip, Stelges uprooted his life and moved to the Last Frontier for good. In 2016, he and his wife Miriam founded Aurora Bear, offering aurora and night photography tours and classes. Grab your camera (or rent one!) and let Stelges guide you on capturing the beauty of Alaska’s scenery, wildlife and, if you’re lucky, the phenomenon of the aurora borealis. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.
The Wild, Wild West - Really Far West
There’s no doubt that Alaska touts the who’s who of seriously big beasts, and the Robert G. White Large Animal Research Station – LARS, for short – at the University of Alaska Fairbanks is one of the hidden gems that locals and tourists alike can visit year-round to see them. Get up close and personal with the colony of reindeer and muskoxen LARS is studying, in a destination that’s both educational and entertaining.
While breathtaking natural beauty will lure you in, endless opportunities to explore Alaska Native culture, a vibrant art community and a charming downtown will keep you wanting more. If you’ve longed to explore the ends of the earth (or at least the USA), Fairbanks, Alaska is not somewhere to forget.
"If You Go" Hit List
- Pan for treasure at Gold Daughters.
- See the Northern Lights through a new lens at Aurora Bear.
- Shred powder on a ski-doo with Snow Sleighers.
Eat & Drink