Where the unparalleled meets the unexpected
Fairbanks is the largest city in the Interior, and a well-known and commonly visited place within Alaska. While summertime is the most popular time for visiting, with at least 21 hours of sunlight each day, traveling to this area in the winter is a trip that has its fair share of benefits too. While Fairbanks itself offers activities like shopping, exploring, and eating, it also functions as a central hub that allows visitors to travel into the great expanse of the surrounding areas, while having a comfortable place to return each night. Basing your winter adventure out of Fairbanks is simple and inviting, allowing you to comfortably experience all that an Alaska winter has to offer.
ICE FISHING From December to March, the Birch Lake State Recreation Site (located 57 miles southeast of Fairbanks on the Richardson Highway) rents out five huts on the lake for ice fishing each day. Certain provisions are included, like the fishing holes and the hut itself, but visitors must bring everything else—namely, warm clothing and fishing gear. dnr.alaska.gov/parks/cabins/birchlkicehutmap.pdf
DOG SLED ADVENTURES Whether you just want to experience the Alaska winter landscape without having to trudge through the snow yourself, or you want to learn more about dog mushing in general, a visit to Cotter’s Dog Sled Kennel won’t disappoint. With a tour of the kennel and a four-mile dog-drawn tour of the property, you’ll have ample time to take in breathtaking, snow-covered views. If you’d rather stick around for a week and become a musher yourself, there’s an option that provides hands-on lessons, eventually allowing you to gain full control of the sled—or, at least, that’s what the dogs want you to believe. www.billcotterkennel.com
AURORA The short daylight hours of winter in Alaska mean long nights and a great opportunity to catch the auroras in action. Despite Fairbanks being the third largest city in Alaska, it’s still possible to spot the northern lights within the city limits. That said: remote excursions by sled or snow machine offer surreal, vibrant, and arrestingly quiet viewing of the night sky. Blankets and hot chocolate are standard amenities. Or, consider an aurora viewing vacation and cross it off your bucket list. www.alaskatours.com/winter/aurora_viewing
PHOTOGRAPHY Grab your tripod and parka, because photography in Fairbanks and the surrounding area is a once-in-a lifetime opportunity. While the extra daylight in summertime makes photography easier, the winter presents picturesque moments unlike any other. From northern lights and ice sculptures to dog mushing and frozen lakes, Fairbanks offers a true, authentic, Alaska winter experience for shutterbugs.
LOCALS SAY: Take the Riverboat Discovery down the Chena River and cap off the night at The Pump House.
Chena Hot Springs
A natural hot tub on ice
Everyone knows there’s nothing better at taking off the winter chill than climbing into a warm bath. With an indoor heated pool, two hot tubs (one outdoor and one indoor), and even an outdoor natural rock lake, Chena Hot Springs is never short on ways to stay warm and relax, even in the middle of winter. After touring Fairbanks and the surrounding areas, take some time to sit back and allow either the natural waters or the chlorinated ones to wash over you, relieve some stress, and thaw some bones. Get to Chena Hot Springs, about one hour northeast of Fairbanks, by way of the Chena Shuttle, which even picks up at the Fairbanks airport.
ICE MUSEUM The Aurora Ice Museum is the largest indoor ice environment in the world, and it’s not to be missed. With three different carvers working to make the most impressive ice sculptures in the state, the inside of the Aurora Ice Museum is like stepping into a whole new world. Though wintertime is the best season to view these frozen works of art, the ice stays complete even during the summer months, when the outdoor temperature can be in the eighties— or higher. Consider enrolling in a three-day, comprehensive class on ice sculpture or explore a single day crash course that teaches the basics of ice carving. And at the end of the day, pull up a caribou fur-covered stool and treat yourself to a cocktail at the Aurora Ice Bar. www.chenahotsprings.com/ice-museum
SKI AND SNOWSHOE Although the main draw of Chena Hot Springs is the natural hot spring itself, there are plenty of other winter activities here worth noting. Explore the wilderness by renting cross-country skis or some snowshoes and trekking across the 440 acres of land that belongs to the resort. Or you can rent a pair of ice skates and glide across the frozen pond. Even though it’s winter, that doesn’t mean you have to stay indoors, not with so much to
LOCALS SAY: Don’t forget to get a massage treatment while you’re there. enjoy. www.chenahotsprings.com