By George Christopher Thomas, Travel Writer
FAIRBANKS, ALASKA – The discovery of Fairbanks came about as a bit of a lark, as the old-timers say, during the gold rush at the turn of the century. The boat carrying E.T. Barnette could not transverse the waters any further upstream, and dropped the town’s future first mayor along the “Fair Banks” of the Chena River.
Like every resourceful Alaskan before and since, Mr. Barnette made do with what he had right where he was… and established a permanent trading post to transact business and commerce. This frontier attitude and potential opportunity created Alaska’s second largest city, and the golden heart of the vast interior in America’s 49th state.
Fast forward nearly 120 years later, and Fairbanks has established itself as the basecamp for visiting the Arctic Circle, Denali National Park, and viewing the fabled Northern Lights. Couple that with a bustling historic downtown along the river, and Fairbanks could be the greatest spot to stay and explore Alaska. And because of the proximity to the top of the world, from mid-June to late August, Fairbanks experiences 24 hours of continuous daylight and is officially known as the “Land of the Midnight Sun.” So, with a plethora of things to see and do, Fairbanks should be on your bucket list of destinations for either the summer or winter season.
During the summer, you can catch a midnight baseball game during the summer solstice festival. Throughout the nights you will find people golfing, jogging, gardening and soaking in all that Alaskan summer sun. And the people aren’t the only ones soaking up the sun, the fruits and vegetables grow to sizes never seen in the lower 48 states, with cabbages the size of basketballs and carrots the size of people’s legs.
The winter can be just as fun, with dog sledding, snow machining, and ample fodder all around for snowball fights. You can “shred the moose” up at Moose Mountain Ski Lodge, or visit the Ice Museum to marvel at the ice sculptures. And at any time of year, the Chena Hot Springs about 45 minutes out of town are perfect for that weekend getaway and medicinal soak in the natural volcanic springs of Alaska. (It is along the geologically famous “Ring of Fire”).
Anyway you slice it, Fairbanks has everything you need or want out of an Alaskan vacation. From being less than two hours from Denali National Park, to accessing the Arctic Circle, to gallivanting along a hiking trail with reindeer, Fairbanks has it all. (For more information, please visit www.explorefairbanks.com).