fun things to do in Fairbanks

Land of the midnight sun and center stage for one of the best northern lights shows this side of the Arctic Circle, Fairbanks is waiting to welcome you. The mountains are high, the rivers run clear and the wildlife is never far away.

Once inhabited by nomadic Athabaskan Indians, the city of Fairbanks has become one of Alaska’s most popular destinations. Its ideal location makes it the perfect getaway for outdoor adventures, no matter if you’re after a peaceful hike or a thrilling ski jump.

There are plenty of fun things to do in Fairbanks, a city that effortlessly combines remote wilderness with a vibrant urban scene.

Go snowmobiling, hike the Angel Rocks Trail, or join a guided walk of the Running Reindeer Ranch. You can even brave the icy wilderness to try dog sledding. For summer visitors, places like the Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge and the Large Animal Research Station (where you can meet the rare muskox) are fun and unique destinations.

Whether you want to hike through secluded valleys, go gold panning or enjoy a scenic plane tour, a visit to Fairbanks will show you Alaska at its finest.

1 – Go snowmobiling

snowmobiling in Fairbanks

Feel the wind on your cheeks, as you whiz through the icy wilderness on an epic snowmobile adventure. Delve deep into the winter wonderland, remembering to stop for a moment and drink in the silence, and the views.

You’ll be exploring off-road trails through snow-laden forests and pausing for photos beside remote frozen lakes. Want to see the Northern Lights? Then head out on an evening tour and watch the sky light up with ethereal greens.

2 – Admire vintage cars at the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum, Fairbanks

Journey through time as you explore the world-class collection of historic vehicles at the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum. There are cars dating to the Victorian era and accessories that bring the Art Deco period to life.

Don’t miss the horseless carriages and the cycle cars, then see if you can spot the famous midget racers. Most of the museum’s automobiles are still operable so you might see some in action!

3 – Discover the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center

Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center, Fairbanks

Get your bearings and plan your itinerary at the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center. This information hub in Downtown Fairbanks is the place to go for maps and tour reservations.

Visit the exhibition to learn about Alaska’s landscapes, people, and wildlife. There are free films too, giving you an insight into the state’s natural history. Check the schedule to see if there are any events on during your stay.

4 – Hike the Angel Rocks Trail

Angel Rocks Trail, FairbanksOne of the best outdoor things to do in Fairbanks is to hike along the Angel Rocks Trail. Pull on your boots and hit the dirt as you explore the unusual geological formations watching over the path.

There are several hiking options, including a 3.5-mile loop and an 8-mile linear trip that also takes in Chena Hot Springs. Your efforts will be rewarded with sweeping views of the valley, and fresh blueberries in summer!

5 – Ride the McKinley Explorer

McKinley Explorer, Fairbanks

Sit back in your seat and watch the world go by as you venture into the wild on the McKinley Explorer train. The curved glass windows of the domed railcars give you unsurpassed views of the valleys, mountains, and rivers.

Want to get closer to the action? Then head to the outdoor viewing platform and get that camera ready. The ride isn’t all about the views. There’s sumptuous dining over in the restaurant car too!

6 – Visit the University of Alaska Museum of the North

University of Alaska Museum of the North, Fairbanks

Come face to face with Arctic dinosaurs at the University of Alaska Museum of the North. Here you’ll see a real-life mammoth tusk, encounter a mummified bison from the Ice Age, and discover over 2000 years of Alaskan art.

Be dazzled by Alaska’s largest display of shiny gold nuggets and feel humbled as you stand beneath the giant bowhead whale skeleton. Wannabe naturalists will be in their element!

7 – Explore the Chena River State Recreation Area

Chena River State Recreation Area, Fairbanks

There are nearly 400 square miles of rivers, forests, and alpine tundra waiting to be discovered at the Chena River State Recreation Area. Take a day trip from Fairbanks or stay a little longer at the campgrounds.

In summer, hiking and rock climbing are popular, while kayaking on the gentle river offers true wilderness immersion. During winter you can go dog sledding, finishing up with a soak in the hot springs.

8 – Hunt the Northern Lights

Northern Lights in Fairbanks

Search for the enchanting Aurora Borealis on an exhilarating Northern Lights tour from Fairbanks. Although sightings can’t be guaranteed, the thrill of the chase is just as much fun.

You’ll be plowing through the icy wilderness by 4×4 on your quest to view the lights, which often appear during the winter months. Gaze skywards across the tundra as you wait for the show to commence. Will this be your lucky night?

And one of the best possible ways of ticking off that bucket list dream is watching the night skies dancing above Aurora Lodge. This authentic cabin offers warmth and welcome as you wait for the show to commence.

You’ll never forget the moment you see those tendrils of ethereal light snaking across the sky. Watch out for greens, blues, and even pinks. Nature in Alaska never fails to take your breath away but seeing the Aurora Borealis takes some beating!

9 – Discover the Running Reindeer Ranch

Running Reindeer Ranch, Fairbanks

Delve deep into the boreal forest on a guided walking tour at the Running Reindeer Ranch. You’ll be plodding alongside your new furry friends as you explore the magical birch woodland.

See the reindeer prance through the trees and keep your eyes peeled for Rudolf in winter. Make sure you wrap up warm!

If you’re in Fairbanks during summer, why not try a spot of reindeer yoga – there’s a first time for everything!

10 – Start Christmas early at the Santa Claus House

Santa Claus House, Fairbanks

It’s Christmas every day at the Santa Claus House where the twinkling lights create a magical atmosphere. Stock up on ornaments and toys, because it’s never too early to get into the festive spirit!

Taste delicious candy in the sweet shop and take photos in front of the specially prepared displays. Father Christmas will be there, and he’s very partial to a selfie. You can meet his reindeer afterward too.

11 – Get hands-on at Fairbanks Children’s Museum

Fairbanks Children's Museum

Young explorers will love harnessing the power of play as they discover the Fairbanks Children’s Museum. There are heaps of exhibits to check out, with role-playing, science and water activities keeping your little ones amused for hours.

Creative souls can enjoy arts and crafts sessions in the Imagineering Lab, while those with energy to burn should take on the Tree Canopy Climber. Finish with some Zen moments in the Sensory Room.

12 – Stroll around Georgeson Botanical Garden

Georgeson Botanical Garden, Fairbanks

Be an amateur botanist for the day as you wander around Georgeson Botanical Garden in search of rare, far-north plants.

You’ll discover unusual species of flower and tree that are endemic to Alaska and learn how they thrive in the sub-Arctic interior. See if you can identify the wild sedges.

Kids will love the Babula Children’s Garden where Alaska’s largest hedge maze beckons. There’s a giant treehouse with views out across the farmland too.

13 – Go dog sledding

dog sledding in Fairbanks

Dog sledding is one of the most iconic winter things to do in Fairbanks. You’ll be traveling like a true Alaskan as you go mushing along snowy trails through fragrant pine forests. Hang on tight, those huskies are fast!

Have a go at driving the team using local voice commands, you’ll soon get the hang of it. When the hard work is done, you can meet and greet the loyal dogs, who love being petted.

14 – Watch wildlife at Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge

Creamer's Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge, Fairbanks

Creamer’s Refuge is home to a dazzling array of wildlife. The forests and wetlands provide an inviting habitat for waterfowl and migratory birds – you can watch them from the viewing platforms.

Stretch your legs on the nature trails and pop up the observation tower to see what you can spot. Golden plovers and sandhill cranes are common visitors. Keep watch for moose, snowshoe hares, and red foxes foraging in the woods.

15 – See the sculptures at Fairbanks Ice Museum

Fairbanks Ice Museum

Dedicated to all things ice, this quirky museum is like no other you’ll have ever visited. There are lots of large ice displays to photograph, as well as a slide show of the World Ice Art Championships.

The Fairbanks Ice Museum is open in summer, so you won’t miss out on feeling that quintessential Alaskan chill. Head into the deep freeze and experience temperatures of 20 degrees below zero. Wrap up warm!

16 – Pose beneath the famous Antler Arch

Antler Arch, Fairbanks

Just like its sister over in Anchorage, the Antler Arch of Fairbanks is a popular local landmark, and a great place for taking photos. It’s made from over 100 caribou and moose antlers gathered from across Alaska by hunters and collectors. Each antler tells its own story.

This unusual arch is the gateway to Fairbanks and represents the natural heritage of the city. You’ll find it beside the Morris Thompson Cultural Center.

Directions in Google Maps

17 – Try ice fishing

ice fishing in Fairbanks

Looking for adventurous things to do in Fairbanks? Why not have a go at ice fishing and see what you can land. You’ll head to a frozen lake outside the city for a few hours of fun – don’t forget your gloves.

Cast your line through a hole in the ice and wait patiently until it starts to dance. The thrill of reeling in your prize is epic. Even better is getting to eat it afterward.

18 – Bounce around at Fly Trampoline Park

Fly Trampoline Park, Fairbanks

Take on the Foam Zone and the mighty Warped Wall, as you jump around the Fly Trampoline Park. Visiting with friends? Then race against the clock with your team and try to conquer the Laser Maze, or have a slam dunk competition on the basketball court.

Test your balance on the Battle Beam and see if you can complete the Ninja Course without falling off. Will you make it through the monkey swings?

19 – Meet a muskox at the Large Animal Research Station

Large Animal Research Station, Fairbanks

See some of Alaska’s iconic creatures at the Large Animal Research Station just outside Fairbanks. Scientists come here from all over the world to study the inhabitants and learn more about their characteristics and behaviors.

You’ll meet reindeer and muskoxen as you tour this former homestead which sprawls across 134 acres. Pop into the gift shop before you leave for handicrafts and some whacky muskox-themed souvenirs.

20 – Have a blast at Pioneer Park

Pioneer Park, Fairbanks

This historically themed park in the center of Fairbanks is a favorite with families. Packed with engaging museums, original Gold Rush buildings, and outdoor activity areas, Pioneer Park makes for a fun day out.

Practice your swing on the crazy golf course, go for a spin on the carousel, or climb aboard the narrow-gauge train for a ride around the grounds. Kayak trips and nightly dinner shows are the icing on the cake.

Don’t miss out on a visit to the Pioneer Air Museum either. Dedicated to the history of flight in Alaska, the museum houses a number of historical planes, including a Stinson SR-JR from 1937, which was in operation in the Arctic for years. Changing exhibitions are also held throughout the year.

21 – Snowshoe through the winter wonderland

snowshoeing in Fairbanks

Strap on some snowshoes and trudge into the white wilderness for a truly epic adventure. You’ll be exploring well off the beaten track and your footprints will be the only ones for miles.

Feel the majesty of nature as you follow icy trails through dense forests and alongside frozen lakes. Wildlife spotting is easier in winter, so keep an eye out for moose, foxes, and of course, the aptly named snowshoe hare!

22 – Admire sculptures at the Ice Art Park

Ice Art Park, Fairbanks

See the carvers at work as they craft masterpieces at the Fairbanks Ice Art Park. Watch as everything from houses to horses spring to life right before your eyes. Open between January and March, the park is fun for all ages.

Meander past the sculptures on a drive-through route, where a light display brings the creations to life. Then head to the Mega Slide and race your friends down the slippery chutes.

23 – Take a day trip to the Arctic Circle

Arctic Circle, Fairbanks

One of the most epic things to do in Fairbanks is to visit the Arctic Circle. After all, you’re so close it would be rude not to. You’ll be heading to latitudes that are always light, or always dark, depending on the season.

Cross the mighty Yukon River as you venture north soaking up the splendid scenery. Then pose for photos beside the Arctic Circle Monument Sign for serious bragging rights.

24 – Ski into the wilderness

skiing in Fairbanks

There are three ski resorts within a stone’s throw of Fairbanks, so you can spend a magical day swishing down the slopes. Birch Hill and Moose Mountain are ideal for beginners, with gentle elevations and scenic views.

Ski Land has bigger peaks so come here for an adrenaline buzz. Up for a real adventure? Heli-skiing is fun for expert powder-slayers, while cross-country trails are a great way to explore deeper into the wild.

25 – Tour the Gold Dredge 8

Gold Dredge 8, Fairbanks

Follow in the footsteps of old-time prospectors as you explore the Alaskan gold fields. Begin with a tour of the historic Gold Dredge 8, which once extracted millions of ounces of gold from the icy ground. Today it’s a national monument where you can learn about Alaska’s mining heritage.

There’s a museum here too, with artifacts dating to the 1900s. Don’t leave without having a go at gold panning – will you strike it rich?

26 – Explore Denali National Park

Denali National Park, Fairbanks

Home to North America’s highest peak, and just two hours from Fairbanks, Denali National Park might be the best adventure playground in Alaska. There are six million acres of wilderness to discover, with taiga forests and snowy peaks at every turn.

Ride an ATV along remote trails or pick up a paddle and give river rafting a whirl. In winter you can slice through the snow on a dog sledding tour – don’t forget your camera!

27 – Have some old-fashioned fun at the Tanana Valley State Fair

Tanana Valley State Fair, Fairbanks

Running for 10 days starting at the end of July, the annual Tanana Valley State Fair is everything you can expect from an old-fashioned fair.

Stop by the amusement park area to enjoy rides and games, stop by to see a horse show or a giant cabbage competition, enjoy the live music on the outdoor stages, and take a look at the quilt show (perfect stop if you’re shopping for gifts!).

Check out the event schedule before visiting – the fair organizes special events every year, including things like scavenger hunts, hula hoop competitions, and races.

28 – Ride on an Alaskan sternwheeler

Alaskan sternwheeler in Fairbanks

Step on board an authentic sternwheel boat for a journey into wild Alaska. The Riverboat Discovery takes you on a cruise along the Tanana and Chena Rivers, transporting you into the heart of nature.

You’ll stop at a traditional village for a taste of frontier living and see a dog mushing demonstration by Iditarod champions.

Wildlife is often spotted along the riverbanks, and you’ll get to see a bush pilot showing off some moves.

29 – Discover Downtown Fairbanks

Downtown Fairbanks

Enjoy the blend of old and new as you wander around Downtown Fairbanks. Some of the buildings date to the Gold Rush era, while modern restaurants make for a memorable evening out. The art scene is thriving too, with murals and sculptures lining the streets.

Prettily located beside the Chena River, the Golden Heart Plaza lies at the heart of the action. Come for the floral blooms in summer, and the magical lights in winter.

30 – Play games in Growden Park

Growden Park, Fairbanks

Tucked away in Downtown Fairbanks, Growden Park is the place to go for sunny strolls, outdoor sports and picnics. For the kids, there’s a great adventure playground, and plenty of open space for frisbee and volleyball should you feel the urge.

See the Alaska Goldpanners in action on the baseball field, and if you’re here on 21st June, check out the famous Midnight Sun game. It’s held each year at the summer solstice!

31 – Enjoy more than food at the Tanana Valley Farmers Market

Tanana Valley Farmers Market, Fairbanks

Featuring a mix of Alask-grown produce, plants, and handmade arts and crafts, this large outdoor market is a great place to pick up some fresh veggies or some souvenirs to take home. From native handicrafts, custom-made apparel, and pottery to jams and freshly made snacks and baked goods, there’s something for everybody here.

Tanana Valley Farmers Market opens only on Wednesdays and Saturdays (so plan your visit well!). Every other Wednesday during the summer, the market also hosts a “Chefs at the Market” program, where professional chefs will prepare special meals using ingredients found at the market.

32 – Venture into the hills on an epic ATV tour

ATV tours in Fairbanks

Enjoy sightseeing and off-road thrills as you bounce along wilderness trails on an ATV tour. No experience is needed, and you can ride with a partner to share the adventure.

You’ll be powering through landscapes that few visitors get to see, with stellar mountain views around every corner. Learn how to negotiate rivers and ramp up the throttle as you zoom up those hills. Don’t forget the camera!

33 – Go to the World Ice Art Championships

World Ice Art Championships in Fairbanks

Ice sculpting is a huge thing in Alaska. The tradition dates to the 1930s when ice thrones were carved for the Winter Carnivals. Today the World Ice Art Championships attract over 100 international ice artists who enjoy showcasing their skills.

Come and admire this icy extravaganza and be amazed at the frozen sculptures on display. The theme changes each year but expect to see everything from mermaids to dragons competing for glory.

34 – Drink and dine at the HooDoo Brewing Company

HooDoo Brewing Company, Fairbanks

Thirsty travelers will love sampling some of Alaska’s finest ales at the HooDoo Brewing Company taproom. Pull up a pew and savor those notes of citrus, chocolate and spice.

With a rotating list of craft beer and lots of typical pub grug on offer, The Banks Alehouse is a great place for a casual night out. Or stop by Latitude 65 Brewing Company, a brewery & cider house offering German-style Pilsner and a fun outdoor seating area.

Black Spruce Brewing Company offers ales and lagers and some of the best pizza in town, while Lavelle’s Taphouse is packed with 36 rotating taps serving different beer, cider, and wine.

35 – Grab a table at one of the best restaurants in town

Pump House Restaurant and Saloon, Fairbanks

Want to dine in a Gold Rush period saloon? Then head down to the Pump House Restaurant and soak up the historic vibe. The Alaskan-style menu includes everything from succulent aged beef steaks to freshly caught wild salmon.

Chow down on wild seafood as you watch the gentle river flow quietly by at Chena’s Alaskan Grill. Start with coconut-crusted shrimp before tucking it into reindeer meatloaf or smoked mountain lamb.

Pike’s Landing offers great outdoor dining right on the water or indoor in their lounge. Try their buffet dinner from Sunday to Wednesday or just pick from their many menu offerings, which include lots of fast-food fare and local favorites like the Alaska crab-stuffed mushrooms.

French-style Lavelle’s Bistro offers lots of appetizers to go with their extensive wine list. If you’re hungry enough for a main dish, go for their famous Honey Apple Halibut or a large Grilled N.Y. Steak.

Despite its name, The Cookie Jar serves more than just mouth-watering desserts, including homemade bread sandwiches, wraps, and specialty burgers.

36 – Catch an ice hockey game with the locals

Ice Hockey in Fairbanks

The 4,600-seat Carlson Center is the largest arena in Fairbanks and a great place to catch not only a major hockey game but also local concerts and other large events.

The Big Dipper Ice Arena started life as an airplane hangar and is now an open space for hockey practice and catching a home game of the Ice Dogs of the North American Hockey League.

You’re more likely to find a last-minute ticket here if you want to catch a game when you’re in town.

37 – See a frontier show at the Palace Theatre

Palace Theatre, Fairbanks
credit to Palace Theatre

Take your seats for a rip-roaring evening of entertainment at Alaska’s premier summer show. The Palace Theatre’s masterpiece is the Golden Heart Review – a lively musical comedy that will have you laughing until your sides hurt.

You’ll learn about life in the last frontier and the history of Fairbanks through captivating songs and dances. The stories are epic, the costumes are authentic, and the banter is brilliant.

38 – Discover the Alyeska Pipeline Visitor Center

Alyeska Pipeline Visitor Center, Fairbanks

The Trans-Alaska Pipeline carries crude oil 800 miles from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez. Part of it runs above ground, giving you the chance to see this remarkable feat of engineering for yourself. It’s one of the most fascinating things to do in Fairbanks!

At the viewing point you’ll learn about the line construction, and how it operates today. Just 15 minutes outside Fairbanks this is a fun stop on a longer day trip.

39 – Drive across arctic landscapes

scenic drives in Fairbanks

If you’re up for a scenic drive, Fairbanks has plenty to offer. An easy one to explore is the Steese Highway, which crosses past the White Moun­tain Nation­al Recre­ation Area, a few charming towns, and the Circle Historical Museum. In the winter, this is the perfect drive to try to catch the Northern Lights.

If you’re a history buff, you’ll love the Richardson Highway, which started as a simple trail during the 19th-century Gold Rush era. Or get on the Dalton Highway for stunning fall colors as you make your way past the Arctic Circle.

Up for the road trip of a lifetime? The 323-mile-long Parks Highway will take you all the way to Anchorage, past stunning trails and historical sites along the way.

40 – Eat freshly caught salmon at Chena’s Alaskan Grill

Chena's Alaskan Grill, Fairbanks

Chow down on wild seafood as you watch the gentle river flow quietly by at Chena’s Alaskan Grill. Go early to bag some prime waterside seats for your outdoor feast.

The menu promises an adventure in traditional Alaskan cuisine, with a contemporary twist. Start with coconut-crusted shrimp before tucking into reindeer meatloaf or smoked mountain lamb. Make sure you leave room for a delicious slice of homemade apple crisp.

41 – Soak in rock pools at Chena Hot Springs

Chena Hot Springs, Fairbanks

Slide into the bubbling open-air pool at Chena Hot Springs and let the warm mineral waters soothe your soul. The surrounding forested mountains are just as rejuvenating as the baths, especially during winter when the boughs are laden with snow.

This famous resort is powered by geothermal energy, showing off the might of nature at its finest. Check out the sculptures in the Aurora Ice Museum before you leave.

42 – Discover some exciting local distilleries

Distilleries in Fairbanks
credit to Ursa Major Distilling

Start at Fairbanks Distilling Company, a small family-operated company that uses Fox Spring Alaskan water to produce their famous vodka. Book a tasting or a behind-the-scenes distillery tour if you’re visiting. Hoarfrost Distilling also produces vodka and serve a number of unique vodka cocktails in their tasting room.

For a variety of hand-crafted spirits, stop by Ursa Major Distilling. They produce vodka, and barrel-aged rum. Grab a bottle of their popular Fairbanks Sourdough Rum to take home, or join a tasting tour to savor a few of their options.

Where to stay in Fairbanks?

The massive Westmark Fairbanks Hotel & Conference Center has over 400 well-appointed rooms and suites, two on-site restaurants, and a fitness center. Located in the city center, it sits just steps away from many important attractions.

Sophie Station Suites offers 1-bedroom suites fitted with everything you need to feel at home, including modern rooms with kitchenettes, high-tech perks, and a fitness room open 24/7.

Conveniently located and with a free airport shuttle, the Hampton Inn & Suites Fairbanks is also a great choice. It offers a pool, a fitness center, and in-room coffee service.

For an affordable stay, head to the Pike’s Waterfront Lodge. Rooms and cabins are available, some with beautiful open views over the river. In addition to a lounge and restaurant, you’ll also find a steam room and a restaurant next door.

Where to go next?

Ready to keep exploring after a few days in Fairbanks? Taking the Alaska Railroad Fairbanks to Anchorage train is a great way to discover stunning landscapes on the way to a new destination. Once in Anchorage, you can then spend time visiting the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (and perhaps spot a moose or bear in the distance), hike through Chugach State Park or spend a couple of hours inside the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum.

Juneau, Alaska’s state capital, is another great place to visit. It offers plenty of wilderness and wildlife to discover, as well as whale watching, historical sites, and many festivals. You can even spend a few winter afternoons at the Eaglecrest Ski Area.

Best known as the city where the historic Iditarod trail starts, Seward is also worth a visit. In addition to stunning glaciers and the stunning Kenai Fjords National Park, it’s also an artsy city with great restaurants and cultural attractions.

Final thoughts

From fairytale landscapes to exciting outdoor adventures, there are plenty of things to do in Fairbanks if you’re a nature lover. Not that the city will disappoint either – you’ll find plenty of great restaurants, fun attractions, and places to visit within walking distance of your hotel.

Whether you’re looking for thrills and active escapes or just want to enjoy the views from town, you’ll find something in this beautiful Alaskan city.

So what are you waiting for? Start planning your trip today!