I have had an unexpected layover in the Golden Heart City. It all started about five miles north of Cantwell. The forced layover gave me a chance to find a tire shop and check up on some favorite places….and explore some new ones. Come along with me.
MUSEUM OF THE NORTH on the campus of the University of Alaska Fairbanks. That’s the photo (top) of the GIANT bowhead whale skeleton hanging from the ceiling. I tried to get a wide view from the staircase (above). Check it out. The museum is a great place to visit. It sits on a hill with a grand view of the city. I enjoyed a little plane-spotting from the hill…including the new kids on the block: the F-35 Lightening fighters from nearby Eielsen Air Force Base.
BEAR LODGE. My home away from home. Located near the campus, it’s also right next door to the awesome Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum. If you haven’t been over to see the cars on display…stop what you’re doing and plan your visit. Duesenbergs, Auburns, Cadillacs….classic cars from more than 100 years ago…many with a distinctive Alaska story! Click on the LINK HERE to save 15 percent there or at sister properties Wedgewood Resort and Sophie Station (near the airport).
RIVERBOAT DISCOVERY. Don’t make the mistake I made. I waited a long time to go for a paddleboat cruise on the Chena River because I thought it was too “tourist-y”. I was right…there are some perfect tourist-friendly touches (fun stories on the overhead sound system and a big gift shop). But don’t miss the incredible Bish Plane landing…or the sled dog demonstration on the shore. I took the family—and everyone loved it. ALSO FUN: Gold Dredge 8. YES, there’s a massive gold dredge on-site. But you also get to PAN FOR GOLD. This is where my whole family got GOLD FEVER!
HOO DOO BREWING. This super-cool brew-pub is beer central for Fairbanks. Brewmeister Bobby Wilken trained in Germany and brings the Bavarian influence to his signature beer, “Kolsch”. I’m partial to the IPA….there are several other varieties. Added bonus: new food truck every night for tasty treats. I’ll see you there. NOTE: Closed Mondays.
HOT LICKS. Tasty ice cream desserts on College Road close to campus. A Fairbanks tradition that I’m happy to appropriate.
GOLDSTREAM SPORTS. If you are a single-track mountain bike fanatic, seek out this shop. It’s at the base of Ester Dome, where they’ve carved out miles and miles of track. Get a helmet.
CANOE ALASKA. This is more my speed of comfy-cruiser bike rental. I opted for the “Paddle and Pedal” package. Take one of their bikes on the paved bike trails along the Chena River. After you make your way to their downtown location, they’ll pick out a kayak for you to paddle back to the main location near Alaskaland…er….”Pioneer Park”. It’s really Alaskaland. Everyone still calls it Alaskaland. IMPORTANT: The kayaks are “self-bailing”. That means they won’t sink but your butt is gonna get wet. Wear some shorts (my pants currently are hung up in the shower….drying). FUN!!
THE GREAT ALASKAN BOWL COMPANY. I stopped in to visit with Emily, whose family runs this bowl manufacturing facility near the airport. The bowls are carved on a lathe with windows where you can watch. It’s fascinating what they’re doing with the big birch trees. Most of the trees come from the area around Trapper Creek (near Talkeetna). She’s got salad bowls (complete with care instructions on how to make your bowls last a l-o-n-g time). There also are beer steins crafted from the bark of the tree. Very artsy. The store also is a hub for other made-in-Alaska products. Check it out.
There’s lots going on in Fairbanks! We’ll see you soon in the Golden Heart City!
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