It’s hard to believe we’ve already been here over a week. In a way though, it also feels like so much longer. Usually when we travel, we’re constantly on the move, but with Andrew’s job, it’s allowed us to settle into Fairbanks more, get to know the town a little better.
The first few days, before Andrew began work, we spent our time being total tourists around Fairbanks.
To get up to speed on our Alaskan history and culture, we checked out the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Museum of the North. Not only did we gain a wealth of interesting information, we also got to meet the museum’s mascot – Otto the grizzly.
We then headed down to Pike’s Landing, a local recreation area along the Chena River.
In the summer this area is teeming with outdoor activities such as river-boating and kayaking, golf over the river, and waterfront walking and dining.
When winter comes, the river freezes over, creating an ice bridge and perfect setting for snowmobiling, dogsledding, and skating or skiing.
But in the current shoulder season, the banks of the river are just plain peaceful.
Over the weekends we’ve enjoyed one of our favorite places regardless of what town we’re in – the farmer’s market. Fairbanks’ Tanana Valley Farmer’s Market is a great combination of delicious local produce (yes, Alaska actually does have so much incredible produce), as well as craft artisans inspired by the beauty and resources that are uniquely Alaskan.
Even the view from the farmer’s market parking lot is incredible.
We also explored Pioneer Park, “Alaska’s only historic theme park.”
The park is filled with a few small rides, lots of open park area, historic buildings and exhibits, museums, shops, and food vendors.
And of course there was an aviation museum that someone loved.
Later we headed to downtown Fairbanks, which was not so much an urban Mecca as a quiet riverfront town. A lovely place to relax and enjoy the flowing water and evening sun.
To top it all off, we couldn’t miss a visit to North Pole.
The town of North Pole, Alaska is just outside of Fairbanks and draws in visitors to enjoy the year-round Christmas cheer. The main attraction is Santa Clause House, where the big man himself greets visitors, offers seasonal delights, and preps his reindeer for the big December journey.
It’s safe to say we got into the Christmas spirit!
Though our first week here hasn’t been the Discovery Channel style “Alaskan Adventure” most people imagine, it has been so wonderful to experience and become a small part of the Fairbanks community. As Alaska’s third largest city (behind Anchorage and Juneau), Fairbanks is still relatively small, with a population of only about 100,000 people throughout the greater metropolitan region. This gives Fairbanks a small town feel and a rich community, where residents and tourists alike enjoy the simple pleasures of good food, friendly people and just living in this beautiful place. It’s easy to see why Fairbanks is affectionately known as “The Golden Heart City.”