Fairbanks is amazing so far. The weather is unseasonably warm, from 5 to 30 degrees which makes for awesome sightseeing weather.
After we arrived in Fairbanks, we dropped our bags off at the hotel and met up with a tour guide for a Northern Lights viewing tour at Murphy’s Dome. The forecast said we had a very low chance of seeing the Northern Lights, but we were treated to one of the best showings in recent memory, according to our tour guide. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. The lights came alive and danced above our heads. It was definitely a dream come true to cross the experience off my extensive bucket list!
The Northern Lights are hard to photograph with an iPhone as you are supposed to expand the shutter length to at least five seconds, but I downloaded a 99 cent app from the Apple App Store named “Northern Lights” which did a somewhat decent job at capturing them! It took eight pictures in a row and combined them into a single shot. A few of the better pictures I took are below:
After our tour, we headed back to our hotel and crashed. The following afternoon, we took a city tour of Fairbanks. We started off by going to a neighboring town called North Pole. It had a complex complete with a Santa Claus House & a reindeer pen! It was as cheesy as I expected it to be, but it is still pretty cool to say that I went to the North Pole!
After the North Pole, we visited the Fairbanks Visitor Center where we watched a video on dog mushing in Denali National Park and how it allows the park rangers to effectively patrol their respective areas! The film provided a lot of context around just how much work it takes to care for the dogs. After a long day on the trail, the dogs have their paws inspected for damage and are fed. The musher needs to melt approximately 50 gallons of snow before he has enough water to quench the dogs’ thirst! After the movie, we walked around the museum which depicted the life of an Alaskan that lives off the land throughout the different seasons of the year. It was quite impressive!
After the Visitor Center, we received a quick history of Fairbanks. It was started during the gold rush by a person trying to set up a trading post & was originally supposed to be further up the river, but the boat carrying the equipment to build the trading post couldn’t navigate the river as far as it was supposed to go. Instead of turning around, the entrepreneur said that the current location of Fairbanks was close enough and opened up shop! Fairbanks continued to grow into the small city it is today!
We then had the opportunity to visit the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum which had beautifully restored cars from the late 1800’s through the end of the Second World War. The amazing thing is that all the cars run! It was amazing to see the beauty of the early cars and watch the transformation of the car in front of our eyes. I learned that drivers originally drove on the right side of the car because that was where buggy drivers rode, but the position was switched to left hand side of the car to allow people parking on the street to have easy access to their cars.
We then drove to the Alaska Pipeline which has surprisingly little security. You can walk right up to it and touch it! The pipeline was built in under two years as a way to transport oil from the Arctic Circle to the ports in southern Alaska.
We then went to the Alaskan Bowl Company where we toured their beautiful gift shop and learned that if you carve multiple bowls from the same tree they will all have identical wood grains. After the Bowl Company, we were dropped off at our hotel. We grabbed dinner at a local Italian restaurant before taking a short nap.
We woke up around 9:00 PM for another Northern Lights viewing session. This time we went to a location named the Aurora Borealis Lodge about 20 miles outside of town. It was much warmer than the prior night and even had prime seating for those that wanted to wait indoors for the lights to start. Once they started, we descended onto the large deck adjacent to the lodge and took amazing photographs. Again, I only had my iPhone, but below please find a few of my favorite photos:
The following morning & afternoon were free, so we slept in. The past few days of not getting to bed until after 3 in the morning were starting to catch up to us. We decided to take it easy and have a breakfast / lunch a restaurant across the street from our hotel named The Crepery. We shared a ham & cheese crepe as well as a Crème Brulé crepe. Both were delicious.
After relaxing for an hour, we met up with our tour guide for a ride to the Chena Hot Springs Resort. Located about 60 miles from Fairbanks, the amenities did not disappoint. First, we toured an Ice Museum where nearly everything was made out of ice. I even had a drink from an ice glass at the ice bar!
After the Ice Museum, we grabbed dinner before heading to the hot springs. The water is around 94 degrees and felt great! It was my first time in any hot spring and it was a great experience. The sand bottom of the pool felt great on my feet, too!
After the hot springs, we tried to see the Northern Lights, but it was too cloudy so our group decided to call it a night and return to Fairbanks.