ExploreNorth, your resource center for exploring the circumpolar North

Return to the Home Page The ExploreNorth Blog Arctic & Northern Books About ExploreNorth Contact ExploreNorth

Search ExploreNorth




















An Explorer's Guide to Fairbanks, Alaska


Fairbanks, Alaska
Population: 32,070 in the city,
        100,343 in Fairbanks North Star Borough (2012 estimates)
Latitude 64.821, Longitude -147.747
Elevation: 446 feet (136 meters)

    Fairbanks is the largest city in the Interior of Alaska, and the second largest in the state, after Anchorage. It is located at the north end of the Richardson and George Parks Highways, and the north end of the Alaska Railroad line.

    Fairbanks' motto is "The Golden Heart City" because of its gold-mining past, and the fact that it is the service center for a vast area in Interior and northern Alaska.

    The city is located in the broad, level Tanana River valley. Hills to the north offer wonderful views and a bit of relief from deep cold and ice fogs that can settle in the valley, and many of the city's most expensive homes are built there.

    Fairbanks has a diverse economy. With 2 large military bases (Fort Wainwright and Eielson Air Force Base), over 1/3 of the workforce works for government. The University of Alaska Fairbanks has a staff of over 3,700, and tourism is significant, with over 300,000 visitors per year.

    The Fairbanks International Airport (IATA: FAI, ICAO: PAFA) is located adjacent to the city, in the southwest corner. Alaska Airlines and Era Aviation serve Fairbanks year-round, and other carriers offer summer service, including Condor with direct flights to Germany. There are 2 paved runways: 2L/20R is 11,800 by 150 feet (3,597 x 46 m), and 2R/20L is 6,500 by 100 feet (1,981 x 30 m). A gravel runway for winter ski operations extends from 2R/20L another 2,900 by 75 feet (884 x 23 m), Between the two paved runways is a water runway, 2W/20W, which is 5,400 by 100 feet (1,646 x 30 m).

    Fairbanks has a subarctic climate, with long, cold winters, and short, warm summers. The season's first snow typically falls in late September, and the last freeze generally occurs in mid-May. On June 21st, Fairbanks gets 21 hours and 49 minutes of direct sunlight, but it never really gets dark. On December 21st, there is only 3 hours and 43 minutes of sunlight. In the summer, daily highs are typically between 60 and 70 degrees F (16 and 21 ° C), and in the winter, daily highs of around 0 ° F (-18° C) can be expected. The extremes, though, are 99° F (37° C) in July 1919 and -66° F (-54° C) in January 1934.

    There is a wide array of attractions and activities in and near Fairbanks. Some of the most popular are:

  • The University of Alaska Museum of the North offers a significant art gallery spanning 2000 years of Alaska history as well as animals and birds, dinosaurs, Native artifacts, and a mummified steppe bison.

  • the Riverboat Discovery offers a 3-hour tour with a sternwheeler ride on the Chena River and visits to a musher's camp and Native interpretive village.

  • Pioneer Park (formerly known as Alaskaland) is a 44-acre historic theme park featuring 8 museums including aviation, railroad and steamboat museums, historical buildings, a native village, and many restaurants and merchants.

  • the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum is a world-class museum with over 80 vehicles, including horseless carriages, steamers, electric cars, speedsters, cyclecars, midget racers and Brass Era and 1930s classics.

  • the Trans Alaska Pipeline can be seen north of town.

  • Gold Dredge 8 offers a train ride, dredge tour, gold panning and restaurant.
    The links below will give you a great deal more information about the Fairbanks area and its attractions. In particular, our large photo album (with almost 30 photos) is captioned to give you information about the site (or sight) being shared, and the Visitors Bureau Web site will give you tour operators' contact information as well as lots more.

Fairbanks Links

Fairbanks Photo Gallery
Almost 30 captioned photos take you to many of the attractions in the Fairbanks area.

Explore Fairbanks
The Fairbanks Convention & Visitors Bureau site.

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
The state's second-largest newspaper had its beginnings in 1903 as the Weekly Fairbanks News.

The History of Fairbanks

Touring Fairbanks
A photojournal from a day visiting several of the major attractions. A search on that blog for "Fairbanks" brings up other visits.

Articles about Fairbanks:



Clicking on the aerial view of Fairbanks below will open an interactive map at Google Maps, in a new window.