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Travel Tuesday

Travel Tuesday

With the launch of my new URL, theme, and blog name, I am also starting Travel Tuesdays! Whether it’s a city, a hike, a museum, or a road trip – every Tuesday I plan to share somewhere I’ve been in Alaska, in the United States, and hopefully one day – the world! I’m so excited about this opportunity to share my adventures, and hopefully hear from others about their own travels. 

Fairbanks, Alaska

 

Where I am currently calling home and have come to know quite well in the past 15 months + 2 visits prior to moving. The city of Fairbanks is located in Interior Alaska about 6-7 hours from any shoreline or Canada. It’s essentially the northern most significant sized, incorporated city in Alaska (and in the United States). There are establishments farther North, such as Barrow and Prudhoe Bay, but they’re considered villages dominated by either Native Alaskans or people in the oil industry. If you’re looking for the last stop before the end of the world? Fairbanks is your place.

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Grabbing pics of the distant Alaska Range right outside Fairbanks

The city is not generally on people’s lists of places to visit when planning their epic vacation to Alaska. Fairbanks and the neighboring city of North Pole rest in a valley – The Tanana River Valley and it’s unlikely you’ll see very many mountains during your stay here. But that’s not to say it doesn’t offer it’s own set of charms, and as someone living here long term (2 years), I’ve discovered it’s the perfect gateway to the rest of beautiful Alaska.

What To See/Do

  • Enjoy 24 hour sun-light This takes the cake for me. From early June to mid July, Fairbanks never gets dark. Literally. The sun will go “down” around midnight (or later depending on how close we are to June 21st) and the sky turns to a grey dusk and stays that way until around 3 am when the sun rises again. I discovered two weeks ago when friends came to visit, that the never-ending sun kept us up hours later than planned and seriously depleted our sleep intake. We jammed so many activities into our week together thanks to the sunlight, it was great. Marvel at the light. This phenomenon occurs across Alaska, but it’s best the farther North you are, so Fairbanks wins.
  • Hike Angel Rocks A beautiful, moderately easy 3 mile loop ascends to these gorgeous rock formations and overlooks the rolling hills and faraway mountains of Interior Alaska. It’s an easy way to see beautiful Interior Alaska from up high and get a feel for how much bigger the sky actually is from on top of the world. The rock formations are fun to climb on, and the trail is about what one would picture for an Alaskan hike. Highly recommended. $5 needed to park in the State Park lot, but restrooms are available. BRING BUG SPRAY.
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    The view from Angel Rocks in April 2014
  • Kayak Chena Lakes Recreation Area or the Chena River Rent a kayak, and either hit the river or the lakes. The water flowing down stream makes the effort of kayaking much easier on the Chena River, but the rental area for the river is about a leisurely two hour kayak from where you bring the boat out of the water and we were left wanting a little more. We’ve rented kayaks from the Chena Lakes Recreation Area (hourly instead of a certain distance), and have enjoyed making our way around the lake system at our own pace even though it required more effort. The lakes offer more privacy and more animal life, in contrast to the river that flows through town. Either is a lot of fun, but I would recommend Chena Lakes. If you kayak out far enough at the Lakes you can see the mountains in the distance, and the view is pretty gorgeous on a warm summer day.

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    Kayaking the Chena River with the Husband
  • Chena Hot Springs This little oasis is about a 40 minute drive out of town at a natural hot spring. It’s best to visit from October – March when it’s snow covered and chilly, since the Hot Springs are HOT. Besides just the large, steamy outdoor rock springs, there’s also an indoor pool and hot tub with the same water, an ice museum where you’re served martinis in ice glasses, a little Alaskan restaurant, and a hotel. Note: I’ve been told and based on my own research, the hotel does not seem worth the price.
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    Chena Hot Springs
  • North Pole, AK Because going to a town named the North Pole, and popping into the Santa Clause House constantly filled with everything Christmas decoration your heart can imagine, seeing reindeer, and taking pictures of the candy cane themed lamp posts is a once-in-a-lifetime thing even if it isn’t that spectacular and probably overrated. It’s still cute. This little town is actually where my husband and I reside, but we’re on the edge closest to Fairbanks.

Where To Eat

Ranked according to my favorites! (Disclaimer: Apparently Fairbanks has the best Thai around, but I detest Thai food so I am not listing those. Refer to Trip Advisor’s Fairbanks Restaurant Reviews for the Thai restaurants or if I have any requests, I’ll ask my husband who has tried every place in town)

Dinner

1. The Silver Gulch Brewery & Resturant – Great food, great beer, Alaskan atmosphere, a surprisingly nice-looking restaurant on the inside with a gift shop. $25 – $35 per meal. This is our go to.
2. Lavelle’s
3. Geraldo’s
4. The Turtle Club
5. Pike’s Landing

Lunch

1. Ajimi – BEST sushi I have ever had. Hands down. I don’t mean that lightly. I’m a huge fan, and my Thai-loving, Sushi-hating husband tags along for their other dishes.
2. The Chowder House
3. Bad 2 Da Bone Barbecue

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Ajimi Restaurant – BEST sushi

Breakfast 

1. The Cookie Jar – I’m an at-home breakfast kinda-gal. I rather sleep in on Saturdays and Sundays, but if I do find the energy to go out, The Cookie Jar’s breakfasts are where it’s at. Try the cinnamon roll french toast. To die for.
2. Sunrise Bagel & Espresso

Dessert
1. College Town Creamery – The gelato. Forget the fro-yo and the crepes. Just eat the homemade gelato.
2. The Fudge Pot
3. Hot Licks Homemade Ice Cream

Where To Stay 

This is a trickier one to answer since we’ve only stayed at two hotels, but I’ve gotten feedback from a couple friends who’ve stayed at hotels throughout Fairbanks as well. If you can get on post (military, ex-military), The Holiday Inn Express, is great. Very nice, very reasonably priced for Alaskan hotels, and close to all activities and/or amenities. SKIP the Alpine Lodge. Yes, it’s next to the airport but that’s about all it offers. Terrible breakfasts. Mediocre rooms. Mediocre food in the hotel restaurant. Friends have recommended Pike’s Waterfront Lodge and The Westmark. Hampton Inn & Suites is the #1 rated hotel in Fairbanks and if you’ve ever stayed at a Hampton Inn & Suites before – I assume it’s similar. This hotel is situated directly next to fast food and our strip mall with – Lowe’s, Wal-Mart, Old Navy, Sports Authority, Famous Footwear, Sportsmans, and Barnes & Noble. Great if you’re looking to be next to “things”, probably a negative if you’re looking for a “getaway”.

In Conclusion

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If you find yourself in Fairbanks to visit family, because the military brings you here, or if it’s one of the stops on your Alaskan vacation – there’s Alaskan charm and beauty to be found in this seemingly boring town. It took me awhile to appreciate everything Fairbanks had to offer, but I’m pretty fond of all the memories I’ve made thanks to living here this past year.

Have you been thinking of coming to Alaska? Would Fairbanks make your list? If not, you’re bound to love the other places I’ve visited throughout Alaska that I can’t wait to share!

Camille Mae (2)

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