A spread-out maze of strip malls and snaking rivers, Fairbanks is also the major transport hub for the Interior. It’s not an attractive city by any means, but don’t just rush through here on the way to somewhere else. Fairbanks has some of Alaska’s best museums, including a new native culture center and a knockout antique auto collection, a host of excellent paddles and a full summer schedule of festivals. In the fall and winter there’s no better place to catch the aurora.
The relaxed pace of the city, and its function as a center for so many booms and busts, makes it a great place to meet the full range of Alaskan archetypes: from homesteaders and dog mushers to conservationists, prospectors, oil rig workers, native artists and the university students who somehow manage to keep their focus on the books when the daylight hours are few and the temperatures off the scale.
Most of what you’ll want to see is concentrated in the small downtown area, the hilltop campus of the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), the large nature reserve to the north and the grassy parks along the shores of the meandering Chena River. Given that these are all divided by miles and miles of fairly dreary sprawl, having a vehicle will make your stay far more enjoyable.