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Fairbanks is the only 'city' in the interior, and the largest settlement for hundreds of miles, but it has many characteristics of a small town. Everyone seems to know everyone, and 'everyone' includes some truly fascinating characters – sled-dog breeders, crusading environmentalists, college students, gun nuts, military personnel, outdoor enthusiasts, bush pilots, and the rest of the usual Alaska cast of oddities. Because the city sits at the nexus of some truly epic routes – north to the Arctic, east to Canada and south to Denali – you'll almost inevitably end up spending time here, and that time is rarely boring.

This is a spread-out burg that's admittedly heavy on ugly strip malls, but the residential streets of compact downtown are pretty as a picture, and during winter, this is ground zero for viewing the aurora borealis.

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