Fairbanks: Sled Dogs, Denali and 24/7 Daylight - United Hub

Fairbanks: Sled dogs, Denali and 24/7 daylight

By Bob Cooper

The Alaskan interior just became more accessible with nonstop summer service from San Francisco to Fairbanks, giving visitors easy access to North America's highest peak (Denali) and ample opportunities to see reindeer prance and sled dogs dash. There's plenty of daylight to see it all, too, as daylight remains from May 17 to July 27. Summer temperatures routinely reach the 80s. Oh, and if you don't spot a moose, you weren't paying attention.

Passengers aboard the Riverboat Discovery watch a dog sled demonstration at Chena Indian Village in Fairbanks, Alaska Passengers aboard the Riverboat Discovery watch a dog sled demonstration at Chena Indian Village in Fairbanks, Alaska | Photo courtesy of Riverboat Discovery

Down by the river

After enjoying the daylight flight — a treat in itself, as the route follows the Pacific coast and Inside Passage — get some sleep and then get oriented on the Chena River, which snakes through Fairbanks. First, board the Riverboat Discovery, which stops at a sled dog ranch, where the dogs run at top speeds and you can visit a replica Inuit fish camp. Then, head to century-old downtown Fairbanks, which you can also access on the river, to visit the Morris Thompson cultural and visitors center, two sled dog racing museums, shops, restaurants, bars and Antler Arch — made of dozens of antlers from Alaskan villages.

Pioneer Park narrow gauge train in Fairbanks, Alaska Pioneer Park narrow gauge train in Fairbanks, Alaska| Photo courtesy of Fairbanks North Star Borough Parks and Recreation

Pioneer Park

The shops, restaurants, ice cream parlors and museums that fill admission-free Pioneer Park are housed mostly in historic log cabins relocated there from downtown Fairbanks. Also found in the park — train rides, a carousel, nightly salmon feeds, musical theatre performances and riverside bike, mountain bike, canoe, kayak and paddleboard rentals at Canoe Alaska.

University of Alaska Museum of the North University of Alaska Museum of the North | Photo courtesy of Patricia Fisher

Moose-eums

Pioneer Park's air museum and railroad museum aren't the only two "moose-eums" in town. The sprawling Museum of the North is packed with indigenous artifacts, landscape paintings and exhibits about Alaskan history, mining, dinosaurs and wildlife. The Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum is also a delight, featuring a 1903 electric car and mini racecars among 70 automotive gems.

Reindeer at Running Reindeer Ranch Reindeer at Running Reindeer Ranch | Photo courtesy of Bob Cooper

Beyond Fairbanks

Denali National Park is only a one-hour flightseeing tour, two-hour drive or four-hour train ride from Fairbanks. At 20,310 feet, Denali is North America's tallest mountain. Closer to Fairbanks, you can walk with reindeer at a home where 11 of the friendly domesticated animals prance alongside you in a birch forest. Or you can pet the puppies, hear a dog-mushing racer's stories and take a sled dog cart ride at Paws for Adventure,

The 2013 World Eskimo-Indian Olympics The 2013 World Eskimo-Indian Olympics | Photo courtesy of Sherman Hogue/Explore Fairbanks

The Fourth of July and more

Fairbanks hosts a number of festivals including the Midnight Sun Festival (June 23) which brings 30,000 people downtown for 40 live performances. Fourth of July festivities include a parade and live music, Golden Days (July 13-21) features Alaska's biggest parade and a street fair and the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics (July 17-20) presents dozens of unique sporting events. Or enjoy concerts, rides and exhibits at the Tanana Valley State Fair (August 2-11).

Pump House restaurant — Alaskan seafood sampler | Photo courtesy of Bob Cooper

Where to eat, drink and stay

Alaskan king crab, cod, salmon and scallops — and reindeer sausage — are served at many Fairbanks restaurants, including riverside spots like the historic Pump House and Pike's Landing. Fairbanks also has many excellent Thai cafes (try Lemongrass's Pad Thai Alaskan Salmon) and ice cream spots like Hot Licks where you should try the Aurora Borealis — vanilla swirled with Alaska blueberries and cranberries.

Places to stay are also plentiful, from hotels to log cabins to the Chena Hot Springs Resort, where guests and non-guests alike can float in the sand-bottom hot-springs pool, tour the ice house (the world's largest manmade ice environment) and take a dog-cart, ATV, fat-tire bike or horseback ride on the resort's trails.

If you go

You can purchase tickets now at united.com or on the United app for any of three weekly nonstop flights between San Francisco and Fairbanks from June 6 to August 18. We also fly nonstop seasonal service from Denver to Fairbanks. Many cities connect through San Francisco. Redeem MileagePlus® Rewards points to cover your hotel and rental car.

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