July/August 2022 Issue
Interior Alaska is an extraordinary place to visit. Winters are shrouded in darkness while the summer months bask in unrelenting, round-the-clock daylight. At the heart of this remote region sits Fairbanks, a former gold rush city with lingering frontier roots and warm-hearted residents who thrive in their environment of extremes. Fairbanks’s persistent connection to nature is at the forefront of everything from cuisine to entertainment across this vast landscape.
1. Northern Lights
Thanks to the city’s reliably clear skies and position beneath the auroral oval, Fairbanks is one of the best places in North America to view the northern lights. Aurora season—the best time to see the sky show—runs from August 21 until April 21, and Explore Fairbanks maintains a real-time aurora tracker to help visitors make the most of their viewing opportunities. If you stay three nights or more in the Fairbanks area during aurora season, your chances of spotting the northern lights are upwards of 90 percent. Though a willingness to venture out during the late evening hours helps, most hotels are happy to arrange an aurora wake-up call when the sky begins to glow. For the ultimate northern lights experience, book a stay at Borealis Basecamp and sleep in a fiberglass, window-capped igloo for an unforgettable front-row view of the skies.
2. Midnight Sun
The close of aurora season marks the beginning of midnight sun season (and yes, there’s a tracker for that, too). From April 22 to August 21, the sun never quite sets on Fairbanks. The city trades its long nights for endless days, and folks head outdoors to get their fill of hiking, cycling, and lazy evenings spent with friends at a favorite restaurant. Summer solstice is peak midnight sun celebration in Fairbanks, when downtown streets welcome the annual Midnight Sun Festival, a 12-hour street fair filled with entertainment, family-friendly activities, and vendors selling Alaskan crafts and specialty foods. But visitors can experience the long days throughout the summer. Venture even deeper into the endless light by heading north for an Arctic Circle tour with Northern Alaska Tour Company. The outfit provides several options, but the one-day guided tour is ideal for those looking to experience the Arctic Circle but are short on time. This package includes a visit to the Arctic Circle Trading Post, and a private-coach ride on the rugged Dalton Highway. Adventurers will cross the Arctic Circle (and receive a commemorative certificate) and see the arctic tundra and Alaska’s ice sheets.