On a Shoestring
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Experiencing Fairbanks on a Shoestring

Inexpensive? You don't have to be rich to enjoy Fairbanks, Alaska. 

Low-cost activities abound, if you know where to look. This page lists a few.

You will find many more (some totally free) on our Calendar of Events page. Be warned - many of the low cost activities below are available in summer only. So enjoy a cheap holiday and if we have not covered your favorite activity, please e-mail us.

Take in a show: "Golden Heart Revue" performers act out sketches highlighting Fairbanks' history. The show begins daily at 8:15 p.m. at the Palace Saloon at Alaskaland. The show, an annual event, is $12 for adults and $6 for children ages 3 to 12. Season opens in May and closes mid-September. See event calendar for details.

Another show was once found in Historic Ester, west of Fairbanks on the Parks Highway. At the Ester Gold Camp you used to be able to dine family style and enjoy a Robert Service reading or view the Northern Lights set to music. But the Gold Camp is closed now, though it looks like the Malemute Saloon might be undergoing repairs, so may open later.

Enjoy a play or movie: See our Arts Calendar for performances by Theatre UAF, Fairbanks Light Opera Theatre, and the Fairbanks Drama Association. We hesitate to call it low cost, but you could go to a movie at our only cinema theatre, Regal Goldstream 16  (meaning 16 theatres in one). Actually, it can be very reasonable if you make it to one of the early showings which is marked with parentheses - and avoid the food concession!

Learn Something New:

bulletExplore a Museum - Choose from our own annotated list of museums.
bulletTake a Class. Choose from our list of Community Interest Courses.

Concerts can often be enjoyed at Golden Heart Plaza in the summer months. In 2002 they began in late June at noon each Friday, and at 7 p.m. every Wednesday night. The Plaza is on First Avenue next to the Visitor's Center log cabin. Check our Music/Dance Calendar for special concerts brought to Fairbanks by the Fairbanks Concert Association and the Fairbanks Symphony Association.

Churches are plentiful in Fairbanks and enjoy having visitors from "outside". Choose one from our Church Directory, and worship this week, wherever you are.

Visit Creamer's Field: This national wildlife refuge boasts a two-mile trail that lets you see Alaska's plant and animal life "up close and personal." Creamer's Dairy and the refuge are located on the north side of College Road about halfway between the University of Alaska, Fairbanks and the Steese Expressway. The visitors center is open Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Guided tours are offered from June to September 1, Wednesday and Saturday at 9 a.m. and Tuesday and Thursday at 7 p.m. Plan to schedule 1 to 2 hours for the tour.

If walking is too strenuous for you, there is a parking spot especially for "goose watching" though there are more than geese to see.

If you really like birds, the Alaska Bird Observatory is an organization which invites visitors to watch them banding birds between 5 a.m. and noon. Call 451-7059 for location.

Outdoor Sports
(visit our sports calendar)

Play Outdoor Volleyball: The Blue Loon Saloon in Ester, the Howling Dog in Fox and the Red Fox Bar & Grill have outdoor volleyball pits.

Biking and rollerblading: There are smooth paved trails along the Chena River and along Farmers Loop. Unfortunately, there is no longer a roller rink at this time, but there are ice skating rinks.

Cycling: The Fairbanks Cycle Club holds races (road and mountain bike) weekly during the summer. Races are usually on Thursdays and Saturdays, and range from road races to time trials and criteriums. Call for more information at (907) 459-8008.

Auto Racing: The Greater Fairbanks Racing Association has a full schedule of summer stock and sprint car racing. Races are held nearly every weekend starting Memorial Day weekend at the Mitchell Raceway, behind the Metro Field float pond between Lathrop Street and Peger Road. Call the raceway for more information at 907-452-3500. Their summer schedule can be found here by following the link.

Golf Courses: There are three courses: The Fairbanks Golf and Country Club (9 holes) on Farmers Loop (907-479-6555), the North Star Golf Club (9 or 18 holes) on the Old Steese Highway (907-457-4653) and Chena Bend Golf Course (full 18-hole course) on Fort Wainwright (907-353-6223). They usually are open by the end of May, earlier if there is an early breakup. NOTE: Call ahead for tee times because of scheduled tournaments. See our new Midnight Sun Events page for the tournament played under the Midnight Sun!. There is even a mini golf course at the Pioneer Park (formerly Alaskaland).

Rent a Canoe: Rent a canoe from Beaver Sports ($24 per day), Interior Canoeing and Outfitting ($24 per day), or Independent Rental ($34 per day). Each include life jackets and paddles and Interior offers a shuttle service to whatever river you choose.

Alaska Goldpanners' Baseball: Part of Alaska's summer baseball league, the team features college players from the Lower 48. They play at Growden Memorial Park and bleacher seats are around $5 per game. See our Midnight Sun Events page for information on the Midnight Sun Game, played at night with no artificial lights.

An Alaska Rugby Football Tourney will be sponsored by the Sundawgs Rugby Football Club in July, as part of Golden Days. Spectators are welcomed free. Follow the link to our Golden Days Schedule for more information.

Tennis and softball: Fairbanks has five outdoor tennis courts located at the Mary Siah Recreation Center next to Lathrop High School on Airport Way. Another two tennis courts are at the Big Dipper Ice Arena on Cowles Street. For indoor courts, try the Fairbanks Athletic Club off South Cushman Street on the Old Richardson Highway. For softball, look to the Hez Ray Softball Complex located on Lathrop Street next to the Big Dipper Ice Arena. Check our sports calendar for specific dates.

Enjoy water sports: You can visit Chena Lakes in North Pole where there are camping sites, picnic tables and a beach. It's the warmest lake in the Interior. 

Or you can go to Chena Hot Springs Resort and soak in the underground-fed, outside hot springs. Watch for moose on the 60-mile drive from Fairbanks. It is only $8 for adults and $6 for kids 6-12. Kids under 6 swim free. In the past, prices dropped by $2 after 7 p.m. (The pool is open till midnight, but after 10 p.m. is only for 18 and older). 

If you prefer to swim indoors, there are three pools open to the public in Fairbanks and North Pole. Hamme Pool is at Lathrop High School on Cowles Street, and Mary Siah Recreation Center on 14th Avenue has a smaller pool with slightly warmer water temperatures. In North Pole, Wescott Pool is also open to the public.

Try Hiking: The Chena River Recreation Area offers three hiking trails: Angel Rocks (3.5-mile), Granite Tors (13 mile), and Chena Dome (30 mile). The White Mountains Recreation Area (27 Mile Elliott Highway) has two trails: Wickersham Creek and the Summit Trail, both of which start from the same pullout. The Pinnell Mountain Recreation Area offers a 27-mile hike starting at either 85 Mile or 107 Mile Steese Highway.

Shorter hikes (1/2 to 2 miles) can be had by following the trails at Creamers Field, the University of Alaska, or Birch Hill.

Go Fishing: The Chena River offers catch-and-release fishing for grayling, plus regular fishing for salmon (in July), burbot and pike. A fishing license is required (available where fishing gear is sold, and you should obtain a copy of the regulations, as some rivers and lakes have season, lure, and species restrictions. Most vendors will have some regulations, but complete copies can be found at the Department of Fish & Game,  1300 College Rd (large brown building to the west of the Creamer's Wildlife Refuge). If you are here in July, you might want to enter the King Salmon Derby. We just put up a page of information on Alaska's salmon species.

Experience Dog Mushing: Many local dog mushers offer tours of their dog lots or even rides in real dog sleds. (In summer, they attach wheels). For referrals, call the Visitors Information Center (456-5774) or the Yukon Quest (451-8985). 

There are dog mushing displays at the Fairbanks Community Museum downtown in the "Historic City Hall" building on 5th and Cushman, at the University Museum, and at the Public Lands Information Center in the old courthouse building between Second and Third Avenues on Cushman Street.

Participate in Winter Sports. If you are visiting in winter, check out our page of winter activities. There is a special page for September visitors too, which lists things open in the "off season" months.

University of Alaska, Fairbanks

For a quick overview of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, visitors can join a student on a two hour walking tour of the campus. The free tours leave from the museum at 10 a.m. every weekday between June 2 and Aug. 29. Reservations are not necessary, though the groups are limited to 30 people. Appropriate clothing for the weather and comfortable shoes are a must for this tour. The tour may be canceled if there is heavy rain. For more information, call (907) 474-7581. Click here to go to a map of the campus.

If you prefer a do-it-yourself tour of UAF, maps are available at the Wood Center front desk. This should be the first stop before going exploring. Wood Center is located in the center of lower campus. For more information on scheduled campus activities, contact University Relations at (907) 474-7581.

University of Alaska Museum: The museum, open daily, features Alaska's history and cultures. Northern Inua performances featuring storytelling, songs and athletic events from the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics runs every day, as well as an aurora presentation. There is a small admission charge. Follow the link for much more information about this excellent museum, or call 474-7505 for information.

Large Animal Research Station: This facility is also known locally as the musk ox farm. There are scheduled tours of the station June - August on Tuesdays & Saturdays at 11 a.m. & 1:30 p.m., with the 1:30 p.m. tour also offered on Thursdays. There are also tours in September, but only on Saturdays at 1:30 p.m. Cost:  $5 for adults, $4 Seniors, $2 students (under 7 is free). There is also a family rate of $10. Binoculars are recommended at the visitor display and viewing stands. From College Road, turn right at University Avenue following the highway until you come to a major Y intersection (at golf course) where there is a left turn lane which will put you onto Ballaine Road. Right after that, you make a left on to Yankovich. The station is on Yankovich Road, one mile from Ballaine Road. Information: (907) 474-7207, or 474-7945.

Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station: Free guided tours of the Georgeson Botanical Gardens are on Fridays at 2 p.m. Self-guided tours can be taken anytime. Follow the Tanana Loop to West Tanana Drive, one mile west of UAF's lower campus. Call (907) 474-7433 for more information. In July there is usually a free day of classes one day from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Classes taught by local 4H teens and volunteers are directed to grades K-8, but all are welcome. Also that day, there will be food concessions and a petting zoo.

Geophysical Institute: Learn about the aurora borealis, earthquakes and volcano research during a free slide show and tour of the institute on Wednesdays at 2:30 p.m. June through August on UAF's West Ridge. Visitors should meet  at room 214 in the Elvey Building. Follow the above link, or call (907) 474-7798 for more information.

UAF International Arctic Research Center (IARC): Tours are offered every Wednesday from June through Aug. Meet at the Arctic Research Center which is adjacent to the Geophysical Institute, at 4 pm. This building is the headquarters for scientists studying the Arctic and global climate. Also contains the Keith B. Mather Library. Meet in the lobby. (907) 474-1537.

Poker Flat Research Range, the world's only University-owned sounding rocket range, also offers tours at 1:30 p.m. in the summer. Follow the link for more information on the tour, specific dates, and directions to get there. Best to call ahead to be sure the tour is still scheduled. (907) 474-7558 or (907) 474-1537.

The Supercomputer Center is the place to go to see high technology. Tours are available in the summer.

The West Ridge at UAF: This location offers one of the best views of the Alaska Range (and Mt. McKinley) on a clear day. Take the Tanana Loop to Yukon Drive.

Parks to Enjoy

Pioneer Park: Gold Rush Village at AlaskalandThis 44-acre historic park (until recently named Alaskaland) has a Gold Rush Village (as photographed by Julie Coghill) filled with authentic buildings from downtown Fairbanks, an art gallery, three museums, a square and round dance center, and loads of historical displays and presentations. Follow our link for much more information. The children's playgrounds and four covered picnic shelters are heavily used by locals as well as tourists taking a break from sight-seeing.
Information: (907) 459-1087.

Birch Hill Park: This 460-acre park has hiking, cross-country running, mountain biking and bird watching in the summer. Located a few miles north of Fairbanks. Just follow the signs off the Steese Expressway.

Exploring

Explore the river: Try the bike path along the Chena River or relax at a riverside bar or restaurant. The Princess Hotel, Pike's Landing, the Pump House Restaurant & Saloon and the Boatel Sleazy Waterfront Bar all have decks. Take time out to enjoy a cool beverage while watching water skiers cruise down the river.

Berry picking: July and August are the best months for wild berry picking (free!) on Murphy and Ester domes outside town. Berries common are raspberries (look in old logging clearcuts, and along roads and railroad tracks), cranberries and blueberries (check out boggy areas and on hillsides), currents (a little harder to find) and rosehips (just look for the Alaskan Wild Rose bushes growing wild everywhere in the interior). The Visitor Center has a handbook to help with identification so you only pick edible berries.

Enjoy a Nature Trail
Two Rivers Elementary (year 2000) fifth-graders designed a 1K nature trail behind their school, at about 18 mile on the Chena Hot Springs Road. It is always open, and eight stations are clearly marked as well as being described in a color brochure the class published. Another nature trail may be found in the Chena River State Recreation Area, put in by the Boy Scouts.

Exploring Cyberspace: Are you suffering from computer withdrawal and miss surfing the net? The Noel Wien Library offers public internet access (Call 459-1020 to reserve your hour the same day you want it). Fairbanks has no true cyber-cafes. Instead of an internet cafe, a few small restaurants have free public terminals, with a half hour limit. One is Second Story Cafe above Guliver's Books at the corner of Hess and College Rd., which has one computer using Netscape.

Chena Hot Springs Road: Take a drive to Mile 10 Chena Hot Springs Road and join the locals at the cafe at Wagons North Trading Post, or drive on to 22 mile and Mia's Cafe. The Two River's Grange Hall is located on Grange Hall Road, at around 24 mile.

Golden Heart Plaza: The park in the heart of downtown offers a cool break from shopping right by the Chena River. Free concerts occur there during the summer months. They usually begin in late June at noon each Friday, and at 7 p.m. every Wednesday night. Stop in at the Visitor's Center next door to pick up brochures on Fairbanks attractions. See Calendar of Events for more information on events held here this summer.

Picnic or barbecue: Try the Chena River State Park off University Avenue, Pioneer Park (formerly Alaskaland), Chena Lakes or any other public park. Most have picnic tables and barbecue pits. For a unique Alaska experience, try picnicking under the midnight sun, but bring your mosquito repellent.

Trans-Alaska oil pipeline: The turnout on Mile 8 of the Steese Expressway between FairbanksPipeline Turnout on Steese and Fox presents the opportunity for a close-up view of the pipeline, plus informational displays about its construction. The turnout will be on your right as you drive north. The pipeline has been termed "one of the greatest feats of modern engineering." Tour guides in 1999 gave 15 minute free overviews of pipeline history beginning May through early September. The gift shop is seen on the right in the above photo.

Pump Station No. 9 near Delta Junction also offers tours from June  through August. These tours take about one hour and you do not need a reservation. For information, call (907) 459-5873. Alyeska Pipeline Service Company

Hagelbarger Turnout: This scenic viewpoint offers one of Fairbanks most impressive views. On a clear day, it's possible to see Denali. You will find the turnoff on Hagelbarger Road off the Steese.

Tours

Take a professional tour: If you don't want to rent a car, try a guided driving tour. A couple of local companies will drive visitors throughout the Fairbanks area to see the sites for a fairly inexpensive rate. Try 

bullet G.O. Shuttle & Tours (800) 478-3847, or locally at (907) 456-ride (7433), 
bullet40 Below Tours (451-1125), 
bulletNorthern Alaska Tour Co. (474-8600) 
bulletor check with the Fairbanks Convention and Visitors Bureau for a reference. 

There are also tour companies who will be glad to take you much farther afield, such as to the Arctic Circle.

Conduct your own driving tour: If you do have a car available, Fairbanks has plenty of enjoyable drives. Try going up Murphy Dome Road, Chena Hot Springs Road, the Steese Highway, or Cripple Creek Road. If you want a longer trip, and don't have too nice a car, try "roughing it" on the Dalton Highway. But check our Dalton page and read the warnings carefully, first. For a more historical look, try the Fairbanks Convention and Visitors Bureau driving tour. The tour covers downtown, the University of Alaska campus, Farmers Loop and Chatanika. It can take up to two hours to complete.

Fort Wainwright Army Post also offers tours, even in winter. Our latest information (Dec. 2011) was that email requests could be sent to Pao.fwa@us.army.mil- Public Affairs Officer .

The Great Alaskan Bowl Company manufactures Alaskan birch bowls, and visitors are welcome to watch. Call ahead to be sure they are making the bowls. (907) 474-9663. Click on the link above for more information.

The Visitors Center also has brochures on walking tours. Other free and low cost tours available include Pump Station No. 9, the wildlife refuge at Creamers Field, the Chena Flood Control Project, and Christian broadcast station KJNP in North Pole. There are many different tours offered at the University of Alaska Campus in Fairbanks, and at Alaskaland, and others you will find as you surf these pages. Most of the above tours are free, with minimal charges for some.

Our military bases often have tours.  Contact Linda Douglas (in Nov. 2004)- Public Affairs Officer at Fort Wainwright - their tours are even available in the winter. We are not sure who to contact at Eielson AFB, but they do have tours in the summer at least.

Downtown: Downtown Fairbanks offers many interesting things to do and see which do not cost an arm and a leg, starting with the Public Lands Information Center, the Community Museum, and the Ice Museum (see paragraph below). Follow the link for more information. Our Historic Preservation page has a list of historic buildings downtown. There are free concerts in the summer at Golden Heart Plaza on First Avenue (by the Visitors' Bureau log cabin). Live bands perform at noon on Fridays and 7 p.m. Wednesdays. For a schedule, call Festival Fairbanks at 456-1984. You might also call 474-8869 or visit http://www.fsaf.org for information on music offerings of the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival.

Ice Art Alaska: Fairbanks, Alaska is the site of the World Ice Art Ice CathedralChampionships every March. Some ice sculptures are retained in cold storage year 'round for the enjoyment of visitors and locals alike. They can be seen downtown for a nominal cost at the Fairbanks Ice Museum. If you are visiting in March, you will get a chance to see international sculptors carving ice at a special park just for displaying the results of the championships, and again, the cost is very reasonable. The park includes a special children's park that is a lot of fun with ice slides, etc. Follow the link above the picture for more information.

Silver Gulch Brewing and Bottling Company: is expanding operations to add a brewpub-style bar/restaurant/pub, which is scheduled to open in early May 2007. In the meantime, they are still open for tours/tastings every Friday (year round), from 5p.m. to 7 p.m. (We heard the tours are free.)

The locally-owned brewery was opened in 1998, and is located in the Historic Mining District of Fox, Alaska, 10 miles north of Fairbanks on the Steese Highway. Their address is 2195 Old Steese Highway, in the Fox Roadhouse All their products are brewed using legendary Fox water.

Art Galleries: A free "Art Tours"Artist at Work pamphlet at the Fairbanks Visitors and Convention Bureau log cabin on First Avenue offers a self-guided tour to sculptures and murals around town, plus the galleries. Our Art Calendar lists many arts & drama related activities taking place this year. And don't forget the Music/Dance Calendar either!

Take a Short Drive

Neighboring communities:
Other areas of the Interior, such as North Pole, Salcha, Nenana, and Delta also have much to offer. Watch for an open house at Fort Wainwright Army Post. If you are in Fairbanks in August, drop in at the Tanana Valley State Fair

Eielson Air Force Base (28 miles south of Fairbanks) usually offers free tours of the base at 10:30 a.m. every Friday through August, though we do not know if 911 made a change in that, so call ahead. They run around an hour to an hour and a half and include F-16 and A-10 aircraft, Heritage Park, "The Lady of the Lake," a World War II era bomber, and a presentation on the base's mission. Meet at the front gate. Information (907) 377-3148. 

The Tanana Valley Fair is usually the first or second week in  August. The fair grounds are located at College Road and Aurora Drive. Parking is free, but get there early for a spot (most of the buildings open at noon).

Knotty Shop: Knotty Shop signOr go a little beyond Eielson Airforce Base (at 25 Mile Richardson Highway) to the Knotty Shop to peruse their  extensive selection of Alaskan momentos while eating their excellent ice cream and enjoying their mini-museum. They have over 50 antique guns on display, and a hand carved 30-foot thunderbird totem pole. You will recognize the shop by their front yard full of giant moose, mosquitoes, etc made from naturally occurring spruce "burls". The sign here was photographed by Julie Coghill.

Santa Claus Santa Claus HouseHouse is located on the Richardson Highway, near the overpass in North Pole. A giant Santa greets visitors to this gift shop. Many like to stop here just to have their pictures taken in front of the huge murals on the outside of the building (shown here in a Julie Coghill photo.) Both children and adults will enjoy having their pictures taken with Santa's reindeer, Prancer, which is housed nearby, or riding the miniature Snowy River Train.

KJNP, a Christian radio/TV station, located also in KJNP CabinNorth Pole, offers tours of its station daily beginning at 9 a.m. The station, located off Mission Road in North Pole, is the largest log cabin in the state. Shown here is the entrance cabin. For more information, call (907) 488-2216, follow our link above, or go to the  KJNP Website.

The Chena Flood Control Project is a place to visit while you are in North Pole. The dam was constructed to prevent Chena River flooding and offers numerous recreational and educational possibilities. Tours are available, but reservations are required.

Or a Long One

Visit Denali Park  Denali Park is only 120 miles south of Fairbanks on the Parks Highway (as opposed to twice the distance north of Anchorage). It is a beautiful drive down. Scenery

Visit a Hot Springs. There are at least four to choose from, and day rates (without accommodations) range from $5 - $8. This is especially fun in the winter! Some have changed hands and may have higher prices now.

Shopping

Farmers Market: Open Wednesdays 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturdays 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., the market offers the freshest produce in the Interior. Beginning in May, the Saturday before Mother's Day, local farmers and other craft makers display their wares at the small wooden building off College Road beside the Tanana Valley Fair Grounds. North Pole also has a Farmer's Market, starting in June, opening every Friday from 3-7 p.m. through the end of summer.

Garage sales: If you really want to meet the locals, go to a garage sale. The summer months are extremely popular for sales as many residents try to houseclean before winter. Take advantage of the good buys. Look for garage sale advertisements in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (our only local daily newspaper) or in the North Star Weekly.

To combine some Alaskan atmosphere with your shopping, visit the Knotty Shop, or one of the many excellent shops at Alaskaland. For authentic souvenirs, be sure to watch for the "Made in Alaska" logo.

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