Fairbanks - Gateway to Alaska's Interior
Trip Start Jun 01, 2010
11Trip End Jun 27, 2010
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Where I stayed
Fairbanks (Alaska’s second city) is where we based ourselves for a few days in which we flew up to Barrow and did a few other things. It is one of those American cities that sprawls for miles and doesn’t really have much of a downtown area. Not necessarily the most attractive city, although they have spruced up the area along the river with parks and lots of planter boxes. The flowers seem to do really well here right now with 21 hours of sunlight per day!
It can be surprisingly warm here in summer – it was maybe 24 degrees celsius (75F) one day and sunny. We had t-shirts and shorts on for some of our visit!
While in Fairbanks we rented a car and drove out to the town of North Pole Alaska, which is dedicated to all things Santa-related. A bit silly, but fun nonetheless. You can mail things from there postmarked ‘North Pole’. Letters kids send to 'Santa, North Pole' get delivered there I think. We bought a square inch of land at North Pole from the Santa House...
We also drove to Chena Hot Springs and had a dip in the springs which was nice. We saw some moose on the way back so we stopped to take photos. They are quite a hazard here, much like our kangaroos but a lot larger and about as stupid! When one is hit by a car or truck, they call the State Troopers who shoot it (if not already dead) and arrange for charities to collect the carcass, butcher it and give the meat to homeless shelters and the like.
Apparently Chena Hot Springs is a popular attraction in the winter as you can sit in the hot springs and watch the Northern Lights overhead. The Japanese especially love it as they believe the Northern Lights to have some power to assist fertility, if I understood the people there correctly! We might have to return one winter as it would be great to see the Northern Lights. They are up there all the time, but in the warmer months it is just never dark enough to see them.
Apart from that we enjoyed a few of the bars and restaurants, such as Big Daddys ('the Northernmost Southern BBQ') and Bobby's (a Greek restaurant and bar near our hotel). As we've generally found on our travels in the USA, we'd often sit up at the bar and would usually get chatting to people. We had a lot of fun times and met some interesting people that way. We've always enjoyed the friendliness of the American people on our travels in the USA. An interesting difference to back home in Australia is that sometimes in Alaska the bar staff would also be having a drink, if things were quiet. I'm not sure that would even be legal in Australia - certainly I have hardly ever seen it done, at least not in recent times.
Fairbanks is a big military town and the airport is set up with signs welcoming troops back from overseas and has a Qantas Club style lounge just for them. There are several large Army and Air Force bases here as well as a major university. Fairbanks is essentially the capital of and gateway to the north of Alaska.