Gold Dredge #8 is an interesting piece of Gold Rush history. We took a little narrow gage railroad to get there. The dredge and its equipment operated from 1929-1958. It is 250 ft. long, with 5 decks, and it is open for visitors to explore. There is still gold there, but not enough to mine, so they let tourists pan it and keep whatever they find.
Cruise the Chena and Tanana Rivers on the sternwheeler Discovery III. This is a narrated 3½-hour tour with a 1-hour stop at the Chena Indian Village, a recreated Athabascan settlement. Beverages and snacks are available for purchase on board.
Take a guided Segway tour in the historic city of Fairbanks. Start with lessons in how to ride/steer/maneuver on the Segway complete with mini obstacle course. Then follow the leader to see the sights! I personally have had a segway on my bucket list and this was very affordable here. After the tour we were allowed to ride around a grassy area and go up and down the small hills. I felt like a kid again. Apparently swooping by the other tourists is frowned on. Darn
Just as it sounds it is a Hot Springs. I will write my review as seen by a summer day trip visitor. From Fairbanks it was about an hour and a half drive. Perhaps one can arrive faster but there are always moose to be seen and it is hard not to stop to admire and take pictures. Our goal was to soak in the outdoor pool. The cost for myself, an adult was $10 for the day - until midnight so I could come and go. Bring a towel or prepare to pay $5 more. The ladies locker room is small. Really small. And another VTer advised not to bring a large gym bag. The outdoor pool is not for those under 18 btw. It runs in temp from about 100 - 110 Fahrenheit. The kids with us played inside in the indoor pool and I believe they could access a hot tub. If you want to stay overnight there is camping, cabins, and a resort. Remember this is Alaska so it still has that rural Alaska feel. There is also an ice museum. I did not get to see that but will on another visit. It was nice to visit in the summer and soak some of my hiking aches and pains away. Winter is the high season and my friend who worked there said it is very popular with the Japanese tourists, those wanting to see the Aurora Borealis, ski, snow shoe, and more.
Granite Tors Trail is a 15 mile loop located at mile 39.5 on the Chena Hot Springs Road. There is also a 3 mile loop which is what we did. The 15 mile loop goes from forest and rolling alpine tundra to big granite Tors (outcroppings). The three mile loop (which we thought was not actually 3 miles but less) does not reach the Tors. It is possible to back pack also and nompermitbis required. There is a fee and you must pay and put the stub reciept in your car or risk being fined. In July of 2012 the fee was $3. We found this trail to be buggier than the Angel Rocks Trail. Most likely due to the wetness of parts of the trail. And we hiked on a Tuesday and read that on Friday a woman was being circled by a grizzly. She defended herself with insect repellent. If possible when hiking in Alaska bear spray is a good addition to your pack.
Located at mile 48.9 along the Chena Hot Springs Road is the hiking trail called Angel Rocks. It is a sometimes steep hike to a large granite outcropping. Round trip is approximately 4 miles. Some advise to hike up and return the same way as the back half of the trail is not as well maintained. I did find this to be true but was successful in completing the round trip. There are excellent views to be had. It is a good day hike. It is possible to take a side trail and hike all the way to Chena Hot Springs. I believe once I was at the top of the outcroppings it was another 6.5 miles to the hot springs.
Chena Hot Springs is about an hour or two drive from Fairbanks, but it is worth it. You can go swimming in the hot spring. Along the way there are camp sites, and hikes to take. It is also very scenic and lovely. There is a very cool ice museum there as well.
The University Museum is a good place to learn about the vast and diverse state. The galleries give a nice overview of the five major geographic regions. The exhibits highlight the people, the wildlife, the geography and the history of each region. I was especially impressed by some to the animals on display.
Billed as Alaska's only pioneer theme park, Pioneer Park is a 44-acre facility filled with Alaska's history. It was originally built to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the purchase of Alaska from Russia, and it continues to operate today as a historical site and community park.
I spent an afternoon at Pioneer Park and wished I had had more time there. Things to see and do include:
Gold Rush Town
Tanana Valley Railroad Engine #1
Information Center (Pioneer Walking Tours)
Palace Theater and Saloon
Canoe, Kayak and Bike Rentals
Pioneer Air Museum
Judge Wickersham House
Kitty Hensley House
President Harding Railroad Car
Sternwheeler Nenana National Historical Landmark
Native Village Museum and Kashims
Bear Art Gallery
Alaska Salmon Bake
Playground and Picnic Shelters
Pioneer Park is open daily year round. Admission to the park is free, although some of the individual attractions within it require an admission charge.
For some of these I will list a separate tip on the next few pages.
Authentic historic log cabins from throughout Alaska have been brought to Pioneer Park in Fairbanks and reassembled to form Gold Rush Town. Today the cabins are filled with a wide assortment of refreshments, gifts, and Alaskana. On each of the buildings is a sign which tells the history of that particular cabin. The largest of the buildings is the Palace Theatre & Saloon, where you may sit and watch a rousing musical show based on Alaska's colorful history. For the more active you may wish to kick up yuour heels at the Dance Hall which hosts nightly dances.
Pioneer Fr. Francis Monroe, S. J., arrived in the new city of Fairbanks in 1904 and immediately began construction on the town's first Catholic Church, soon followed by the building of a much needed hospital. The original church was on the south bank of the Chena River, but the father felt it should be on the north bank, next to the hospital. In the summer of 1911, a team of men and horses moved the church on skids across the frozen river to it's present site.
From 1962-68 the church was the Cathedral of the North, until the new Sacred Heart Cathedral was built to replace it. The hospital has long since been gone, but Imaculate Conception Church is still an active parish. Since 1976 the building has been listed on the National Registry of Historic Sites. The church is open daily for viewing, or for prayer.
Make a visit to the Large Animal Farm Research Sation(LARS). In a 45-minutes guided tour you will leran more abojut the impressive muskoxen and their valuably Quivit wool.
There are also caribous to see.
There is a nice cabin on Birch that you can rent from the DNR (http://www.dnr.state.ak.us/parks/cabins/north.htm#blksrs). You can drive right to the cabin and its ready to go. All you need is your food/drink, lantern fuel, and bedclothes. Its a good idea to bring along a truck full of dry firewood too just in case. You can rent an ice fishing hut from the DNR (http://www.dnr.state.ak.us/parks/cabins/icehuts.htm) too. We caught a lot of fish and had a great time snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and watching the Northern Lights.
This event occurs every March, usually during the first two weeks of the month. If you are brave enough to visit interior Alaska during the winter, definitely take the time to check this out! It is one of the annual events I look forward to the most. The cost is only $8 per adult. I like to go in the evening (open 10a-10p daily) because the sculptures are lit up with an array of colored lights. The benefit to going during the day are the warmer temps! There is a kids park for a hands-on experience (not just for kids!) that always has a large ice slide and numerous sculptures that you can play on, crawl through, sit in, pose with, etc!
Early in the event, the judging takes place for both the single and multi-ice block sculptures. I like to go after this occurs so that I can see the favorites. If you get cold (inevitable), there is a biulding you can go into to grab some munchies and hot chocolate, while checking out photos of sculptures from years past. In the way of public restrooms, there are several porta-potty's on-site.
This is a fun thing to do, especially in the summer. There are a few places that rent canoes and kayaks near the river. If you start at the east end of town near the army base, it takes a few hours to paddle / float to Pikes or the Pumphouse (local restaurants). When you get there, just pull up onto the grass and get a meal.
There is a rental shop right behind Alaskaland on Peger.