FYI, Alaskaland in Fairbanks is now Pioneer Park, which better depicts what they are. They are a historical park and it can be very enjoyable if you're into history. Most of the buildings in Gold Rush Town there were moved from downtown Fairbanks after barely surviving the big flood of 1967. There is an air museum, a tour of an historic riverboat, the rail car that President Warren G Harding road in when he drove the golden spike for the Alaska Railroad in 1923. And of course there is the Alaska Salmon Bake - a bit pricey, but worth the experience.
Unique Suggestions: This is a park created by the city for the people of the city as well as visitors. There is no general admission, but a few exhibits do charge a few bucks to get in. Don't miss the historical society's museum - it's free and very educational. Enjoy the nightly show at the Palace Theater for a musical review of the history and culture of Fairbanks.
People ask me often about this train ride. Its a tourist trap. Its a made up environment.
Fun Alternatives: If you still want to pan for gold....buy a plastic goldpan in town and then drive out of town on the Steese Highway.
There is a rest area named for Felix Pedro . You can pan for free for a couple hours and then continue up the road
to an area called Chatanika. Have lunch at F.E. Goldcamp. They even have cheap rooms.
Continue a bit to Chatanika Roadhouse....look at the weird stuff on the walls in this place.
Also there is a very short trail across the road which leads to an old gold Dredge. Check it out.
The roadhouse also will play a video for you which explains the dredging which took place in the area years ago.
Its very informative and even interesting.
All in all, it is a pleasant trip...however it's kind of pricey and lasts 4 hours long.
Unique Suggestions: Wherever you go in Alaska...dress in layers!!! Especially on a trip like this. My friends came up in June of 04 and we ended up losing our jackets and applying LOTS of sunscreen. It was around 90 degrees and super sunny! Also, grab extra batteries or memory cards before you get to Discovery Landing!
There's also an hour (maybe hour and a half) where you actually leave the Riverboat to learn about Interior living at Chena Village (not a REAL village). A good chance to learn about our Native peoples and more great photo opportunities. Maybe bring along some mosquito repellent...you never know when they'll pop up!
Fun Alternatives: Greatland Dinner Tours...
I have never tried, but I've also never heard bad about it.
Finite, non-renewable resource exploitation seems to be the heart of Fairbanks' economy,
and is likewise the focus of most of the tourist lures.
You can squat like a dog and grovel in some streams for iron pirite with your rented 'prospector' duds
...or go for the full-bore testaments to permanent enviromental damage that are the gold dredges.
At least the connection between what makes life possible in this harsh clime and what we expect tourists to blindly celebrate is clear:
SEE the gold dredges, the monsterously phallic oil pipe-line, and the 'magic' of a petroleum-worshipping lifestyle...
If you have a soul you will leave with a refreshed commitment to sustainable resource development.
Unique Suggestions: Be LOUD and spit ALOT
Fun Alternatives: visit during winter
...stare into aurora until it stares right back into your heart...
surrender to it scouring you empty
it'll kiss your insides up full of night
This is not in Fairbanks, it is in North Pole, but I tell it here anyway. Santa's House, omigod, don't go there. This might be nice for children (they can sit in Santa's lap, if parents are patient enought to wait for an hour) and people from South Pole, but otherwise it is just a huge tourist trap. And by the way, REAL Santa lives in Finland:)
I was here just before Christmas (good timing, yeah) and all I saw were andgry and stressed parents, long lines and over priced goods. Maybe I was there in a bad moment, but it is nothing like I expected. It is just a one big house with Christmas stuff to buy, nothing else. Not like play ground or anything for kids.
Unique Suggestions: Don't go there while weekend or in November /December. Or may I say at all? That sounds so nasty that I won't say that.
Fun Alternatives: I would rather go just sled with children outdoors and enjoy beautiful Alaskan nature.
If you're looking for a tourist trap in Fairbanks, just look around you. Seriously, though -- in the summer, if it has a tour bus in front of it, it's a tourist trap. But lighten up! Have fun! Be a tourist!
Doesn't this pic just say, 'TOURIST TRAP!' Come on, look at those helmets! This is a tour at the Gold Dredge Number 8 on Old Steese Highway. You're herded in with a bunch of other tourists, get your helmet, shovel and pan and you're off to work. You can find some gold flakes but it's very rare that you will find anything of value. There is also a tour inside the dredge explaining the history and operations, etc. UPDATE: The manager of the Gold Dredge has contacted me to let me know that things have changed considerably since I was there in 1996 and that they are under new management. There are new museums of mining and history and they now guarantee that you will find gold. Honestly, it was a major attraction in '96 - just not for me. Maybe I'll change my mind about it, if I visit again. Everyone has their own preferences... Two other huge tourist traps (in my opinion)in Fairbanks are the Riverboat Discovery Sternwheeler Tour and Alaskaland. The Sternwheeler is packed with the big bus tours and it very Disneylandesque. Sure you get some tasty salmon puree on crackers but this just didn't do it for me or the people I had on my tours. I took this out of the itinerary after the second group complained about it being a waste of time. Granted, these were younger people, and most Sternwheeler guests were senior citizens, so maybe this will be something for you. Alaskaland - what can I say... There really didn't seem to be very much going on in there. It's small and unimpressive. The salmon bake is supposed to be good, but I'd rather go to the Pump House.