Heavenly Display

A Fairbanks B&B offers a front-row seat for the northern lights

By: Christopher Batin

Aurora borealis. The northern lights. Often nothing but a light green glow in skies of the northern continental United States. But in the cold, crisp Alaskan skies, the air becomes charged with electricity as the lights flare up and dance their long red and green tendrils leaping into the heavens, pulsing and swirling like curtains in the breeze.

Fairbanks, Alaska, offers one of the best aurora-viewing opportunities and finding the right combination of lodging and services makes all the difference. Located 12 miles from the Fairbanks airport, Taste of Alaska offers all this, yet with the conveniences of being downtown. I felt like I was at the end of the road, and in many ways, I was.

Owner Debbie Eberhardt rises up and greets me warmly. She offers me coffee and a seat at one of the huge picture windows. This isn’t your everyday B&B. This is bed, breakfast and adventure.

Around the grounds, the trails were small roads coursing through dense stands of birch and spruce. Grouse drummed in the distance, and fresh moose tracks crossed the trail. No mosquitoes. No pollution. No noise. The pond was decorated with ample placer-mining decor, from dredge buckets to metal tractor seats welded onto large water pipes used for sluicing operations.

This is the Alaska experience set on 280 acres of remote boreal forest decorated with collectibles from the early 1900s. Walter Eberhardt, Debbie’s father-in-law, settled the 160-acre homestead in 1947 and continues to farm today at age 84.

“The entire lodge is patterned after an Alaskana theme from our home cooking with smoked salmon and blueberries, to the collectibles in each room,” Debbie said. “We live elsewhere, and guests have the entire building for themselves. I’m up at 6 a.m. to prepare breakfast, and you won’t see me unless you need me.”

The remote cabins on the property are mini-resorts and their inside decor could easily make the cover of Good Housekeeping. They are perfect for honeymooners or couples who want their privacy to see the northern lights on their own schedule.

The two-story log home is more resort oriented, while the spacious dining room offers a look at the scenery. But this is no ordinary view. From here, guests can take in the Alaska Range, Mount McKinley, and Fairbanks in the distance.

Few sights are more spectacular in mid-winter than watching Fairbanks glow under a blanket of ice fog, the mountains bathed in the orange glow of the Alaska sun as it races across the southern skyline. In a few hours, these sights are replaced by a nightly performance of the northern lights. The lodge offers a front-row seat to some of Alaska’s finest natural performances.

Some groups like this arrangement because they can easily gather and discuss issues comfortably, without interruption, all at the right price.

“Our large-scale building and outlying cabins allow us to cater to large groups,” she said. “Private bathrooms are a must, as are meeting facilities.”

For example, the Log House offers clients private, two-bedroom accommodations as well as a hot tub, full kitchen, dining and living room and 1½ baths.

The entire house is appointed with antiques, handmade quilts and collectibles. Log House visitors can have breakfast set up in the house the night before or eat at the Main Lodge at 8 a. m. each morning. Cable television, phone service and wireless Internet access are available.

Taste of Alaska has a beer and wine license, which allows them to serve alcoholic beverages with appetizers or the full-dinner service they have during the winter months. And clients won’t need reservations: The B&B is not open to the public.

Even with ample privacy, Debbie said creating this outdoor hideaway has been challenging.

“We have had several weddings, where the moose have joined in,” she said.


Taste of Alaska

Commission: 20 percent

Room rates start at $185 for two people and $200 for a cabin.