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Tourism to Fairbanks, Alaska, blooms from late March through April. As residents prepare for summer traffic, tour buses and crowded streets, they also renew social bonds after the long, harsh winter and are ready to celebrate the gifts of spring and the lengthening daylight that comes with it.
“April offers the last few weeks leading up to summer’s seemingly endless twilight, when we have no darkness for about 70 days from mid-May through late July,” said Amy Geiger, communications director for Explore Fairbanks. “It’s our time in the sun.”
On April 15, the sun rises in Fairbanks at 4:30 a.m. and sets at 11:04 p.m., with only 90 minutes of darkness and twilight taking up the remaining 24 hours. Expect cool temperatures in the 40s to 50s, where a jacket and hat are enough to stay warm. The few remaining snow patches don’t deter tourists looking to indulge in hiking and urban adventures.
In springtime, the city’s bike paths provide a wonderful urban nature tour. The paths wind partially along the Chena River, giving riders up-close views of river wildlife and migrating waterfowl. Directly off the path, visit Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center for local tourism info and advice on wildlife viewing.
The Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum offers exhibits with an Alaskan flair. Visitors will enjoy more than 80 mint-condition vehicles, new video kiosks showing vehicles plying through ice and mud throughout Alaska and auto touring wardrobe displays from the 1900s.
The Fairbanks Winter Carnival has been the mainstay celebration for locals since 1934. This monthlong winter version of a county fair includes a parka parade, a chili cook-off, a fur auction, dances, snowshoe races and more. The big event is the North American Sled Dog Championship Race that starts in the center of town. With the main streets full of cheering spectators and energetic sled dogs, it’s a unique experience.
The BP World Ice Art Championships offers huge ice art carvings and displays showcased in colored lights. The displays start melting once the weather warms, so catch this attraction early. The competition draws more than 100 ice-carving artists from around the world as well as some 45,000 visitors. For the most dazzling displays, plan visits at night, and don’t overlook the kids’ park with walk-in ice houses, speedy ice slides and a variety of icy toys and games for all ages.
For remote accommodations, reserve a room at Chena Hot Springs Resort, which offers cross-country skiing, dog sledding, aurora viewing and soaks in the outdoor hot springs. In town, try Wedgewood Resort, adjacent to Creamer’s Field State Migratory Waterfowl Refuge. Visitors can see thousands of migrating birds, moose, beaver, grouse, hares and other wildlife while hiking the well-maintained trails.
Include a bit of spring in your Alaska plans this year, and see the satisfaction blossom on your clients’ faces.
Where to Eat in FairbanksAdvise clients to not be too shy to chat with locals who are out enjoying the sunshine — a conversation might even result in an invitation to a grilled salmon dinner. If they don’t get that invitation, visitors should not despair, instead they can unleash their hunger in one of the city’s signature restaurants.
A favorite is Lavelle’s Bistro, a must-visit stop for five-star food, including succulent king crab and beer-battered halibut. Try Wolf Run Restaurant for great food and some of the most colorful waitstaff you’ll find north of Denali.
Another favorite local eatery is the historic Pumphouse Restaurant. It offers superbly crafted specialty seafood dishes, from salmon salad to oyster appetizers.
FEB. 23 TO MARCH 29
BP World Ice Art Championshipswww.icealaska.com
Fairbanks Winter Carnivalwww.explorefairbanks.com
Music in the Woods Concertwww.uuff.org
Arctic Man Ski and Snow-Go Classicwww.arcticman.com
Chena River Runwww.fairbanksrotary.org
Spring Migration Celebrationwww.creamersfield.org
Chena Hot Springs Resortwww.chenahotsprings.com
Fairbanks Winter Carnival/Explore Fairbankswww.explorefairbanks.com
Fountainhead Antique Auto Museumwww.fountainheadmuseum.com
Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Centerwww.morristhompsoncenter.org