Here’s some information I found on the explorefairbanks.com website:
• Fairbanks is Alaska’s second-largest population center, located within the Fairbanks North Star Borough, which has a population of nearly 100,000.
• Centrally located in Alaska’s Interior, Fairbanks is north of Denali National Park and Preserve and south of the Arctic Circle.
• The 100-mile long Chena River runs through the middle of town and is a focal point for events and activities.
• The Alaska Highway, Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, military bases, mining and the University of Alaska are all integral to Fairbanks.
KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
Though I appreciated the lovely setting of the Fairbank’s River’s Edge Resort, I was more than a little annoyed that the tour company had suggested it as a suitable place for us to stay. That’s because I found out it was almost six miles from downtown Fairbanks, though it was within striking distance of the airport and the University of Alaska Museum of the North.
We were pleased to have one of the two best restaurants in Fairbanks on the premises, but we also wanted to see the city itself and it meant taking a taxi there and back or waiting for the infrequent shuttle. I was under the impression that there was going to be some festivities in the city centre that Sunday to celebrate the Solstice, perhaps something like we’d seen two years earlier in Whitehorse. We had enjoyed seeing the traditional dress of the First Nations residents and were curious to look for similarities and/or differences in this region further north and west.
We ended up waiting for the shuttle bus because the taxi fare was unreasonable. To our surprise, the city is quite spread out, with different businesses and a few attractions scattered here and there along the highway into town. It was clear this was a place where you’d need a vehicle of your own and most families would be forced to have at least two.
When we reached the built-up area around the downtown core we saw some small homes that clearly dated back several decades; some obviously well-cared for and others seemingly neglected. I expected to see several blocks of residences but before we’d gone far, we were at the business district that we soon learned was barely four blocks wide, on either side of the Chena River.
We walked over to a fountain in what appeared to be the main square for Fairbanks and admired the sculpture of a family of three, dressed in fur parkas and looking skyward, their two huskies standing by their sides. We walked to a boardwalk above the Chena River and read a storyboard about the epic flood on August 15, 1967 that had inundated the town. The high water mark seemed to almost equal our heights.
We thought we’d check out the streets of town for a while, keeping a lookout for somewhere to have a pleasant lunch before returning to out little cabin. We passed by the Ice Museum, but its shows were only available in the evenings. We strolled for a little while quickly coming to the realization that the business district was only two blocks wide on this, the main side of the river. We could see some buildings on the opposite bank and my map app told me that the train station was on that side as well.
There wasn’t a single sign of anything festive going on that afternoon.
It didn’t take me long to realize that the tour company that had suggested the River’s Edge Resort for our stay knew exactly what they were doing. There wasn’t much to see in downtown Fairbanks, and there were very few options for eating that appealed to us. Deciding that we would most probably eat at the Chena River Grill again that evening, we headed to the Thai restaurant for lunch, foregoing the two fast food joints.
We had a very disappointing meal at the Thai place, there was no option to have a selection of dishes, so we ordered just one and it was huge, with a price tag to match. We walked off the heavy meal by heading over to the Visitor’s Centre further along the river. We passed a monument recognizing the cooperation that occurred between Russia and America during World War II – how the air forces that combined their efforts to prevent the Japanese from invading the mainland United States.
The Visitor’s Centre was located in a lovely new building and housed a small museum with interesting displays on the North and some beautiful First Nations handicrafts. They didn’t attempt to replicate the collections held at the Museum of the North, at the University of Alaska, but gave visitor’s who had limited time, a quick overview of Alaska and its charms.
You’ll laugh, but nothing on the Chena Grill’s menu appealed to us more that the delicious reindeer meatloaf we’d had two nights earlier, so we had it once again. Who knows if we’ll ever have another opportunity to eat this northern delicacy?