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Dog Sledding & Travel in Alaska

Things to Do in Fairbanks in Winter: Tips From a Local

Updated: Oct 16, 2023

Are you looking for things to do in Fairbanks during the winter? You’ve come to the right place! Lisbet has been living in Fairbanks since 2006 & Nils was born and raised in Fairbanks. Between the two of us, we’ve tried out many of the best things to do in Fairbanks fall, summer, spring, and our favorite season, WINTER!

This post is by no means exhaustive, but it will give you a great starting point for planning your winter activities. From aurora viewing, skiing/snowboarding, distillery tours, dog sledding through the frozen tundra, or soaking in a remote hot spring, Fairbanks has something for everyone!

Things to Do in Fairbanks - Dog Sledding - Arctic Dog Adventure Co.
Drive your own dog team at Arctic Dog Adventure Co.

Drive Your Own Dog Team at Arctic Dog Adventure Co.

One of the most popular things to do in Fairbanks during the winter is dog sledding. And what better way to experience it than by driving your own team of dogs? At Arctic Dog Adventure Co., you can do just that! We offer a variety of different tours, so you can choose the one that best fits your interests and skill level. If we had to pick just one, we'd recommend the Aurora Overnight experience - dog sledding paired with cabin camping under the aurora borealis!

Downhill Skiing or Snowboarding at Skiland

Fairbanks is nothing if not a winter sports wonderland, even offering downhill skiing and snowboarding! Skiland is our favorite place to hit the slopes. Just a short drive from downtown, Skiland offers great beginner and intermediate terrain as well as breathtaking views of the surrounding White Mountains. Get there early to take advantage of rentals (these sell out early on weekends and holidays). Apre ski with yummy burgers, hand cut fries and beer from local breweries.

Visit the University of Alaska Museum of the North

The University of Alaska Museum of the North is one of the best things to do in Fairbanks, especially during the winter. The museum is home to an impressive collection of Alaskan Native art and artifacts, as well as a variety of exhibits on different topics like natural history, geology, wildlife, and mountaineering. There is a cafe and gift shop at the museum. Plan on spending at least half a day here – there is so much to see!

Eat Thai Food

Fairbanks loves Thai food! We LOVE Lemongrass -- Their pad thai and curries are amaaaazing and they serve as much Alaskan Grown produce and products as possible. Good place for Alaskan salmon and locally grown veggies.

Stop at a drive-through espresso stand or local coffee shop

Skip the Starbucks. Alaskans are well known for their love of coffee and we have a few local roasters and coffee houses that we like. LuLu's Bread & Bagels and Alaska Roasting Coffee Co. are recommended for breakfast & lunch. Try the Lox bagel at LuLu's or a Flatbread at AK Coffee Roasting Co.

You can't visit Fairbanks (or Alaska) without going to a drive-through espresso stand! We have one on practically every corner. Our favorite local stands are Mocha Dan's on corner of Steese/Farmers Loop (on the way to/from Arctic Dog & their breakfast burrito is one of my favorite things in the world) or on Geist by the University, and Sunshine Espresso (Old Steese/College or College/University are convenient locations).

Take an Aurora photography lesson with Aurora Bear Photography

One of the best things to do in Fairbanks during the winter is to see the Northern Lights! And what better way to experience them than by learning how to take pictures of them? Aurora Bear Photography offers aurora photography tours and workshops, so you can learn how to capture this amazing phenomenon. They also offer a variety of other photography tours, so you can learn how to take pictures of the beautiful Alaskan landscape.

Go cross-country skiing

Fairbanks has a world-class ski trail system that welcomes beginners and experts alike! Cross-country skis can be rented from Beaver Sports, Trax Outdoor Center or the University of Alaska Outdoor Center. There are plenty of places to go both in town and outside of town. In town we recommend Creamer’s Field, the University of Alaska Ski Trails, and Birch Hill. The Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks has a comprehensive list of trails maintained for cross-country skiing, where to find them, and how to support trail grooming and maintenance.

Local favorite: this is a very fun local and authentic experience. It’s very exciting and lively. The UAF team is Division I and the Ice Dogs are in the semi-pro league, so you're sure to see some great hockey action no matter which game you attend.

Go watch the locals at HooDoo Brewing or Black Spruce Brewing (and try some beers).

HooDoo has great vibes and always a good food truck there as well. They do tours on Saturdays at noon if you want to learn about the brewing process. It's a great place to relax or catch up with friends.

In our opinion, Black Spruce makes the best beers in Fairbanks (Lisbet loves their rotating tap of fruity sours). Every Saturday from 12PM-3PM they offer a “brewery brunch,” featuring brunch-inspired beer cocktails and local pastries! Bring a growler to take some home to your hotel or AirbnB to enjoy under the northern lights.

Taste the amazing cocktails at Hoarfrost Distillery.

Hoarfrost Distillery is well known for their award-winning vodka and their signature cocktail creations made from their incredible house-made Alasakn berry liquours and tonics. Our favorites include the blackcurrant liquors and Toivo’s Rhubarb Pie cocktail– a recipe that was 3 years in the perfecting. A nutmeg sugar rimmed glass half full of ice. Add vodka, a splash of simple syrup, and our house-made rhubarb juice. Topped with whipped cream and a little nutmeg.

Stop by Arctic Harvest Distillery, a farm-to-bottle distillery.

On your way out to North Pole & the Santa Claus House, be sure to stop by Arctic Harvest Distillery. The only farm to bottle distillery in the state, they make small-batch, craft spirits using locally grown ingredients. During winter, the outer edges of their fields are available for walking and skiing and sometimes they offer luminary night walks (especially around Winter Solstice).

Drive to Wickersham Dome, the gateway to the White Mountains National Recreation Area for a walk/snowshoe or amazing northern lights viewing.

This is a great spot for dog walking, too but bring a leash and be prepared to yield to mushers, skiers, and bikers. If you have time and are feeling ambitious, you can hike to the top of the first summit (about a mile on the non-motorized trail) for some stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. Just be sure to dress warmly and bring a thermos of hot tea or cocoa to enjoy during or after your hike.

(Ask us about our Cabin Overnights & Multi Day Trips in the White Mountains if you'd like to go deeper into the mountains).

Drive to Hilltop Gas Station for their famous pie

As seen on “Ice Road Truckers, ” Hilltop Gas Station is famous across Alaska for their home-baked pies, which come in to-go containers for the truckers that pass through daily on their runs to the oil fields of the North Slope. Pick up an "I Brake For Pie" bumper sticker at this last gas station on the road north for 300 miles. Favorites of the ADAC staff include “Fat Man,” “Strawberry Rhubarb” and “Peanut Butter” (these last two are best eaten together for a delicious PB&J combo). Hilltop also offers burgers, baked goods, and ice cream.

Downhill tubing at Birch Hill Ski and Snowboard Hill (Fort Wainwright)

A must-do for kids (and adults)! Tubing is $20-25 per person. No experience or skill is necessary to enjoy the selection of three 800 foot runs. Simply hop on your tube, push off and enjoy the ride. A lift makes the ride back to the top of the hill carefree.

Drive to Chena Hot Springs and take a soak

Best done on a clear night after a busy day outdoors. Eat at the restaurant — the resort is powered by geothermal energy and the salad is grown fresh in their greenhouse! Chena Hot Springs receives mixed reviews. If you've been to other hot springs virtually anywhere else in the world, you may not be impressed. It's still really nice to soak in after a chilly winter day & the food at the restaurant is good. I think it's worth the drive, but recommend bringing shower shoes, a towel, and a quarter for the lockers.

Yes – the park is open during the winter! It’s only the road that is closed to car traffic, as well as the myriad of tourist shops lining the border of the Park. Visiting in winter is perfect opportunity to patronize local shops and explore Denali without the crowds. Visit the park sled dogs (by appointment only) and borrow snowshoes from the visitors center. Hike the easy and short trails around the visitor center. The Visitor Center is about 120 miles from downtown Fairbanks & has great displays/films about Denali & Alaskan wildlife. For more adventure, rent cross country skis or a fat bike in Fairbanks and explore the park road-turned-winter-trail deeper into the park.

Visit the best gift shops in Fairbanks

  1. The Great Alaska Bowl Company in town by the airport is Lisbet’s favorite. The Bowl Company has incredibly beautiful hand-turned Alaskan birch bowls and carries only Made in Alaska or USA products. Pick out some Alaska jams, jellies, salmon jerky and chocolate to add to a wood bowl -- they will prettily gift wrap it for you for free.

  2. The Knotty Shop out in Salcha. The Knotty Shop has great mix of Made in Alaska products (#buythebear) and Alaskan-designed-but-made-in-China items like magnets and stuffed animals. Be sure to check their hours before driving out — they also open by appointment if you can’t make their regular hours.

  3. Santa Claus House in North Pole— send a postcard to a kid; it will be postmarked as being from the North Pole! They also have a local fudge & espresso shop inside the building.

There you have it - our top things to do in Fairbanks this winter! We hope this list has given you some ideas for planning your trip. And if you need any more help, feel free to ask a local! Alaskans are super friendly & we're always happy to share our favorite places with visitors.

Planning a trip to Alaska in Winter?

Read more about How to Plan your Perfect Alaska Winter Vacation. This blog by Morton's on the Move covers when to come, what to pack and what to see and do!

We hope you enjoy your time in our little city and make some amazing memories that will last a lifetime.

Comment below if you found this post helpful or share your memories from a trip to Fairbanks!

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