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Deep in the land of the midnight sun, Fairbanks is a gateway to northern wilderness as well as a former gold-rush settlement. It has the friendly feel of small-town America, but with a wide mix of inhabitants, including military personnel, artists and nature lovers. There's a lot going on between art events, festivals and markets, not to mention heritage sites where you can learn about pioneer life. It's also one of the best places to watch the magical spectacle of the aurora borealis, and the Arctic Circle is just a day's journey away.
Hostels in Fairbanks tend to be homely places with fully equipped kitchens and snuggly common areas where you can exchange tales with fellow explorers. Extra touches range from facilities for guests to make ice sculptures to complimentary bike rentals and free Wi-Fi. Fairbanks hostels definitely have their own personalities; you can try a hostel with a glass gazebo to sleep in, one with a firepit and backyard grill or an option with dorms in a treehouse.
Fairbanks has a couple of areas to explore. In town are craft shops selling Native Alaskan goods like jewellery and pottery. Along the 100-mile stretch of the Chena River, you'll find unusual activities and events like gold-panning. To take a peek into Fairbanks' past, head to the narrow streets of the Pioneer Neighbourhoods to tour old houses. Fairbanks is also the starting point if you want to explore the Arctic Circle and the surrounding wilderness of forests, mountains and tundra.
Many visitors come to Fairbanks just for the chance to see the northern lights, with August to April being the peak time to witness these swirling green skies. The town itself brims with culture too – you can look forward to traditional dance festivals, fascinating heritage museums and displays of public art. There's a solid foodie scene with farmers markets, craft beers and a local brewery. Keen for adventure? In just 2 hours you can be searching for wildlife like caribou and grizzly bears in Denali National Park.
If you're coming to Alaska, chances are you'll fly into Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage. From there, you can take a connecting flight to Fairbanks that arrives in an hour. It's 8 hours if you opt for the bus instead and 12 by train, but the long journey will reward you with staggering views. If you're regularly using the public bus in Fairbanks, getting a day pass can save you a few coins.