AKontheGO’ers know how much I rely upon my smartphone. It’s a tool of the travel trade that simply can’t let me down, especially in Alaska where I’m here, there, and everywhere in the best interest of future family travelers. A few years ago, Alaska Communications and AKontheGO began a partnership that has been a marvellous two-way street of talking, texting, and information, with ever-increasing coverage throughout this enormous and challenging state.
I’m pretty pleased to note that Alaska Communications has expanded their 4G LTE speed to the Golden Heart City of Fairbanks just in time for summer family fun. What’s not to like about sharing photos of your kids poking around a world-famous museum, or chug-chugging their way through Pioneer Park on a train? It’s even easier now, and I like that.
Headed to Fairbanks over the summer? Try these local hotspots for energetic, curious kids:
Downtown area: Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitor Center is the perfect place to begin a Fairbanks experience. With the Chena River trail just outside, and a wealth of information, exhibits, and history inside, families will find everything they need for a successful trip. Pick up brochures, gather maps, watch a short movie, then wander the authentic exhibits of the center.
Pioneer Park is located on Airport Way, and is home to a playground, mini-village, and aircraft museum. That little train operates there, too, and kids flock to the Tanana Valley Railroad all summer long. Play mini-golf and have an ice cream cone, or simply explore the historic exhibits and shops of this charming property.
A short drive from the downtown core is Birch Hill Recreation Area, managed by the Fairbanks North Star Borough. A popular Nordic ski area in the winter full of disc golf players during long summer days, Birch Hill has picnic facilities and trails suitable for year-round fun. Call 907-457-4488 for current conditions.
University area: Alaska’s original university is located on a hill overlooking the Tanana Valley, and what a view it is! The University of Alaska Fairbanks offers the entire family a great day of learning and fun on a campus founded in 1917. Stop by the Museum of the North for an excellent overview of the state’s history, science, and culture, including the beautiful Place Where You Go to Listen, a capitavating exhibit whereby earth’s tones are magnified through color and sound. The Large Animal Research Station (LARS) is home to musk ox and caribou, with tours available. Just across the barnyard is the Georgeson Botanical Garden, with enormous blooms and lovely pathways through richly-colored garden beds; a great place to let kids stretch legs.
Along College Road, not far from campus, are two stops with delightful kid-appeal. The Tanana Valley Farmer’s Market opens on Saturday, May 10, with fresh, locally-produced items for sale. We like to visit the market for the atmosphere, especially during the early summer months, when folks are eager for longer days and warmer weather. Just a few clicks from the market is Creamer’s Field Migratory Bird Refuge, a former dairy farm-turned bird playground. Miles of hiking and walking trails, bird watching, guided activities, and a summer day camp for kids are just a few of the opportunities available here. We love to go in the early morning or evening hours for the sounds of birds, birds, and more birds. Hint: Try August and the Sandhill Crane Festival.
Have auto buffs in the house? A must-see is the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum, located on the property of Wedgewood Resort, a short hop from Creamer’s Field. Offering a cultural and historical view of Alaska’s love affair with cars, the museum is clean, bright, and full of automobiles that all run. Plus, interspersed between all these machines are period pieces of vintage clothing and photographs, my favorite part. Don’t forget to climb aboard for a photo op, too!
It’s shaping up to be a fabulous season up north!