It’s all settled; the 2015 Iditarod Sled Dog Race will officially begin in Fairbanks, Alaska. Hotel reservations have been made, flights are booked, and now you can focus on what to do after the dogs depart the starting line on Monday, March 8. For Anchorage families, this is extremely convenient, as spring break will be underway, eliminating the need to rush back home for school (Fairbanks kids, sorry, classes are still in session).
While race organizers are crossing their fingers for a snowy and cold Iditarod Re-Start event, everyone up here also know that the 2015 winter has been anything but typical. After careful consultation with the Fairbanks Visitors Bureau and some good friends in the Golden Heart City travel biz, I’ve created a short list of popular family activities to enjoy weather it’s rainy, snowy, or bone-chilling cold.
Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum. While this amazing facility is only open on Sundays, for early arrivals to the restart, it makes a perfect first stop. With a custom-built garage featuring vintage vehicles that all run, and a shop manager who loves to tell stories, this museum is a must-see. Kids will enjoy donning a duster for a family photo, or playing with a collection of little cars on a carpet specially laid out for their enjoyment. Adults will marvel at the spotlessness of each car, and I always love to see the vintage clothing interspered throughout the museum. Open Sundays noon-6 p.m. Admission $10 for adults 13+, kids 6-12 $5, five and under are free.
Fairbanks Children’s Museum. I recently attended the grand opening of the first all-kids, all the time museum in Alaska, and wow, you’ll want to make a stop here before or after the race. Science, engineering, art, drama; you name it, they have it. Located in downtown Fairbanks in the historic Cushman building. Open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $8 for ages 1-99.
University of Alaska Museum of the North. Best for older kids who appreciate the natural history and cultural aspects of a true University-based museum, this is a great place to explore Alaska’s uniqueness in a truly beautiful space. Great views, interesting exhibits stretching back thousands of years, this is a must-do for first-timers to Fairbanks. Open Monday-Saturday 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission for Alaskans with ID $8 for adults, $5 kids 5-14, and Alaska military with ID are always free. Other admission rates are $12 for adults, $7 kids. A separate movie ticket can be purchased for $5.
Running Reindeer Ranch. This is truly one of the most unique Alaska opportunities I’ve experienced, and is perfect for families. Visit owner Jane and her little herd of reindeer in the beautiful Goldstream Valley area of Fairbanks. Learn about the history and characteristics of these amazing animals, then take a stroll through the forest, together. It’s amazing. All encounters are by-appointment only, so call 907-455-4998 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to make an appointment. It’s easy and quick, and totally worth the effort. $50 for adults, $30 for kids 3-12.
Ice Alaska. How handy that Iditarod 2015 kicks off at the same time as the World Ice Art Championships of Ice Alaska are underway? Kids, how about an ice park made just for you? Slides, sculptures, skating, and all sorts of amazing things to see and do at this longtime Fairbanks favorite. Best time to go? Evening, when multicolored lights illuminate the entire place and make it even more beautiful. Hint: Get the day pass for unlimited admission all day. Adults $15, kids 6-17 $8, kids five and under a free. BEST DEAL alert! Bring snacks, warm clothing (and extras), warm drinks, and prepare for an amazing time!
Creamer’s Field. Take a winter walk with a naturalist around these historic fields and boreal forests on Tuesdays and Thursdays at noon. Or, bring your Nordic skis and take to one of the miles and miles of groomed trails. There’s 2,000 acres of family fun, right there. Free.