Fairbanks is one of the northernmost cities in America and one with the largest population in Interior Alaska. It is known for its cold temperatures, quirky culture and exceptional views of the northern lights.

Historically considered a summer tourism destination, the Golden Heart City is also a must-see for any Alaska winter vacation. Fairbanks is packed with outdoor excursions and surrounded by vast mountain and river views. It is guaranteed to impress even the most experienced travelers.

With so many activities to choose from and so little time, we crafted an Alaska bucket list with our favorite things. We were there for only one weekend. Therefore, we didn’t waste a minute of daylight and took advantage of the beautifully clear nights.

Here are our three favorite things we did in Fairbanks:

Dog Sledding in Fairbanks:

Options vary. In other words, you can choose from half hour dog sledding experiences with Alaska Aurora Adventures. Or choose from full day tours and even overnight adventures from Paws for Adventure and other local tour operators. Some tours focus on the history of the sport and how Alaskans relied on mushing for transportation. Others showcase the surrounding scenery or prepare authentic Alaska meals, like fire-smoked salmon, along the way. The longer dog sled tours often include visits to the kennels. They also offer more time to meet with the mushers, and the opportunity to learn how to drive the sleds. We opted for the Chena Dog Sled Rides. The sled holds up to four people, which is perfect for families, couples and other groups traveling together.

The short and sweet two-mile trail takes only about 15 minutes to complete and is ideal for travelers with limited time. Riding through the boreal forest along a white, snow-covered trail, the dog sledding experience was breathtaking. The trail has a few curves and hills, which gives the ride an exciting twist. Our knowledgeable guide stopped along the way so we could soak in the majestic winter wonderland views, take some pictures, and briefly escape the icy chill of the wind on our faces. At the end of the tour, guests enjoy some time with the canine athletes or warm up in the visitor’s center. It was such a great experience that we plan to go on an even longer dog sledding tour on our next trip to Fairbanks.

Chena Hot Springs:

Located onsite at Chena Hot Springs Resort, the natural hot springs were a must-do activity on our bucket list. Despite the sub-zero temperatures outside, we didn’t let the icy weather give us cold feet. A heated hallway lines the path to the outdoor rock lake that’s known for its naturally mineral-infused, healing waters. At times, the steamy water and flowing waterfall created a dense fog making it hard to see. It was worth the wait to see the steam make way to snowy mountains and hoarfrost-covered trees. A surprising occurrence was that our hair literally froze while in the hot springs. However, the warm waters prevented us from feeling cold.

Lavelle’s Bistro:

Located in the heart of downtown, Lavelle’s Bistro wasn’t just one of the best restaurants in Alaska – it was one of the best we’ve ever experienced. Since opening its doors nearly 15 years ago, Lavelle’s has become a popular choice for birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions for locals, and a destination in itself for visitors. Known as one of the best restaurants in Fairbanks, its eclectic menu features everything from fresh Alaska seafood appetizers to hearty main courses that change seasonally and inspired desserts. A wine lover’s paradise, Lavelle’s boasts an extensive wine selection that pairs with the authentic Alaska eats.

Of course, no trip to Alaska would be complete without sampling the state’s iconic seafood. Our personal favorites were the baked brie cheese, beer battered halibut cheeks, and king crab & artichoke dip. We wrapped up our evening with not one but two types of creme brulee− classic vanilla and seasonal peach.

Even though we didn’t have time to complete everything on our wish list, we enjoyed the most amazing experiences. We ended our trip with a night of aurora chasing in Creamer’s Field. And even though we didn’t see the northern lights this time, we now have a great reason to go back.

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