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Sanity check needed!

Which Fairbanks hotels are on sale?
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Vancouver, WA
posts: 53
reviews: 74
Sanity check needed!

Hi all, we (family of 4) usually head south the first chance we get in the spring, to escape the low-hanging clouds but this year might just be different.

Can any area expert please comment on the feasibility of a 3 or 4 night trip to Fairbanks at the very end of March and beginning of April. They main goal is to catch the Lights, but I don't have a lot of time, so I know it's a gamble. In addition to the "Lights Gamble", I have concerns about winter driving, as I've not done that before. My plan was to rent a car, stay in a central hotel (as opposed to a B&B outside of the city), and drive my family to nearby good Lights viewing sites (as some other contributors have so graciously listed). Anyone have any advice? I figure that, even if I strike out on the lights, I can see Ice Art, hit some museums, etc. )Is Denali out of the question for a day trip?)

But because this is basically my crazy idea, and the family may declare mutiny if the trip is a complete bust, I need some second opinions from the collective brain trust on this board. :-)

Edited: 3:17 pm, January 10, 2013
Healy, Alaska
Destination Expert
for Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska
posts: 28,918
reviews: 35
1. Re: Sanity check needed!

Well - for only 3-4 nights, that is a pretty big expense for just the hope of lights - and it is starting to get light out - by end of March/early April, we are getting more sunlight than your area. It is still winter here . . . and while Denali park isn't closed, there also aren't any services. You can use snowshoes and look around - but that is about that. Depending on the ages of your kids, if you get a hotel with a pool, they may be happy. Not sure if this is much help - just some thoughts at the moment.

Vancouver, WA
posts: 53
reviews: 74
2. Re: Sanity check needed!

Thanks, coalminer, for reminding me about the big amount of daylight. I did a check and noticed that sunset is at 845 and sunrise is at 7. The sky still gets totally dark by midnight, though, right, or is there a glow visible ?

Healy, Alaska
Destination Expert
for Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska
posts: 28,918
reviews: 35
3. Re: Sanity check needed!

Yes, still dark later. :)

Issaquah, Washington
posts: 3,722
reviews: 10
4. Re: Sanity check needed!

Do you have appropriate cold weather gear for everyone? That 's another expense to consider.

How old are the kids? There are certainly things to do in March .. the ice carving championship runs thru March 31, a sled dog championship 3/15- 3/17 and maybe you would enjoy a dog sled trip yourself?

You might want to look at Susan Stevenson's blog. She lives in North Pole, just outside Fairbanks and is into photography. She captures the aurora frequently. Look at her blog calendar in March for the past few years for some winter ideas. Pioneer Park looks fun. March 24, 2012:


Also look at JimGin Atlanta's trip report at the end of the 2011 reports. He visited over xmas and new years and had some fun experiences.

Edited: 7:37 pm, January 10, 2013
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
posts: 7,974
reviews: 29
5. Re: Sanity check needed!

Int'l Ice Art sculptures are likely to be in pretty poor shape by around the 20th of the month. I was there one year around the 13th - 17th and many of the more intricate and delicate carvings were really a mess due to melting and subsequent breaking.

I would plan for earlier in March, rather than later.

Dallas, Texas
posts: 5
6. Re: Sanity check needed!

Why not stay at a B&B outside of the city and view the lights from just outside your door. We did that one year in early April and it was great.

Honolulu, Hawaii
posts: 5
reviews: 3
7. Re: Sanity check needed!

We also had similar goals - to see the northern lights with our 12 & 14 year old grand kids. So do something in the daytime too! Anyone into skiing or snowboarding? there's Skiland about a half our drive north of Fairbanks. There's Fort Wainwright, right next to Fairbanks -- in fact, you take Airport drive from the airport, and going east, it goes right through the city (a mere 3 or so miles) and right into Fort Wainwright, where they have a nice ski area that they open up for civilians -- mostly easy green runs, but also jumps for those so inclined. Both are generally open only on the weekends, but sounds like you'll be going during spring break, so they often are open weekdays as well -- call or email them & ask!

And definitely do the Ice Sculpture exhibit in Fairbanks -- get a day pass, and you can see them in the daytime, then do something else (like snowboard), then come back at night about 8:30 or 9 pm, when they turn on colored lighting to make the ice art "come alive". they close at 10 pm, but they'll let you stay there all night if you're so inclined! One idea -- after you view the ice art, drive up (north) university avenue about 10 miles, where it's nice and dark, and see if you can see the aurora. The photo on my profile is from this area -- our last night in Fairbanks (which was 2 nights ago).

An easy way to know if you should go outside in the middle of the night -- google "Salmon cam", & you'll find photo's of the night sky which are in real time -- taken every several minutes the whole night from a place near Fairbanks -- be sure to refresh your screen whenever you visit the website.

Perhaps drive to Denali for snowshoeing because there's beautiful, closer views of the mountains than you can get from Fairbanks -- They give you snowshoes for no charge (except the $10 entry fee per adult to Denali National Park) - for snowshoes, go to the Science Center about a mile inside the park entrance, where there's also a nice warm fireplace & a short introductory movie. Stay at a nearby B&B, for instance, Denali Dome in Healy.

What about dog sledding? For dog mushing, you'll have a GREAT experience at Muzzys Place, which is a half hour drive northeast of Fairbanks just off the Chena Hot Springs Road. Owner didn't even ask me for a credit card till after we did the trip. My wife (we visited from Hawaii last week) didn't want to go because it was 5 degrees F, but they bundled her into a "cocoon" and she was toasty warm (we did the 1 hour ride). They give you everything you need -- clothing, boots, neck warmers, ski caps (really, a mask over your face w/ slits for your eyes is best & is what they provided), and then afterwards, you go into owner's place for hot beverages & to meet their 2 cats & 1 indoor dog -- you can tell the staff love what they do, and love the dogs! Trail goes through beautiful forests & some large ponds - quite scenic. They have folks who train for the Iditarod on their trails. Their website: http://www.muzzysplace.net/

And perhaps visit Chena to dive into hot springs & perhaps watch the Northern lights from the hot springs, though I'm not sure I'd overnight there -- overpriced for what you get.

Destination Expert
for Alaska
posts: 13,493
reviews: 24
8. Re: Sanity check needed!

I too would stay outside the city. I cant imagine driving outside of town at maybe 2am.

Also note that the Spring Road Opening is in full gear by late March so snowshoeing is limited to off-road trails.

9. Re: Sanity check needed!

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