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Fairbanks in February 2012

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Jerusalem
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Fairbanks in February 2012

We will be in Fairbanks for 3 nights towards the end of February, and hope to see the Aurora Borealis. As we live in a hot climate, and have no experience driving in cold and icy climates we have decided not to rent a car to get around and see all the sites in and around Fairbanks.

I'd appreciate hearing from locals and past winter tourists about the possibilities open to us: taxi, taxi+guide, shuttles, night or day coach tours. How difficult will it be to get around without our own wheels?

Does location matter? If so, in what area would you suggest that we stay? Will the hotel be able to help us? Should we reconsider, and rent a car?

Many thanks for your replies.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
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1. Re: Fairbanks in February 2012

Janjay - glad you started your own thread/discussion regarding your upcoming trip!

My opinion is that if you're open to renting a car you give it some serious consideration. I have found that getting out of the city limits is important in viewing the aurora. If you stay outside of the city (say Chena Hot Springs) you will be pretty much stuck there unless you do take taxis, which can be expensive even in and around town. Taxis would not be a very viable options in my opinion, if you're staying in town and want to get outside of the city limits if there is an aurora any given night.

All of that said, it is very possible for you to be in Fairbanks for 3 days/nights and not have the opportunity to see the lights due to lack of solar activity or cloud cover. To plan your entire time there based on the hopes of seeing the aurora could turn into a very boring time in Fbanks so having other activities of interest to see/do will be important.

Jerusalem
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2. Re: Fairbanks in February 2012

Thanks again for your prompt reply. We're certainly open to renting a car, but are a bit afraid of driving in difficult winter conditions. Generally what are the driving conditions? Are city roads and intercity roads usually clear? Is there much ice - in town and on the way out to see the lights?

I know that we may not be able to see the aurora, but am hoping for the best. Of course we plan to sightsee in the area, go to the museum, do dog mushing, etc (suggestions are welcome). One of the reasons I'm writing to the forum is to figure out in which area of town to stay to give us maximum mobility and access to transportation if we don't have our own car (and if we do...). I was assuming that hotels sponsor tours which we could book that go to places of interest in and around town. Is this not the case?

Once again, will appreciate knowledgeable input.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
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3. Re: Fairbanks in February 2012

I don't think most hotels in and around Fairbanks sponsor or provide shuttles to get around. There are some tour operators that will do hotel pick ups which will make it more convenient if for activities you wish to do. Alaskan Arctic Turtle has shuttle service/pick up as an example, but I don't think Northern Alaska Adventure does.

Here are links to their websites:

http://www.wildalaska.info/ .

http://northernalaska.com/ .

As previously mentioned in response to your question elsewhere, Chena Hot Springs does offer shuttle/pickup service from Fairbanks, but I think it is a bit pricey. It is also very remote out there so once there, you'd be captive there to activities they offer (including dog mushing).

For dog mushing, however, I always recommend Northern Sky Lodge as I've been there twice, taking friends with the last time, and it is one of the best experience/tours for the money. They are located about 30 miles south of Fbanks on the Parks Hwy and would require you're having your own transportation to get there.

I'll defer to a local to make a hotel recommendation relative to staying in Fairbanks proper, that would put you on or near the public transportation (bus) route.

As for driving, I can appreciate your concern attempting to navigate on snow/ice for the first time. I have found in all of my winter trips to Alaska (two to Fairbanks and two to Anchorage) the roads are in relatively good condition and not trecherous to drive on. For a first time, however, it could be overwhelming.

Atlanta, Georgia
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4. Re: Fairbanks in February 2012

I have not been to Fairbanks, but have been planning a similar trip to yours for the last several months, to be taken at the end of December. We are renting a car, and it's hard to imagine how you would get around without one. However I can certainly understand not wanting to drive in the conditions if you aren't comfortable doing that.

Fairbanks does have bus service that includes tranport to nearby North Pole, but the bus only runs from about 6:00 AM to 9:00 PM weekdays (and even shorter hours on weekends). Their website with schedules and fees can be found here:

co.fairbanks.ak.us/transportation/default.htm

For aurora coach tours, I have found two. Aurora Borealis Lodge runs one to their location about 20 miles north of Fairbanks:

www.auroracabin.com/TourEnglishOne.html

As TimeshareVon mentioned, Chena Hot Springs Resort offers a package that also includes dinner, a tour of the Ice Museum, and a visit to the hot springs:

chenahotsprings.com/evening-journey-to-chena/

Both of these locations appear to be far enough out of town that light pollution should not be much of an issue. Note that we are staying at each of these places during our trip, so I will be able to report on them when (if?) we return in early January.

Good luck with your plans - we are excited about our trip and I hope yours goes well too.

-JimG

Edited: 2:57 pm, October 25, 2011
Wheatland, Wyoming
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5. Re: Fairbanks in February 2012

Wait til you are on the ground before deciding on the vehicle rental. Fly in, take a shuttle to your lodging and see the roads with someone else at the wheel. It might not be as intimidating as you fear now and it would make your options open up expotentially!

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
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6. Re: Fairbanks in February 2012

If you wish to consider Steve's advice, I would start pricing rentals NOW and book something that does not require you to prepay. You can always cancel last minute if you change your mind about driving.

Jerusalem
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7. Re: Fairbanks in February 2012

Thanks to all who have so far answered my query. I hope to hear from JimGinAtlanta after their trip in December.

Atlanta, Georgia
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8. Re: Fairbanks in February 2012

I'll throw in a "me too" recommendation on reserving a rental car early. We reserved ours (AWD SUV in both Anchorage and Fairbanks) way back in May, and got some really good rates. Current rates for those locations and dates are about double what we were quoted.

And to be clear, we are not doing the coach tours since we will actually be spending the night at the two locations (ABL and Chena). I know that the owner of ABL told me that he puts the "night trippers" in a separate building on the property, so the "over nighters" can have a little peace and quiet if they want it.

I believe ABL and Chena both have cold weather gear to rent. We did not check into this specifically since we have most of our own already, and could easily obtain anything else we needed. You will still need some stuff that is yours since you will be outside some for your other sight-seeing (if only to use while making a mad dash from one building to another :-).

I will definitely post a trip report when we get back, but I would not wait until then to start making your arrangements. Just be sure that any reservations you make are fully cancelable with no penalty.

-JimG

Sitka, Alaska
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9. Re: Fairbanks in February 2012

Glad I found this forum. My spouse and I will be in Fairbanks March 3-6th of 2012. We are staying at Holiday Inn Express (hope it's decent) and renting a car...want to see the ice sculptures. We are originally from Atlanta, Georgia but have been living in Sitka, Alaska for the past three years! Can't wait to see Fairbanks.

Atlanta, Georgia
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10. Re: Fairbanks in February 2012

Welcome to the forum, Sherri K - there are quite a few current and former Atlantans who contribute regularly here (which is kind of a surprise to me, since we generally eschew anything to do with cold and snow).

We were in Fairbanks a couple of weeks ago, and drove by the HIE (on Johansen) several times during our stay. It looked like a decent hotel, but it's in a kind of commercial/shopping district with many chain stores around (and not too dissimilar from similar areas in any other moderately sized city). If that's your thing, then that's fine, but I'd probably look for a place with a little more "personality".

You might consider starting your own topic on the forum if you have specific questions about your upcoming trip. That will allow the forum regulars and DEs to give you the best possible advice on accommodations and activities. I am (slowly!) writing my report from our trip, and am just getting to the part about what we did in Fairbanks. That might give you some ideas about other things to do. Our trip was awesome, and I am sure you will have fun on yours too!

-JimG