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“A Bit Cheesy”

Riverboat Discovery
Ranked #12 of 71 Tours in Fairbanks
Certificate of Excellence
More attraction details
Attraction details
Owner description: More than just a boat ride! Board the Sternwheeler Riverboat Discovery for one of the most unique Alaskan experiences available! This three-hour cruise will take you into the heart of Alaska and introduce you to a family who has made the rivers of Alaska a way of life for five generations. You will see a bush floatplane takeoff alongside the boat, visit the home and kennels of the late four-time Iditarod winner Susan Butcher and see her champion sled dogs in action. Be immersed into the ancient Athabascan Indian culture when our Alaskan Native Guides take you on a personalized tour of the Chena Indian Village.
Useful Information: Wheelchair access, Bathroom facilities, Stairs / elevator, Food available for purchase
Reviewed July 23, 2013

The Paddleboat ride down the Chena River was nice, but they tried to make it into a larger attraction than it is by having stops in an Athabascan fishing camp reenactment, going by a herd of reindeer, having a float plane take off, having a musher demonstrate dog training. It was all just a bit cheesy: (host on ship), "Say, Dave, maybe you can stop by at the fishing camp and sign some books later on?" (Dave, the musher) "Sure, Bob, I'd love to do that!" And then of course later at the fishing village reenactment, Dave is set up in a little cabin signing books like mad...cha-ching! The reindeer were pushed into a small pen just as the paddle boat went by and then were quickly ushered out so they could be part of the Athabascan fishing village as the boat arrived. The fishing village was better because you learned about the Athabascan life, but again, the presenters were too scripted and you got the sense they have said the same thing a thousand times....it's hard to keep it fresh!
The host was an ex-radio guy and I think liked to hear himself talk just a bit too much. I think the trip should have been shorter and lass expensive.

2  Thank Brian W
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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1,656 - 1,660 of 1,931 reviews

Reviewed July 22, 2013

Great ride down the river. If its nice, places to sit outside. Of wet or cold places to sit inside. Food available & restrooms on board. Nice commentary on the ride pointing out specific things. Esp the Kennel that belonged to the lady that was the Iditerod Champ 4 yrs - cant remember her name

Thank Barbara O
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 22, 2013

This 3 hour trip was part of our HAL cruisetour, combined with Gold Dredge 8, and we thoroughly enjoyed it, even though it was squarely aimed at tourists, BUT it was much more than just a riverboat ride.

We started our tour at the Discovery Trading Post with a tasty bunkhouse style meal (soup, stew, sourdough rolls, raspberry brownie, iced tea - part of the deal). While eating lunch we listened to Lance Mackey (twice winner of the Alaska Iditarod and Yukon Quest - photo ops with his dog for a fee/autographed book later!). We wandered round the “largest souvenier shop in Alaska” and lasted about 30 seconds in the room that’s 40 below zero (so you can get the sense of what winter is like!)

Then we boarded the stern wheel river boat Discovery III. There’s plenty of seating both inside and out, (useful if it rains - which it didn’t: it was a lovely afternoon and we spent much of it leaning on the rails of the top deck where you could move from side to side.) Our guide on the boat was professional and entertaining and the whole experience was family run and very well organised. The commentary was excellent informative but lighthearted, and we learned a lot about Fairbanks and the people who live and work there. Tea, coffee and blueberry donuts were available all afternoon.

The fun began with a seaplane demonstration - take-off and landing, Next we stopped at Susan Butcher dog-sled camp (look her up – very interesting!). We didn't get off the boat but had a bird's eye view whist the owners talked about training the dogs and gave a demonstration of how they train the pups (cute) and then we saw the sled dogs in action (exciting). We saw the confluence of the Chena and Tanana Rivers: one clear and dark, the other glacial and grey swirling together. We also stopped at the reproduction of an Athabascan village, where we got off the boat to spend time there learning about their culture: There were four separate demonstrations on Chena Indian life in Alaska including their hunting, housing, clothing and use of sled dogs by very knowledgeable, charming, and entertaining young Athabascans who donned beautiful native fur parkas despite 30’C! Back on board, we were treated to smoked Alaskan salmon and crackers!

Tip 1: Much of the action happens off the port (left) side; however, the boat also had flat screens on board so you wouldn't miss out.

Tip 2: For $55 dollars, this is good value. However, if you are not with HAL and already have a TourSaver booklet (http://www.toursaver.com/alaska-deals/) use the voucher and you can have it for half price!

Thank Margaret151151
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 22, 2013

This was a very educational and interesting paddle boat cruise in spite of the large crowd on the boat. The narrator was very informative and friendly and there were good views through the large windows. We were allowed to go outside to take pictures which was nice. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the sled dogs at Susan Butcher and David Monson's training camp and hearing the commentary about them but wish we had been able to get off the boat to get closer. It was still well done though and I have a new appreciation for those who run in the Iditarod. The Athabascan village was very interesting and the young natives who did the commentary were excellent. The crowd from the boat was divided into three groups which helped with being able to see and ask questions. I was glad I took this tour and although it was very touristy, it was still very good.

Thank ScreaminDemon
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed July 21, 2013

I first took a cruise on the Riverboat Discovery back in the 1960's; it was a smaller riverboat back then. Everything about this attraction has grown and improved over the years. From the wonderful gift shop and food service areas at the landing to the vessel itself, and the fabulous insight into life in the "Golden Heart City" and Interior Alaska ... the Riverboat Discovery is the best three hours you can spend in Fairbanks. Don't miss it! Hats off to the Binkley family for maintaining the excellence of this great visitor attraction for over 60 years.

1  Thank Ral W
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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