Winter in Fairbanks Alaska

Peakcock ice sculpture lit in pink

My nerves finally quieted as I stepped onto the Alaska Air airplane. I was on my first trip to Alaska to photograph the Northern Lights and explore winter in Fairbanks, Alaska. There is no easy way to get to Fairbanks from Detroit; the flights are long, and you must make several connections. AlaskaAir was nice to fly, and I got Delta miles on the trip. Ensure you sit in F seats on the way up and A seats on the way home. You might be able to see the lights from the plane.

Peakcock ice sculpture lit in pink

I met a wonderful lady on the flight from Seattle. Myra is a professional pool player who lives in Fairbanks. She gave me great info about Fairbanks & Alaska. She made me want to come up here in the summer, and I wasn’t even there yet.

First Impressions of Fairbanks

Ensure you have a rental car set up ahead of time. I got there late in the evening, and no cars were available. Good thing Hampton Inn, where I was staying, had a shuttle.

The shuttle driver was so friendly and made sure that I saw the Northern Lights there to greet me to Alaska. He pointed out the Northern Lights to me as we drove to the hotel. A misty, blurry green haze above the trees. It almost looked like a glow from a nuclear power plant from a sci-fi movie. The driver mentioned that some people come up to see the lights and don’t see them. One couple visited, and the Northern Lights were on their bucket list. As he drove them back to the airport, he pointed to them in the sky and fulfilled their dream so they wouldn’t go home without seeing them.

Winter in Fairbanks Alaska

While working with Fairbanks public transportation for my first full day, I started it by walking across the street to Walmart to pick up the bus. Shit! It is cold out here! -10 degrees! There are no sidewalks, so I slipped & slid all the way over across the busy street. I’m sure there are sidewalks, but you can’t see them over the mounds of snow plowed on the side of the streets. I didn’t know where to pick up the bus, so I went to the store and got directions. Found the bus stop but, I had to wait 40 minutes for the bus. There seem to be fewer buses and more time between runs. This is what I get for saving money. I wandered around Walmart until the bus was going to arrive.

Meeting the Locals

When I headed over to the stop, a guy was already there. He was very agitated because he couldn’t find his bus pass. This man I was standing next to was taking everything out of his pockets and throwing it in the snow. He was all chatty telling me his name was Patrick O’Shanahan, the first black Irish man I would meet. Patrick talked to me constantly while he looked for his ticket. He told me about all the jobs he had over the years. He mentioned how he had worked in the union and looked old but was only 53. He told me about his lazy ex-girlfriend and how he ditched his car, claimed it was stolen, and now rode the bus. Right before the bus turned the corner, he found his bus ticket. You never know what kind of characters you will meet on vacation.

My boss called as I was transferring to another bus at the transit center. Why can I never go on vacation without having everything at work go up in flames without me being there? I talked with him for over a half hour to straighten it all out while standing outside, freezing my face off. I need vacations to escape work; sometimes, that doesn’t go well.

I wish UBER were up in Fairbanks; it would have been more convenient than all the buses & taxis that I took my one day in the city. I didn’t like the wait for the taxi service, which I used at least five times. A cab took a minimum of 20 minutes or more to pick me up. I also didn’t like knowing how much it would cost until the ride ended. The weird thing I noticed was that every taxi had damage to their windshields (cracks going across the bottom of the glass). I asked my last driver if they shared the same cars because I saw the same damage. He said it was from all the pebbles being kicked up at the intersections. They don’t use salt up there on the roads; they use dirt.

The Northernmost Southern BBQ

Pulled Pork BBQ Sandwich at Big Daddy's in Fairbanks, Alaska

I wanted to experience some authentic Fairbanks restaurants and visited Big Daddy’s, showcased on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. The food and the atmosphere were fantastic. This place was hopping. I sat in the bar area and watched for over an hour and a half a line out the door that never slowed down. It seems that everyone in Fairbanks comes to eat at Big Daddy’s.

Ice Alaska

Peakcock ice sculpture lit in pink
Teh lizard and the butterfly ice sculpture
Alice and the Mad Hatter Tea Party Ice Sculpture
The Last Leaf Ice Sculpture

The ice sculptures at the 2017 World ICE ART Championships were outstanding to see but, it was frigid. I quickly went around the park to see as many ice sculptures lit up at night as possible before I froze. The ice art was incredible. Compared to the snow sculptures we made at Michigan Tech, these ice sculptures blew us away. There is so much detail in these designs. I made it through most of them before I had to call a taxi to return to the hotel for the night.

I need to explore Fairbanks deeper, but this is a good start. There is a lot more to see and do in Fairbanks, and it is a great starting point for exploring other areas of Alaska, like the Arctic Circle, Anchorage, and Denali. You can see more of my adventures in other blog posts on Alaska. Have you spent time during the winter in Fairbanks, Alaska? What activities did you do in Fairbanks? Have you been to Alaska? What is your favorite thing to do there?

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Further Reading

If you are exploring Alaska, check out these posts for extra travel inspiration:


  • Alaska Airlines 2November2019 at 6:17 AM Reply

    Very nice article posted by you, it’s describe very well alaska here i come.

    • Heather 2November2019 at 7:18 AM Reply

      Thank you! I’m glad you liked it.

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