When to Go
June and July bring near-constant sun (there's nothing quite like walking out of a restaurant at 11 pm into broad daylight), sometimes punctuated by afternoon cloudbursts. In winter it gets so cold (−40°F or below) that boiling water flung out a window can land as ice particles.
Like most of Alaska, many of the Interior's main attractions are seasonal, open from mid-May to mid-September. A trip in May avoids the rush, but it can snow in Fairbanks in spring. Late August brings fall colors, ripe berries, active wildlife, and the start of northern lights season, with marvelous shows, if you hit the right night. Winter-sports fans should come in March, when the sun's back but there's still plenty of snow. Festivals are a big part of life in Fairbanks, with the months of February and March bringing the most revelry.
Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival. Alaska's premier cultural gathering takes place over two weeks in late July on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus. The festivities, which began as a small jazz festival, now attract visitors worldwide for American roots and other music, dance, and literary, healing, visual, and culinary arts. Guests are encouraged to participate in one- or two-week classes and miniworkshops. Fairbanks, Alaska. 907/474–8869; www.fsaf.org.
Golden Days. A street fair and parade through the city cap several days of events at this July celebration of Fairbanks's gold-rush past. Fairbanks, Alaska. 907/452–1105; www.fairbankschamber.org/golden-days.
Tanana Valley State Fair. This weeklong event in early August is Interior Alaska's largest annual gathering. If you've ever wondered just what a 50-pound cabbage looks like, this fair might be your best chance to find out. You can also peruse the handiwork of local artisans. 1800 College Rd., Aurora, Fairbanks, Alaska, 99709. www.tananavalleyfair.org. $10.
World Ice Art Championships and U.S. National Championships. An ice-sculpting extravaganza, these competitive events that unfold from late February to late March draw ice artists from around the world. Fairbanks, Alaska, 99709. 907/451–8250; www.icealaska.com. From $15.
Yukon Quest. The early February Yukon Quest calls itself the "toughest sled dog race in the world," passing through historic early-gold-rush territory. In odd-numbered years the 1,000-mile race starts in Whitehorse, in even-numbered ones in Fairbanks. Both the start and finish are festive events, with huge crowds on hand even when the temperatures plunge. Fairbanks, Alaska. 907/452–7954; www.yukonquest.com.