Weekend at Base Camp: Fairbanks Princess Riverside Lodge

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Fairbanks has been a coveted destination since its very beginning — first by miners struck with gold fever at the turn of the century and then by travelers and residents alike as the beloved Golden Heart City. Located at the edge of the Chena River, the Fairbanks Princess Riverside Lodge is just minutes from all this history that is still very much alive — active gold mines, dog sledding, the Arctic Circle and a sternwheeler that carries travelers along the Chena River exactly as it once carried the early settlers. And of course, one attribute that has remained constant since the very beginning: the midnight sun casting a glow over the landscape and creating an endless lure for exploration.


2 p.m.                        Northern delight


There are few places I make a point to stop in every time I visit a particular location. The Museum of the North is one of them. If offers a dramatic dose of Alaska’s history, with 1.4 million artifacts and specimens including art, the state’s largest display of gold, an ever-changing sound and light installation and the most distinctive attraction: Blue Babe, a 36,000-year-old mummified steppe bison. If you haven’t visited in awhile, you will notice the dramatic architecture of the building immediately, evoking images of alpine ridges, glaciers and a diving whale tail. You can arrange your visit to the museum through the tour desk at the lodge.

5 p.m.                        Christmas all year round

It’s not exactly beginning to look a lot like Christmas with almost 24 hours of daylight in Fairbanks, unless you make a visit to North Pole where it feels a bit like the holiday season all year round. Book an evening in Santa’s hometown and check out the Interior’s largest gift shop, the Santa Claus House. You can snap pictures with members of the reindeer team and share the holiday spirit by sending home a few letters from Santa. The 3.5-hour adventure includes a city tour of North Pole highlighting the history of the themed city and dinner at North Pole’s most popular restaurant, the Pagoda.


7 a.m.                         Up with the sun

Start your day with an early breakfast so that you may enjoy as much of the extended daylight hours as you can fit in. Overlooking the river, The Edgewater restaurant has a lot of enticing choices with menu items like Raspberry Stuffed French Toast, Alaskan Smoked Salmon Benedict and the Chena Medley with reindeer sausage, bacon, mushrooms and cheese.

10 a.m.                        Follow the travelers

Even if you consider yourself a seasoned pro at experiencing the highlights and off-the-beaten-path of your home state, every once in awhile you simply must go by way of the tourist. After all, thousands of travelers a year can’t be wrong. The Riverboat Discovery Cruise is often thought of as a treat for out-of-towners, but if you haven’t experienced the authentic sternwheeler for yourself, there’s more than one reason not to wait for the in-laws to come to town. The fully narrated cruise along the Chena and Tanana rivers highlight all the reasons you love the 49th state — from a bush pilot demo to a working fish wheel. You’ll cruise by a mushing show by Susan Butcher’s famous Iditarod sled dog team and even travel to shore to an authentic Athabascan village to experience Native lifestyles and art.

6 p.m.                        Salmon Bake

Take a break from the restaurant scene with one of Fairbanks’ most treasured culinary experiences: the Alaska Salmon Bake. You can enjoy the extended daylight outside at historic Pioneer Park while filling up on all-you-can-eat halibut, prime rib, fire-cooked king salmon and Bering Sea cod and a selection of sides. Like everything in Alaska, this meal is big. Afterwards, walk it off with a stroll over to the Palace Theatre for some entertaining renditions of Fairbanks’ history.



11 a.m.            If you teach a man to cook a fish

If you’re like me, you have the bounty of the Great Land coming out your ears — halibut from a friend, a freezer of blueberries from a hike last fall and some bison steaks received as payment for dog sitting. With unlimited access to mouthwatering cuisine, it’s a shame not to learn how to cook it. While you’re up in Fairbanks, spend an evening at Chez World Cooking School for some hands-on instruction on preparing all that fabulous food that’s right at your fingertips. If taking home some great recipes wasn’t reason enough, they don’t call it the Taste of Fairbanks tour for nothing, so be sure and arrive with an appetite.

2 p.m.                        To the land of extremes

From latitude to Fahrenheit, Fairbanks is known for its extremes. You can experience a few of them all in one place with a trip to Chena Hot Springs and Ice Museum. The expedition begins with a 60-mile drive out to the resort, once there you will begin to learn about the history of the 103-year-old property. After a dinner buffet of prime rib, halibut or salmon, you’ll tour the ice museum for your first extreme: a 20-degree year-round ice environment made from over 1,000 tons of ice and snow. Then move to the opposite end of the spectrum by taking a dip in the natural hot springs outdoor rock lake. If renewable energy piques your interest be sure and work in a geothermal energy tour to learn more about the energy savings projects at the power plant, Chena greenhouses and ice museum absorption chiller.

The basics

Set on the banks of the Chena River, the 325-room Fairbanks Princess Riverside Lodge is located just minutes from the Fairbanks International Airport and convenient to downtown and popular attractions of the area. The lodge combines a riverside setting with modern amenities such as conference and banquet rooms, wireless Internet, fitness center and more.

“Weekend at Base Camp” is a blog series that shares how you can plan a weekend escape full of adventures to enjoy our Alaska-sized backyard.