After a leisurely morning and lunch at our resort we headed to Fairbanks, Alaska, nicknamed the Golden Heart City. Fairbanks is a city with a population of about 32,000 inhabitants and is an area inhabited by the Athabascan peoples for possibly ten-thousand years or more. The town was born of the gold rush era when Italian immigrant Felix Pedro found gold in the area in 1902. Today the city has modern shops and malls, as well as a 44-acre Pioneer Park including a Gold Rush Town with 35 restored buildings.
The extremely cold winters in this interior city have led to the city playing host to international ice sculptors who descend on the city for the World Ice Art Championships. Fairbanks is also considered a great place to see the aurora borealis which appears here on average 243 nights a year.
The coach ride from Denali National Park to Fairbanks, Alaska took about 3.5 hours in total. We had a very nice driver who gave information on the sights that we were seeing along the way, but the views were limited by the dense forests.
We stopped along the way in the town of Nenana at the Alfred Starr Cultural Center located next to the river. The cultural center had many local artists displaying and selling their paintings, woodwork handicraft items, jewelry and clothing. They also sold cinnamon rolls, hot dogs, candy and snacks to raise money for the local community of fewer than 500 residents.
Once we arrived in Fairbanks there was a cocktail party at our hotel, the Westmark, as it was billed. This meant that you had a choice of a red, white or rose glass of wine, or a beer or soft drink. No snacks, no napkins, no nothing. Not impressed. On a positive note, we did sit with a very nice couple from North Carolina and her sister from Virginia and had a lovely conversation.
The hotel itself was similar to our hotel in Anchorage. It was dated, in need of maintenance and not very stylish.
After the cocktail party we took a walk about seven very short blocks to a Thai restaurant for dinner. The food was good and so plentiful that we could not even finish it all. After dinner we took a short walk along the riverfront in the heart of the town. The town is a mixture of old and new, well maintained to boarded up and everything in between. There is a spacious public plaza along the waterfront with a fountain and clock tower. A modern pedestrian bridge takes you to the other side of the river and provides nice views over the river.