Five More Don't-Miss Alaskan Adventures
Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center: It used to be a roadside zoo; now it's a not-for-profit conservation center that's helping to save threatened and endangered species such as the rare wood bison, as well as orphaned, injured, and displaced animals such as grizzlies, moose, and caribou. Animals can be viewed in their large outdoor pens. (www.alaskawildlife.org)
Museum of the North: The University of Alaska's newly designed and expanded Museum of the North is a must-see attraction for visitors to Fairbanks. Focusing on all things Alaska, from ancient native crafts to thoroughly modern art, and from natural history displays to geology, the museum is organized by region and topic. A highlight is the "Room Where You Go to Listen," which plays music by Mother Earthsound waves controlled by computers responding to the earth's weather, geophysical movements, and auroral activity. (www.uaf.edu/museum)
Chena Hot Springs Resort: Picture this: you're drinking cold vodka in a glass made of ice, sitting on a stool made of ice, leaning against a bar made of ice, in a building made of ice. Then later, maybe you take a nap in a bed made of ice in a room with walls made of ice. Chena's Aurora Ice Museum offers this unforgettable, if somewhat chilly, experience. And if all that sounds too, well, frigid, there's always the natural springs hot tub. Also available: dog mushing, sleigh rides, snowmobile rides, flightseeing, and massage therapy. (www.chenahotsprings.com)
Flightseeing: There are numerous opportunities to flightsee in Alaska, usually in small bush planes that seat six to eight people. Many of these operate out of popular tourist areas, where arrangements can be made on the spot. Flights range from short 30-minute hops to multi-hour excursions over glaciers, mountains, and the Yukon River. One of the most dramatic trips on offer starts at the microscopic air-strip town of Bettles, just 30 miles north of the Arctic Circle: You can't do better than a flightseeing tour of the magnificently serrated stark vertical walls of the Brooke's Range. One hour of flying costs $175. (www.bettleslodge.com)
The Northern Lights: The farther north you go and the colder the night, the more likely you are to see the Northern Lights. Many northern hotels offer aurora wake-up calls (sign up at the front desk if you're interested). But optimal viewing takes place away from city lights. The Aurora Viewing Cabin at Bettles Lodge (www.bettleslodge.com) is one of the prime spots because it is located directly below the so-called "auroral zone," where auroral activity happens most often and with the greatest intensity. You can watch from outside the lodge, or reserve a small, heated cabin with bunks that looks out over a mile-long lake with no lights to mar the view. Closer to civilization (21 miles from Fairbanks), try the Aurora Borealis Lodge (www.auroracabin.com), a handmade log house with a viewing room located above the fog and away from city lights. You can drive out there yourself or transport is available from Fairbanks (pickup at 10 P.M.; return at 2:30 A.M.).
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication