Fairbanks is the largest city in Alaska’s Interior and one of the three largest cities in the state. Located about 110 miles south of the Arctic Circle near the geographic center of the state, it is the terminus of the Alaska Railroad and the Richardson and Steese highways. The city also sits midway on the pipeline route between the port of Valdez to the south and Prudhoe Bay to the north. Oil refining is an important part of the Fairbanks economy.
Also known as the “Golden Heart City,” Fairbanks has progressed from an isolated, turn-of-the-century prospecting town into a commercial and recreational hub. With a population of more than 32,000, Fairbanks citizenry swells to more than 99,000 when including the surrounding Fairbanks North Star Borough. You’ll find most of the public services and community facilities you would expect to see in a similarly sized town in the Lower 48, including theaters, restaurants and nightspots.
And although there are no large shopping malls, there is an adequate selection of large department stores and national retail stores. Fairbanks also provides an array of seasonal and year-round activities. Summer visitors can hike, camp, pan for gold or browse through a re-created gold rush town and the amusement areas of Pioneer Park, or enjoy a leisurely cruise on the Tanana River on a stern-wheeler. There is fishing and hunting in nearby areas, the annual Tanana Valley State Fair, and Golden Days, a celebration of the discovery of gold in Fairbanks. The city hosts the minor league Goldpanners baseball team, and numerous outdoor events and activities that include the world-famous Midnight Sun Baseball Game.
Fairbanks is home to the farthest-north university, the University of Alaska Fairbanks (www.uaf.edu). Research, academic studies, a museum and natural exhibits attract both students and sightseers. UAF also supports NCAA sports programs such as basketball, hockey and volleyball. The university, the oldest college in the state, was incorporated in 1917 as the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines. Since then UAF has grown from six students and faculty members to more than 11,000 students and 165 degree programs.