Jennie’s Road Trip: Fairbanks + Denali (save $700)

 

Guest post by Jennie Flaming of Ordinary Adventures

This is a great year to travel to Alaska as an independent traveler!

Photo (above): The historic riverboat “Nenana” on display at Fairbanks’s Pioneer Park.

Alaska is ready made for social distancing with wide open landscapes and lots of outdoor adventure for everyone. Are you a traveler who loves unforgettable landscapes? Hikes? Wildlife? Mountains? Alaska has all of this to offer and more!

The Alaska TourSaver can help you make it happen by taking the guess work out of figuring out what to do each day and saving you money at every stop!

Two important things you need to know before you dive into planning your Alaska trip in 2021:

  1. To use the amazing deals from the TourSaver coupons are you MUST mention them at the time of booking. Do not just go to their website and book and then show up with the coupon! In addition you will also need to have the coupon on your app when you arrive.
  2. Know and stay up to date on Alaska’s current COVID-19 travel requirements. Proof of a negative COVID test within 72 hours of departure is required for all arriving travelers and masks are required in all public indoor spaces and outdoor spaces where social distancing is challenging. Towns and boroughs may have additional restrictions, make sure to stay up to date on these for any areas you intend to travel to while in Alaska.

Day 1 – Travel to Fairbanks

Use the TourSaver Coupon to save 25% on your flight to Fairbanks on Alaska Airlines for up to four people. Use your TourSaver coupon for $100 off your two night stay at Pike’s Waterfront Lodge. Pike’s is close to the airport and offers a free shuttle. It’s located right along the river and their deck is a great place to relax and have a drink or some food after your journey!

If you arrive early enough in the day and want to explore a bit, head downtown for a walk along the river trail and a visit to the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitor Center, an excellent introduction to the cultural history of Interior Alaska as well as a ton of information about public lands, maps, local advice, and more. The Cultural Center is free, but if you want to take in the cultural connections show, or make your own Athabascan jewelry, you can do that with your TourSaver coupon two for one!

Learn more about Fairbanks prior to your visit. Check out the “Explore Fairbanks” website for lots of tips and information.

Day 2 – Exploring Fairbanks

Get breakfast at one of the Drive Thru Sunrise Bagel and Espresso stands (there are several in town). Their coffee is amazing and they have the best breakfast sandwiches you’ve ever had! 

Spend the morning at Gold Dredge 8 (two for one with your TourSaver coupon) and learn all about the gold mining history of Fairbanks and try your hand at gold panning. It’s really fun and you get to take your gold dust home!

In the afternoon, relax aboard the Riverboat Discovery (two for one with your TourSaver coupon) as you cruise the Chena and Tanana Rivers and learn about the history of sternwheelers on the rivers of Interior Alaska. In addition to the cruise, you’ll also get to learn about the Athabascan people both past and present, who have made their home in this area for ten thousand years. You’ll also get to visit the sled dog kennels of Iditarod champion Susan Butcher and see a sled dog demonstration. This trip will give you an unforgettable taste of life in Alaska’s interior.

Here’s a fun Fairbanks video featuring the Riverboat Discovery and Gold Dredge 8: 

 

After a busy day, enjoy dinner on the deck at Pike’s Landing, or if you had time for that last time, head over to the Pump House and have dinner or another great Fairbanks river deck.

Day 3 – Travel to Denali onboard the Alaska Railroad

If you’re lucky, the skies will clear and you’ll get to see Denali on the way to the park

Today you’ll be up early to board the Alaska Railroad to travel to Denali National Park! Have your taxi or ride share driver stop at Sunrise Bagel again because you will want that before your trip. Settle in to the beautiful train trip for the morning, which gets you to Denali just after noon.

Take the shuttle to Denali Park Village for your two night stay (for the price of one night with your TourSaver coupon). Spend the afternoon exploring the trails around the hotel and relaxing, or take the shuttle over to the park entrance. You can check out the visitor center, the working sled dog kennels at Denali National Park, or go for a hike. I recommend Mt Healy to get a great view, but there are several trail options near the park entrance. Check in the visitor center for suggestions!

Views from the Mt Healy Trail near the park entrance

Day 4 – Exploring Denali National Park

Denali National Park does not allow private vehicles beyond the first few miles of the park road (a good reason not to drive here since you’ll be paying for a parked car!). The only way into the park is on a bus tour (operated by the same folks who operate the hotel) and it is awesome! Don’t be put off by the long day on a bus, it’s SO WORTH IT. You’ll see amazing scenery and lots of wildlife and it’s an incredible tour. 

Epic landscapes are the norm along the Denali Park Road

There are a few options for length of the bus tour, but I recommend going at least as far as Eielson Visitor Center. The longer you go, the better your chances of seeing wildlife and the more spectacular the scenery. If you can stand it (you can do it!) go all the way to Kantishna and see parts of the park very few visitors get to see! For that excursion, you’ll need to choose the “Denali Backcountry Adventure.”

 

 

It’s common to see bears and other wildlife on the all day bus tour

Day 5 – Denali and Return to Fairbanks

 

 

 

Open landscapes are the norm between Denali National Park and Fairbanks

Before you leave Denali for the return train trip to Fairbanks, spend the morning on the thrilling Denali Zipline (save $40 per person for up to four people with your TourSaver coupon).

You might even be able to squeeze in another short hike or explore the park entrance area a bit more and catch the sled dog demonstration if you didn’t see it the day you arrived.

The train back to Fairbanks departs around 4pm and arrives in Fairbanks around 8. I recommend staying at Pike’s Lodge again since it’s so convenient to the airport if you have an early flight. You could also consider leaving tonight on a red eye and go straight to the airport from the train.

Day 6 – More fun in Fairbanks and Fly home

If your flight doesn’t leave until afternoon or evening, rent a car for your last day in Fairbanks and head out of town for the morning to the Chena Outdoor Collective (two for one with your TourSaver coupon) and get to know Alaska even better. Here you can meet sled dogs and see them at work as well as learn about reindeer and Alaska’s subsistence lifestyle.

After your tour, drive further out of town to the end of Chena Hot Springs Road and take a hike and go for a soak in rejuvenating Chena Hot Springs! This wonderful outdoor rock pool has changing rooms and showers too. 

 

 

Chena Hot Springs is open all year long and provides a wonderfully relaxing place to soak

If you have time, check out the fascinating Aurora Ice Museum and experience winter in the middle of summer. You can even get a drink at the ice bar in an ice glass!

 

 

 

The Aurora Ice Bar at Chena Hot Springs offers their signature appletini in a carved ice glass

If you have an evening flight, you might have time to stop at Two Rivers Lodge, a classic Alaska Road house for some delicious food and atmosphere before you head to the airport.

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