For the elite traveler, it can almost feel passé to pack your bags for YET ANOTHER vacation. We’ve all discovered ourselves in Bali. We have already ridden motorcycles through the streets of Rome, sipped coffee on the veranda of our Parisian flat, and blacked out in Miami. It’s gotten to the point where the high has been dulled. We can’t keep taking ayahuasca in the jungles anymore. What’s an affluent white person to do?
Fairbanks: The Paris of Northern/Interior Alaska
Welcome to Fairbanks! Say goodbye to those dreadful days of meeting fascinating urbanites in Berlin, and say hello to Gary, for example. He doesn’t want anyone on his god damn land.
This bustling little city isn’t yet on the radar of most of us jet-setters, so it still feels real, having not been ruined by a deluge of monomaniacal high-end consumers who demand a homogenous blend of artisan wool-shops and local-trinkets with fair-trade sensibilities.
A city like Fairbanks just begs to be explored. We’ve put together a list to help you get the most authentic experience out of this little Alaskan gem.
Fairbanks is a feast for the eyes! Often called “The City That Light Forgot”, it’s brimming with picture-perfect scenes! #nofilter
1. The Abandoned Northern Lights Hotel.
Once a burgeoning little hotel near the main drag in “The Golden Heart City”, The Northern Lights Hotel is a quaint building made of jagged rocks and boarded up windows and doors. It’s completely uniform, white, unadorned and box-like exterior lets you know that whoever was building it was just trying to get it done. You can practically feel the misery that’s still trapped inside!
2. A Chevron Station.
Do you need gasoline? Perhaps you’d like to hop out of your car and pump the gas but the handle is so cold to the touch that it feels white-hot when you touch it! The Fairbanks Chevron station on 2nd St is a gas-station enthusiast’s dream.
3. Impoverished Alcoholics
Don’t you hate how in all the good parts of Paris, Seattle, and London, all the poor people have been swept out of the more desirable areas so that we don’t have to see them? Not so in Fairbanks! If you feel like rubbing elbows with the who’s-who of disenfranchised superstars, or merely watching a semi-incoherent brawl unfold in the snow every 30 minutes, downtown has you covered! Be sure to share them on your instagram!
Some people live to eat, others eat to live. In Fairbanks, neither option is very reliable! But for the daring chow-hound, there are a lot of great gems to explore.
1. A Korean Restaurant Underneath a Bowling Alley
Fairbanks is no stranger to food. Locals have been trying to find it to survive since that boat crashed and they decided to call it “Fairbanks”. In the hundred years since, a lot has happened, including Fairbanks getting a bowling alley! But those hardy sourdoughs weren’t going to stop there. In the true Alaskan, pioneering spirit they said, “hey, why don’t we put a maze-like series of corridors under the bowling alley that lead to a dimly lit Korean restaurant?”
And so it was done! This little hole-in-the-wall is sure to delight your tastebuds after you spend several hours negotiating the same confusing hallways all night.
Say goodbye to third-wave coffee and hipsters droning on somewhat superficially about the “roast profile”, because there’s a new “it” drink in town: Chaga. Chaga is a giant mushroom that grows on old Birch trees in extremely cold environments, and it’s taking the world by very quiet slow storm. Make sure you grab a chunk now while it’s still insanely expensive and before it gets “cool”!
If you really want to live like a local, go down to the local watering hole. Here, people who don’t have running water gather around to fill tanks of water; sometimes 6 gallons, sometimes 100 gallons. For the bargain hunter, this is an absolute steal. For less than a nickel, you should be able to drink enough straight off the nozzle that you feel a little sick and garner some stares from locals in the process!
There’s a great saying in Fairbanks: “Hey, please help me. Please let me out of here!” It really shows the quirky cabin-fever that sets in when life is so remote and harsh. While still up-and coming, we found the best of the best to get to most out of this darling city.
1. Walk aimlessly
From that Chevron station we mentioned earlier to a different Chevron station several blocks away, there’s a good reason Fairbanks is called “The City That Makes My Legs Hurt”. Whether it’s the statue of the Eskimos at the Chena River that sure seems to be a metaphor for capitalist America literally “closing in” on native culture or the inside of the Marriott Hotel where they have a bathroom you can use, you’ll love walking aimlessly in Fairbanks!
2. Consider Yourself
I mean, who are you, really? Maybe think about that question, and other questions while you walk.
3. Look for any of the dozens of missing dogs and cats, even though you know they’ve mostly succumbed to winter
If you really want to feel like a local and show Fairbanks your “golden heart” in the process, start taking note of all of the “missing” posters for lost animals and get to work! There’s no shortage of cute pups and cats that have been lost, recovered, but lost ears to frostbite in the process, so get to work helping finding these little rascals!
What trip would be complete without the ritual acquisition of commodities? Fairbanks is a treasure chest full of utilitarian delights! Say goodbye to your money!
1. The Co-Op Plaza
If you’re looking for that special one-stop shop, swing by the Co-Op Plaza in downtown Fairbanks. From used CD’s of country singers to a place that seems to only sell shirts that say “gun hugger”, you’re sure to find that perfect gift for those hard-to-please friends, or worse, your children.
2. Carhart Store
Prepping for doomsday? Fixing a flat? Burying your guns in the backyard? Whatever the occasion, you’ll want to look your best. Carhart clothing is like cowboy hats in Texas: a true local owns some, and if they don’t, they probably voted for the Democratic Party.
Protip: Carthart beanies have been increasingly sported by so-called “Millenials”, so be sure the wave is about to break. Be sure to get your outfit before it’s produced in China!
3. Scary Pawn Shop, Half of Which is Guns
Fairbanks is nothing if not a collection of well-organized, nay, militaristic pawn-shops. If you’re in the market for a value, or just want to peruse the most grotesque collection of guns, computer keyboards and more guns, then step right this way!