Fairbanks, located in the center of Alaska (the Alaska Interior), is the second-largest city in the state with about 35,000 residents. Fairbanks is known as the "Golden Heart of Alaska," referring to the discovery of gold in 1902, as well as its location at the center of the state -- but residents like to say it's also a description of their fine generous characters. Just 188 miles south of the Arctic Denali, the people of Fairbanks enjoy long summer days, but may only see a few hours of daylight in winter. Winters are harsh with temperatures sometimes reaching 65 degrees below zero, but summers are warm and may hit 90 degrees. Fairbanks is one of the best places for viewing the northern lights.
ECONOMY AND INDUSTRIES
Fairbanks' economy is based, in part, on the city's abundance of natural resources. Oil and natural gas, forestry, and agriculture are all staples. Due to the long summer days in Fairbanks, the growing season is actually quite productive. Fairbanks has access to multiple forms of transportation, including trucks, trains, planes, and barges, giving it easy access to cargo transportation. These shipping options further enrich the city's economy.
The military presence in Fairbanks cannot be overlooked. Eielson Air Force Base and Fort Wainwright are both located in close proximity. In addition, the government, including federal, state, and city, is a major employer in Fairbanks. Fairbanks is actively seeking to become the premier research and technology hub of the north, and this has the potential to be extremely lucrative. There are already several projects underway, including programs to assist entrepreneurs with intellectual property and technological development. Fairbanks has some of the best weather in Alaska, along with spectacular scenery and outdoor recreational opportunities making it a popular tourism destination.
NEIGHBORHOODS AND DISTRICTS
The cost of living in Fairbanks is lower than that of most other cities in Alaska, although it is still higher than the national average. There are several districts within the city of Fairbanks:
- City Center: This urban downtown district is pedestrian-friendly, and there are many apartment complexes located here. The majority of the people living in the area are upper-middle-class renters.
- College: Located immediately to the east of the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, this suburban district is home mostly to families with children.
- Ester/Fox: This extremely large district is located in the remote regions of northern Fairbanks. Many of the residents are government employees.
- George Parks Highway/Trinidad Drive: Located to the south of the university, this upscale area is home to many students and government employees.
- Hamilton Acres: Largely inhabited by families with children, this urban district is sophisticated. The area is pedestrian-friendly, and home values are average for Fairbanks.
- Musk Ox/Dogpatch: This district is huge and comprises the northeastern area of the city. The residents living here are upper middle class and highly educated. Homes in this area are generally costlier than those in surrounding areas. This suburban area consists of smaller single-family homes.
- Westgate: Considered a "funky" area, Westgate is made up of younger residents. Home prices in this suburban area are average.
The majority of Fairbanks' recreational activities revolve around its natural landscape:
- Skiing: Three prominent ski resorts in the area offer downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, snowboarding, and other winter activities: Moose Mountain, SkiLand, and Birch Hill.
- Dog Mushing: Several dog-sledding tours across the winter landscape are offered in the Fairbanks area, including tours offered by Sun Dog Express.
- Alaskaland: Formerly known as Pioneer Park, this theme park emphasizes Alaska's history. There are restaurants, shops, exhibits, recreational facilities, and picnic areas. Historic homes have been moved here for visitors to see. Events are held here on a regular basis, including festivals, music shows, sporting events, carnivals, mushing races, art shows, and classes.
- Midnight Sun Celebration: Because Alaska is so far north, it experiences very long days in the summer and very long nights in the winter. Around the time of the summer solstice (the third week in June), a phenomenon known at the "midnight sun" takes place. Festivities and special events take place during this time, all at night and all lit by the sun.
The Fairbanks area has several post-secondary schools:
- University of Alaska-Fairbanks (public four-year school)
- New Concepts Beauty School (private vocational program)
- Wayland Baptist University (religious education, located at Eielson Air Force Base and Fort Wainwright)
- Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (various programs, located at Fort Wainwright)