Bearing the nickname the Golden Heart, Alaska’s second-largest city was born of gold rush fever, thanks to Italian immigrant Felix Pedro who found the precious metal in 1902 near where Captain E.T. Barnette decided to build a trading post on the banks of the Chena River. Though much of Fairbanks today is an amalgam of modern shops and malls, its history is celebrated at the 18-hectare (44-acre) Pioneer Park, which includes a Gold Rush Town with 35 restored buildings. Fairbanks also preserved its City Hall, which now houses the Fairbanks Community Museum.
The city’s location in Alaska’s interior makes it a gateway to the arctic, and in summer tourist boats run cruises along the Chena and Tanana rivers. Fairbanks is a city of festivals, from July’s Golden Days commemorating its past, to Ice Alaska in February and March, when residents make the best of its brutal winters by playing host to a slew of international ice sculptors who descend on the city for the World Ice Art Championships. The city is one of the best places in the world to see the aurora borealis, which appears on average 243 nights of the year. For more insight into Fairbanks, the Morris Thompson Cultural & Visitors Center is a good place to start.