Fairbanks! Where to start. Actually we started at the Safeway customer service window, where (as suggested by a fellow traveler) we picked up a Special Olympics Alaska Tour Saver two-for-one coupon book for $99. In addition to accommodations and museums, it has a lot of activities (flight seeing, river rafting, helicopter glacier landings) that you might not otherwise consider. We were more than half way to paying for the book with our cruise on the paddle wheeler, Discovery III. The trip down the Chena River included a float plane demonstration, watching a performance at Susan Butcher’s sled dog kennel, and a stop at the Chena River Village. You could wander the island seeing how the native people would catch (with a fish wheel) and smoke fish, and make warm winter clothing with furs, as well as view the sled dogs, garden, and housing.
Our second coupon was used at the University of Alaska Museum of the North, with great wildlife displays and art from the area. We viewed a movie on the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights. We are tempted to come back in winter to see this unique display (flying, NOT driving the RV!)
Of course a visit to Fairbanks would not be complete without a trip to the North Pole. (North Pole, Alaska that is.) Just a little east of Fairbanks, you find not only a great Christmas shop, (which will mail your kids/grandkids letters postmarked North Pole, either now or at Christmas time) but Santa and his live reindeer too. Great fudge also!
We dry camped for $15 in the parking lot at Pioneer Park. The price even included discounts for the all you can eat Salmon Bake and the music and comedy show at the Palace Theater in the park, both of which we enjoyed. Entry to the park itself is free. Old homes from the area have been collected, and some turned into interesting shops selling Alaska items (diamond willow canes, carvings). The largest paddlewheeler, the Nenana, is being restored there. An old steam train takes visitors for a ride around the perimeter. If you want to pay an additional $8, you can even see what 40 degrees below zero feels like.
We were disappointed to find Verizon does not have a presence in Alaska, even in the cities. We can, once again, use the phone free, but it is extended service. Even so, we do, occasionally, get Wi-Fi on our modem.