Alaska, USA

November 2016
10 days
Approximately $40–50/day

Fairbanks, AK

#Solo #Northern Lights #Nature #Mountains #November



Things to do

  • Go see the Northern Lights first — you can either go with a tour, find a clearing and sit outside on your own, or go to a place that charges a small fee to see it from their property. They give you a warm place to rest inside if you get too cold from being outside. Some places offer hot beverages and snacks too!
  • Take a tour of a family owned reindeer farm at Running Reindeer Ranch. The owner gave us an introduction on reindeer and how they came about having theirs. Afterwards she gave instructions on how to be around the reindeer so as to not be charged by one of them. Overall they are very docile and safe but may want to assert themselves so she told us how to stand our ground. They were so safe to be with, our group walked alongside them and pet them. It was an interesting and fun experience.
  • I went for a drive to Denali National Park. Only a small portion of the park is open in the winter but it’s a beautiful place to visit. The mountains and forests were tranquil and peaceful.
  • Though it’s a quiet visit, you can visit to the North Pole. It’s a small city and there isn’t much to do except shop, but if you have time it’s fun to go so you can say you’ve been. I also mailed some post cards from the post office because it was too fun not to.
  • I enjoy visiting art/culture museums on my travels. On this trip I went to the Museum of the North. It’s a surprisingly modern museum with interesting exhibits about the local historic culture, art, and wildlife.
  • I like to visit local meditation centers to meditate because I get a different experience. I attended a meditation session at Cold Mountain Zen Center. — I loved that their website says: “ If the temperature at the Fairbanks airport is -30 or colder 30 minutes before practice time, Tuesday night Zen practice and Wednesday night beginners night is cancelled.” It’s not often I see a notice like that and I thought that was awesome. I was lucky as it was only -20 degrees outside when we meditated.

Transportation

  • Rent a car — this is the easiest way to get around, really.
  • The bus system is called MACS. It’s a slow way to get around but it’s available. A one way route is $1.50, a day pass is $3.00, and a half month pass is $20(available after the 15th of the month). If you’re 0-5 or over 60 it’s free! The bus lines are categorized by a color, i.e., Blue line, Yellow line, etc.
  • Some tours also provide transportation.

Culture and Etiquette

  • People are pretty friendly and mellow. Everyone I encountered was helpful when I asked for advice and happy to engage in a conversation.

Health and Safety

  • Overall it felt safe to me but practice usual safety precautions and be aware of your surroundings.
  • In the winter, make sure you plug your car in overnight so the engine doesn’t freeze. The rental car comes with an extension cord that can be plugged into outdoor outlets wherever you are staying. You don’t need to plug your car in if you’re going to be parked for a few hours during the day. The car rental agency should let you know about it and what to do when you get your car. My car rental didn’t tell me but I found out from the Bread & Breakfast manager that is what I should do. When getting ready to go out for the day, start your engine, then go back inside to finish getting your things ready. If your car is parked outside (versus a garage) it will easily take 15 — 20 minutes for the windshields to defrost and the car engine to warm up.
  • If you visit in the winter and you’re not used to the cold temperatures, layer up and stay warm.
  • As a vegan, I do not wear wool, cashmere, leather or wear down products. You can find alternatives such as thinsulate, primaloft and other down alternatives when you do an online search. Wear thermal layers, scarves, hats, gloves, and pack some shakeable heat pads to keep your hands warm.

Eat & Drink

  • Lunch Cafe & Eatery — This place has vegan options but is not all vegan. I had the House green salad with falafels and a vegan chocolate brownie with peanut butter frosting (yum).
  • There aren’t too many vegan only options in Fairbanks, but you can find places that will accommodate you. I also went to the local grocery store and bought some daily items, such as breakfast and snacks, to eat as I had a fridge that I could store things in.
  • I try to have some food and snacks on hand when traveling so I have something to eat in case I can’t find a place to eat right away. Sometimes I pack boxes of tofu or take trail mix. These can be easily added to soups, salads or pastas to get protein.

Memorable moments

My most memorable moment by far was seeing the Northern lights. I dreamt of seeing these for years and was very lucky to hit a great night. Aurora viewings are rated on a scale of 0–9 with 0 being not visible at all to 9 being spectacular. When I was there I got to see one that was rated at 7 and it went on for two hours. I am so grateful and feel lucky because you need not only the right conditions but clear skies to see them. It could be a great rating but overcast. It was clear most of the time I was there. Towards the end of my visit it got overcast and I read that it was snowing all of next week.