Whether you desire chasing the aurora or want to bask in the Midnight Sun, Fairbanks is the places to visit. Here the sky takes on a capricious life of its own—a canvas for the aurora borealis, the midnight sun and sunsets and sunrises that last forever. Here there are serious mountain ranges, pristine rivers and lakes, abundant wildlife and a certain poignant solitude that is found nowhere else on earth.
Fairbanks is home to the largest ice sculpting competition in the world. The 2017 World Ice Art Championships, held at the George Horner Ice Art Park in Fairbanks, will be open daily 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. through March 31, 2017. Held annually since 1988, the World Ice Art Championships features up to 100 ice sculpting teams from around the world. Approximately 45,000 visitors come to the Ice Art Park each year to see these intricately sculpted masterpieces.
Sculptors at the World Ice Art Championships use over four million pounds of “Arctic Diamond” ice which is harvested from a lake located adjacent to the Ice Art Park. Ice freezes quickly and thickly in Alaska’s Interior, and is clear enough to read a newspaper through a four-foot thick ice block. Sculptors claim that Fairbanks ice is the “finest on the planet for sculpting.” Each Single Block Classic ice block measures approximately 2.5′ x 8′ x 5′ and weighs around 7,200 lbs. The finished sculptures in the Multi-Block Classic contest can weigh as much as 20 tons and be over 25 feet tall.
In the center of the Ice Art Park there will be a large designated Kid’s Park, which is like any children’s playground, only it is constructed entirely from ice. There’ll be slides and rides for all ages, mazes and life-sized sculptures of animals, and characters to touch and climb on. The Ice Art Park will also feature an “ice stage” for various performances, ice skating rink, ice cabin, ice obstacle course and even a Slide-A-Mile challenge. Competitions will include the Single Block Classic, the Multi-Block Classic, the Individual Open Classic and the Youth Classic for high school students. To learn more about the World Ice Art Championships, go to icealaska.com. For more information on the aurora and for free copies of the Fairbanks Visitors Guide and its companion publication, the Fairbanks Winter Guide, contact Explore Fairbanks at 1-800-327-5774.
Fairbanks Winter Carnival
End of February to end of March
Step back in time and you will discover that people of the far north have been celebrating winter in March for many years. Created in 1934, the Winter Carnival features arts, dog mushing and ice sculpting events. Times may have changed a bit since the 1930s but the energy and excitement of Winter Carnival still remains. Imagine the Winter Carnival Queen sitting on her throne carved out of ice or a team of dogs streaming down the frozen Chena River. Look for events hosted by the Alaska Dog Mushers Association, Ice Alaska and the Fairbanks Arts Association during this energetic time period.
Runs from August 21 to April 21 and March is prime time for aurora viewing. Fairbanks is located under the “Auroral Oval,” a ring-shaped zone over the far north where aurora activity is concentrated. Additionally, low precipitation in Fairbanks contributes to consistently clear nights. All combined, these variables make the Fairbanks region an outstanding destination for possible aurora viewing. Experience the aurora from a heated “aurorium” cabin, on an overnight sled dog trip, by snow cat tour to a panoramic vista, on a flight above the Arctic Circle, or simply walk outside and look up to see the captivating northern lights weave across the night sky. If the aurora appears in the middle of the night, many hotels offer wake-up calls.
The Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center provides vacancy listings and more information on museums, art galleries, performances and other things to do during a stay in Fairbanks. Also at the center is the current exhibit “Icons of the Iditarod,” featuring official Iditarod photographer Jeff Schultz’s imagery. >MORE