Even though we’d only be there for 24 hours, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to witness the creeping Summer Solstice in Fairbanks Alaska. With our daughter, Reagan spending part of her summer break with MawMaw and PawPaw, I joined my husband, Danny for work and flew five-and-a-half hours from Denver to Fairbanks a few days before the “official” longest day of the year.
Fairbanks Alaska at Summer Solstice
We arrived in Fairbanks at sunset: 11pm. It’s the most beautiful part of the day when the sun stays dipped behind the mountains for several hours, never completely disappearing, and then rises again. I snapped the above photo at midnight from Pike’s Landing Restaurant just down the road from our hotel on the Chena River.
By last call, our bodies were starting to become confused. It was 2am, but felt like 8pm. We used a drape clip to seal the sun out of our hotel room and tried to get some sleep despite the sunbeams still peeking through where they could. I imagine everyone in Alaska must invest in some serious blackout curtains.
The next day, we joined an excursion group from Princess Cruises on the Riverboat Discovery for a relaxing and informative, three-hour cruise down the Chena to the Chena Indian Village. Along the way we saw beautiful riverside homes, rustic cabins and even some shacks. One of the homes even hosted President Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan during his term in office.
A bush floatplane took off and landed alongside the river boat for us but, the best show was put on by the champion sled dogs at the riverside home of four-time Iditarod winner, Susan Butcher. We watched as a team of sled dogs pulled a one-ton four-wheeler all around the property.
Our last stop was the Chena Indian Village where Native Alaskan Guides took us on a tour of a village modeled after the type the ancient Athabascan Indians would have lived in. What a hard life, but they managed to survive the brutal winters and hot summers by fishing and trapping.
Following the river cruise, we had some time left before we boarded an 11pm flight back to Denver. We called a tour company that off a flyer at our hotel. Probably the worst city tour I’ve ever taken in my life. Danny knew more about Alaska and the points of interest than our tour guide, but, it was a cheap way to get around and see the sights versus renting a car (pricey in Alaska!). The tour guide took us to see the Alaskan pipeline, downtown Fairbanks and some stops around the University of Alaska Fairbanks which included the Museum of the North (which we were too late to visit), Georgeson Botanical Gardens (free to the public, it was poorly maintained and nothing was in bloom yet) and a University reindeer research area (we saw more reindeer in Chena Village).
It was time to say goodbye to this gorgeous green state. Seriously, much more green than Colorado. We flew straight from sunset in Alaska to morning time in Denver, never without sunlight the whole way back.