As with previous vacation posts, I'm going to split this trip into several parts, since there's so much to include.
We spent our first whole day of vacation traveling. It was a long day, due to a long layover in Denver, but because of the "midnight sun" in Alaska, it didn't seem quite so late when we landed in Fairbanks around 11:30 p.m. local time (which was 2:30 a.m. our time).
|Landing in Fairbanks around 11:30 p.m.|
|View of Fairbanks area rivers from airplane|
For our first day in Fairbanks, we decided to drive to the town of North Pole and just generally check out Fairbanks. We went to North Pole first. It was only about a 20-minute drive from our hotel. Of course, North Pole is just the town's name; it's actually about 1,700 miles south of the earth's geographic North Pole.
We went to Santa Claus House, where we met Santa Claus, of course!
|Check out the sunrise and sunset times!|
|Santa Claus House, North Pole, AK|
We got a kick out of the digital sign with a countdown to Christmas, down to the second.
Outside is the world's largest Santa Claus statue, which is 42 feet tall and weighs 900 pounds.
|World's largest Santa Claus statue|
|Four not-so-tiny reindeer!|
Fun facts about reindeer:
- Reindeer and caribou are the same species, but reindeer are considered domesticated livestock while caribou are considered wildlife.
- Reindeer were introduced into Alaska from Siberia in 1892.
- Reindeer are the only members of the deer family where both males and females grow antlers.
To conclude our visit to North Pole, we sent postcards to family members and assured them that we put in a good word for them with Santa (small bribes may have been involved, but we think it worked). ;)
For lunch, we returned to Fairbanks and went to Big Daddy's Barbeque for the northernmost Southern barbecue, and it was pretty good. Ed had a pulled pork sandwich and I had a cowboy sundae, which was a bowl of baked beans, pulled pork, coleslaw, and sauce. We also split a side of fried okra. We can't get fried okra at the barbecue joints here in Illinois, but they had it in Fairbanks, and it was good.
In the afternoon, we went to the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center. Inside, there were some informative exhibits about the culture and nature of Alaska. It was a good place to get some information for our visit. The staff were also friendly and helpful.
|Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center|
|Ed hanging out with Smokey the Bear|
|Interior Alaska Antler Arch|
|Chena River, Fairbanks, AK|
|Chena River, downtown Fairbanks, AK|
Next up: Our Arctic Circle adventure!