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ALASKA: Fairbanks (Chena Hot Springs Resort)

Fairbanks also known as the “The Golden Heart of Alaska,” is the largest city in the Interior region of Alaska, and the second largest city in the state, after Anchorage. However, unlike Anchorage it still retains its “frontier” feel. It is common knowledge that Alaska has extremely harsh winters; the Interior temperatures range from 65°F below zero in the winter months to 90°F in the summer months. Because it is located just 188 miles south of the Arctic Circle, Fairbanks enjoys very long summer days. The shortest winter day of the year has less than three hours of sunlight. The longest summer day which occurs around June 21, officially has over 21 hours of sunlight.

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Visitors are drawn to this city for many reasons, primarily for the chance to view the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights), dog sled races, etc. Fairbanks’ position under the “Auroral Oval”, a ring-shaped region around the North Pole, makes it one of the best places in the world to see the Aurora Borealis. These beautiful and mysterious lights can be seen from mid-August through April, and range in color from green to red to purple, with the brightest and most common being a yellow-green. The best time for viewing the Northern Lights is late at night until the early morning hours from 10PM until 3AM.

Auroral Oval

Auroral Oval

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The Chena Hot Springs Resort which is just an eight-mile hike from the Chena River State Recreation Area is also a popular tourist destination. The resort is over 100 years old and open year round. It was discovered in 1905 by gold prospectors, Robert and Thomas Swan, who were seeking to ease their painful rheumatism brought on by poor diets and grueling work. By 1912 Chena Hot Springs had become the premier resort of Interior Alaska and visitors traveled 4 to 14 days by stagecoach from Fairbanks to enjoy its soothing waters. Luckily, today the journey is less than 2-hours by car.

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The resort offers 80 lodge rooms, a natural outdoor hot spring, three indoor hot tubs, a rock lake and an indoor pool. The Trail Ends Restaurant & Lounge caters to hungry vacationers and the Aurora Ice Museum is an experience that must not be missed. Created from over 1,000 tons of ice and snow all harvested at the resort, the Ice Museum is the largest year-round ice environment in the world. Everything in the museum is made of ice including the bar, polar bear beds, a full-size game of chess, an ice tower and even a non-functioning ice toilet. Visitors are offered the opportunity to enjoy a vodka “appletini” in a hand carved ice glass for an additional fee of $15.

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Chena Hot Springs Resort is also world renown for being one of the best places to see the Northern Lights. The resort is located under the most active band of Northern Lights and away from the city lights of Fairbanks, which is 60 miles away.

So won’t you take a soak in the outdoor hot spring and enjoy the curtain of lights from the Aurora Borealis? I would say that it is definitely one of those once in a lifetime experiences.
Web page (Chena Hot Springs Resort): http://www.chenahotsprings.com/

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