I went to North Pole. No, unfortunately not the real place, just a town a few miles east of Fairbanks called North Pole. In most ways its simply small clusters of civilization among stretches of mostly wild. But one thing I’ve noted is that Alaska recognizes the value of tourists – so North Pole has Santa Land. An averagely done giant Santa figure, a herd of sad reindeer behind a lot of fence and an artistically decorated Santa’s House full of tourist shopper dreams. I bought a keychain for my son’s collection, and for me, a box of decadent fudge. I watched Santa greet small children and smile happily as giggling teenage girls piled on his lap. I coveted, but resisted tempting arrays of Christmas ornaments, some quite unique. The small downtown featured candy cane street light poles and every business is decorated for the holiday all year round.
I caught a glimpse of Denali - far to the south and barely visible through clouds, but I saw it!
Fairbanks came to be shortly after gold was discovered here in 1901. The immediate area is called “The Golden Heart”. The town is much smaller than I expected – a walk from one side of the downtown to the other is less than a mile. There is a lot of commercial area spread out along Airport Road, the main east/west route. Like any other place, there is good and bad. It’s shocking to see the number of drunks staggering about or laying on the ground sleeping it off right in the middle of the day! Lots of bars and breweries both upscale and low. We visited The Silver Gulch brewery in a small community called Fox. They have a good sized brewery on the premises and my daughter assures me the beers are wonderful – she had one called Cranberry Bog. The food is truly excellent – I ordered the Pear Gorgonzola Pizza and remember it, longing for more.
Fairbanks is rich with walking paths, most with chain link fencing protecting them from traffic. Thorn and I walk everyday - our favorite is along the Chena River. These paths are also for bicycles and are well utilized. Along rural roads are paved or gravel paths set aside for the use of ATV’s now and snow machines in winter. My granddaughter actually commutes to work on an ATV which is a common and accepted method of travel here.