Fairbanks, Alaska is located in the eastern central part of the state. Fairbanks is comprised of thirty nine square miles and has a population of 35,000. It is the second largest city in Alaska. Fairbanks experiences extreme temperature fluctuations, ranging from sixty five degrees below zero in the winter to ninety degrees above in the summer. Due to its close proximity to the Arctic Circle (188mi to the south) Fairbanks experiences the phenomena of the Aurora Borealis - commonly known as the Northern Lights.
Fairbanks was founded in 1901 by Captain E.T. Barnette, who wanted to set up a trading post in the area along the Tanana River. The discovery of gold in an area north of the city in 1902 attracted an influx of new settlers to Fairbanks. This discovery gave Fairbanks its nickname of The Golden Heart of Alaska. A couple of Fairbanks attractions pay homage to the importance of gold to the city. The Ester Gold Camp is a restored mining camp on the site of one of Fairbanks' original gold mines. The camp includes a bunkhouse where visitors can stay and a restaurant that offers buffet style meals served on long wooden tables in traditional mining camp style. The camp also features a variety of musical performances at a nearby theater and the Malemute Saloon that was made famous by Alaskan poet Robert Service. El Dorado Gold Mine is another point of historic interest where visitors can take guided tours on authentic mining cars through tunnels dug by the original miners. There is also an opportunity for visitors to pan the nearby area for their own gold.
Pioneer Park is the most visited attraction in Fairbanks. It's a forty four acre park that was created for the Alaskan Centennial Exposition in 1967. Pioneer Park is a theme park, but a historic based one instead of a traditional theme park with amusement rides. There are several sections of the park, all with different themes, depicting the city's history. Gold Rush Town is one of the themes and it is comprised of twenty nine cabins, representing different merchants and prominent buildings in the Gold Rush era, that have been restored to their original states. Pioneer Park is also the site of three museums. The Pioneer Air Museum chronicles the development of flight in Alaska. The Alaska Native Village Museum pays tribute to the state's native settlers. The Pioneer Museum details life in the Alaskan Frontier. Railroad No. 1 is a passenger train that takes visitors for a ride around the park, courtesy of the Tanana Valley Railroad. The S.S. Nenana is a riverboat that used to deliver supplies to Fairbanks via the Tenana River. The boat is now a national historic landmark and is docked at the park as a museum. Pioneer Park also boasts a vintage carousel, mini-golf, playground, and picnic shelters.
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