Fairbanks, Alaska, has plenty of ways to entertain family travelers no matter the time of year, but, during the summer months, one of the best ways to experience the beautiful weather is with a river cruise along the Chena River. When temperatures are pleasant and the ice has melted, Riverboat Discovery is the perfect way to explore the city’s fascinating history.
Riverboat Discovery takes passengers on a journey through the storied history of Alaska, giving a glimpse into the many ways Alaskans have lived along the river for hundreds of years. Rich in gold mining history, the area is ripe with leftovers from the Gold Rush, and the tour takes guests past remnants of gold mining operations to see how this once-popular trade helped shape Fairbanks into the city it is today.
Along the way, passengers are treated to a dog mushing demonstration at Fairbanks landmark, Trail Breaker Kennel, located right along the banks of the river. This famous breeding and training kennel of late four-time Iditarod champion Susan Butcher is now run by her husband and daughter, who treat passengers to a dog mushing demonstration while adorable puppies, future mushing dogs in training, play with their handlers along the riverbank.
During the ride, the tour stops for a visit at Chena Village Living Museum. The village is a replica of a native Athabascan village, and the guided tour includes demonstrations of practices like salmon smoking to show how the Athabascan people survived in the harsh wilderness for centuries, as well as how they adapted to the influx of non-native cultures that eventually came to call Fairbanks home. The stop at the village includes plenty of time to explore on your own. Visit with a herd of reindeer or check out an authentic trapper’s cabin. Visitors also get the opportunity to meet some of the dogs from Trail Breaker Kennel and their trainers who will share more details on the life of a mushing dog.
Riverboat Discovery, wheelchair accessible on the bottom deck, features an open-air deck on the top, providing passengers with the choice of sitting indoors or enjoying the fresh air and sunshine during the city’s midnight sun season. Tours depart from Steamboat Landing twice a day at 8:45 a.m. and 2 p.m. and run for three hours. During the cruise, the ship’s crew serves complimentary coffee and blueberry doughnuts, but passengers can also enjoy a pioneer-style meal in the Dining Hall at Steamboat Trading Post where the tour departs. Seatings for the family-style dining are at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
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