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Alaska Meeting Guide: Fairbanks

Courtesy Fairbanks CVB

Because of Fairbanks’ location and welcoming community, Alaska’s second-largest city is known as the “Golden Heart of Alaska.”

“We’re located in the smack-dab center of Alaska,” said Helen Renfrew, director of meetings and conventions for the Fairbanks Convention and Visitors Bureau. “One thing that everyone comments on is how friendly everyone is here.”

Although the city of 31,000 doesn’t have a convention center, it does have 175,000 square feet of meeting space spread across several facilities and more than 3,300 year-round hotel rooms, from major hotels to intimate bed-and-breakfasts.

The Carlson Center, the city’s largest standalone meeting venue, is on the banks of the Chena River. Three meeting rooms there total 10,000 square feet; the center also has a 35,000-square-foot arena and on-site catering.

Every other year, the Alaska Federation of Natives holds its annual meeting at the Carlson Center. With as many as 4,000 attendees, it is the country’s largest representational meeting of native culture.

In addition, some 10 hotels and lodges have meeting facilities.

The largest are the 400-room Westmark Fairbanks Hotel and Conference Center, with 17,000 square feet of meeting space; the 326-room Fairbanks Princess Riverside Lodge, with 9,000 square feet of meeting space; and the 208-room Pike’s Waterfront Lodge, with 7,000 square feet of event space.

Groups that meet in Fairbanks “are willing to be very flexible on infrastructure just because of everything else we have to offer,” Renfrew said.

Much of the appeal is geographical. On the Chena River, Fairbanks is a gateway to the Arctic Circle and the 6 million-acre Denali National Park and Preserve, home of Mount McKinley. The city also sits in the Aurora Oval, which makes it a prime spot to watch the northern lights, or aurora borealis.

State associations dominate Fairbanks’ meeting market, but groups that work with the University of Alaska Fairbanks on Arctic-based research also drive meetings to the city, Renfrew said.

For example, the city hosted the International Congress on Circumpolar Health in August.

“Fairbanks is an obvious place because of where we’re located,” she said.

Groups don’t have to wander off to the Arctic Circle or Denali to be entertained. Silver Gulch Brewery, the northernmost brewpub in the United States, and the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum, with more than 55 pre-World War II cars on display, welcome events. Stern-wheel riverboats that ply the river are options for dinners and receptions on seemingly endless summer days. On June 21, the longest day of the year, the sun dips below the horizon for only three and a half hours.