These two Fairbanks attractions—run by the same entrepreneurial family—bring back that field trip learning-can-be-fun wonder. Gold factors so much into Alaska history that hearing a little more detail makes sense. Gold Dredge 8, an impressive mechanical wonder, was in operation until 1959, chewing up massive bites of earth then tumbling and rinsing it until heavy flakes of gold dust sifted out. The leftover water and dirt was dumped out the back as fast as the next bucketful of earth could be ingested. After the fascinating dredge tour, you get a chance to pan for gold yourself. Riverboat Discovery is a crazy-quilt of Alaska history and culture: While you cruise the Chena River on a replica sternwheeler, a floatplane takes off and lands on the river, then the boat pauses beside Iditarod-winner Susan Butcher’s sled dog training camp for a demonstration, then the boat docks at the Chena Indian Village, a replica village where native guides give demonstrations about local indigenous culture. In one day of fun activities, you can gain a much deeper understanding of Alaska.
Ann Shields traveled to Alaska and the Yukon with Holland America Line as part of AFAR’s partnership with the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA), whose members provide travelers with unparalleled access, insider knowledge, and peace-of-mind to destinations across the globe. For more on Ann’s journey, visit the USTOA blog.