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Lonely Planet names Fairbanks a top travel destination

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Posted: Wednesday, December 5, 2012 11:37 pm

FAIRBANKS — Fairbanks has been named the No. 2 travel destination in the U.S. in a newly released list by Lonely Planet, a distinction that local tourism officials hope will provide the area with a visitor boost next winter.

Lonely Planet, a major global guidebook publisher, posted its picks Wednesday for the “Top 10 U.S. Destinations for 2013” on its website. Fairbanks claimed the second spot on the unorthodox list, ranking between the top destination, Louisville, Ky., and Washington’s San Juan Islands.

Robert Reid, Lonely Planet’s U.S. travel editor, said the list was compiled with a goal of steering people toward under-appreciated destinations. While the list of the most popular draws in the U.S. rarely changes from year to year, many wonderful places are routinely bypassed, he said.

“When we put this together, we try to let people know what they might be missing,” Reid said.

Lonely Planet says the big draw in Fairbanks next year will be the northern lights, which should be particularly active in 2013 at the end of an 11-year sun spot cycle. That should make for good viewing for aurora-seeking tourists.

Since seeing the aurora for himself in Canada, Reid said he’s convinced it’s an experience worth a winter trip to the north.

“Like the Taj Mahal or the Great Wall of China, you’ve got to see them once in your life,” he said. “This is the year to do it.”

Grabbing a spot on the Lonely Planet list was cause for celebration Wednesday at the Fairbanks Convention and Visitors Bureau. Within hours of being posted Wednesday, the story was being reported on dozens of news sites, including CNN, the Philadelphia Inquirer and Huffington Post.

Amy Geiger, director of communications for the Fairbanks Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the organization is tracking hits on its website to see how the publicity translates into visitor interest.

“I think we’ll get a lot of diverse airplay out of this,” she said.

Lonely Planet also pegged a few unusual Fairbanks activities for tourists to enjoy during their visit. Bypassing more traditional riverboat rides and museum visits, the listing instead urged people to sample traditional Athabascan food at the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center or to take a leisurely pub crawl while floating down the Chena River.

Geiger said the offbeat choices are a Lonely Planet trademark and that writers for the guide discovered them without contacting the FCVB. The guide prides itself on veering away from regular tourist stops to other activities.

“They’re really a pretty independent guide,” she said. “They don’t want people telling them what to do and how to do it.”

The complete list of 2013 U.S. destinations, along with descriptions of each area, is available online at

Contact staff writer Jeff Richardson at 459-7518. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMbusiness.

Who made the list?

1. Louisville, Ky.

2. Fairbanks

3. San Juan Islands, Wash.

4. Philadelphia

5. American Samoa

6. Eastern Sierra, Calif.

7. Northern Maine

8. Twin Cities, Minn.

9. Verde Valley, Ariz.

10. Glacier National Park, Mont.

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