Pioneer Park offers a little bit of everything for visitors to the Golden Heart City. If you want history, head to Pioneer Park. If you want fun for the kids, go to Pioneer Park. If you want to eat on the run or have a family-style dinner, go to Pioneer Park.
With museums, boat rentals, shops, dining, art, playgrounds and picnic areas on more than 40 acres, the historically themed park gives the visitor a fun way to learn a lot about Interior Alaska and early Fairbanks.
There is no general admission fee to enter the park, which is open year-round. Hours for concessionaires are noon-8 p.m. daily until Labor Day. Some attractions will be closed this year due to concerns over the coronavirus.
Most of the buildings in Gold Rush Town are homes of prominent Fairbanks founders, moved to the location when the park opened as the “Alaska ‘67 Centennial Exposition” in 1967 to celebrate the 100 years since the United States purchased Alaska from Russia. Originally known as Alaskaland, the name was changed to Pioneer Park in 2002.
There are several historic exhibitions located at the park at 2500 Airport Way — Harding Car, Kitty Hensley House, Pioneer Air Museum, Pioneer Museum, Riverboat Nenana, Tanana Valley Railroad Museum, Lavelle Young Wheelhouse and the Wickersham House. Some charge admission or ask for donations.
Some museums such as the Hensley House and the Wickersham House will be closed to tours this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Other museums may keep irregular hours, according to Donnie Hayes, Pioneer Park manager.
The Crooked Creek Railroad is also suspended for the 2020 summer season, and the Riverboat Nenana remains closed to tours pending renovations.
Repairs have been completed at the Pioneer Park Centennial Center for the Arts, host to the The Bear Gallery, an art gallery operated by the Fairbanks Arts Association. The gallery is scheduled to reopen on July 1, according to Hayes. The arts association offers monthly art shows and has historically hosted Gazebo Nights, featuring different local musicians or storytellers at Pioneer Park at 7 p.m. daily.
Other attractions in the park include Canoe Alaska, Roela’s Carousel, First Presbyterian Church, and the Palace Theater, which will be closed for a portion of the summer pending roof repairs. Hayes said the theater may offer its nighty variety show, “The Golden Heart Revue,” later in the season.
Shops at Pioneer Park include Kiersten’s Photography, CHARMS by CJ, Fairbanks Arts Association, Just Originals, Little Willow and the Pick and Poke Gift Shop.
Snacks or dining are available at the Alaska Salmon Bake, Frosty Paws, Gold Rush Ice Cream Parlour, Souvlaki, The Bag Ladies of Fairbanks and more.
Pioneer Park is home to The Folk School Fairbanks, which hosts classes on topics including woodworking, blacksmithing, storytelling and vehicle maintenance. Virtual classes and limited outdoor courses will be available this summer.
Pioneer Park’s two large playgrounds are stocked with plenty of equipment, picnic shelters and horseshoes and volleyball.
RV visitors can stay in the Pioneer Park parking lot for $12 per night for a maximum of five consecutive nights. No reservations are required, but RV visitors should register at the dropbox in the parking lot. There are no hook-ups. Potable water is available onsite.