Whether you're visiting Alaska or live there permanently, Pioneer Park in Fairbanks is one of the attractions that you must have on your list of places to see. Touted as Alaska's “only historic theme park,” this 44-acre attraction has a plethora of activities for the entire family to enjoy. You can choose from art, attractions, museums, shops, and restaurants.
During the summer months, Pioneer Park is open every day from 6 a.m. to midnight, and admission is free for all guests. There are many activities for adults and kids of all ages:
Museums For Experiencing The History of Fairbanks
If you are interested in exploring many of the historical aspects of Fairbanks, Pioneer Park has six museums to choose from.
1. Pioneer Air Museum
The Pioneer Air Museum focuses on aviation history. According to their website: “The mission of the Pioneer Air Museum is to collect, protect, and preserve for educational purposes objects that reflect the history of interior and arctic Alaskan aviation through acquiring, restoring, interpreting, and displaying historically significant objects.” They are open May 15 to September 10, 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.
2. Riverboat Nenana
Although it’s been on display for the public since 1967, it wasn’t until 1989 that the Riverboat Nenana was designated as a National Historic Landmark. This museum is operated by Pioneer Park and is open Memorial Day weekend thru Labor Day weekend from noon to 8:00 p.m.
3. Wickersham House
The Wickersham House is one of two museums in Pioneer Park that were originally houses in the city of Fairbanks. According to the museum’s website, one interesting fact about the original house is as follows: “The lot was purchased in April 1904 by Judge James Wickersham for $175. He built the house himself that same spring, hauling the lumber down the street on his back.” This museum is open Memorial Day weekend thru Labor Day weekend from noon to 8:00 p.m.
4. Kitty Hensley House
The Kitty Hensley House is the second museum in Pioneer Park that was once a house in Fairbanks. It has been located in the park since 1967 and has furniture authentic to the early 1900s. The museum is open Memorial Day weekend thru Labor Day weekend from noon to 8:00 p.m.
5. Pioneer Museum
The Pioneer Museum has a collection of early Fairbanks artifacts and paintings representing the experiences of the Gold Rush. The hall at the center of the museum can be rented for private events. Visiting hours vary by season, so click here for a full list of hours.
6. Tanana Valley Railway Museum
This railway museum within Pioneer Park features the oldest working steam engine in Alaska, Engine #1. This museum is open Memorial Day weekend thru Labor Day weekend from noon to 8:00 p.m. Engine #1 operates on a limited schedule.
Pioneer Park’s Primary Attractions
The attractions at Pioneer Park offer a variety of experiences. Whether looking for entertainment or the thrill of a ride, this is the place to be.
1. Big Stampede Show
Located within the Pioneer Museum, the Big Stampede Show is a collection of artwork that is narrated by Ruben Gaines. This show is offered four times per day between May and September 17. While entrance to the museum is free, there is a cost to attend this show:
- Adults (16 and up) $4.00
- Children (6 to 16) $2.00
- Under 6 free
3. Crooked Creek & Whiskey Island Railroad
Take a ride on the Crooked Creek & Whiskey Island Railroad train that will take you all around Pioneer Park when it leaves the station near the Chena River. There is a small cost to ride the train:
- Children 12 & under ride for $1.00
- Seniors 60 & older ride for $1.00
- Adults 13 & older ride for $2.00
5. Square Dance Hall
Several dance clubs are all members of the Northern Lights Council of Dancers. Visit their homepage to find contact information for each of the clubs. If you are a visitor to Fairbanks, the clubs encourage dancers to join them. Types of dance clubs include square dancing, English country dancing, Zumba, ballroom dancing and more.
6. The Palace Theater
The theater offers nightly showings of “The Golden Heart Revue,” highlighting the history of Fairbanks in the form of musical comedy. The show is performed nightly at 8:15 between May 14 and September 8. The cost is $12 for children and $24 for adults.
7. Pioneer Park Playground
The Pioneer Park Playground has been designed to be fun for all ages. It includes a train and climbing toys for the kids to scramble over.
Finding the Arts at Pioneer Park
If you are an art or music lover, you’ll find a few things just for you at Pioneer Park.
1. Bear Gallery
The Bear Gallery can be found in the Alaska Centennial Center for the Arts in Pioneer Park, on the third floor. The exhibits change on a regular basis, so check out their website for a list of current and future shows.
2. Gazebo Nights
Local musicians perform nightly at 7 p.m. during July and August at the Pioneer Park Gazebo. Click here to see the current schedule of planned performances. Types of music featured include Middle Eastern, blues, folk, rock, country, and more.
Shopping Opportunities in Pioneer Park
If shopping is more your thing, there is no shortage of opportunities within the park. Each shop is within a cabin that was once located within the city of Fairbanks. Click on the links below to see information about the historical significance of each cabin along with highlights of what is offered within the shops.
- Alaska Wilds Photography
- Bush Babies
- CHARMS by CJ
- Fairbanks Arts Association
- Just Originals
- Little Willow
- Midnight Sun ATV Tours
- Oh So Wonderful...
- Old Time Photos
- Queenly Chic
Eating Out in Pioneer Park
Taking in all of the experiences listed above should leave you with quite an appetite. But don’t worry. There are several restaurants to choose from right within the park.
From coffee to ice cream to full meals in a variety of cuisines, the restaurants in Pioneer Park should satisfy your palette. Click on the links below to learn more about each of the restaurants, along with historic details about each of the buildings.
- Alaskan Salmon Bake
- Annie Hodge Soul Food
- Bag Ladies of Fairbanks
- Frosty Paws
- Gold Rush Ice Cream Parlor
- Stir it Up
- Synnyo's Alaskan Kitchen
- Tasha's Caribbean Cuisine
Basic Visitor Information for Pioneer Park
When planning your visit, there are some key pieces of information that you should know about Pioneer Park.
- Park hours are 6 a.m. to midnight year-round, seven days a week. Please know that the park is closed from midnight to 5 a.m. except for special events. You should also register RVs.
- Pioneer Park is compliant with ADA regulations. The majority of Pioneer Park is accessible by wheel chairs.
- There is no admission fee to Pioneer Park. However, some of the attractions may have an individual fee (as mentioned a few times above).
- Restrooms are available year-round. However, if you visit during the winter, please note that the restrooms are just port-a-potties.
- Dogs are welcome at Pioneer Park but must be kept on a leash at all times. Please make use of the provided baggies and dog-pot dump stations that make it easy to clean up after your pets.
- An ATM can be found on-site if you’re in need of cash.
- During the summer months, horseshoes, bocce balls, and volley balls are available for your use. They can be checked out from the information booth near the front gate.
- RV guests are welcome for up to five consecutive nights. The cost is $12 per night and no reservations are required. Please note that there are no hookups available.
- Additional information is available on the park’s website about the following topics:
- Fairbanks North Star Borough Parks Recreation Department
- Pioneer Parks Master Plan
Enjoy Fun-Filled Days at Pioneer Park
We hope you’ll consider adding Pioneer Park to your agenda the next time you’re visiting Fairbanks. You may not often have the chance to visit a historic theme park. And, even if you live there, you might enjoy re-discovering this gem right in your own home town.
Special events happen throughout the year, so click here to view the event calendar when planning to spend an entire day and evening exploring, enjoying, and learning at Pioneer Park.