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Valdez vs. Fairbanks

Michigan
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Valdez vs. Fairbanks

Ok.. this is sort of an off the wall question but which city would you rather visit? Which has more to offer in terms of sights, things to do, places to see, interesting stuff etc..? I have heard very good things about Fairbanks and yest I have also heard good things about Valdez ie the drive to Valdez...

The reason I ask the question is because I am planning an 11 day RV trip through Alaska in July of this year and trying to make a choice between these two cities. If I I go to one, I cannot go to the other one. there is just not enough room in my itinerary. Also, I will be leaving Denali NP and driving to one of these two cites. I know the driving distances are very, very different and that reall doesnt matter. If I do decide to skip fairbanks and go to Valdez, what is the condition of the Denali Highway From Cantwell to Paxson? My RV company (Great Alaskan Holidays) allows restricted travel on this road meaning that I would have to drive very slow and check my tires frequently. In the event I did decide in favor of Valdez over Fairbanks, I would diffently consider driving the Denali Hwy over bactracking back down the Parks hwy to Anchorage and then over to Valdez. So please, if anyone has been to both places, driven to both places, stayed near both places (campgrounds) give me your feedback.

Thanks

Jeff

Kodiak Island...
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1. Re: Valdez vs. Fairbanks

Jeff,

Boy, that's a tough one. You are basically comparing apples and oranges.

First off, what are your likes and what are you hoping to get out of your trip to Alaska?

Fairbanks is bigger and offers more touristy, non-outdoors related activities, IMO. You can visit the UAF Museum, go to Pioneer Park and see the old homesteader cabins and maybe a show. That's not to say there aren't outdoor activities, but if hiking, kayaking, etc aren't your think you will probably find more to do in Fairbanks. It is, after all, Alaska's second largest city.

The terrain around Fairbanks is very, very different from Valdez. You are going to see a lot of birch and aspen as well as pine, but the evergreens are very stunted in growth compared to the coast. The Interior has a lot of inland lakes and streams and the rivers are wide and silty for the most part. The ground is tundra in most areas. The days are usually warmer in the interior and the light lasts even longer than farther south in Alaska. Summertime in the Interior often brings a lot of forest fires and depending on the year Fairbanks can have a lot of smoke haze. Summers in the Interior always felt warm and lazy to me.

Valdez is typical of coastal Alaska - deep, brillinat greens, fresh, rushing streams and rivers that create amazing waterfalls. The trees are bigger with a lot larger spruce. More moss on the trees and denser underbrush. Valdez itself literally sits between the ocean and a mountain. Coastal Alaska tends to lend itself more to outdoor activities - lots of kayaking, fishing charters, glacier tours, more hiking, etc. The days will be cooler than the interior and there's a much greater chance for rain and storms on the coast. Ocean influence is predominant in the coastal regions of Alaska - everything from the wildlife to the climate to the daily living.

Both places are absolutely beautiful in their own ways. I grew up in the Interior and it will always be home, but if I were visiting I would probably head for Valdez. Of course, being from Kodiak I have developed and addiction for the ocean that can't be satisfied.

Hope this helps!

Healy, Alaska
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for Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska
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2. Re: Valdez vs. Fairbanks

Needinsun did an excellent job describing the difference of the two areas - they are vastly different, so it's really hard to compare. I love summers in Fairbanks - it actually feels like summer, because it's always very cool along the coast. The history of the Fairbanks area is amazing and its really more of a city, while Valdez is just a small town. Valdez certainly has the more stunning scenery - but I think most visitors are surprised by Fairbanks - its more rolling hills with the incredible Alaska range in the background. Just really depends what you are more interested in. If you are spending more time along the ocean, like down on the Kenai, that might help with your decision.

However, if you have the chance to drive the Denali Hwy, I would do that - it's relatively quiet compared to the hubbub of Denali Park and has some really great scenery - that I wouldn't miss.

Hope that helps! :)

Greater Washington...
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3. Re: Valdez vs. Fairbanks

You guys are driving me crazy! (in a good way!) There's way too much to choose from for this Alaska trip and we only have 8 short days!

BUT this question and the replies received has helped me make a more definitive choice between the 2 since I tend to shy away from touristy attractions. Some nerve coming froma tourist huh?

Thanks a bunch!

Michigan
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4. Re: Valdez vs. Fairbanks

Thanks so much for the responses! I appreciate that. I am still undecided. I think both cities would be well worth a visit and are unique in themselves. I believe that is why I am having such a difficult time deciding.

Here are my two scenarios: each will take between 3-3.5 days.

The Fairbanks Scenario:

Leave denali area and spend 2 days in the Fairbanks area sight seeing, fishing, maybe take a tour. Leave fairbanks on the 3rd day and drive back down the Parks Hwy towards anchorage seeing the same scenery, towns etc.

Benefits: Less driving/gas, get to see Alaskas second largest city, more time doing things other than driving.

Negitives: Driving down the same hwy each way for 8 hours (Fairbanks to Anchorage)

or

The Valdez Scenario:

Leave denali and hit the Denali Hwy to the richardson Hwy, Sleep somewhere between Paxson and Valdez. Finish the drive to Valdez and in the same day spend time exploring Valdez and the surrounding area. Wake up and spend the morning in and around Valdez. Leave Valdez in the mid afternoon and head towards Palmer/Anchorage. Spend the night between Glenallen and Anchorage.

Benefits: Get to see alot more of the state and wont be driving down the same roads for hours on end. Get to see Valdez, Glenallan, Mat-su etc..

Negatives: More drive time, more gas usage, lots of traveling. May be too hectic of a schedule.

I still Cant decide.

My Group (3 adults) like the outdoors especially hiking, fishing, photography and wildlife viewing. We are not really the museum types or the artsy type people. I am thinking that we may enjoy the smaller villages/towns more than the big cities. However, we will be heading to the Kenai peninsula for 4-5 days after the Anchorage-Denali-(Fairbanks/Valdez) leg of our trip. Will the Kenai be similar to the Valdez region?

Help.

Jeff

Cadiz, Kentucky
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5. Re: Valdez vs. Fairbanks

With that scenario, I'd do Valdez, because - like you - we don't like backtracking. You didn't say when you were going, so I'll give you this one piece of warning. If the salmon are running, Valdez will be rv's wall-to-wall, and you may have a problem finding a place to park. (It IS fun though to see them being pulled in!) I don't think you can compare Valdez and Kenai any easier than you can compare Fairbanks and Valdez. Don't concern yourself toooo much about which way to go because which ever you choose is going to be TERRIFIC!!

Manitoba, Canada
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6. Re: Valdez vs. Fairbanks

"My Group (3 adults) like the outdoors especially hiking, fishing, photography and wildlife viewing."

IMO, hands down, Valdez.

It might help if you posted your current itinerary (including things you plan to do at each location), as well as the times your planes arrive and leave Anchorage.

Kodiak Island...
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7. Re: Valdez vs. Fairbanks

Yeah, after hearing what you and your group like to do, I have to agree with the others and say I'd definitely do Valdez. It's longer driving but you couldn't ask for a prettier drive.

Fairbanks and the Interior is kind of a place unto it's own and I'd save that for another trip when you can spend the time to really check out it's treasures (like flight trips to the Arctic Circle and Yukon River, Gold Dredge #8, seeing the pipeline over the river at Delta, etc.)

The warning about Valdez during the fishing season should be heeded. Get reservations now!

Have a great time. Alaska is truly a treasure and like no other place on earth.

8. Re: Valdez vs. Fairbanks

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