Travel: Inbound to Alaska + Between Fairs

Alaska Travel Information

Traveling to Anchorage (Fair dates Wednesday-Thursday, April 17-18, 2024)

(Setup in Anchorage is Tuesday 2-6p and Wednesday 7-9a. Exhibit Hall opens at 9a.)

You will of course find the most flight options on Alaska Airlines, but several other major carriers fly to Anchorage (American, Delta, and United) as well as some smaller carriers.

Traveling to Soldotna (Fair dates Friday-Saturday, April 19-20, 2024)

(Anchorage Fair ends at 3p Thursday. Setup in Soldotna is 6-9p Thursday and 8-10a Friday. Exhibit Hall opens at 10a.)

Two small commuter airlines have 35-minute flights to Kenai-Soldotna: Grant Aviation and Kenai Aviation. The airport is in Kenai, 20 minutes from the hotel in Soldotna and 35 minutes from the Fair venue in Sterling. Both airlines have very small planes, about 10 passenger seats, but many daily flights between Anchorage and Kenai. (Note to returning exhibitors: Neither of these are the same airline that you have used in the past. Ravn Alaska no longer flies to Kenai, although it does fly to Homer.)

If you like to drive, I highly recommend that you drive to Soldotna instead of flying! The 3-hour (145-mile) ride from Anchorage to Soldotna on the Seward Highway and Sterling Highway is nothing less than magnificent, traveling first along breath-taking Turnagain Arm with wonderful views of glacier-capped mountains across the inlet, and then through a mountain pass before you drop down into the forest to drive alongside the glacier-fed, aqua-marine Kenai River.

SIGHTSEEING TIPS: A popular side trip is to drive an additional 70 miles south of Soldotna to enjoy picturesque Homer, “where the road ends and the sea begins.” Homer is the favorite vacation spot of Alaskans themselves, an artistic and scenic small community (pop. 5700) literally at “the end of the road,” so-called because the furthest you can drive on the continuous road system in North America is from Key West FL to Homer AK.

IF YOU DRIVE: The way the Fair itinerary worked out this year, there is little time for sight-seeing. If your setup is very quick, there are a few things you might try to squeeze in. If the sky is clear, it is fun to take the tram at Alyeska Resort up to the top of the mountain at 2,300 feet, where you can enjoy the magnificent view of Cook Inlet. Although the Visitor’s Center at Portage Glacier is closed until Memorial Day weekend, it is a short (5 mile) pleasant drive down a side road where you can see glaciers fairly close on the sides of the mountains alongside which you drive.

RECOMMENDATION: If you want to setup in Soldotna on Thursday night, you will want to leave Anchorage quickly for the 3-hour drive. You will come to the Fair venue, north of Soldotna, before you arrive in Soldotna where there are lots of restaurants. You may want to get some grab-and-go food on the way down or even before you leave Anchorage. (The Girdwood gas station along the highway at the turnoff for Alyeska, Speedway Express, is popular with locals making that drive. There is also a Subway, doughnut shop, pizzeria, and ice cream shop in that little cluster of shops. It is 45 minutes south of ChangePoint, on Turnagain Arm.)

Traveling from Soldotna to Fairbanks (Fair dates Monday-Tuesday, April 22-23, 2024)

(Soldotna Fair ends at 3p Saturday. Setup in Fairbanks is 3-5p Sunday and 7-9a Monday. Exhibit Hall opens at 9a.)

Again, you can drive or fly back to Anchorage from Soldotna. Considered a National Scenic Byway, the route along the Turnagain Arm is full of sightseeing opportunities. (The Soldotna Fair ends at 3:00 so that you have time to drive back to Anchorage that evening, if you like!) Alternatively, you could drive to Homer and fly from there to Fairbanks (through Anchorage).

However you return to Anchorage, there are many flights from Anchorage to Fairbanks hubs on Alaska Airlines. The flight is about 60 minutes long. Should you choose to drive the scenic Parks Highway, the trip is 365 miles between Anchorage and Fairbanks. If you drive, there is time to drive back to Anchorage on Wednesday, or you can leave your rental car in Fairbanks.

SIGHTSEEING TIPS: It is fun to drive to Chena Hot Springs (a little over 1 hour northeast of  Fairbanks) to soak in the hot springs and/or tour the Ice Museum! Or you can continuing driving about 3 more miles north of the turn onto Chena Hot Springs Road, where there is an informative pull-out about the Alaska Pipeline, which is above ground there.

Traveling from Fairbanks to Juneau (Fair date Thursday, April 25, 2024)

(Fairbanks Fair ends at 4p Tuesday. Setup in Juneau is 3-5p Wednesday and 7-9a Thursday. Exhibit Hall opens at 9a.)

All flights between Fairbanks and Juneau make a stop in Anchorage. Alaska Airlines is the only major airline that flies to Juneau. Juneau can only be reached by air or ferry (from Haines); the flight from Fairbanks to Anchorage takes about an hour and the one from Anchorage to Juneau takes about 90 minutes.

SIGHTSEEING TIPS (Fairbanks-Anchorage): If you drive to Anchorage from Fairbanks, you might enjoy a side trip to Denali National Park, although the best views of Denali (previously Mount McKinley) can actually be found from charming Talkeetna, Alaska.

SIGHTSEEING TIPS (Juneau): Visit Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, 5 miles from the Juneau airport. In addition to the glacier, there is a bear-viewing platform, and you are quite likely to see a black bear there in the spring, particularly in the early evening.

Traveling “Outside” from Juneau

(Juneau Fair ends at 5p Thursday.

Alaskans call the continental United States “Outside” – always capitalized. Alaska Airlines is the only major airline that has flights out of Juneau. You may get tickets on other airlines that share flights with Alaska Airlines. Remember, you must stay until the Exhibit Hall closes!