A little farther down the road were a few more lodges and a lot of shops and restaurants, right within the entrance of Denali National Park (not to be confused with the small bit added later as a state park, which is where we camped the night before). We didn't take the road into the national park this time, but it's on our to-do list!
Our time in Fairbanks was short, and we finished our evening with a ninety-minute drive to Chena Hot Springs Resort. The road ran alongside a river and was sandwiched in by hills and mountains. Most of it was state land used for recreational purposes. Chena Hot Springs is at the end of that road, and it's pretty neat to see the ways the resort has become self-sufficient, from running a power plant to growing their own food.
I'll get the bad out of the way first. Our little room (in one of the buildings pictured below) was way less than satisfactory! Without going into detail, I'm not even sure they went through half the normal cleaning routine for a hotel room.
The resort came into existence 110 years ago! The history of how it was found and how the water is unique can be read here, on the resort's website.
We were excited to head home and get a good sleep before Monday came around (which didn't happen at all, due to the wildfire) but wanted to stop at a few places along the way. We found the Alaska Coffee Roasting Company, which we will definitely come back to next time we're in Fairbanks! We got a delicious pizza, coffee, and a smoothie, and the many baked goods were tempting! But we had homemade cookies and cinnamon rolls in the car. :)
We drove up to the University of Alaska Fairbanks, high on a hill, and ate lunch overlooking the city. Fairbanks is so different from Anchorage. The farmland and sprawling look is of great contrast to Anchorage's bunched-in-tight cityscape, surrounded by water and mountains on all sides. We then drove to the botanical gardens just down the hill and enjoyed a quick walk before getting on the road.