On Friday the 3rd, Adam, Jenni, Brandon & I went to the Salmon Bake at Pioneer Park in downtown Fairbanks. This is, as the advertisements promise, a "true Alaskan experience". It was a gorgeous afternoon and we went with empty bellies knowing there was tons of food (and good food at that) waiting for us.
At the Salmon Bake there is fresh Alaskan cod, halibut, and salmon every evening in addition to prime rib. The food is cooked in front of you on a wood fire pit. For a short time (and actually it is not available anymore) they were also offering Snow Crab on Fridays. This is also ALL-YOU-CAN-EAT. They have a salad bar and dessert and beverages. You eat in a park-like setting, surrounded by vintage Alaskan mining machinery. It was the perfect temperature and a great introduction to Fairbanks for Brandon & Jenni.
Normally I'm not the best person to take to an all-you-can-eat buffet, they certainly make money on me, but I tried my best. I had at least two plates and the snow crab was delicious! I think Adam would have liked me to eat some more...but I was stuffed! It was a good thing that there's a whole park to explore because we needed to walk it off. After we did a little shopping at the Pick 'n Poke, of course. We found a t-shirt for Adam, a sweatshirt for me and a beautiful little marble isbjørn (polar bear).
Pioneer Park has many attractions in addition to the Salmon Bake. It is billed as "Alaska's Only Historic Theme Park", which translates to a smaller, kitschier version of Mystic Seaport. It was developed for Alaska's centennial celebration in 1967 (celebrating the 100th anniversary of Alaska's purchase from Russia).
It has a 'recreation' of a Gold Rush town, which includes a number of original log cabins that were moved from downtown Fairbanks and the surrounding area. It also has a Pioneer Museum, a Native Museum, a Railroad Museum and an Air Museum. The museums are very small, but look like they have some nice displays. (We did not tour any except the Railroad Museum.)
There is also the Riverboat Nenana which, once we learned more about it, was really cool! It's a National Landmark and is the largest stern-wheeler ever built west of the Mississippi and the second largest wooden vessel in existence. Inside it are many tiny dioramas of life in rural Alaska (300' of them).
There is a train that takes you on a tour around the park. It loops twice while a docent gives you interesting information about the artifacts and Alaska. There is another steam locomotive - which we did not get to ride - which is the oldest gold rush artifact in Fairbanks (1899). We had great views of the Chena River and of the sun setting across the park. We continued our stroll as the park emptied out.
It was then that we saw a pair of moose horns lying on the ground...and Adam couldn't resist "trying them on". I have to admit, he looked pretty fantastic. It was a wonderful night out!