Large Animal Research Station Tour Review (Fairbanks, Alaska)
A visit to the Large Animal Research Station at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (LARS) is an absolute must do for anyone visiting Fairbanks who loves animals. It’s also a great opportunity for those who like to learn about somewhat obscure local things while traveling! Musk oxen and reindeer have amazing and unique arctic adaptations that help them survive and thrive in the harsh climate of the arctic and interior Alaska and this is an ideal place to learn all about that.
You can often see animals from the parking area on Yankovich Road, but I highly recommend spending the hour to go on the guided tour. This gets you up close to the animals and you get to learn so much from your guide.
Tours are offered in summer and winter, though winter tours are only offered on weekends. I lived in Fairbanks for four years and this was always one of my favorite places to visit and take visitors.
What to expect on the UAF Large Animal Research Station Tour
The tour lasts about an hour, and you’ll be walking and standing the whole time, mostly outdoors. There is not a lot of distance involved, but you will be on your feet. In summer, the ground is uneven and may be muddy or dusty, depending on the weather. In winter, expect snow, possibly deep snow that is a bit packed down but still can get around your shoes (wear boots!). In late winter and spring, sometimes it can get a bit icy, so if you have ice cleats or microspikes bring them along. They also have some pairs of cleats to wear, let them know if you’d like to borrow a pair for some extra traction on ice.
Indoor restrooms are available at the start and end of the tour.
How to get to the UAF Large Animal Research Station
You’ll need to have a rental car or take a taxi to get here from town, unless you are participating in a tour which includes a visit here. Expect taxis or ride shares to take much longer than you expect, so give yourself lots of extra time if you don’t have your own wheels.
If you are driving, there’s a parking area on Yankovich Road, google maps will take you straight there.
What animals will I see on the tour?
You will get to see musk oxen on the tour as well as reindeer. An absolute highlight is the baby musk oxen, who may be very young or yearlings depending on what time of year you visit. Baby musk oxen might just be the most adorable animals on the planet.
The reindeer are in a separate area and you’ll get to see them too!
Throughout the tour as you see male, female and baby musk oxen and reindeer, you’ll get to learn all about their different and fascinating arctic adaptations to survive in this harsh winter environment.
Interacting with Musk Oxen and Reindeer
It’s important to say right up front that you do NOT get to go inside the enclosures and interact with the animals. Musk oxen and reindeer look pretty mellow but they can definitely hurt you!
You can get up close to them, but you’ll be behind a fence. You can see them up close and observe their behavior but you don’t get to touch them or reach through the fence, for your safety and also for the animals safety and health.
Costs and Tour options
The tour cost is $15 for anyone age 5 or older (under 5 is free).
Winter tours go from mid September through April (once a day on weekends and Mondays only) and require purchasing your tickets in advance.
In summer (mid May through early September), there are multiple tours a day and you don’t need to book in advance. You can just show up, buy a ticket and join!
What time of year is best to visit the UAF Large Animal Research Station?
I love visiting here in winter, because you really get a feel for the arctic adaptations of the musk oxen and reindeer! If you’re planning a winter visit to Fairbanks you really must include this in your itinerary. It’s outdoor tour so you need to dress warmly. You’ll also be walking on snow so boots are a must.
If you’re coming to Fairbanks in the summer, you’ll have more tour options as the tours are offered daily. This gives you the chance to see the farm in much warmer weather! Make sure to bring shoes that are ok to wear at a farm (getting muddy and dirty) and bring a rain jacket or umbrella in case of rain. A hat and/or sunscreen are a must on sunny days in Fairbanks.
Basically you cannot go wrong with a time of year to visit here, if you’re in Fairbanks, do it if you can, no matter the time of year.
What to wear for the UAF Large Animal Research Station tour
The Large Animal Research Station is a farm, so wearing clothes that are appropriate to wear outside and at a farm is important.
For footwear, make sure you are wearing shoes or boots with good traction that can get muddy or wet. In winter, there is a lot of snow so you’ll definitely want snow boots for the uneven snowy ground. In summer, be ready for mud and dust (depending on the current and recent weather).
In winter, you’ll want to wear warm clothes like you would for other outdoor winter activities. In summer, it can be quite hot in Fairbanks, but it can also be chilly and rainy at times. Make sure you have lighter and warmer layers and a rain jacket in case of rain (also makes for great bug protection!).