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1 star and waste of money NOT because we did not see the auroras. But because of this:We were charged $200 per head for this tour. One of my friends went to the resort on his own (since he had a kid and the tour rules said no kids although the resort itself had no such rules). He paid $15 entrance fee for the museum, and $15 for the hot springs. Thats how we got to know how much everything costs ($30 plus pickup and drop cost). Our guide knew the auroras would not be visible and was convincing us to leave around 1130pm. Right since he picked us up, he knew the weather would not improve. It had been the same since the last few days. In that case, the tour should have been rescheduled or cancelled. This tour is nothing but a big SCAM. Its maybe worth 75 bucks MAX if you dont have a car to go to the location. If you do have a rental, save yourself a lot of money by going there yourself and purchasing tickets. There's nothing that you cannot do on your own including lights sighting. It will cost $30 plus gas. Nothing else is included in the tour. This review is for the tour and the company, not the guide.. not his fault.
Guide Tony did a great job!! Highly recommend him. We enjoyed the Hot Springs. Dinner was fine. Soaking in the Hot Springs enjoyable and the visit to the Ice Museum fun. Didn't see any of the negatives previously reported. Also didn't see the Northern Lights despite excellent viewing conditions, forecast likelihood, etc. Tony did everything within his power to facilitate seeing the lights including stopping at other spots along the highway. Wasn't to be. Next night a different story - lights were very visible with the Aurora Oval passing directly over Fairbanks.
Our guide was JT.......and he was the best. He provided us with so much interesting information it made the evening fly by. We are so glad we picked this tour. The ice museum was unbelievable and worth the trip alone. We had a great dinner at the restaurant. The hot springs certainly didnt disappoint. Then we were going to try and view the Aurora. We had a lot of cloud cover, so we didnt have high hopes. JT kept checking his Aurora app and keeping us informed. And, yes the wait was worth it. We saw the Aurora! On our way back to Fairbanks, JT pulled over and we saw the Aurora again. It was a fabulous evening.
This was an awesome experience that we thoroughly enjoyed. First off, our guide Randy was just awesome. He's like a walking talking Wikipedia for all things Alaska. I spent the entire hour or so each way on the road talking to him and she shared his experiences in the outdoors in and around Alaska. His knowledge of the area and history is extraordinary and he made the drive to and from Chena very enjoyable. He also facilitated all the events on the tour well, and even helped us get seated quickly at the very busy that night at least restaurant. Seriously.....Randy is an A guide for this and I give him my highest recommendation and thanks!
Beyond that.....here's what to expect. You and the other guests are picked up from the area hotels around 4:30 PM. You'll take the hour or so drive up to Chena. If you're in the front seats of the van speaking with Randy or the other guides is easy. But if not, he often picked up the microphone to address the entire van on points of interests. Once there, everyone congregates in the activity center building. And then the fun begins, and there are a few highlighted events that happen in this order:
1 Tour of the Ice Museum and Ice Bar
- This was pretty cool. Numerous ice sculptures, the ice bar, and you can purchase Appletinis in a souvenir ice glass for 15 a pop. You can keep the ice glass if you can figure out how to get it back home without it melting.....LOL. But you've got about an hour enjoy your drink and roam around the little ice museum.
2 Dinner at the Chena Hot Springs Resort restaurant.
- Nice mid-scale restaurant with a rustic atmosphere. Most entrees on the menu are in the 20-30 range, with everything you'd expect including beef, seafood, and chicken. Salads, sandwiches and burgers are also available if you don't want to go for the full dinner. We met and got to know few other of the tourists and enjoyed a very fun filled dinner with them!
3 Dip in the outdoor Hot Springs and indoor pool if you so choose
- This optional, but this is why you're encouraged to bring swim gear. I'm not usually a hot springs or pool type of guy, but this was very enjoyable. There is a locker room to store your stuff and you can hit the indoor pool if you choose. But the main attraction is the outdoor hot spring pool. It's rock lined and very natural....and it's nice and warm. It's only a 30 second walk through a covered area to the hot springs....so the cold doesn't bite you too bad before you get to the hot spring pool. And once you're in....it's heaven. We had a bout a 10 degree night.....and we were nice and warm in the hot springs...warm enough that we stayed in for nearly an hour. You can't really enjoy the stars or Northern Lights from here though because of the steam. At least on our night.
4 Relaxation and Northern Lights Aurora Borealis viewing
- By now it's about 11 pm, and you've got the next three hours to do as you please. Most of the group heads back to the activity center where there are refreshments and a small bar...and also the small indoor viewing room for the Northern Lights. Or you can head outside and set up your camera if you want to take some pictures. On this night the Lights weren't super actuve, but they did come out to play a little and I was able to capture some. My pictures were all shot with my cell phone Samsung Note 5, so here is proof the lights can be captured without a fancy camera....just get an app that allows you to manually adjust you camera settings ISO, aperature, etc. They won't be postcard material, but they will be good memories. Mine could have been even better if I would have got my tripod setup...but I didn't....so they're a but blurry. Regardless.....we got some nice memories captured.
And that's it. You'll head back at about 2 am in the van to take all of the guests back to each hotel....and you should be back at yours somewhere around 4 am.
We'll certainly do this again. Enjoy!
This was WAY TOO expensive for what it was.
Entrance fee for the springs is 15 per person, for the ice museum 15 per person. That makes it 60 for 2 people.That means, we paid ONLY for the driver and ride about 130 Miles return trip 300!!
Yes, it was a night trip, but still.........
The driver was friendly, but due to the noise of the car, we-in the back- barely understood anything of what he was saying.
Furthermore, food was not included. which was not offered, but for THAT price.....
We had a good experience with the Northern Lights and Chena Hot Springs Night Tour. The driver was on time, friendly and informative. He stayed accessible during the entire time we were at Chena which meant he could watch our backpacks while we were wandering around or at the Ice Museum.