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Location: On George Parks Hwy 3; 10 miles southwest of Fairbanks, 25 miles from Fox, 43.6 miles from North Pole. Population: 1,680.

Ester is a community of artists and professors who disliked being lumped into the "Fairbanks" suburban mix. Ester is a lovely community in its own right and the location of the Malemute Saloon, where Alaskan poet Robert Service wrote some of his most famous poems. Today, tourists can swig dark Alaska ale, watch comic skits of yesteryear and toss peanut shells right on the sawdust floor.

One of the great attractions in Ester is a slide show of the northern lights put to symphony music. LeRoy Zimmerman's "The Crown of Light" plays at the nearby Firehouse Theater daily at 6:45 p.m. and 7:45 p.m., with a third show at 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday in July. Prices are $8 for adults and $4 for children.

You can't miss the Ester Gold Camp, where there are activities, dining and more for the whole family. In 1906 Ester was a panning and placer gold mining community with a population of some 5000 miners situated on the Ester Creek Shelf near Cripple Creek—then a rich gold creek. After the placer mining came the dredging. The Gold Camp was built in 1936 by the Fairbanks Exploration Company. It was closed in 1956 and reopened in 1958 as a summer hotel, RV park and buffet restaurant serving reindeer stew, Alaska crab and baked halibut.

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