Capitalizing on its Klondike Gold Rush roots, Skagway makes preserving and promoting its frontier spirit a priority. Think planked boardwalks, historic storefronts, a vintage train and the rootin’ tootin’ Red Onion Saloon. Here are the top 10 things to do when you cruise to Skagway.
Skagway’s most iconic attraction is the White Pass & Yukon Route Railway. Built in the 1890s to carry gold-crazed stampeders over the rugged terrain, the train began transporting tourists nearly 100 years later, in 1988. Climb aboard, settle in and check out the spectacular views as your old-time parlor car chugs to the White Pass summit. Book through your ship for dockside boarding or at the train station. Tickets at the station are $119 per adult and $59.50 per child for the three-and-a-half--hour journey. Note: Ships charge about $10 more per ticket, but you’re guaranteed a seat on this popular excursion.
If you’ve cruised to Skagway already and are looking for something different, this might be the spot. Tall tales and grilled salmon are on the menu at Liarsville Gold Rush Trail Camp and Salmon Bake. This Wild West frontier settlement appeals to tiny tots, teens and adults alike. Pan for gold. Watch a hilarious cast of dance-hall girls and comedians. Feast on all-you-can-eat Alaskan salmon bake. Book with your ship or online; both routes include transportation. The cost for adults is $59; $44 for children 12 and under.
Garden City Glassworks is the only public glassblowing studio in Alaska where you can actually blow your own glass art. Located in the gorgeous Jewell Gardens, the tour lasts about two hours and they’ll teach you all about glassblowing. Once you’re ready, you can blow your own glass ornament. There’s also a beautiful garden filled with veggies and flowers that thrive in the long days of the midnight sun. The gardens are about one mile from town, so you can walk or take a SMART bus ($5 for an all-day pass). Booked directly through Jewell Gardens, the glassblowing tour is $98. If you’re not on a glassblowing tour, garden admission is $12.50 for adults and $6 for kids 12 and under.
Discover a two-mile stretch of the 33-mile Chilkoot Trail, dubbed the longest museum in the world. This is a moderately strenuous trek with uphill sections retracing the steps of the gold rush stampeders through the rainforest. After the hike, meet up with a raft for a scenic float on the Taiya River. Keep watch for eagles and bears. Whether you join a ship excursion or book online with Skagway Float Tours, you’re picked up at the dock. It’s about $95 for adults and $75 for kids 7-12. Get a feel for what the trail looks like through photos from hikers.
There’s more than one way to see the Chilkoot Trail. Get an overview — literally — with a helicopter flight above it all. Fly over a glacier, even land on one and touch ice that’s hundreds of years in the making. Glacier tours include about 40 minutes of flying time (20 minutes each way) and 40 minutes exploring the glacier. Helicopters can hold up to seven passengers. Prices when booking on board vary by cruise line from about $330 to $400 per person. There may be a surcharge for anyone weighing more than 250 pounds.
A massive 350-ton dredge once used in the Yukon is the highlight of the Klondike Gold Fields. You’ll go inside the Sixtymile Dredge, moved piece by piece in 1999 from Dawson to Skagway, and learn about how it was used and even go down in the 40- degree temperatures of its chamber. In its day, the dredge unearthed more than $8 million worth of gold. Once you finish the tour, head to the Gold Rush Brewery (located on the property) for a tasting and tour, or pan for gold in the river. Get to the Klondike Gold Fields by the SMART city bus or book the excursion through the ship.
Walking Tour With a Madam: Uncover the history of Skagway on a guided walking tour led by one of the story-tellers dressed as a madam from the Red Onion Saloon. You’ll explore the streets and alleys of the historic district and learn about the notorious con artist “Soapy” Smith[LL8] and other interesting characters. You’ll also visit several cribs (rooms in a brothel) before ending the tour at the brothel museum, located just above the saloon.
Free Tour With a Park Ranger: Learn about the old Arctic Brotherhood Hall, now the Visitor Information Center. You can’t miss it; it’s the building adorned with thousands of pieces of driftwood. Poke around the Gold Rush Cemetery where notorious con artist “Soapy” Smith was buried. Join the free tours at the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park headquarters in the former railroad depot at Second and Broadway.
Self-guided Tour With a Map: Choose to go on a self-guided walking tour of Skagway with this helpful printable map.
The Moore Homestead cabin, built in 1887 by Skagway founder Captain William Moore and his son, still stands at Fifth and Spring. The adjacent Moore House has been restored to its early 1900s look and is furnished with original family items, a mix of Tlingit, frontier and Victorian cultures. It’s an easy walk from the dock to the house, where you’ll get a glimpse of early life in Alaska.
Learn about today’s sled dog racing from an Iditarod musher. See his (and his dogs’) gear, then meet the dog team as they’re prepped for a practice run. The puppies, in particular, are eager to greet you, and you get to hold them for photos. It’s all happening at Klondike Gold Fields. Take a SMART bus or book through your ship.
See glacier-fed waterfalls and the forest floor from a new point of view on the Grizzly Falls Zipline. You’ll be picked up from the cruise terminal and head about 11 miles outside of Skagway to the historic town of Dyea. Once you get there you’ll hop in a unimog (off-roading truck) for a unique drive up the mountain (think Indiana Jones). And it’s a thrilling ride down on 11 zip lines and four suspension bridges. The cost is a bit high for zip lining at $169 for adults and $149 for children, but when is the next time you’ll have a chance to fly through an Alaskan forest and over waterfalls?
How to get around:
This is one compact town with four possible cruise ship docks. No matter where your ship is docked, you can walk to the historic district or train station in ten to 15 minutes. Larger ships generally dock at the Railroad Dock along the Lynn Canal just south of town. This is the farthest dock from Skagway, but it’s still only about a mile to shops and attractions. For those who are less mobile, there’s a frequent, inexpensive shuttle that can take you into town. The other docks are closer to town (a few blocks away) near the foot of Broadway or Main Street.