Alaska is home to many sights, sounds and experiences unattainable anywhere else in the United States. From the majestic skyline and earth-shattering sounds of glaciers calving to the sight of a grizzly bear catching a salmon as it races upstream, Alaska offers any kind of traveler an unforgettable experience.
Nowhere is this truer than in the historic gold rush town of Skagway, Alaska. An important part of the Klondike Gold Rush, Skagway is a great port stop for when you take a Celebrity Cruise to discover Alaska. Here are 10 fun and memorable activities to do the next time you stop off in Skagway.
Pan for Gold
Take a tour panning for gold just like the old-timers and get-rich-quick schemers would have done back in the 1890s as part of the Klondike Gold Rush. There are a couple of different tour options available, depending on the time of year you travel to Skagway, and while you aren’t guaranteed to strike it rich, you are guaranteed to have a great time while you participate in that behavior that sparked such a historic fever back at the turn of the twentieth century.
White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad
The White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad is a narrow gauge railroad that traces the route of the many gold prospectors who sought to make their fortune during the region’s gold rush. Easily the most popular attraction in the area, this train ride is fully narrated, and it features restored and comfortable replica passenger coaches from the late 19th century. Most of the trips require a passport since you’ll be making your way into Canadian territory.
Dog sledding is Alaska’s official state sport, and in Skagway, it’s actually possible to take a three-hour trip on a dog sled pulled by a team of dogs with an experienced musher as your guide. While it doesn’t match the rigor and danger of the Iditarod, the trip is beautiful, as is the experience of being pulled by a team of lively, well-trained huskies.
Regardless of whether you’re a novice or an expert, the White Pass presents any rock climber with just the right amount of challenge for a port stop.
Biking and Hiking
From the speed and comfort of a bicycle to the rugged stability of your own strong legs as they stride throughout the wilderness, the area in and around Skagway is perfect for the hiker and biker. There are group tours and hikes if you’d like to join forces with other outdoorsy types, but you’re always welcome to explore the majestic area at your own tempo and pace as well.
A great and less-taxing way to get outdoors and revel in the beauty of the scenery and wildlife is through a river rafting trip. The guides are knowledgeable, and they guarantee you’ll get back to your cruise ship on time.
Downtown Walking Tours
Narrated by one of Skagways’ favorite locals, Buckwheat Donahue, Skagway’s downtown walking tour features Alaska.org’s “Skagway Audio Guide” and tells the story of life in Skagway during the gold rush.
Skagway has a handful of excellent and informative museums that spell out the town and area’s history in fascinating detail. Here is a more detailed description of a few of them:
- Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park Museum. This museum features stories of the many people who left everything — jobs, family, friends and more — and journeyed by steamship to the Klondike to try and strike it rich during the gold rush.
- Mascot Saloon Exhibit. Operated by the National Park Service, this exhibit features interpretive rangers who will assist you in discovering an authentic 1910 saloon.
- Moore House. The site of Alaska’s first homesteading family, the Moore House is fully restored and is also operated by the National Park Service.
Sea kayaking is a great way to experience Alaska. Frequent wildlife sightings include whales, otters, eagles, bears and more. Most guided trips will even supply you with binoculars.
Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park
With collections that contain over 200,000 archaeology artifacts related to the Klondike Gold Rush, as well as over 3,000 photographs from the same time period, this park’s headquarters are in the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad Depot.
If you want to discover Alaska, there’s no better place than Skagway. Not only is it a gateway to the splendor of the surrounding wilderness and its wild creatures, but it is also a portal to a past that forever changed the region and the people who still call it home.
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