I was charmed by the western (slightly) town of Skagway on my first cruise to Alaska in 2001. On that trip, I joined my family for an all-day tour of Skagway and up over the White Pass and into Karcross, Canada. Our friendly and competent tour guide/motor coach driver proudly showed us his recently purchased home and explained on a typical day in summer, the town’s population would increase by 8,000 cruisers. (HINT: If your schedule allows, select a cruise that visits Skagway on a day with only one or two other cruise ships.)
Skagway is located on the Inside Passage and one of the reasons it’s a great place to visit is the small amount of rain it gets. (Drizzly on both of my visits so take a jacket/slicker with you.) Be sure to take the time to walk on Broadway Street which offers historic false-front restaurants and stores and restored buildings on wooden sidewalks. Expect to see locals in period costumes wandering around – they’re always happy to answer questions.
There are several shops along Broadway and a few on the nearby side streets. You’ll find all types of native crafts along with inexpensive souvenirs. There are a couple of jewelry stores and in the past, they sold gold jewelry for just slightly more than the current market price of gold. And for your Starbucks addict, the only (at the time of this writing) the ONLY Starbucks on your cruise is in a shop across from the train station.
Several times a day during the cruise season, rangers lead a free 45-minute walking tour of the historic district; you’ll visit the Mascot Saloon Museum, Skagway’s first building and one of the town’s original brothels. If you a hiker, you might enjoy the excellent trail system which leads you from the downtown area to nearby lakes, waterfalls and the graves of Skagway’s most famous historical figures – Soapy Smith and Frank Reid.
One of the most popular tourist activities in Skagway is riding the narrow gauge railway on the White Pass and Yukon Railway route, following the trail blazed by the gold diggers during the Klondike Gold Rush. Relaxing in comfortable parlour cars, passengers will view spectacular scenery such as Bridal Veil Falls, Dead Horse Gulch and Glacier Gorge. (HINT: Take a tour that offers a motor coach one way and the train in the reverse direction for the full experience.)
Finally, no visit to Skagway is complete without a stop at the famous Red Onion Saloon, one of town’s first bordellos. Today it’s a casual and fun restaurant/bar where waitresses dressed in costume offer tours of the brothel. For great local seafood, look to the Skagway Fish Company where tourists dine along with the locals.
Please let us know when we can help plan a terrific cruise to Alaska that stops at this legendary and fun port.