Skagway is a first-class municipality and borough in Alaska on the Alaska Panhandle.
It is known as one of the popular cruise ship ports in the state.
The tourist trade is a big part of its business, with tourists from over 400 ships a year turning this small town into a bustling haven.
It is among the most interesting towns in Alaska with its rich culture, stunning scenery, unforgettable train rides, and historical ties to the Klondike Gold Rush.
Skagway was a gateway amidst the Gold Rush when over 40,000 gold-seekers converged upon the area on their northward journey to the Yukon.
Today, visitors who walk upon the streets will find themselves transported to the old days along historic false-front shops, citizens in period costumes, wooden sidewalks, and restored buildings.
One can go on a downtown walking tour, explore glaciers, enjoy the scenic wilderness, hike amidst wonders, and sightsee to their heart’s content.
If you’re eager for what Skagway offers, start with this list of the best things to do here.
Find Pieces of Skagway History at the Gold Rush Cemetery
Gold Rush Cemetery is the oldest and most accessible cemetery in Skagway and its very first one.
In the late 1890s, many seekers descended upon the sleepy town of Skagway, having caught the gold rush fever.
For little less than two years, Skagway overflowed, growing faster than the infrastructure could take, with not enough doctors.
See the graves of many Gold Rush characters buried here, including kingpin Jefferson “Soapy” Smith and early tourism enthusiast Martin Itjen with his “largest gold nugget in the world.”
Find intrigue in the story of Soapy Smith whose notorious ways led to his fatally losing a fight to Frank Reid — also injured and buried in the cemetery 12 days after Smith passed.
Most people buried in this cemetery died of meningitis, typhoid, and lawlessness, and 1898 is the date on many of the graves.
Admire Picturesque Sights at Jewell Gardens
If you’re looking for lovely and romantic attractions in Skagway, Jewell Gardens will be right up your alley.
Jewell Gardens has a dazzling display of glass installations, grounds full of blooming flowers, Alaska-sized vegetables, and a diverse plant array.
The staff is always proud to share their variety of blooms and sustainable agriculture techniques with guests.
Keep an eye out for the vibrant blooms, hidden pathways, fragrant flowers, and glass inspirations in the garden, created by their very own artisans.
You can go on a professionally guided garden tour, complete with a tea service or gourmet lunch prepared fresh from their seasonal ingredients.
Their open glassblowing studios are within the grounds, and you can witness the ancient art of glassblowing.
You can even create your own glass-blown flower, which they ship to you at home for an unforgettable keepsake of your visit.
Glimpse Skagway’s Past at Skagway Museum and Archives
Since 1961, the Skagway Museum and Archives have been standing as the McCabe College Building, and in 2000, Skagway celebrated its centennial and constructed a new building.
Skagway’s history goes well beyond the Klondike Gold Rush, serving as a gateway and significant transportation corridor to interior Alaska and the Yukon.
Find exhibits that span many eras and spot treasured memorabilia, photographs, artifacts, and historical records of the past centuries.
The museum is renowned for its Alaska Native heritage collection of beadwork, baskets, and carvings, and its Gold Rush collections of tools and artifacts belonging to gold seekers.
Other items on display are wildlife skeletons, whale baleen, Bering Sea Kayaks, a Tlingit canoe, a Portland cutter, and a Ford AA truck from 1931.
The museum’s mission is to enrich community life by preserving, collecting, and interpreting the cultural arts, heritage, and history of the Skagway and Taiya Valleys.
Seek Entertainment at the Days of 98 Show
Since 1923, this theater has dazzled and enthralled goers with stories of the infamous outlaw, Soapy Smith, and an array of comedy, ragtime songs, and can-can dancing.
Soapy Smith reigned supreme during the Gold Rush, learning his conman ways in the silver and gold rushes at Colorado, eventually taking his throne on Skagway in 1897.
At Skagway, he and his cohort from Colorado, ‘Rev.’ John Bowers put together the biggest band of thieves in North America.
This riotous vaudevillian music spectacle tells of Smith’s rise and fall, his unforgettable life, and his dramatic demise.
One will find themself transported to the Skagway of 1898, with the dance halls’ chills and thrills and the goosebumps experienced by every gold seeker on the treasure hunt.
Dancing girls, song and dance, thrilling guns, can-can displays, true and tragic legends — all a part of the longest-running show in the north.
Taste Something Great at Skagway Brewing Company
Skagway Brewing Company has been satisfying visitors with its delicious food and freshly brewed ales for 12 years.
They craft their menu with individual tastes in mind so that everyone finds satisfaction.
Some of their best-selling food includes sandwiches, special burgers, pasta, and salmon, accompanied by a glass of fine wine or homebrew.
There are fewer better ways to cap off a day in Skagway than enjoying a tasty meal here, complemented by their famous Spruce Tip Blonde Ale.
They make this special ale out of spruce tips picked in the spring.
The spruce tips give the ale its citrus flavor, brewed with Skagway’s wonderfully fresh untreated water to make an amazing drink.
Their other staple ales are the complex and malty Boom Town Brown, the bitter Chilkoot Trail India Pale Ale, the roasty chocolate Blue Top Porter, the smooth Prospector Pale, and the light Helles Lager.
Bring Your Kids to the Junior Ranger Activity Center
This visitor center is brimming with many interactive activities for your children.
Here, your kids can earn a badge by completing tons of activities and learning all about the Gold Rush.
The center brims with marvelous things your kids can enjoy, such as animal furs, Victorian games, coloring sheets, Victorian dress-up clothing, historical artifacts, and lots of colorful history.
They can use the iPads provided on-site to complete the six activity stations and help earn their Junior Ranger badge.
Pick up a Junior Ranger booklet at the center and explore and enjoy the park while completing and submitting it after.
Or download one at home, and let your kids learn about the Gold Rush while earning nuggets to get the badge.
And if you’re there on the third Thursday of July, join Junior Ranger Day, which celebrates the youth that will become the generation to steward the National Parks.
Have a Ride on the White Pass and Yukon Route
Take an exhilarating ride on a narrow-gauge railroad from the Gold Rush era that will bring you from Skagway into the depths of the Yukon.
See how the railroad bed carved into rock-solid mountains is an amazing marvel of engineering in the countryside.
The train climbs up 2865 feet to White Pass, offering you staggering views of Bridal Veil Falls, Inspiration Point, Dead Horse Gulch, and the original Klondike Trail of 1898.
Look down on Skagway Harbor, loop at White Pass Summit, and have an impressive look at Yukon River’s rushing headwaters.
The tour has full narration from vintage train cars that afford views of spectacular scenery, with vast windows and viewing decks.
View trestles, tunnels, waterfalls, glaciers, historic sites, gorges, and cloud-covered mountains, all of which trace the paths of the miners from ages past.
Go On a Day Hike around Skagway
If the outdoors are calling to you, start exploring the Alaskan wilderness surrounding Skagway.
Skagway is one of the best starting points for many engaging day hikes that last 1-2 hours.
The Lower Dewey Lake Hiking Trail is 3.6 miles long and is a pleasant nature getaway that features a steep climb and then a walk around the fairytale-like lake.
There are switchbacks and sprawling hills and you can bring a fishing pole or binoculars to spot thrushes, spruce goose, and tree swallows.
The Lower Reid Waterfall is a small, lovely waterfall behind Gold Rush Cemetery and features an easy incline you can climb to enjoy the refreshing mist and nature’s wonders.
Yakutania Point is a simple walk that gives a pretty view of the inlet, Skagway port, and the cruise ships that stop there, with a covered shelter where you can have lunch.
Visit the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park
The Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park was authorized to interpret and preserve the Klondike Gold Rush of the late 19th century.
It comprises the Chilkoot Trail, a corridor comprising the White Pass Trail, a historical business district, and a Visitor Center.
It protects the memory of the Gold Rush era via historical commemoration and artifacts, featuring exhibits that help visitors retrace the past.
At the Visitor Center, watch rangers give presentations of this fascinating era and browse the video clips, photographs, maps, and dioramas.
At the Moore House Museum, spy exhibits about the Victorian era, the Moore family, and their life in this frontier charm.
At Jeff. Smiths Parlor Museum, spot rare photos, folk art, unique artifacts, odd taxidermy, and animatronic mannequins.
And at Mascot Saloon Museum, view the restored saloon, learn about lawlessness in Skagway, and know the community characters and the town’s evolution.
Stop by the Historic Red Onion Saloon
A visit to Skagway is not complete without stopping at this historic establishment, a favorite among citizens and tourists.
Constructed in 1897, the original Red Onion Saloon was one of the finest bordellos around.
The owners have preserved the exciting sense of history at what was once a classy dance hall and saloon in a thriving gold rush town.
It now houses a museum that takes people into the seamy past of Skagway, where lonely miners, madams, and working girls congregated.
The Red Onion underwent conversion into a restaurant and a bar with the brothel museum upstairs.
Meet the modern-day “madams” wearing period costumes who also do a walking tour of the town and tours of the brothel.
Have some cold beers and mouth-watering bites to eat: tasty pizza, spicy nachos, garlic hummus, tangy chili, and fresh salad are all on the menu.
Watch a Salmon Run at Pullen Creek Stream Walk
Near the places where the cruise ships dock, you can watch the salmon swim upstream to spawn in their natural habitat.
Salmon swim upstream as part of their natural life cycle: they are born in freshwater rivers, spend most of their lives in the ocean, and then return to where they can lay their eggs.
Pullen Creek Stream Walk is a pleasant park with interpretive signs featuring information on salmon and the surrounding environment.
The Stream Walk exposes visitors to lower Pullen Creek with the stream, the salmon, the riparian habitats, and the area’s local history.
The creek is shallow and narrow, providing an easy chance to get an up and close look at the salmon as they fight their way up.
Wildlife such as seals and bears may come around to feed on the salmon at certain points of the year.
Dash through the Wild at the Skagway Sled Dog Musher Camp
Have a quintessential Alaskan experience as you board a sled pulled by gorgeous huskies into the great backcountry!
First, come aboard a tour van and listen to tales of historic Skagway as you come into town and ride towards the waterfront of Dyea.
Hop aboard an all-terrain Unimog vehicle up a mountain road lined with rushing glacial streams and waterfalls.
You will soon arrive at the authentic dog sledding musher’s camp!
From here, you can have an incredible sled ride powered by 16 hardy Alaskan huskies on an adventure through the awe-inspiring wilderness trail into Tonglass National Forest.
Then go back to the Unimog and journey towards a gorgeous overlook where you may view wildflowers, bears, eagles, and seals amidst snowy peaks.
After this, go back to the musher’s camp, learn all about the grand sport of dog sledding, and meet a cadre of adorable husky puppies!
Soar above Glaciers with the Skagway Glacier Helicopter Tour
If you can’t get enough of the Alaskan wild, how about soaring above it all?
On this helicopter tour, grab a chance to leave civilization for a while and rise above scenic mountains, beauteous valleys, and magnificent glaciers.
The tour begins on the town’s shoreline, where you will lift off on the helicopter to see panoramic views of Skagway.
From here, travel towards the most optimal destination: the rushing waterfalls at Ferebee Glacier, the jagged heights around Chilkat Glacier, or the massive river of Meade Glacier.
At your icy destination, stick close to your guide, who will bring you along the breathtaking crevasses, blue ice, waterfalls, and more wonders along this vast and awe-inspiring river of ice.
Your guide will have stories and information aplenty that will help you understand the great forces of nature at your feet.
Float along the Taiya River
The Taiya River is a 17-mile long river that flows near Skagway, and its valley teems with incredible glacier views, rich flora, and wildlife, such as bald eagles and bears.
It is ripe for exploration, and you can take several river tours and float trips to make the most of your experience.
At the Skagway River Float, first enjoy a gentle float down the river.
Then bask in the wildlife sightings and Alaskan scenery while your guide shares intriguing natural history and the Gold Rush information of the area.
At the Skagway Hike and Float, enjoy a lushly forested trek on the Chilkoot Trail.
Then suit up for a float on the peaceful river while keeping a lookout for seals, bald eagles, and bears.
On the Skagway Chilkoot Trail Hike, Float and Summit Drive, follow the footsteps of the Klondike Gold seekers on the Chilkoot Trail.
Then float back downriver and soak in the amazing views of towering snow peaks, alpine lakes, and pristine woods as you drive to the summit of White Pass.
Have an Adrenaline Rush with Grizzly Falls Zipline
If you’re seeking more exceptional adventures, how about a thrill-fueled zipline tour into the heart of the Alaskan rainforest?
At the cruise dock, you will meet up with your guide, tour Skagway, then drive to the coastline.
Transfer into the Unimog vehicle for a rugged ride up the mountain and enjoy views of the glacier-fed waterfalls and the green rainforest.
At the top of the mountain, your guide will then suit you up in high-quality safety gear and teach you how to navigate the course.
Then it’s time to head to the take-off zone to clip in and zoom away on the exhilarating zipline course!
At the speed of 30 to 45 miles per hour, you will zip past jaw-dropping waterfalls (so close that you will feel the mist), rainforest wildlife, outstanding glaciers, and more!
You will also be able to capture photos of yourself on four top-tier suspension bridges hanging above the wild loveliness of Alaska.
Gear yourself up for a one-of-a-kind trip of uniquely colorful sights and quintessential Alaskan experiences at Skagway.
If it is your first time visiting this town, don’t forget to bring this list, so you’re updated on the best things to do here.
Look forward to thrilling outdoor adventures, merry entertainment, and exciting historical ventures as you explore the roads and trails of Skagway.