Wednesday, July 18, 2012

What should I do in Skagway?

Figuring out what to do in various cruise ports is always something folks who love to cruise must face. It can be an easy task to accomplish or difficult depending on how you approach the situation. One thing is for sure, though, it is nearly always a good idea to have some of it figured out ahead of your cruise. Booking independently or thru the cruise line does take advanced planning because once on board you may find your first pick tour is already booked up.

Skagway, Alaska is a great port for those who like natural beauty. It is also great for those who want to see part of the Yukon Territory of Canada.  Skagway is located North of Juneau on the inside passage essentially at the far North end of an area cut out be a glacier many years ago. The area is accessible via roadway connected to Alaska, Canada, and the lower 48 states. In fact from here you can even get all the way to where the road ends South of the Panama Canal.
Skagway was a gold mine oriented town. It was set up primarily as a transportation hub in and out of the Yukon area where gold mining operations were rampant. In fact there is still Gold mining there, but with modern trucks and roadways the Skagway area is less critical than before to those mining operations.  Skagway of present day is mostly a tourist oriented town, in part because there is no fish processing plant there so fishing in that area is primarily for subsistence instead of for commercial purposes.
Skagway is a neat small town with a small group of year round residents. I suspect a visit there in the Winter, one would find many of the stores shut down at the end of tourist season and only the year round shops are open for the locals. To that end, it also means not everything is always right available right when you need it year round.  
Because of the proximity to the Yukon and specifically the White Pass many visitors latch on to the folklore of the gold rush heading out into the mountains to see where the gold rush took folks decades ago. Back then it was quite a hike as compared to now where vehicles make the trip far more palatable. There are both railroad based tours and minibus tours. There are even some full size motorcoach bus tours up the highway into Canada to see the gold rush area.  While at outposts in the Yukon many other activities are available including panning for gold and dog sledding in the Summer training buggies. Both are fun activities, although for me my next dog sledding adventure will be a 2-3 day tour thru the wilderness with outback cabin camping.
In addition to the White Pass railroad and vehicle based tours, there are tours around town and even rafting trips available. The Famous Red Onion Saloon offers shows as well to keep guests in town entertained. Cycling tours down the mountain roads also exist. There are not too many tours from which to choose and several are many hours in length. Overall there is plenty to do there if you want to be active but not so much you can’t get a lot done while there. The helicopter tours are quick and can be coupled with other tours to the White Pass area to make for an enjoyable day.
Tours can be purchased independently or thru the cruise line. Often the prices are not very different between the two unless you do some research ahead. Calling the visitor center and some of the tour shops may get your best deal by booking yourself onto the early tours due to depart immediately after ships arrive.
Overall Skagway is a great place to visit. I’d love to spend a few nights there when we decide to take a month or two to drive the Alaska Highway stopping in various towns along the way. For those going up via cruise ship, there is plenty to do or you can just kick back and walk around town to see what is going on. It is just one of the several fun ports of call on the Alaska Inside passage so go there looking for adventure and enjoy your time there.  Of course we are always here to help you plan the best Alaskan Cruise Experience.

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