24 Things to do in Skagway Alaska Cruise Port

Updated

by Marissa

Skagway is a historic small town full of rich history located along the Alaska panhandle.

Don’t let its small size fool you.

Skagway Alaska was once the heart of the gold rush. Decades later, it is one of the most popular destinations for cruise ships and tourists.

The small-town charm, gold rush history, and breathtaking train rides provide plenty of excitement for visitors.

Whether you’re researching an Alaskan cruise itinerary or thinking about booking a shore excursion, here are our favorite things to do in Skagway, Alaska.

Skagway Alaska History

Downtown Skagway Alaska with a cruise ship and snow capped mountain visible in the background

Skagway Alaska is located in the Alaska panhandle. Initially, home to the native Tlingit, settlers in the 1890s founded the city during the height of the Alaska gold rush. Its location provided a gateway to the Yukon and Klondike goldfields.

Skagway gets its name from the Tlingit word skagua, which translates to “place where the north wind blows.”

The town is famous for the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad, which serviced the northern gold mines. Although the famous railway was closed in 1982 after the closure of Anvil Gold Mines, it was reopened in 1988 for tourists.

The town is home to a little over 1000 residents, down from a peak of 20,000 during the gold rush. It’s no surprise that tourism is the town’s largest industry, with nearly a million tourists visiting each year.

Skagway Alaska Cruise Port

When you arrive at Skagway, your ship will dock at one of the four cruise ship docks:

  • Broadway Dock: Located at the end of Broadway
  • Railroad Dock: Located on the southern side of town
  • Ore Dock: Located at the end of Main St.
  • Ferry Dock: A short walk from the city. This dock is usually reserved for ferries and small ships

Upon your arrival, you’ll immediately notice the town of Skagway is tiny. There are only four main roads, and the city measures four blocks wide by sixteen blocks long.

You’ll find many of the city’s shops, historic sites, and restaurants on Broadway.

You’ll also find the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad at the end of Broadway, adjacent to the Broadway cruise ship dock. The train ride is by far the most popular tourist attraction. If it’s your first time traveling to Skagway, we highly recommend the scenic excursion – as long as you’re not afraid of heights.

Skagway Alaska Weather

Skagway Alaska offers some of the best weather along the Inside Passage.

The weather in Skagway is typically warmer and dryer than any of the other Inside Passage ports of call. However, you’ll still want to bring a lightweight rain jacket, as it still rains pretty frequently.

The town is tucked away in a valley between massive, snow-capped mountains. The location makes for beautiful photos, but it also means that it can get quite windy. Again, you’ll want to bring a windbreaker when you step off the cruise ship.

The temperature during the cruise season averages in the mid-50s (°F) during the shoulder season (May and September) and mid-60s (°F) during June, July, and August.

Although it is one of the drier Alaska cities, monthly rainfall averages 2 to 4.5 inches from May to September.

Things to do in Skagway Alaska

Despite its small size, Skagway Alaska offers a wide range of activities and shore excursions.

Do you want to explore the local shops on your own, take a train ride on the historic White pass railroad, hike one of the many trails, explore the gold rush history, or experience dog sledding?

Choosing an activity can be overwhelming, with so much to see and do.

We’ve put together a list of our favorite things to do in Skagway, Alaska, to make your decision easier.

Ride the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad

Ride the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad in Skagway Alaska with mountains in the background

Inviting passengers to envision life as an 1800s gold miner while exploring remote Alaskan landscapes, the White Pass & Yukon train ride definitely lives up to its nickname as the “Railway Built of Gold.”

The White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad is one of the most popular things to do in Skagway, Alaska.

Traveling to approximately 2865 feet above sea level, passengers aboard vintage rail cars will witness breath-taking scenes, including the 1898 Original Klondike Trail, Inspiration Point, Bridal Veil Falls, and Dead Horse Gulch.

The one to three-hour excursion retraces the steps of miners’ journey to find fortune as you will discover various gorges, glaciers, canyons, waterfalls, bridges, tunnels, mountains, and wildlife.

Ride the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad traveling on a wooden bridge and entering a tunnel

During the ride, tour guides share facts about gold rush history and stories about the miners.

Whether you love history, nature, or a sense of adventure and thrill, the White Pass & Yukon railroad tour will leave every passenger with memories of the most spectacular landscapes in the world.

Alaska Mountain Guides – Adventure Park & Zip Line

 Zip linning though skagway alaska rain forest.

Alaska is known for its majestic wildlife and wilderness experience. But imagine what it would be like to experience a birds-eye view of Skagway’s lush rainforests and waterfalls.

The Adventure Park and Zip Line tour provides guests with 3.5 hours of excitement and thrill as you fly through the sky at 30 miles an hour and take in the views of mountains, wildlife, or nature from treetop obstacles.

Adventurers as young as six can sit back and watch nature’s beauty unfold from 11 different zip lines while being perfectly safe the entire ride.

The excursion features the most reliable equipment, bridges, and rope courses

Throughout the tour, Alaska Mountain Guides will support you each step of the way, sharing historical facts as your hike to your treetop destination, capturing stunning picturesque photos for your family, or providing a helping hand throughout the experience.

Experience Dog Sledding

Man with Husky family dog sled in winter Rovaniemi of Finland of Lapland. People and Dogsled ride in Norway. Animal Sledding on Finnish farm, Christmas. Sleigh. Safari on sledge and Alaska landscape.

Sled dog racing is an iconic sport throughout Alaska and an equally popular tourist attraction.

Skagway’s Sled Dog Tours encourages you to push beyond your comfort zone and experience what it takes to become an expert musher.

Although there are different ways to arrive at your Musher Camp, whether by boat, helicopter, or van, you are guaranteed to be welcomed by the most well-trained, excited, and loving huskies.

After taking some time to bond with the playful puppies, professional mushers will guide you through how to maneuver the sled, signal the dog’s attention, and the rules of riding. You can choose whether you want to mush your own dog sled over Alaskan glaciers or sit back and enjoy the ride.

Either way, the huskies will give you a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to embrace true Alaskan adventure as you take in some of the most remote and breathtaking landscapes Alaska has to offer.

See Pitchfork Falls

Despite having 40 waterfalls identified by name in Alaska, Pitchfork Falls is one of Skagway’s most incredible beauties.

Gorgeous flora and mountain-side terrain surround the crystal clear lake. The waterfall spans over 200 feet and provides picturesque views and stunning beauty. Located just 7 miles away from downtown Skagway, local experts offer guided walking tours that bring you close to the falls and share some scientific and historical facts about its existence.

Keep your eyes open for spectacular wildlife animals, including brown or black bears and bald eagles.

Take a Helicopter Tour Over the Glaciers

Helicopter landing on a glacier with crystal blue river and mountains in the background
(Photo Credit: Alaska Helicopter Tours)

Do you want to take to the sky and explore the most remote and exclusive parts of Skagway?

The Glacier Helicopter Tour will give you breathtaking aerial views of some of the earth’s finest creations as you fly above or alongside forests, valleys, mountains, enormous icefields, and glaciers.

Before your adventure begins, excursion leaders and helicopter pilots will inform you of all safety precautions and provide you with the appropriate attire for your flight. Over the next two hours, up to six courageous individuals are treated to a once-in-a-lifetime view of nature’s greatest marvels and pure beauty.

Weather permitting, pilots may land on glaciers and allow lucky passengers to walk on Alaska’s snow-covered glaciers, take exquisite photos, and explore untouched land. Nonetheless, as many of the world’s glaciers are melting at an incredibly high rate, helicopter tours are indeed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that will rarely ever disappoint a venturous passenger.

Hike Lower Dewey Lake Trail

Encompassing a 3-mile round trip with an elevation of approximately 800 feet, the Lower Dewey Lake Trail features gorgeous rolling hills, rich forest scenery, and lush river-sider flora that serves as a postcard-worthy sight.

Taking roughly two hours to complete, hikers will have a chance to view the Twin Dewey Mountain Peaks and the Northern Coastal Forest no matter what season or month you visit.

You’re encouraged to walk at your own pace, stop to watch birds, take pictures, fish from the shoreline, or set up a picnic on the sandy beaches. Lower Dewey Lake Trail is the perfect place to enjoy some quality time with family, friends, and pets.

Take a Rainforest Bicycle Tour

Whether you are passionate about exercising or simply there to enjoy the calming ride, Skagway’s Rainforest Bicycle Tour lets you view some of nature’s greatest marvels at your own pace and style.

After meeting in Skagway’s downtown core, your tour guide will bring you to the Valley of Dyea, which is known for its spectacular mountain views and lush flora. From there, you will ride alongside the Taiya River and travel to well-known historical sites hidden within Alaska’s dense and mysterious rainforests.

Bring your cameras or binoculars as eagles, bears, and salmon frequently lurk amongst the awe-striking mountain terrains you will most certainly explore.

Try the Historic Train Carriage Escape Room

No matter our age, we all feel a little rush of excitement when we face a challenge to think outside of the box, solve puzzles, race against the clock, or compete against our family and friends.

Skagway’s Historic Train Carriage Escape Room is the place to be for those innovative or creative passengers who crave this type of thrill on their vacation.

This 60-minute puzzle game has you and your group work through clues and activities that prompt players to solve different missions. Upon entering, up to six players will be debriefed and locked within the puzzle room.

Players must learn to collaborate to unravel some of Skagway’s deepest, darkest secrets that will eventually crack the code to escape. The escape room experience is a fun way to spend time with your loved ones. The memories created here will be filled with joy and last a lifetime.

Take a River Float Trip

Many cruise passengers choose to visit Alaska due to the sense of tranquillity from connecting with nature. As you watch a whale breach from the water or hear the sounds of rushing water from a stream, you can’t help but feel at peace.

When you visit Skagway, that sense of relaxation will follow as you float through the 17-mile Taiya River in a non-motorized raft.

Although there are three different excursion tours to choose from, the most fulfilling one is a six-hour journey that combines a fascinating hike to the river where you will board your raft and float through some of Alaska’s most stunning landscapes.

While floating down the gentle river, you’ll be surrounded by beautiful vegetation and marvelous glacier views. You might spot abundant wildlife, including seals, bears, and bald eagles, if you’re lucky.

As you float to different landmarks and sights, your tour guide will also provide you with in-depth stories, facts, or information relevant to your experience and the history of the Gold Rush. Further, if you are looking for a calm, quiet and peaceful excursion, float rides down the Taiya River are probably an experience calling your name. 

Check Out Main Street

Corner of Broadway and 7th Avenue, built 2005
Corner of Broadway and 7th Avenue

If you’re someone who wants to experience some good-tasting local cuisine or explore the town’s unique shops for souvenirs, visiting Main Street should be at the top of your to-do list.

You’ll find restaurants such as Olivia’s Alaskan Bistro or the Skagway Fish Company, renowned for their grilled salmon and king crab leg dishes.

If you fancy an alcoholic beverage, check out Sakgway’s Brewing Co. to sample some locally-crafted beer.

In Skagway’s downtown core, you’ll find various saloons, museums, theatres, and the very photogenic Arctic Brotherhood Hall. Whether you want to stroll through the town at your own pace or join a guided, short-walking tour, Main Street gives passengers a sense of what it means to live in a tight-knit community full of history.

Visit Jewell Gardens

Locals know Skagway as the “Garden City of Alaska.” The graceful tour of Jewell Gardens will leave you with a lasting impression of the many wondrous beauties Mother Nature offers.

Located just outside Skagway’s downtown core, Jewell Gardens is beautifully decorated with some of Alaska’s wildflowers, including the official state flower, Myosotis Alpetris. Myosotis Alpestris flower is better known as ‘Alpine Forget-Me-Not.’

The landscape backdrop with views of snow-capped mountains, the pops of color from thriving tulips, perennials, sunflowers, and many others, give you the perfect opportunity to snap gorgeous pictures with your loved ones.

Although gardening is a precious art form within itself, the Jewell Gardens also showcases one-of-a-kind glassworks uniquely handcrafted and blown by local artisans.

As the owner Charlotte Jewell knows that glass blowing is a popular attraction amongst travelers, the gardens also feature guided tours through the Gardens Glass Gallery and Art Studio, where guests view a live glass-blowing demonstration. After the demonstration, you have a chance to craft your own glass ornament, which will later be shipped to your home address so you’ll never forget your stay in the Garden City.

Later, you can finish your stay in Skagway by enjoying a delicious meal at Poppies Restaurant, located on the property, or you can sample the Garden’s organic produce. 

Watch the Salmon Run

Salmon jumping up a waterfall during the Alaska salmon run

Salmon is a well-known delicacy amongst Alaskans, and many travelers are amazed by its beautifully speckled scales or its buttery, yet sometimes citrusy, taste.

For seafood lovers and anglers alike, the opportunity to see the famous Salmon Run is a truly remarkable and joyous experience.

Just a short walk from the cruise port, passengers can walk along Pullen Creek (also known as Dewey Creek) and watch Chinook and Pink salmon swimming upstream as they prepare to spawn.

Although you are most likely to see the salmon run in July and August, Pullman Creek is home to many wild animals, including harbor seals and bears that visit throughout the year. But, if you visit in the summer months, keep your eye on the shorelines as some lucky passengers have seen bears trying to snatch some running salmon, which is an extraordinary sight. 

Spot Wildlife on Chilkoot Lake

For animal-loving cruisers, excursions to Chilkoot Lake State Park should be number one on your list of things to do in Skagway, Alaska.

Beginning with a high-speed catamaran boat ride through the fjords of Skagway to Hains, Alaska, you will witness an abundance of majestic waterfalls and glacier views along the shore.

While on your way, scan the shoreline and skies for wildlife. Bears, harbor seals, bald eagles, and hawks call this area home.

Once you arrive in Haines, your tour will board a bus to take you to Chilkoot Lake State Park. There, you will observe strikingly high, snow-covered mountain peaks, calm crystal blue water filled with sometimes jumping salmon, and abundant wildlife.

Your guide will help you find the best lookout points to observe as many different animals as possible as you witness life within their natural habitats. 

Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park

Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park museum located in skagway
(Photo by Diego Delso)

For years, the mysteries behind the Klondike Gold Rush have attracted curious travelers worldwide to Skagway, Alaska.

History buffs should visit the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park.

Located just a short walk from the cruise port, the approximately 12,900-acre park was established in 1976 to preserve the heritage, memories, wildlife, and lands that belonged to the Klondike Gold Rush. Here, Park Rangers give presentations about the history of the gold rush and guide you in watching videos that explain the miners’ stories, lives, and experiences.

You can explore the museum, filled with artifacts, machinery, and memorabilia that will help you retrace the steps of miners and Skagway’s history. If that is not enough to satisfy your curious mind, venture outside and walk on the famous Chilkoot Trail, where thousands of miners took some of their first steps to search for great fortunes. 

Red Onion Saloon Brothel Museum

Red Onion Saloon bar
(Photo Credit: Red Onion Saloon)

Built-in 1898 and originally established as a bordello, the Red Onion Saloon Brothel Museum provides guests with insights into the lives of lonely miners during the Alaskan Gold Rush era.

Currently operating as an informative museum, you will have an opportunity to hear stories about the women who owned the lively dance hall and bar and uncover the secrets hidden in some of the artifacts visitors left behind. After learning about Skagway’s steamy past from guided tours or self-guided ventures, you can grab a bite to eat at the saloon’s restaurant, known for its well-crafted beers and savory pizza. 

Junior Ranger Activity Center

Looking for an interactive, educational, and fun excursion that kids of all ages will absolutely love?

Wander over to the Junior Ranger Activity Centre, located at Skagway’s National Park Service Building, and partake in all the modern saloon’s entertaining ventures. Children are encouraged to complete tasks to receive their own “Junior Ranger” Badge.

Kids get to explore historical artifacts, wildlife animal furs, victorian-style play outfits, educational games, and a reading and coloring center.

Through hands-on learning, children will learn about Skagway’s history, the Gold Rush, or wildlife facts, leaving lasting impressions on their knowledge and skill development. Although designed for children, young at heart adults will be intrigued by some of the activities just as much, or if not more, than the children themselves.

Whether you want to help your kids burn off some extra energy or gain an educational experience while visiting Skagway, the Junior Ranger Activity Centre is an excellent spot to visit. 

Gold Rush Cemetery

The grave of Soapy Smith in Skagway, Alaska at the Gold Rush Cemetery

Although this may not have been one of the first places you thought of visiting while in Skagway, the Gold Rush Cemetery is a fascinating site that can make you travel back in time to 1897.

Located approximately 1.5 miles from the downtown core, Gold Rush Cemetery lays some of Alaska’s most notorious and mysterious gold miners, including Jefferson “Soapy” Smith and Martin Itjen. Specifically, “Soapy” Smith was an infamous con artist who stole goods from many of his business clients and purposely manipulated political campaigns.

In contrast, Martin Itjen was known for finding the “world’s largest golden nugget” and promoting tourism in Skagway.

Several other notable individuals lay to rest alongside these two men, whose names are on the National Park Services’ website. If you are a big history buff or are interested in unique historical personalities and stories, the Gold Rush Cemetery can be a quick and intriguing place to explore. 

Jeff. Smith’s Parlor Museum

The legacy of Jefferson “Soapy” Smith doesn’t end with a trip to the Gold Rush Cemetery. Instead, his journey is forever remembered in one of Skagway’s most popular museums.

Formally operated as a bar, the Jefferson Smith’s Parlor became a museum in 1935. You can view many of his personal belongings, artifacts, and oddities from the Gold Rush Era.

Additionally, you’ll observe precious and rare photos of historical Skagway, mysterious folk art pieces, paintings, strange taxidermy and manikins, and vintage memorabilia from the Klondike Gold Rush.

But, if you accompany guides on an official tour of the museum, you will be some of the first cruise passengers to know how the nickname “Soapy” came about and why Jefferson Smith continues to be such a well-known person to anyone visiting Alaska. 

Skagway Museum and Archives

(Photo Credit: Skagway.com)

As thousands of gold-seekers traveling to the Klondike passed through Skagway and advanced up the White Pass Trail, many left behind treasures that reveal hidden insights into the city’s unique past.

Formally serving as a school, courthouse, and jail, the 1898 tower building is now home to Skagway Museum and Archives’ finest collections.

Among the vast amounts of Gold Rush memorabilia, photographs, and historical records, lies a magnificent collection of Indigenous Alaskan artifacts, including mammoth tusks, the original Tlingit canoe, beadworks, and wood carvings. Guests of all ages are invited to explore the museum’s magnificent displays.

Younger visitors will enjoy interacting with real wildlife skeletons, whale baleen, dog sleds, and gold-mining equipment. Older audiences will be intrigued by the designs and functions of roulette wheels and slot machines that captured the attention of many hopeful and sometimes fortunate gold miners.

Whether you want to learn more about the Klondike Gold Rush or are curious about Skagway’s history, the Skagway Museum and Archives are perfect for the whole family to enjoy. 

Davidson Glacier

Davidson Glacier Ice

Discovered on Chilkat Inlet in 1867, excursions to Davidson Glacier will leave you speechless and mesmerized by one of Skagway’s finest beauties. Each adventure will bring you up close and personal to the magnificent ice wall, whether you take a 6-hour boat cruise, canoe ride, or a 5-hour helicopter journey to the glacier base.

Along the way, be sure to bring your camera and keep your eyes open for the chance to spot some of Alaska’s most well-known marine animals, including whales, sea lions, and dolphins. Visiting Davidson’s glacier is most definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

This experience will fill you with some of the most joyous memories you will never forget.

Liarsville Gold Rush Trail Camp Tours and Tickets

Have you ever wanted to test your hand at gold panning or learn what it takes to strike fortune within some of Alaska’s most well-known goldmines?

Well, Liarsville Goldrush Trail Camp is the place to be.

Suitable for people of all ages, the camp will provide families with an entertaining and educational experience that will leave you feeling like a member of Skagway’s culture and past. Surrounded by gorgeous scenery from the White Pass Trail and waterfall, guests will have the opportunity to search for gold and keep their findings as a souvenir or venture out and explore the old trail.

Others looking to share a good laugh with friends or family can stay indoors to watch live comedic performances or poetic readings by one of Yukon’s most well-known authors, Robert Service. But, you cannot leave without trying one of Louisville’s all-you-can-eat signature meals, including their smoked Alaskan salmon, homemade cornbread, or a zesty garden salad made from local, organic produce. 

The Days of ’98 Show

A historic small town like Skagway would not be complete without a classic, beautiful and lively theater.

Established in 1923, the Foe No. 25 theater is home to the Days of the ‘98 Show featuring upbeat songs and choreography and endless comedy that will surely leave audience members at the edge of their seats. Completed with shows available throughout the day, this theater offers you a captivating and entertaining way to learn about Skagway’s greatest outlaws, such as “Soapy Smith,” the history of the city, and the Gold Rush Era.

As seats in the theater are a hot commodity amongst travelers these days, be sure to purchase your tickets well in advance to secure your spot. 

Skagway Brewing Company

If you are looking for some good-tasting Alaskan cuisine or want to relax with a nice cold one, Skagway’s Brewing Company is the perfect restaurant, brewery, and pub for you.

This brewery is renowned for its divine homebrewed ales and remarkable wine collection using the highest-quality local ingredients available.

But if alcoholic beverages are not your style, don’t worry.

The Brewing Company offers something extraordinary for every type of diner to enjoy.

Ranging anywhere from seafood to sandwiches and pasta, the restaurants’ lunch and dinner menus include a variety of gluten-free, vegetarian, and kid-friendly choices that suit each guest’s unique taste buds. 

Bites on Broadway

Established in 1897, Bites on Broadway is the perfect way to kick-start your day in beautiful Skagway, Alaska.

Opening as early as 7:00 am during the weekdays and 6:00 am on weekends, this bed and breakfast restaurant makes guests feel close to home with their delicious homemade breakfast meals and nostalgic atmosphere.

But if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, building your breakfast or lunch sandwich is the way to go. As one of the restaurant’s most popular choices amongst diners, this dish allows guests to choose from various fresh loaves of bread, salamis, vegetables, cheeses, and sauces.

Or, if you are simply looking for a quiet place to enjoy your morning coffee and take in Skagway’s spectacular landscapes, the Bites on Broadway baristas will be happy to serve specialty coffees, including lattes, espresso, cappuccino, macchiatos, Cubano, or bonbons. 

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Marissa

An avid cruiser of over 15 years. She has a passion for exploring new ports and excursions.

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