Skagway is a great town to visit. But because of its status as a cruise ship destination, many of the best things to do in Skagway are centered around shore excursions. Have no fear, though! If you’re trying to do Skagway excursions on your own, there’s still plenty of things to do in this Gold Rush town.
Here is our list of 10 free or cheap things to do in Skagway.
1. Hike to Yakutania Point and Smuggler’s Cove
We’ve already discussed Skagway’s numerous easy day hikes, but they also comprise some of the best activities in Skagway without spending any money. These represent some of the simplest and most lovely opportunities for exploring this historic port town.
Yakutania Point and Smuggler’s Cove are both short, easy hikes that end at a picturesque point perfect for a picnic lunch or some “scenic drinking.”
2. Have a spruce tip ale at the Skagway Brewing Company
Cost: $6 for a pint
The popularity of the spruce tip ale means that the Brew Co. is often tapped out, but if you can get your hands on a pint, you won’t be disappointed. They use local spruce tips instead of hops in this libation. This beer is unique to southeast Alaska, but each of the local breweries puts its own spin on the recipe.
The food is also very tasty, and their selection of burgers is awesome. They also have fun activities in the pub and you can check their calendar to see if they’ll be hosting an event while you’re in town!
3. Visit the Gold Rush Cemetery
The Gold Rush of 1898 is what put Skagway on the map, and some of the event’s less fortunate participants can be found at the north end of town across the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad tracks.
The Gold Rush Cemetery is down a short path off of a parking lot, and a short walk further brings you to the base of Reid Falls. If you get there at the right time, you can spend a couple minutes waving to the passengers on the WP&YR trains headed up the pass.
4. Play disc golf at Seven Pastures
Cost: FREE! if you’ve already got a disc. If not, you can pick one up for cheap at the Mountain Shop.
The most unique thing about the disc golf course at Seven Pastures is the holes. While most courses on the mainland use chain baskets, Skagway didn’t have any of those, so each of their 18 holes is denoted by an overturned keg on a post.
The tees are much easier to find now that there’s a set of new signs pointing the way, but there is definitely the possibility of losing a disc or two on the heavily wooded course. It’s one of the best free things to do in Skagway if you’re looking for a casual day of outdoor recreation!
5. Watch the Days of ’98 Show
Cost: $20 for daytime shows, $22 for evening shows, under 12 are half price.
One of Skagway’s longest running attractions, the Days of ’98 Show is a colorful vaudevillian musical that allows you to experience a day in the life of Soapy Smith – Alaska’s most notorious outlaw, who reigned during the wildest days of Skagway during the 1898 Klondike Gold Rush. It’s kitschy and fun and exactly what you’d expect to find in a small town theatre.
If you’re lucky, perhaps you’ll be picked to dance the can-can (ladies) or head up into the mysterious back room (gents).
6. Take the Red Onion brothel tour
Visit the historical Brothel Museum located at Red Onion Saloon and get whisked away into history of the Gold Rush era. This tour takes you through the house of ill-repute, as one of its madams leads the way, entertaining you with stories of days gone by. You might even catch a glimpse of Lydia, the resident ghost!
The Red Onion has transformed itself from dance hall bordello to a historic bar & grill, with some of the best food in town if you’re so inclined.
7. Tour the museum, sculpture and flower garden
Cost: $2 for the museum, $5 for the sculpture garden.
The Skagway town museum and the sculpture garden are located right next to each other on 8th and Spring, so if you go to one, you might as well hit up the other. The museum concentrates on the illustrious history of the town, with an emphasis on Soapy Smith, the local con man. This stop is a great activity for those seeking an educational experience and a cheap tour in Skagway.
The sculpture garden contains nearly 50 different sculptures from local and nationally noted artists in a beautiful garden setting.
8. Visit the National Park museums and Moore Homestead
Broadway Street contains a number of small museums depicting different parts of life during the Gold Rush. All of them are free to the public, making this a great way to walk around and tour Skagway for free! The museums include the Visitor Center on 2nd and Broadway, the Park Museum next to the Visitor Center, the Mascot Saloon Museum on 3rd and Broadway, the Chilkoot Trail Center between 5th and 6th avenues, and the Moore Homestead.
The Moore cabin on 5th and Spring is the oldest building in Skagway, built in 1887. The wooden home right next to it was also built by the Moore family near the turn of the century. It’s been painstakingly restored by the National Park Service and contains information and artifacts from Skagway’s “First Family.”
9. Watch the salmon run at Pullen Creek
The Pullen Creek Stream Walk is an interpretive trail designed to provide visitors with easy access to popular natural and historic locations in and around Pullen Creek and Pullen Pond. It is wheelchair accessible and leads to the Railroad Dock.
The size of the salmon run in Skagway varies yearly. The vast majority of the run is made up of pink salmon, which run every other year. You don’t want to be fishing for any of these guys though. As soon as the salmon leave the saltwater of the ocean for the freshwater of the streams, they stop eating and their skin begins to decay. Couple that with the fact that pink salmon is usually very oily and not the best to eat anyways, and it’s just a waste of time to try and catch them.
Pullen Creek is also the location for Skagway’s Duck Derby, where thousands of rubber ducks make their way down to Pullen Pond. If your duck gets there first, you win the cash! If you happen to be in town for this event, don’t miss it! It’s without a doubt one of the best free things to do in Skagway, and it’ll give you a peek into local life.
10. Swim in Lower Dewey Lake
Not for the faint of heart, but on a warm summer’s day, a quick dip in Lower Dewey Lake can be very refreshing. The water in the glacially-fed lake hovers around 40 degrees Fahrenheit, so swimming in the lake mostly consists of jumping in, then climbing out as fast as possible.
There are plenty of picnic spots around the lake though, so it’s worth the hike just to get away from the hustle and bustle of the 10,000 cruise ship passengers that descend on Skagway on the busiest port days.
To get here, go east on 2nd Ave past the railroad depot. Turn left where the railroad tracks cross the road, and follow the tracks 120 meters north to the trailhead. From here, it’s just short of 1 mile to the lake.
Now you know the best ways to tour Skagway on your own!
These free and cheap activities are great ways to experience this historic town. For more Skagway information to help you plan your visit, check out these articles:
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