Most people don’t know anything about Skagway until they visit the port on their cruise ship. But you can win all the trivia contests by brushing up on these little-known facts about the Gold Rush town. Then you’ll be ready to explore like a seasoned professional, and be able to choose your Skagway attractions wisely!
Skagway has a colorful past
- The most famous resident of Skagway is Soapy Smith, a villain of the gold rush days.
- Skagway and Dyea competed for the Rushers’ dollars. Skagway won, mostly because of its better harbor and the creation of the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad. The Klondike Gold Rush brought tens of thousands of people to southeast Alaska, including…
- Jack London. The writer of The Call of The Wild himself traveled the Chilkoot Trail and staked a claim along the Stewart River. His experiences lead to the writing of the book, and scenes from some of the movie adaptations were shot in Dyea.
- John Nordstrom, of Nordstrom’s department stores, got his start during the Klondike Gold Rush. He sold a claim for $13,000 before moving back south to Seattle.
- Over 60,000 people died in Dyea, Skagway, or on one of the trails during the gold rush, including several hundred in 1 avalanche alone.
- Around 2,000 people still hike the Chilkoot trail every year, making it one of the most popular attractions in Skagway. The trail, one of the more famous things to do in town, is 33 miles long and generally takes 3-5 days to complete. The fastest recorded time is held by Goeff Roes at 5 hours 27 minutes.
- The Golden North Hotel on 3rd and Broadway is the oldest hotel in Alaska. It reached its peak right in the middle of the Gold Rush, but was restored in the 1990’s. Oh, and it’s haunted. :) Stop by and search for the undead!
It has all the charm of a small town that time forgot.
- The closest stoplight is over 100 miles away in Whitehorse, Canada.
- That is also the location of the nearest McDonald’s.
- Every year on the 4th of July, hundreds of rubber duckies race to Pullen Pond as part of a fundraiser. Even if your duck doesn’t win, you still get to take one home, which is perhaps what makes it one of the locals’ favorite events.
- Skagway holds the Guinness World Record for most people tossing eggs at one time. It was set in 2008 with 1,162 people stretched in pairs from 2nd street to 8th street on Broadway.
Tourism is really the only industry.
- In an average season, Skagway welcomes around 1 million cruise ship passengers.
- The town has a year-round population of about 800, but this balloons to nearly 3000 in the summer months.
- Skagway can dock up to 5 boats at a time. Two on the railroad dock, one on the Broadway dock, one on the ore dock, and one at the ferry dock. The steep drop-off of the land into Skagway Harbor is what makes this possible. A 6th boat can also tender in.
- There are only 4 bars in Skagway: The Red Onion Saloon, The Bonanza, The Pizza Station and The Skagway Brewing Company. There are 5 if you count the Gold Dredge on the outskirts of town.
- There are no franchise restaurants in Skagway. There is a cafe that “Proudly Serves Starbucks,” but isn’t actually a Starbucks. Sorry, no gift cards here!
- The only chain store in the entire town is Ace Hardware, which is also the video rental store and a general store.
- In the winter, only one restaurant is open per week, and they rotate which one that is. Not too many Skagway things to do in the dead of December!
And just for kicks, here’s a few more random facts.
- Skagway is home to the most photographed building in Alaska: AB Hall, which is covered with over 10,000 pieces of driftwood.
- There is a relay race run every year from Skagway to Whitehorse. This event travels 110 miles along the Klondike Highway and starts at 6 o’clock in the evening. The longest leg is 16 miles, and the steepest has an elevation change of 1768 feet over just 5 miles!
- There is a tradition on the last day of the summer season. As the final cruise ship pulls away, the town’s residents line the dock and moon the (un)lucky passengers.
- Warren G. Harding is the only President to ever visit Skagway. The Harding Glacier is named for him and can be seen from town.
- One of the strangest, but most fun, Skagway Alaska attractions is the annual drag show hosted by the Red Onion Saloon. Dozens of acts take the stage and the bar is standing room only, with the show being broadcast on the wall outside as well. One of the goofier things to do in Skagway, but it’s a blast!
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