It’s rumored the streets of Dawson City are paved with gold. Whether it’s true or not, there is no doubt that this northern nugget has enough bawdy history and lore of riches to entertain even the most brazen adventurer. Come stake your claim in the north with three day’s in Dawson City, the heart of the Klondike.
Dawson is well connected to the rest of the Yukon, but most commonly accessed via Whitehorse. You can fly Air North from Erik Nielsen Airport in Whitehorse to Dawson City Airport, located about 15 minutes outside of the town-centre. Alternatively, you can drive the Alaska Highway 525 kilometers from Whitehorse to Dawson. Finally, if you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can pilot a boat or canoe down the Yukon River from Whitehorse to Dawson.
Day 1 – Arrival
3:00pm – Visitor Information Centre
Regardless of how you get to Dawson, you will likely arrive mid-afternoon. This is a great time to wander around the streets, getting a feel for the culture of Dawson. Once you get checked into your hotel, head down toward Front Street to begin your Dawson Expedition.
On Front Street you will Visitor Information Centre, where you can speak with local guides, learn a little about the local history, and get all the latest information on conditions in and around Dawson. Ask the guides about any special promotions going on between the local sites!
3:15pm – Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre
Directly across the street from the Visitor Information Centre is the Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre, focusing on the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in heritage. Here you can take a guided tour of the Hammerstone Gallery to hear the First Nations perspective of the gold rush era. As well, visit the gift shop for unique hand-made clothing, beaded footwear and jewelry, and art and books that reflect and celebrate First Nations Culture.
4:30pm – Peabody’s Photo Parlour
Once you have a little perspective on what Dawson has to offer, continue down Front Street perusing the local shops. At the end of the commercial thoroughfare (about 5 minutes walking time, make your way up to 2nd Ave and Princess Street where you will find Peabody’s Photo Parlour. There’s no better way to get in the Pioneer spirit then to don some old-timey garb, grab a (prop) shotgun and a bottle of Yukon Jack, and snap of photo straight from the history books! Not only will you feel like a real Klondike pioneer, you’ll have a great snapshot of the North to show all your fuddy-duddy friends back home. Check out this Facebook page to see some examples:
5:30pm – Drinks at Bombay Peggy’s
Kitty-Corner to Peabody’s is Bombay Peggy’s – a staple watering hole for all Dawsonites. This little pub of pure class was originally built in 1900 and taken over by Bombay Peggy in the 1940s to run her bootlegging business and brothel. If only these walls could talk! Today this pub features fine wine, beer, and scotch, weekly specials, sensational martinis, and gourmet bar snacks. Sit inside or enjoy their outdoor patio while you get a taste for the Klondike.
6:30pm – The Drunken Goat Taverna
8:30 pm – Live music at The Pit
Across the street from the Drunken Goat Taverna is The Westminster Hotel. With its pastel pink façade, sloping roof, and questionable clientele, this 1898 original building can be a little discerning. But if you can harness your courage and step inside its liquor-laden walls you’re sure to have the local experience in Dawson! Affectionately known as the Pit, the joining tavern and lounge are rife local lore and honest-to-someone history! There’s live music nearly every night during the summer, so head on over and get ready to dance a jig while you make friends with the locals.
Day 2 – Digging up the History
9:00 am – Breakfast
You saw most of Dawson yesterday and likely got a feel for the restaurant scene. For most it will probably be simplest to eat a hearty breakfast in your hotel-restaurant. If you’re looking for suggestions, here are some of the favored breakfast-eateries around the town:
• Riverwest Bistro
If you’re looking for a quick, no frills fill-up this is the place to go! This counter-service bistro offers homemade baked goods and made-to-order breakfasts, all along with gourmet and brewed coffee. You can sit inside the diner-style eatery or grab a seat outside on busy Front Street as you get ready for your second day in Dawson.
• The Bonanza Dining Room
Located inside the Eldorado Hotel, the Bonanza Dining Room offers a hearty traditional breakfast inside a comfortable, history-tinged atmosphere. This comfortable dining room is typical Northern hospitality with friendly staff, pioneer portions, and casual fare. For more information go to website.
• Cheechakos Bakeshop
This quaint little café features hot coffee and homemade baked goods in a coffee-shop environment. And they open at 7am so you can get an early start to your day! If you’re look for a simple bite to eat with your morning cuppa joe, this is the spot. These guys don’t have a website or Facebook page, but a quick Google search should give you all the information you need.
10:00 am – Dawson City Museum
Located in the 1899 Old Territorial Administration Building, the Dawson City Museum is home to the Yukon’s largest historical collection. Take a walk through history as you peruse the interactive displays depicting Yukon Pre to Post Gold Rush history. The South Gallery depicts much of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in history, and the influence the Discovery had on these people’s way of life. In the North gallery you’ll learn about life during the Gold Rush. With nearly 10,000 inhabitants in its heyday, Dawson was known as the Paris of the North where vice and virtue competed at every corner. For more information on these galleries and more, visit website.
11:30 am – The Robert Service Cabin
Known as the Bard of the Yukon, Robert Service was a key factor in bringing Klondike Lore to the masses through his prose and poetry. Visit the little Cabin where Service lived and worked from 1908 until 1912. Ask the guides at the Visitor’s Information Centre when the guided tours will be, as they chance daily. For more information go to website.
11:45 am – The Jack London Museum
12:00 pm – Lunch
By now you have a pretty good grasp of the Dawson layout. Return to your favorite restaurant or try something new! Whatever you do, make it big! You’re going to have a busy afternoon and you’ll want to be well-fueled.
1:15 pm – Gold Fields & Mine Tour
Do as the miner’s do! Meet Goldbottom Mine Tours at 1:15pm on Front Street to experience true Yukon gold mining. Your tour leaders will drive you approximately 45 minutes south of town to the traditional goldfields of the Klondike where you will see the area that was open to over 5000 gold-seeking pioneers during the 1898 Klondike Gold Rush. After this, you’ll move down to Goldbottom or Hunker Creek Mine, both family-run gold mines still in operation today. Not only will you see demonstrations of historic and modern placer gold mining methods, but you will also get to talk to real Yukon miners with over 30 years’ mining experience. This is the most comprehensive Gold Mining Tour in the Yukon and you won’t want to miss it! For more information go to website.
6:00 pm – Dinner at Klondike Kate’s
Surely you’ll be a bit spent after a full day of meandering around Dawson and touring the goldfields. Take some time to put up your feet at the hotel, and head down to Klondike Kate’s for dinner. Located in an authentic gold-rush era building, this restaurant features big-city specials with small-town service! Choose from their smoked BBQ meats, scrumptious desserts, or something in between. Remember: you’re on vacation so there’s no need to rush! Klondike Kate’s fully licensed dining room and covered patio will help you to relax and fall into Yukon Time.
7:30 pm Sourtoe Cocktail
You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow, but your lips must touch the toe! No trip to the Yukon would be complete without trying the Sour Toe Cocktail. This infamous tradition has been running since 1973, with over 100,000 brave souls joining its club from every corner of the world. Located at the Sourdough Saloon in the Downtown Hotel, head over after 7:00pm and get in line for the grimmest tot in all the land. For more information on the history of the sourtoe go to website.
8:30 pm Diamond Tooth Gerties
The Klondike Gold Rush was known for its bawdy entertainment, brazen gold miners, and bountiful banks – get in on the action at Diamond Tooth Gerties. This unique but fully operational casino has been slinging slots and ribbing roulette since 1971. In addition to the casino, Gerties offer three different Cancan dancing burlesque shows at 8:30, 10:00, and Midnight, each more risqué than the last! And to top it all, you can use the Gerties chips you win just about everywhere in town, excluding the banks and government offices. To plan your trip today go to website.
Day 3 – Out on the Land
9:00am – Breakfast
Depending on your winnings last night, you might need a little extra time to get moving this morning! You’ve got a good handle of the town by now, so go to your new favorite greasy spoon and get ready to start the day. Like the miners of yore, you’ve got to pull yourself up by the bootstraps and get cracking!
10:00am – S.S. Keno National Historic Site
In 1898 thousands of pioneers flocked to the Yukon in search of gold, and many arrived by paddlewheeler just like the S.S. Keno. This fully restored paddlewheeler was retired in 1960 to its current position as a National Historic Site in downtown Dawson. Take a self-guided tour through the boat and then watch the CBC Documentary Last Voyage of the Keno that chronicles the ships last-ever riverboat trip down the Yukon River. Finally, head to the Keno’s upper deck to see George Hunter’s photograph exhibit Dawson City in the 1950s. For more information go to website.
11:00am Klondike Spirit Paddlewheeler Cruise
Now that you’ve toured the historic S.S. Keno, try out the (near) real thing! Learn about the history of Dawson City Moosehide, and the Klondike Gold Rush while you sit back on the Yukon’s only operating paddlewheeler. Not only will you learn about the history, you’ll also get to experience the same stunning Yukon landscape that inspired the likes of Jack London and Robert Service. For more information go to website.
1:00pm – Gift Shops Galore
After the cruise take some time to dip inside all the Dawson gift shops you’ve been walking past the last few days. Bring home locally made arts, mammoth-jewelry, and of course, some real Yukon Gold.
2:00pm – Midnight Dome
You’ve seen the majesty of Dawson, and maybe you’ve got a small idea of the surrounding landscape, but you haven’t really seen the heart of the Klondike until you’ve seen it from above. There is a road up to the Midnight Dome, overlooking Dawson City, but the best way to see it is by foot. Follow the unmarked trail just of Ninth Avenue Trail and King Street and make your way up the approximately 1700 foot elevation to the top of the mountain to get picture perfect views of the Klondike! The round trip distance is just over 8km, but I promise, it will be a hike you’ll never forget. For more information go to website.
6:00pm – Dinner
The Midnight Dome hike always works up an appetite, so you’ll be ready to eat when you get back to town! Now that you know the city, you’ve got a good idea of where you’d like to spend your last evening. Head back over to one of the restaurants you’ve already been and try something new, or go into the one you’ve been eyeing up through the windows. Whether you want to spend your last evening trying your luck at Gertie’s or with your new old friends at The Pit, make it one to remember!
Dawson City – the Paris of the North. This little northern town is full of inspiring artists, eclectic history, and streets paved with gold. Like the pioneers of 1898 you came north seeking adventure and riches, but more than anything, a story to tell back home. And hopefully you’ve found it. Maybe you were struck with gold fever at Goldbottom; or you may have a particularly interesting character at the pit; or maybe you came this close on the roulette tables at Gertie’s; or maybe a little part of you was left at the top of the Midnight Dome. Whatever your story, go forth and never forget this little gem of the North.