Every year, thousands of travelers drive the historic Alaska Highway through the Yukon to get to Alaska. Little do they know, they’re missing prime vacation real estate! Over 25, 000 people call this unique little city ‘home’. Quickly, it is becoming a mecca for environmentalists, artists, and entrepreneurs alike. Take a quick trip up north and experience all the wonder Whitehorse has to offer under the midnight sun of summer.
Note: If you have flown to Whitehorse, renting a vehicle is highly recommended. There are taxi companies available, but they can be quite expensive. As well, the public transit system does not run frequently, and is restricted to mostly the downtown core. With well over 8000km² of ground to cover, you’re going to want something to get around!
Arrival: Whitehorse is well connected by air or ground, so take your pick for getting here. If you have flown to Whitehorse you will arrive at the Erik Nielsen Airport (YXY), just outside of downtown. Take a cab, rent a car, or hop on the bus and head downtown to your hotel. Today is a great day to wander around the downtown core. On Main Street you will find plenty of gift shops featuring locally made artwork and souvenirs. You can follow the river trail and admire the strong current and beauty of the Yukon River. Seeing the variety of restaurants and cafes scattered throughout downtown, you will get a good feeling of the unique Whitehorse culture in which you will soon be immersed.
Day 1 in Yukon: The Heart of Whitehorse
If your hotel doesn’t provide breakfast, start with Whitehorse’s premier breakfast café, offering unique breakfast pairings in a friendly, trendy atmosphere. Best of all, they are smack dab in the centre of downtown!
~10:00am – Yukon Visitor’s Centre
To set the foundation for the rest of your trip, you’ll want to educate yourself on Yukon’s history and environment. The Yukon Visitor’s Centre has educated staff, interactive displays, and an informative video for your enjoyment. The Centre is entirely free of cost and the perfect place to start your holiday!.
**The Waterfront Trolley – The Waterfront Trolley, operated by the Miles Canyon historic Railway Society, travels across the downtown core along the waterfront, with multiple stops including the Yukon Visitor’s Centre and MacBride Museum. This bright yellow 1925 Waterfront Trolley is truly a Yukon staple; while riding it you will not only get a glimpse of Whitehorse’s top attractions, but you will also hear the fascinating waterfront history from your trolley-operating tour guide. However, as this trolley is from 1925, it needs some real R&R. At the time of this writing, it is scheduled to be out of commission until 2018.
~11:00 am – MacBride Museum
– Once you’ve got a general feeling for Yukon’s history and environment, you’ll want to dig deeper into the Yukon pioneering spirit that built this Klondike! Walk less than 10 minutes down First or Second Avenue to MacBride Museum, admiring the local shops and rushing Yukon River as you go.
The MacBride Museum is Yukon’s first and most comprehensive museum. It was first opened in 1950 by a group of Yukoners dedicated to preserving Yukon’s heritage. Since then, it has grown to housing over 30,000 artifacts including Ancient First Nations’ Beadwork and Tools, the real Sam McGee’s cabin, the original 1900 Dominion Telegraph Office, and Engine 51, to name a few.
~12:30pm: Lunch at Rotary Peace Park
Now that your brain is full, it’s time to eat like a miner! Yukon’s summers are known to be warm and sunny, with very little rain. Take advantage of the wonderful weather and eat outside! Rotary Park is located at the convergence of 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Avenue in downtown Whitehorse. It spans the waterfront along the Yukon River, and is the perfect spot to enjoy lunch outside. There are plenty of picnic tables, benches, grassy areas, and a gazebo, and playgrounds for the kids! Here are some lunch suggestions within 5 minutes walking distance of Rotary Peace Park so you can take your lunch to go:
The Deck – This Whitehorse staple is the onsite restaurant for The Coast High Country Inn. It has one of the largest outdoor patios in the city and is decorated in Gold Rush era relics. This is a great place to enjoy the classics: Pints from Yukon Brewing, Fish and Chips, Burgers, Poutine, Pulled Pork Sandwiches, Salads. If classic is what you’re looking for, this is it!
The Deli: Yukon Meat & Sausage – The Deli truly is a core Whitehorse business. Having only changed hands three time and always remaining local, the Deli has been serving up soups, sandwiches, and specials since 1968. This casual, Yukon-style diner has a walk up counter where you can customize your sandwich with their gourmet meats and sausages, or choose their daily soup and special. This is a great spot to pick up a few local grocery items as well, including meats, specialty condiments, and prepared desserts. Though they don’t have a website, you can find out today’s special on their Facebook page.
Sanchez Cantina – For something a little spicier, head one block past The Deli and try out Sanchez Cantina. This family run, authentic Mexican eatery features Mexican classics including enchiladas, tostadas, burritos, and of course Margaritas!
Pickapeppa – Again, probably not for the classic eater. This authentic Jamaican Micro-restaurant is family owned and operated. The bright colors and exotic smells will have you thinking if you switched hemispheres. Here, the menu changes daily and hangs on the wall-size chalkboard within the restaurant, so take a few minutes to dip your head in and check out their features.
~1:30 pm: Miles Canyon Boat Cruise and Tour
Whitehorse was named after the massive rapids that formed within this canyon and the surrounding waters, releasing water and foam that resembled the manes of white horses coursing between the basalt cliffs. These rapids were some of the most formidable obstacles faced by the Klondike hopefuls of 1898. Though the installation of the Whitehorse Dam in 1923 tamed the rapids, the Canyon remains a must-see for every Yukon tourist.
Yukon River Cruises offers guided tours up the Yukon River and through Miles Canyon aboard the MV Schwatka. You can listen to the call of the wild and unique Yukon history from the knowledgeable guides as they help you relive the drama and excitement of the Klondike. From May to September there are daily sailings at 2:00pm, and from June 15th to August 15th there is an additional sailing at 4:00pm.
Either prior to or after your river tour, continue driving up Miles Canyon Road to see an incredible view of the canyon in its entirety. Eventually you will come to a parking lot on the left-hand side where you will find the Robert Lower Bridge and Miles Canyon Trailhead.
The Robert Lowe Bridge, originally built in 1922, is a suspension bridge crossing the Yukon River at Miles Canyon. Here you will find breathtaking views of the River and Canyon. Ignore the old adage, and definitely do look down to admire the swirling current beneath you.
Finally, there is a trail along Miles Canyon and Schwatka Lake that brings you through Canyon City, the heart of the Canyon & Whitehorse Rapids Tramway Company of 1898. This fairly easy 11km trail can be done in part or as a loop, on your own or as a free guided nature hike.
~5:00pm – Dinner at Klondike Rib & Salmon
You just can’t go to Whitehorse without eating at Klondike Rib and Salmon! This unique, utterly Yukon restaurant is located in the oldest operational building in Whitehorse, immediately next to Burnt Toast Café. ‘Building’ is a bit of a stretch – it’s a decorated wall-tent with an outdoor patio. The walls and ceiling are covered in Yukon history, the staff are a special breed of Yukon hospitality, and the food is worth the wait. And you will wait! This Yukon restaurant offers the full experience: you’ll make friends as you wait in the guaranteed line, you might be sat next to those used-to-be-strangers, you’ll be served in a gold pan, and your dessert will be bigger than a gold-miner’s sprit! Featuring Yukon game and Yukon beer, this is the place you’ll write home about!