A Cruise Passenger’s Guide to Skagway

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Alaska cruise ports - Skagway
Alaska cruise ports – Skagway

Ultimate Guide: Top Things to Do in Skagway, Alaska When Visiting by Cruise Ship

One thing we LOVE about Skagway for cruise passengers is that it is very walkable, and easy to access on foot! If you don’t opt for an excursion here, you’ll have lots to do, and strolling through the town is a “must do” activity on its own. HOT TIP: We HIGHLY recommend booking a trip on the White Pass Railway, at least once. But if you’ve “been there done that” with Skagway, this article will give you some inspo for alternate activities while in port.

Skagway, Alaska, is a charming town rich in history and natural beauty, making it a perfect destination for cruise ship visitors. Nestled at the northern end of the Inside Passage, Skagway offers a unique blend of activities that cater to adventure seekers, history enthusiasts, and nature lovers alike. This guide will help you make the most of your visit with a detailed look at the top things to do, what to wear for each activity, and an overview of typical weather conditions.

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Top Things to Do in Skagway, Alaska

Explore the Historic Skagway Town

  • Activity Description: Wander through the streets of historic Skagway, where the spirit of the Klondike Gold Rush still lingers. Visit restored buildings, quaint shops, and local museums to learn about the town’s colorful past. HOT TIP: Grab some loaded fries and a Spruce Tip Ale at Skagway Brewing company! You’ll likely run into locals doing the same thing. You’re welcome!
  • What to Wear: Comfortable walking shoes, a waterproof jacket, and layered clothing to adjust to changing temperatures. A lightweight backpack and bottled water are recommended too.

Ride the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad- a MUST try experience!

  • Activity Description: Okay, we may be biased here, but the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad rides is simply one of our favorite things to do in Alaska! It’s WONDERFUL for all ages, and they can accommodate cruise passengers with mobility needs. It’s also perfect for children! You’ll experience a scenic train ride through breathtaking landscapes, climbing nearly 3,000 feet to the summit of White Pass. This historic narrow-gauge railway offers stunning views of mountains, glaciers, and waterfalls. HOT TIP: Try this tour, that combines the Magnificent White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad from Skagway, Alaska to Fraser, British Columbia with a visit to the magnificent Yukon Suspension Bridge, boasting 360-degree views of the stunning Canadian landscape.
  • What to Wear: Warm clothing, including a hat and gloves, as it can get chilly on the train if you decide to step outside onto one of the viewing platforms. Bring a raincoat, your camera, and some cash for tipping.

Take a Helicopter Tour and Glacier Walk

Perhaps the ultimate Alaska cruise excursion is taking a helicopter tour to a glacier. We’ve done this in Juneau a few times, but we haven’t had the chance to do it in Skagway yet.

  • Activity Description:  Soar above the stunning Alaskan landscape on a helicopter tour and land on a glacier for an unforgettable walk on the ice. This adventure offers a unique perspective of Skagway’s natural beauty. Land on an actual glacier for an extraordinary walking tour, feeling the cool crunch beneath your boots. See natural wonders like Chilkat Glacier, waterfalls surrounding the Ferebee Glacier, or the spectacular Meade Glacier
  • What to Wear: Follow the tour company instructions for any helicopter tour. In general, plan warm, layered clothing, a waterproof jacket, and sturdy boots or hiking shoes. Gloves and a hat are recommended. Sunscreen is a MUST if you are landing on a glacier, as your face can burn easily.

Go Dog Sledding on a Glacier

  • Activity Description:  Experience the thrill of dog sledding on a real glacier. This once-in-a-lifetime adventure combines stunning scenery with the excitement of mushing a team of huskies.
  • What to Wear: Dress warmly in layers, including thermal underwear, a heavy jacket, gloves, and a hat. Waterproof boots or shoes are essential, as is sunscreen.
Alaska cruise ports - Skagway Dog Sledding
Alaska cruise ports – Dog Sledding

Hike the Chilkoot Trail

  • Activity Description: For the adventurous, hiking a portion of the historic Chilkoot Trail offers a taste of the challenges faced by gold rush prospectors. The trail features beautiful scenery and historical landmarks. HOT TIP: Combine your hike with a float trip! This trip offers a tranquil rafting experience on the glacially fed Taiya River, seeing majestic mountains and diverse wildlife.
  • What to Wear: Hiking boots, moisture-wicking clothing, and layers. Bring a rain jacket and a hat.
Alaska cruise ports - Skagway Chilkoot
Alaska cruise ports – Skagway Chilkoot

Discover Jewell Gardens

  • Activity Description:  Enjoy a peaceful stroll through Jewell Gardens, a beautiful botanical garden featuring vibrant flowers, vegetables, and glass-blowing demonstrations.
  • What to Wear: Comfortable walking shoes and a light jacket or sweater. A hat and sunglasses are useful on sunny days.

Explore the Red Onion Saloon

  • Activity Description:  Visit the famous Red Onion Saloon, a historic brothel-turned-bar. Enjoy a drink while learning about the saloon’s colorful past and the women who worked there. HOT TIP: Try the Alaska brewed beers or one of the house cocktails such as an Apple Shrub Manhattan, Switchel & Soda, Gold Rush Margarita or Red Light Bloody Mary.
  • What to Wear: Casual attire is fine. Bring a light jacket for the walk there.

Take a Wildlife Safari

  • Activity Description:  Embark on a wildlife safari to spot bears, eagles, sea lions, and possibly whales. This excursion offers a chance to see Alaska’s incredible wildlife in their natural habitat.
  • What to Wear: Waterproof and windproof clothing, sturdy boots, and binoculars for better wildlife viewing.

Go Kayaking

  • Activity Description:  Paddle through the serene waters, surrounded by majestic mountains and lush forests. This peaceful activity offers a unique perspective of Skagway’s natural beauty. HOT TIP: This is a great tour to learn the basics of kayaking!
  • What to Wear: A wetsuit or quick-drying clothes, a waterproof jacket, and water shoes. A hat and gloves can help keep you warm.

Visit the Skagway Museum

  • Activity Description:  Dive into Skagway’s rich history at the Skagway Museum. The museum features exhibits on the gold rush, native cultures, and the town’s development over the years.
  • What to Wear: Casual attire with a light jacket or sweater for the walk to the museum.
Alaska cruise ports - Skagway Historical Train
Alaska cruise ports – Skagway Historical Train

Shop at Local Boutiques

  • Activity Description:  Explore Skagway’s charming boutiques, offering unique Alaskan gifts, handmade crafts, and souvenirs. This is a great way to take a piece of Skagway home with you. Some things you may enjoy shopping for: Christmas ornaments, locally crafted goods, and railway souvenirs.
  • What to Wear: Casual attire is fine. Wear cozy shoes and a jacket for outdoor walking between shops.

Take a Photography Tour

  • Activity Description:  Join a photography tour to capture Skagway’s breathtaking landscapes and wildlife. Learn tips and techniques from professional photographers to improve your skills. HOT TIP: This private tour is a great value! Whether you’re a seasoned photographer or a casual snapper, this private tour adapts to your style and skill level. Together with your guide, you’ll craft an itinerary that focuses on your interests, be it wildlife, landscapes, or a mix of both.
  • What to Wear: Comfortable, weather-appropriate clothing. Layers are key, along with a rain jacket and good walking shoes.

Visit the Gold Rush Cemetery

  • Activity Description:  Explore the Gold Rush Cemetery, where many of Skagway’s notable figures from the gold rush era are buried. It’s a fascinating glimpse into the town’s past. The Gold Rush Cemetery is a short walk from town. You can also take the local SMART bus shuttle to a stop 1/2 mile from the cemetery. Many cruise related tours of town also include stops at the cemetery.
  • What to Wear: Sturdy walking shoes and a waterproof jacket. Layers are recommended.

Enjoy Local Cuisine

  • Activity Description:  Savor the flavors of Skagway by dining at local restaurants. Enjoy fresh seafood, traditional Alaskan dishes, and delicious treats.
  • What to Wear: Casual attire is fine. A light jacket for outdoor walks between venues.
Alaska cruise ports - Skagway Classic Loaded Tater Tots
Alaska cruise ports – Skagway Classic Loaded Tater Tots

Take a River Rafting Trip

  • Activity Description:  Experience the thrill of river rafting on one of Skagway’s rivers. This adventure is perfect for those seeking an adrenaline rush and stunning scenery.
  • What to Wear: A wetsuit or quick-drying clothes, a waterproof jacket, and water shoes. A hat and gloves can help keep you warm.

Visit the Skagway Brewing Company

  • Activity Description:  Just steps from the cruise ships, Skagway Brewing company is a fun stop! Sample beer chili or loaded fries along with some locally brewed beers (try the Spruce Tip Ale!) at the Skagway Brewing Company. This is a great way to relax and enjoy the local flavors.
  • What to Wear: Casual attire. Bring a jacket for outdoor walks.
Alaska cruise ports - Skagway Brewing Company
Alaska cruise ports – Skagway Brewing Company

Typical Weather Conditions in Skagway

Skagway’s weather can be quite variable, with cool and often wet conditions. Here’s a general overview:

  • Spring (April – June): Temperatures range from 40°F to 60°F. Expect rain and cool weather. Dress in layers and bring waterproof gear.
  • Summer (July – August): Temperatures range from 50°F to 65°F. This is the warmest and driest period, but rain is still common. Wear light layers and a waterproof jacket.
  • Fall (September – October): Temperatures range from 40°F to 55°F. Rain and cooler weather return. Dress in layers and bring a raincoat.
  • Winter (November – March): Temperatures range from 20°F to 40°F. Snow and cold weather dominate. Wear heavy winter clothing, including thermal layers, a heavy jacket, gloves, and a hat.

Whether you’re seeking adventure, history, or relaxation, Skagway offers a variety of activities to make your visit memorable. Remember to dress appropriately for the weather and specific activities to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable experience.

Conclusion

As our ship pulls away from the picturesque port of Skagway, Alaska, the memories of its rugged beauty and rich history stay with us! Visiting Skagway by cruise ship offers not just a gateway into the heart of the Klondike Gold Rush, but also a step into nature’s grand amphitheater, where mountains, glaciers, and forests perform in an unending spectacle.

Whether you’ve walked the trails blazed by gold-seekers, ridden the historic White Pass Railroad, or simply soaked in the views that stretch endlessly into the horizon, Skagway proves itself to be more than just a stop on a journey; it’s a destination where the echoes of the past meet the quiet promise of tomorrow. For any cruise enthusiast seeking a blend of adventure, history, and awe-inspiring landscapes, Skagway is a treasure waiting to be discovered.

FAQ About Skagway, Alaska

1. What is the best time of year to visit Skagway by cruise ship?

  • The cruise season in Skagway typically runs from May through September, with July and August being the peak months due to warmer temperatures and longer days.

2. What are some must-visit attractions in Skagway?

  • Don’t miss the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad for breathtaking scenic views, the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park for a taste of history, and the Chilkoot Trail for a challenging hike with historical significance.

3. Can I see the Northern Lights in Skagway?

  • Yes, the Northern Lights can be visible in Skagway, especially during the darker months of September through April. However, as most cruises operate in the summer, catching this phenomenon depends on your travel dates and is unlikely.

4. What are some good local dining options in Skagway?

  • Skagway offers a variety of dining options ranging from fresh seafood at the Skagway Fish Company to hearty meals at the Skagway Brewing Company. Don’t forget to try some local delicacies like Alaskan halibut or salmon.

5. Are there opportunities for wildlife viewing in Skagway?

  • Yes, Skagway provides ample opportunities to see wildlife such as bald eagles, bears, and mountain goats, especially if you venture into nearby natural areas like the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park.

6. How do I get around Skagway?

  • Skagway is a small, walkable town with most attractions close to the cruise dock. For destinations further out, such as the White Pass & Yukon Route, there are buses and trains as well as rental cars and bikes available.

7. What are some tips for first-time visitors to Skagway on a cruise?

  • Dress in layers as weather can be unpredictable, book excursions in advance to ensure availability, and don’t forget to bring a camera to capture the stunning natural beauty and historic sites of this unique Alaskan town.

By providing these insights, we hope to enhance your visit to Skagway, ensuring it is as enriching and enjoyable as the majestic landscapes it is known for.

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