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Port of Call: Skagway, Alaska

gateway to the gold rush

There were multiple options for excursions in Skagway from the Disney Wonder. With a long day in port (6:45am-8:00pm), passengers were able to get out into the wilderness on a hiking trip, see sled dogs, whale/wildlife watch, hop on a sea plane, and more. We opted to explore the town, take the White Pass Railway one way, then return via bus with a stop at the touristy but fun reenacted Liarstown Gold Rush Camp.

Of the three towns we visited Skagway was our favorite. While it exists primarily for tourists (and of those most are cruise passengers) it has been rebuilt to look like it did in the late 1800s when masses of people were flocking to the region.

The first sections of shops were standard cruise port souvenirs, but down the main road were local restaurants and stores. 

Skagway Brewing Company, Alaska, Excursion on the Disney Wonder, June 2023

Our first stop was the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park visitor center, with information for those looking to hike the Chilkoot Trail. The Skagway Historical Museum was only open during our train excursion, but it was still worth seeing the exterior of the building which had originally been built as a school in 1899. We were also able to see a train exhibit outside the museum.

White pass railway

The White Pass Railway is the main tourist draw to Skagway, and rightfully so. We boarded the train to go one way across the border. Passports were required for the journey because we passed into Canada.  

The 90-minute narrated train ride hugged the side of the mountains for the beginning of the trip, and we could move about the car freely and walk onto the open air platform for the best views. As we neared the FraserBorder Crossing station, the mountaintops leveled out with views of high altitude lakes surrounded by little vegetation.

After getting off the train, we met our Coach driver for the 1-hour ride back to Skagway, stopping once for photos. We learned a lot about the route through this section of Canada and Alaska. Most interestingly, the town of Skagway wasn’t connected to the main highway until its residents started building their own road. Finally they hit a section that was beyond their building capabilities, and the federal government stepped in and connected it to the Alaska Highway.

liarsville gold rush camp

When we arrived at Liarsville Gold Rush Camp, we were greeted by a lively bunch of actors. We were able to explore the small recreated town with light refreshments before our show. Beer and wine were also available for purchase. 

The show in the Hippodrome retold the story of the reporters that came into town to cover the Gold Rush. According to this retelling, their reports may have not been entirely accurate, as many of them never visited the White Pass or Klondike, and relied instead on what they were told by the (possibly not entire truthful) gold rush miners. It was informative (although I’m not sure how historically accurate) for adults and interactive for kids with sing-along sections. After the 1/2 hour show we were given instructions on panning for gold (imported from Canada – there is none in Skagway) and made our way to a section of troughs filled with water. 


In Town

There were some nods to the not family-friendly antics that may have taken place amongst the miners and the townspeople. The women work PG-rated women’s costumes and what was clear to adults was a (not pictured) recreated brothel tent. But the experience was appropriate and fun for all ages that enjoy a short and easy escape from the cruise ship.

Panning for Gold

I had expected something similar to the touristy panning activities with water easily washed off large pre-selected rocks. While the tiny flecks of gold were pre-placed in our bags, they were incredibly small and we had to work hard to find them. Younger children may have gotten bored with the activity, but we enjoyed the challenge once we got the hang of it.

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