Dawson City

Overview

Introduction

Once the center of the Klondike gold rush, Dawson City (about a 330 mi-/535 km-drive northwest of Whitehorse) now has a winter population of 1,200. The town has not given up its boomtown heritage—its center has been declared a Canadian National Historic Site. Many of the original buildings and saloons have been restored and are used by residents.

Exhibits at the Dawson City Museum tell the story of the gold mania that altered the Yukon's history. The Klondike Institute of Art and Culture offers art exhibitions and cultural programs, and the riverside Han National Cultural Centre explores the history of the area's tribes.

Fans of North American literature will want to tour the homes of Robert Service (one of the Yukon's most famous writers) and Jack London (author of Call of the Wild). You can also visit the Eldorado, a structure designed to resemble the hotel in London's famous novel. A number of National Historic Sites related to the gold rush are in Dawson City, including Dredge No. 4, a mammoth wooden dredge used for mining; a 1901 post office; the Keno, an old stern-wheeler; and the Palace Grand Theater (built in 1899).

If you like a casino atmosphere, cancan girls and honky-tonk music, drop by Diamond Tooth Gertie's Gambling Hall. If you're really in the frontier spirit, we suggest spending the night at Bombay Peggy's—formerly the town brothel, the establishment is now a trendy boutique hotel and popular watering hole for locals. For a less refined yet quintessential slice of local life, check out the live music at the "Snake Pit" in the Westminster Hotel.

The Yukon Gold Panning Championship takes place in Dawson City on 1 July. Other notable events on the town's calendar are the Dawson City Music Festival (workshops, concerts and dances—late July) the Dawson City International Short Film Festival (short films from the Yukon and around the world—March or April), and the Great International Outhouse Race (madcap marathon of human-propelled outhouses over a 1.5-mi/2.4-km course in downtown Dawson—late summer).

West of Dawson City, Highway 9 runs to the Yukon-Alaska border at Boundary, Alaska. Known as the "Top of the World Highway," it's one of the most scenic roads in the world, crossing the spine of mountains. To take it, cross the Yukon River by ferry just outside Dawson. (We highly recommend the drive, but be forewarned that there are no roadside services between Dawson City and Boundary, Alaska.)

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