8 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Whitehorse
Whitehorse, like Dawson City, owes its existence to the Klondike gold-rush, which began in 1897. Having survived the arduous and sometimes deadly journey from Skagway over White Pass, gold prospectors had to negotiate the Miles Canyon and Whitehorse rapids before descending the Yukon River to Dawson's riches. From the first arrivals, a small settlement grew up on the river's right bank, opposite the present town. The seething, foaming waters of the rapids, rearing like white steeds, gave the settlement its name - Whitehorse (although nothing remains to be seen of the rapids).
Home to half the population of the Yukon, Whitehorse has grown into a major center for arts and culture in recent years. The small but lively territory capital is a hub of the north, standing at the intersection of the Alaska and Klondike Highways, only about 80 kilometers north of the provincial border with British Columbia.
See also: Where to Stay in Whitehorse
1 SS Klondike II National Historic Site
The sternwheelers on the Yukon River remained the region's most important mode of transport for decades after the gold-rush. It was not until 1955 that the "SS Klondike II", rebuilt in 1937 after sinking, gave up carrying ore from the silver mines in Mayo to Whitehorse for onward shipment by road. Today, the restored and refitted paddle steamer is a popular tourist attraction, welcoming visitors on the Yukon embankment in the town center.
Address: 10 Robert Service Way, Whitehorse
2 Miles Canyon
Miles Canyon was a treacherous portion of the Yukon River before a hydroelectric dam tamed the waters. The rapids were a choke point for gold prospectors, and many supplies and lives were lost trying to pass the turbulent waters. Today, hiking trails and a scenic setting make the area a delight to explore.
3 Yukon Wildlife Preserve
At the Yukon Wildlife Preserve in Whitehorse, visitors can take a guided tour to see moose, muskoxen, mountain goats, wood bison, mule deer, woodland caribou, elk, and two species of thinhorn sheep - Dall's and stone's sheep. With more than 283 hectares, the preserve has distinct habitats (from wetlands to cliffs) to allow the animals to live in their natural environments.
Location: Kilometer 8 (mile 5) Takhini Hot Springs Road, Whitehorse
4 Ascent of the Salmon
Once the ice has begun to break up in the spring, salmon hurry upstream from the Pacific Ocean to their Yukon River spawning grounds. Some even journey as far as Whitehorse, taking about 60 days to cover the 3,000-kilometer trek. Visitors can watch as these magnificent fish climb the Whitehorse Fishway, provided for them to bypass the Whitehorse Rapids hydroelectric dam. Seafood lovers can also enjoy salmon delicacies at local restaurants.
5 Town Tour
The Yukon Historical & Museums Association arranges history tours of Whitehorse during summer and provides self-guided tour information. Other options for touring the city are by bus, horse-drawn carriage, or aboard the M.V. "Schwatka" to Miles Canyon and Schwatka Lake.
6 Yukon Transportation Museum
The Yukon Transportation Museum in Whitehorse displays early means of transportation in the region, including snowshoes, dog sleds, stagecoaches, boats, aircraft, and vehicles used during the construction of the Alaska Highway. One of the highlights is the sister plane of Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis, the "Queen of the Yukon." Personal stories of Yukon ingenuity & self-sufficiency are highlighted.
Address: 30 Electra Crescent, Whitehorse
7 Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre
Beringia is believed to be the route traveled by the first people who entered North America from Asia - a region of giant animals and ice. At the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre, the area's history, geographical events, and culture are illustrated through fossils, First Nation exhibits, murals, and dioramas.
Location: Kilometer 1423 (Mile 886) Alaska Hwy, Whitehorse
8 Yukon Government Building
The Territorial Government Building in Whitehorse is decorated with tapestries and paintings produced in the Yukon. A lobby-long mural of stained glass is particularly worth seeing.
Other Points of Interest
Yukon Arts Centre
The Yukon Arts Centre in Whitehorse is a multi-use arts facility that features arts events, local performing groups, dance and theater companies, as well as local and traveling art exhibitions. Works by local and other Canadian artists, from painters to musicians, can be seen in the Yukon Gallery in Whitehorse.
Address: 300 College Drive, Whitehorse
The "Frantic Follies", a nightly revue in the Westmark Whitehorse Hotel, is hugely popular. Can-can girls and honky-tonk piano naturally feature in this 1890s-style vaudeville show.
The MacBride Museum has a large collection of relics and photographs from the gold-rush days. These include a log cabin belonging to Sam McGee - about whom Robert Service, "Bard of the Yukon," wrote a famous ballad. There are also numerous bits of old machinery and implements, as well as an interesting display on the wildlife of the Yukon.
Address: 1124 Front Street, Whitehorse
A visit to Whitehorse's nine-hectare botanical garden is the best possible introduction to the region's trees and other flora. Besides the show gardens featuring a northern green space of hardy perennials, there is also a tree farm and garden center.
Location: Kilometer 913.76 Alaska Hwy, Whitehorse
Where to Stay in Whitehorse for Sightseeing
We recommend these centrally-located hotels in Whitehorse as a convenient base to see the top sights:
- Edgewater Hotel: mid-range boutique hotel, central location, Yukon River views, wonderful staff, modern decor, feather bedding.
- Coast High Country Inn: 3-star hotel, excellent customer service, option of updated rooms with kitchenettes and Jacuzzis, free airport shuttle.
- Best Western Gold Rush Inn: affordable rates, comfortable rooms, Aveda hair studio and day spa, fitness room.
- The Town and Mountain Hotel: budget hotel, convenient location, clean rooms, free parking.