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Skagway Travel Guide, Alaska

Skagway is one of the Alaskan townsthat sprung up in 1897 as a result of the Klondike Gold Rush.

Before the gold rush Alaska had only few settlements mainly populated by natives, but that soon changed and in a single year there was such an influx of people that nobody could even count them. That’s how it happened in Skagway. It changed from one log cabin to a town of about twenty thousand in just three months.

It started a ferry stop and a trading post, the place where gold seekers had to get off the boat to head towards the gold fields. There was no civil authority, the law was made by the meanest and it was called “hell on earth”, a true Wild West outpost, where only the toughest survive. Violence, prostitution and disease were at home in Skagway, a town run by criminals. But it was not meant to last. It all ended as quickly as it started.

After gold digging turned unprofitable in 1899 the majority of the population saw no reason for staying and only the White Pass and Yukon Railway from Skagway to Whitehorse was the ones to help Skagway survive as a town.

Tourism also did its part of the job to help its economy. The short and eventful history of the town with its gold rush years has attracted tourists that wanted to see where all had started. Some of the locals saw tourism as a good source of income and a way to help local economy. The main tourist attraction, the gold rush buildings were moved to the main street to have a more homogenous image and they have done everything in their power to maintain the original appearance of the town. This is how the restoration process started. It was so well done that now Skagway is considered one of the best preserved gold rush towns in United States.

Their efforts have paid off and now more people flock to town than they did in the gold rush period. And they all come to visit the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park. The town has now only about 800 residents but during high season it is overrun by tourists that are brought in by the cruise ships that call in as much as five a day bringing sometimes about 9,000 tourists at once. They all head towards the historic street to see what has remained of the town once based on greed and inhumanity.

What they can see is a number of gold rush era buildings set in a 6-block strip. Some of them operate as gift shops and now the longest operating hotel in Alaska, dating from the town’s earliest days, does no longer function as a hotel and has been turned, much to the regret of those who appreciate originality, into a T-shirt shop.

All main attractions being concentrated in the downtown area, it is quite easy to get around on foot or by bike, but there are also many companies that offer guided tours in a pleasant way enhancing the town’s history. The two hours streetcar tour is one of them and you can hop up antique touring vehicles and listed to guides dressed in costumes.

Evening entertainment includes a popular show, the Days of '98 Show, featuring an hour mock gambling performed by imported actors from all over the United States and a one hour singing and cancan dancing. At The Red Onion Saloon, a former brothel, you can listen to some good live jazz in an old bar atmosphere and tours of the upstairs are led by a mock madam.

For a vacation filled with fun, education, entertainment, delicious food, great music and more, look no further than Skagway.

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