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Anthony’s Alaska Adventure: Dawson City, Yukon Territory

As we come around the final bend on our decent from the mountains, Dawson City comes into view. At its heart we can see the vibrant colors of the Westmark Dawson City.

Dawson City from above.

Dawson City from above.

Tracing its roots back to the Gold Rush, Dawson exudes the charm of the “49ers.” We cross the Yukon River on the government-run ferry. As we cross they tell us that we are among the first to take this trip. Recently ice has created some issues on the river and the opening of the ‘Top of the World Highway’ was delayed, as was the ferry service. That same ice largely destroyed the Alaskan town of Eagle. Holland America operates a tourist boat in Eagle and has had to suspend its service there — mostly because the giant catamaran is neatly resting in the woods.

As we drive through Dawson City I notice something — there isn’t a paved road in the town! The true charm of this historic city is only enhanced by its lack of asphalt. I feel like a gold rusher coming to claim his fortune in this riverside town.

The Westmark is a throwback to the days of yore with its brightly colored facade and the banner stretched across the alleyway the buses unload in.

ag_dawson3

The hotel comprises several buildings. The main building houses a lounge, a restaurant and a gift shop in addition to the offices and front desk. The rooms are located in the other buildings across the alley or the historic dirt roadway.

ag_dawson2

ag_dawson1

The streets are lined with boardwalks as was the practice back then. We are greeted with the Westmark charm I have come to expect.

Once we have our keys, we go to get our bags from the bed of the truck. Unexpectedly, they are completely covered in dust from the over 100 miles of unpaved road we have just traveled. The downside of a pickup, I suppose. I say unexpectedly, by the way, because the bed is fully covered but I suppose that dust is wily. The Westmark is used to greeting dusty luggage, because I find a neatly folded towel on my luggage rack to clean off my luggage. A nice touch. The rooms continue on the spirit of ’49 with their old-fashioned charm.

The Dawson Team is glad to be a part of the training and we are very happy with their enthusiasm and participation. After a long day of training Herb and I mosey on down to a local landmark — Diamond Tooth Gertie’s. Diamond Tooth Gertie’s is the only licensed gambling hall in all of the Yukon Territory. The place has its roots in the Gold Rush as do most local businesses. Diamond Tooth Gertie’s also has a very popular Can-Can show that runs three times nightly. As we belly up to the slots the show begins. It’s a lighthearted look at frontier life complete with authentic Can-Can dancers! Ohh-la-la! As I am about to finish my initial $20 ‘donation’ I hit it big on the $0.02 slots and I make back $13 of my investment. Feeling accomplished, we decide to leave.

I found out later that the term ‘donation’ was not very far from the truth. The Town of Dawson City runs Gertie’s as an historical attraction. As such its probably the only non-profit casino in the world. All of the money from its slots and table games is rolled right back into the operation. So I feel like I did a good thing by not being too lucky.

Well, we’re on the road to Whitehorse tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Anthony, a crew purser, is on a special assignment for Westmark Hotels, a Holland America Line company. Questions about Alaska, the Yukon or Westmark? E-mail Anthony at worldfamoustrainer@gmail.com.

2 Comments
  • Pat Woods

    Very interesting, Anthony. Thanks for posting.

  • Empire777casinogames

    oh how I want to spent my christmas where there is snow

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