Discovering Skagway, Alaska as a Wheelchair User

When I was planning my Alaskan cruise, there were a couple ports of call that I was really looking forward to. I was excited for Juneau because it’s the capital city and my grandfather frequently talks about how amazing Ketchikan was when he visited years ago, so I was also excited for it. The port of call that was lowest on my excitability meter was Skagway, Alaska. 

To be honest, I had never even heard of Skagway and every review that I read about it online seemed to immediately mention how tiny Skagway is. “If it’s such a small city, what could it possibly offer that’s worthwhile?!”, I thought. Well, after visiting Skagway myself, I can say that it actually offers quite a lot. 

I had a phenomenally fun day in Skagway and would consider it a must-visit place on any wheelchair accessible Alaska cruise. Whether you want to pan for gold, wander around the quaint downtown area, or see sled dogs in action, Skagway has it all. Here’s what I did during my day in Skagway, which will hopefully give you some ideas for when you visit –

Alaska 360 Shore Excursion

As soon as my Holland America ship docked in Skagway, I quickly went to the nearby meet-up spot for my shore excursion. I booked the wheelchair accessible “Gold Panning, Sled Dogs, and 40 Below“ excursion directly through Holland America, and it was incredibly easy to arrange on the Holland America website in the weeks leading up to my cruise. It’s rare to find a cruise line that offers wheelchair friendly shore excursions, so I was thrilled that Holland America offered accessible options in every port of call during my Alaskan cruise.

After waiting just a few minutes for the other members of our shore excursion group to get off the ship, we boarded the bus. The tour bus had a lift on it and tie-down straps inside to secure my powered wheelchair. It was a short and comfortable drive from the cruise port to Alaska 360, where our excursion began. 

Alaska 360 has multiple attractions and things to do all in one location, but the overall goal is to make visitors experience what the area was like in the 1890s, when Skagway was home to the Klondike Gold Rush. At Alaska 360 you can pan for gold, see Iditarod sled dogs, and even go in a cold chamber to briefly experience 40 below temperatures. It’s quite a destination and gave me a better understanding of life during the Klondike Gold Rush. 

The first activity that I enjoyed at Alaska 360 was  learning about and interacting with the sled dogs. We started by meeting a seasoned musher, the person who controls the dogs, and she told us all about how they train and what racing with the dogs is like. It was fascinating to see the equipment and hear her stories. Let’s just say that sled dog racing certainly isn’t for the faint of heart. It takes a LOT of discipline and many cold nights. 

After hearing about the sled dogs, we got to see them in action. A group of dogs were hooked up to a sled and did a practice run for us around a track. Once they were finished with the exciting run, we were able to meet the sled dogs and even some puppies, which will become sled dogs. Obviously, this was the best part of the day. 

Meeting one of the puppies

Next up on our group’s itinerary was the coldest activity that Alaska 360, and possibly every other attraction in the entire world, offers – going inside a chamber that is 40 below! When the sled dogs and mushers are on the Iditarod trail, it can reach 40 below zero, so the chamber gives visitors the opportunity to feel what that’s like. 

There was a small step to get into the cold chamber. It was only a few inches and I probably could have done it with my powered wheelchair, but there’s absolutely nothing that I hate more than cold weather, so I opted out of discovering what 40 below feels like. Call me a wimp if you want to, but I don’t regret not going inside a bit. Haha! If you visit and do go inside and don’t freeze to death, please let me know your thoughts on it. 

Inside the chamber

The last activity for us at Alaska 360 was panning for gold. Since Skagway was home to the Klondike Gold Rush, this was an authentic experience to enjoy in this part of Alaska and I loved trying to strike it rich! 

After a quick, but entertaining, lesson on how to pan for gold, I headed to the warm-water trough. I was able to pull under the trough with my wheelchair and I could reach the water pretty easily. 

Within just a few minutes, I found some gold! Once I finished panning for gold, I took all of my gold (it wasn’t much, but hey, at least I found gold in Alaska!) inside to the Assayers’ Office. They weighed my gold and said that it was worth about $19. I didn’t strike it rich, but it was such a fun experience that I’d love to do again! 

Rolling Around Downtown Skagway

The tour bus dropped us off back at the cruise port once our Alaska 360 shore excursion was over. From the cruise port, it was only a short walk/roll (less than 5 minutes) to the downtown area. 

Downtown Skagway was easy to roll around as a wheelchair user. There were curb cuts everywhere, smooth sidewalks, and every shop that I saw was accessible. I loved being able to pop into all the shops and as usual, I bought way too many souvenirs. 

Some of the more interesting things to buy in Skagway…

There are a few restaurants in downtown Skagway to choose from and I ate at Bonanza Bar & Grill, per the recommendation of some other people on the cruise. Bonanza had a great atmosphere and fantastic food! I had the beer battered halibut fish and chips, and they were the second best fish & chips I’ve ever had… after the ones I had in London, of course. I would highly recommend eating at Bonanza while you’re in Skagway!

Beer battered halibut fish and chips

Also located in downtown Skagway was the Days of 98 Show. According to the show’s website, “Since 1923, The Days of ’98 Show has stupefied and bedazzled audiences with the tale of Soapy Smith, Alaska’s most notorious outlaw. Soapy reigned over Skagway during the wildest days of the Klondike Gold Rush, and this colorful vaudevillian musical recounts his incredible story. The show features can-can dancers, ragtime music, riotous humor, and the great con-man himself, Soapy Smith!”

When I found out about this show while wandering around downtown Skagway, I was immediately intrigued and knew that I had to see it. Tickets were $25 and wheelchair users get prime seating in the front row. 

I thought the approximately one-hour show was spectacular and well worth the admission price. As a former theatre kid, I always love live theatre. Since this show was totally unique to Skagway, I found it entertaining, but I also learned about some of Skagway’s interesting history. 

My day in Skagway was so much fun and I was impressed with the accessibility. Even though it’s one of Alaska’s smaller cities, it is undoubtedly one of the most wheelchair accessible. Whether you do a shore excursion via your cruise line to Alaska 360 or just roll around the downtown area on your own, Skagway is sure to be one of your favorite ports of call on any Alaskan cruise.


*Thank you to Holland America Line for working with me on this trip! While most of my experiences were complimentary, all opinions are authentic and my own. 




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