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Wednesday 28 July 2021

Strange place indeed; most peculiar mama

I have been fortunate enough to travel widely, but one of the strangest places I have ever visited is Dawson City in the Yukon. Literally in the middle of nowhere. 

Almost deserted for a good portion of the year, this former gold rush hamlet is home to those who seriously want to get away from it all in a very remote - and very cold - location. Misfits and would-be miners are equally at home. 

Many of the shopfronts are fakes, which can be confusing, to say the least. And the locals are real "characters" - for better or worse.  

This year marks 125 years since 1896  when rich deposits of gold were discovered, heralding the Klondike Gold Rush.

As the news spread, almost 100,000 stampeders followed and Dawson City boomed. briefly coming known as "the Paris of the north". 

While the prospectors may have moved on, the merrymaking hasn’t. 

To celebrate the 125th anniversary of the discovery of gold, Dawson City is hosting a Discovery Day festival – a weekend of events featuring a literary tour, arts and crafts fair, parade, pipe band and more from August 12-15. 

We can’t visit the Yukon right now, but it is worth adding to your basket list. Here are a few highlights. 

1. Pan for gold

Gold Bottom Mine Tours offers the only authentic operating placer gold mine tour in the Klondike. Learn the art of panning in the creek and listen to the incredible stories about life in the goldfields.  Visitors are welcome to bring their own pan and take away whatever they find. You can spend your winnings at Diamond Tooth Gertie’s, Canada’s oldest operating casino and entertainment venue, in a historic building in downtown Dawson City.

2. Take a road trip

The Dempster Highway takes you far off the beaten track along an unsealed road that passes through diverse geological terrain through the iconic Tombstone Territorial Park, and on past the Arctic Circle to Canada’s northern coast. 

3. First Nations Immersion

Dawson City Museum tackles some of the history of the local Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in people up until the time of the fur trade and eventual gold rush. Take a guided tour of the Hammerstone Gallery to understand the First Nation Peoples’ perspective of the gold rush era. Participate in a river walk tour, check out the art shows, and take home a piece of local culture. 

4. Bed down in a former brothel

It’s not every day you get to stay in a glamorous former brothel.  Built in 1900, Bombay Peggy’s is a beautifully restored Gold Rush inn featuring classic Victorian decor, antique furnishings, contemporary art and modern amenities. Stop by the adjoining pub for unique Yukon-brewed beers, a fine selection of single malt Scotch, and the most creative martini menu in town. Hollywood stars like Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson have stayed here. 

5. Join the Sour Toe Cocktail Club

This is one club you can’t join anywhere else on Earth. For just $5 at the Downtown Hotel Saloon, you’ll be given a shot of whiskey, complete with a severed toe. The tradition dates back to 1973 with the mummified toe of a miner which had been amputated in the 1920s. I didn't try it. 

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