Incredible Things To Do in Whitehorse: Discover The Magic Of The Yukon Capital

Whitehorse, Yukon is on the edge of Canada’s frontier. Experience these magical things to do in Whitehorse to experience the city and its people.

Things to do in Whitehorse, Yukon
Northern Lights over Whitehorse – Photo credit: Peter Mather

In 1883, the remote wilderness near Miles Canyon was simply a trail stop and portage used by First Nations Peoples travelling along trade routes in the far north. The occasional European trapper, working with Indigenous guides may have passed through on their journeys.

This all changed in 1897 when gold was discovered in the Klondike and treasure seekers from across the globe descended on what would one day be Canada’s Yukon Territory in search of riches.

While many of those involved in the Yukon gold rush made their way up to Dawson City, some settled into a small community on the right bank of the Yukon River. The roaring waters and white-capped rapids led the community to name the town “Whitehorse.”

Today, Whitehorse is a town of nearly 30,000 residents and is the capital of the wild and wonderful Yukon. A frontier town that acts as a hub for both the Alaska Highway and the Klondike Highway just 80 km north of the border with British Columbia.

Whitehorse, Yukon is packed with incredible attractions that go beyond stunning nature and outdoor adventures. This city has a thriving food scene, excellent breweries, and fascinating cultural experiences.

The Top Attractions In Whitehorse, Yukon

Street performers on Main St. Whitehorse
Street performers on Main St. Whitehorse – Photo credit: Government of Yukon

There are a wealth of amazing things to do in Whitehorse that will appease any adventurous spirit bold enough to brave Canada’s wild north.

This is not a city for the faint of heart. Whitehorse is a destination that draws a specific type of traveller. One that is bold enough to face Canada’s northern frontier and bold enough to step outside of its comforts to explore where few are willing to travel.

Hike Miles Canyon

People hiking at Miles Canyon in Whitehorse, Yukon
Hiking at Miles Canyon – Photo credit: Government of Yukon

Whitehorse owes its existence to this, once treacherous, portion of the Yukon River. The raging waters were tamed by the introduction of a hydroelectric dam in 1958. Prior to that, countless lives and supplies were lost by those attempting to pass through the ferocious waters.

Today, Miles Canyon is one of the most scenic hiking spots in Whitehorse and a visit here is one of the top attractions in the city. Among the beautiful trails and basalt rock cliffs is the Robert Lowe Bridge, a 25-metre-long suspension bridge built in 1922.

Mile Canyon is just minutes from downtown Whitehorse. This beautiful nature hotspot is packed with viewpoints and hiking trails, some of which connect to the city itself. During the summer months, there are free Interpretive nature walks offered by the Yukon Conservation Society. During winter the Miles Canyon trail network, including the one across the Robert Lowe suspension bridge are groomed ski trails.

For a different perspective, you can connect with Yukon River Tour, which offers boat tours through the Miles Canyon.

Experience The Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre

Exhibits at Kwanlin Dun Centre in Whitehorse
Exhibits at Kwanlin Dun Centre – Photo credit: Government of Yukon

A visit to Whitehorse, Yukon isn’t complete without learning about the city’s First Nations heritage. There are few better places to get started than the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre. Nestled in a stunning cedar-clad building on the banks of the Yukon River on the traditional territory of the Kwanlin Dün First Nation, the building is packed with displays of beadwork, tools, and historical artifacts from throughout the Yukon Territory

Visitors can take a guided tour to admire both the beautiful facade and the fascinating exhibits of the centre before heading over to the MacBride Museum.

Gaze At The Northern Lights

Northern lights over McIntyre Creek near Whitehorse, Yukon
Northern lights over McIntyre Creek near Whitehorse, Yukon – Photo credit: Peter Mather

Whitehorse, Yukon is among the best places in Canada to see the northern lights. In fact, Whitehorse sees more Aurora activity than even destinations such as Churchill, Manitoba and Yellowknife, Northwest Territories due to its clear skies.

Between January and April, the aurora borealis gets so bright that, on many nights, stargazers don’t even need to leave the city to see them. Although getting clear of the city’s light pollution will still get you better views.

Those chasing the northern lights in the Yukon can sign up for a nighttime aurora viewing experience where you’re picked up from your hotel and guided in small groups to some of the best wilderness northern lights view locations. Or, you can rent a car and drive to some of your own favourite spots.

For an intimate experience, connect with the Northern Lights Resort and Spa, which is about an hour and 45 minutes from Whitehorse. They offer gorgeous chalets with huge windows for aurora-watching.

Hop On Board The SS Klondike II

SS Klondike II Sternwheeler in Whitehorse
SS Klondike II Sternwheeler – Photo credit: Government of Yukon

Step back into the days of the gold rush aboard the SS Klondike. During the early 1900s, sternwheelers were the most important method of transport along the Yukon River, ferrying ore, miners, and fortune-seekers to Canada’s northern frontier. The SS Klondike was the largest sternwheeler of them all.

This flagship river cruiser, which was built in 1929, operated until 1936 when the vessel struck rocks on its journey between Whitehorse and Dawson City and sank. In 1936, the SS Klondike II was built to the exact specifications of its predecessor. The new ship even used the original ship’s engines and boiler.

The ship continued its predecessor’s work, shuttling ore and materials between mining cities until it was retired in 1955. Now, this storied ship sits on the banks of the Yukon River in the heart of Whitehorse. It welcomes tourists to explore its history through self-guided or guided tours.

Taste Your Way Through The Whitehorse Craft Brewery Scene

Craft beer in Whitehorse, Yukon
Craft beer in Whitehorse, Yukon – Photo credit: Pixabay

Whitehorse has some of the highest beer drinking per capita in all of Canada. This passion for beer and the do-it-yourself innovation of many of those who choose to make this remote city their home has led to Whitehorse having some of the most innovative craft breweries around.

This is a city where you’re as likely to down your brew from a can, growler, or a hollowed-out caribou antler. Breweries such as Yukon Brewing on Copper Rd work to develop craft beers that “taste of the Yukon.” Sip a Yukon Gold, a beer that can be found in the fridge of most northerners, for a taste of the Territory. Make sure to try their Two Brewers whisky which picked up several awards at the Canadian Whisky Awards.

Winterlong Brewery on Mt Sima Rd. had its beginning with a homebrew kit in a university dorm room. Now, this beer house serves up delicious sampling flights. Check out their “Sweater Weather” stout if you’d like to shake off the cold of winter or “Moonbase Freedom,” a perfect spring IPA.

Part arthouse and part brewery, Woodcutter’s Blanket at Second Ave. and Strickland St is a piece of Whitehorse history. The brewery is housed in the Widdershin Cabin, although locals often refer to it as “the Moose” due to the wooden animals that border its entrance. The building dates back to the 1930s and was converted into a cocktail bar and brewery serving up some of the best craft beer in Whitehorse.

Explore Indigenous Culture at Long Ago People’s Place: Kwäday Dän Kenji

Not all of the top places to visit in Whitehorse are right in the city. Long Ago People’s Place, which is about an hour from Whitehorse, is the place for learning about the traditions and culture of First Nations Peoples in Yukon.

Hosts Meta Williams (member of Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation) and Harold Johnson (member of Champagne and Aishihik First Nation) welcome guests and invite them about how their communities lived and thrive off of the land.

Enjoy a homemade lunch with traditional bannock and storytelling in the outdoors. Then sit back and experience teachings about medicinal plants that their ancestors primarily used to treat their ailments.

Pay A Visit To The MacBride Museum

Entrance to MacBride Museum in Whitehorse, Yukon
Entrance to the MacBride Museum – Photo credit: Government of Yukon

Whitehorse plays a crucial role in the history of the Yukon Territory. The MacBride Museum of Yukon History will help you understand not just the role of the territorial capital, but of the entire territory itself.

Among the exhibits are a log cabin belonging to legendary Sam McGee. Although his real life was not as dramatic as the famous poem by Robert W. Service made him out to be, Sam was a real person, who did live in Whitehorse for a time.

Other exhibits include the original Whitehorse telegraph office, photos from the gold rush, and the MAcBride Waterfront Trolley, a fully-restored 1925 trolley that tours along the banks of the Yukon River. You can see their rotating exhibits here.

Try Your Hand at Glass Blowing

One of the most unique things to do in Whitehorse involves glass blowing at Lumel Studios. This Whitehorse glass-blowing studio was launched in 2016 as a community studio focused on inclusivity and culture.

They offer sessions for both walk-ins and pre-booked workshops (although they book quickly, so it’s best to call ahead). These classes offer a taste of the glass-blowing experience where you can heat, mold, and work glass into beautiful artwork to take home (the artwork is available for pick up the following day as it needs to cool for 12 hours).

The studio also has a glass gallery and an art store so that you can pick up some gifts for friends and family.

Eat Your Way Through The Whitehorse Food Scene

Antoinette Oliphant at Anthoinette's Restaurant in Whitehorse
Antoinette Oliphant at Anthoinette’s Restauran – Photo credit: Government of Yukon

For a small city of fewer than 30,000 people, the culinary scene in Whitehorse punches far above its weight. Exploring the restaurant scene is one of the best things to do in Whitehorse, and the city is small enough that it’s possible to taste your way through the city, even with just a few days on the ground.

Among some of the most popular restaurants in Whitehorse is Antoinette’s, which serves up a fascinating fusion of northern and Trinidadian cuisine. Enjoy dishes like Guava pork ribs and macaroni pie. Owner Antoinette GreenOlph puts a little love into every dish.

Klondike Rib & Salmon is the go-to bbq joint in Whitehorse during the summer season. The fun, casual atmosphere makes for a lively night out and the menu is packed with high-quality comfort favourites with a twist. Bite into the grilled bison “Tatonka” or dig through the gravy of their buttermilk fried chicken for some homegrown favourites.

Among other great places to grab a bite in the city is Bean North Café, which serves up delicious fair trade coffee in a rustic environment just outside of town towards the Takhini Hot Springs and the Yukon Wildlife Preserve.

Alpine Bakery is a local favourite lunch spot serving up sandwiches made with soft and steaming freshly-made bread and homemade soups. Enjoy some delicious meals made in their wood-fired brick oven such as pizzas and artisanal bread.

Slip Into The Eclipse Northern Hot Springs

Eclipse Northern Hot Springs in Whitehorse, Yukon
Eclipse Northern Hot Springs – Photo credit: Government of Yukon / Andrew Strain

Many people might not think about packing their bathing suits for a trip to Whitehorse, but less than 30 minutes from downtown are a series of hot pools boating a balmy 47°C. There is simply no better place to relax, kick back and watch the aurora dance in the sky.

These natural springs are one of the hottest attractions in Whitehorse (pun intended). But don’t be surprised if a winter visit to the Eclipse Northern Hot Springs (formerly known as the Takhini Hot Springs) leaves your body warm and your hair covered in shiny icicles.

Along with the warm waters, Eclipse Northern Hot Springs welcomes visitors with a hot rocks cafe, hydrotherapy sessions, steam rooms and saunas, and even overnight accommodations for those looking for a Whitehorse spa experience.

Enjoy Nature At The Yukon Wildlife Preserve

Family at the Yukon wildlife preserve looking at a moose
Yukon Wildlife Preserve – Photo credit: Government of Yukon / Derek Crowe

Located off of Takhini Hot Springs Rd, the Yukon Wildlife Preserve is one of the coolest places to visit in Whitehorse. Here you can take a guided tour through the massive wildlife preserve and gaze upon the incredible wildlife that calls this region of Canada home.

The Yukon Wildlife Preserve covers a vast 350 acres and is home to elk, arctic foxes, lynx, moose, mountain goats, and wood bison among others. The park also runs a wildlife rehabilitation centre and has hiking trails, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing experiences.

Enjoy guided bus tours or self-guided experiences through this magnificent Yukon nature hot spot. You can find out more here.

Flightseeing Over Kluane National Park

Flightseeing over Kluane National Park
Flightseeing over Kluane National Park – Photo credit: Hans-Gerhard Pfaff

One of the most magical attractions in Whitehorse is a visit to Kluane National Park. This natural wonder is home to the Saint Elias Mountains and Canada’s highest peak, Mount Logan.

While most visitors might make a visit to the park for some hiking, canoeing, and exploring, the only viable way for most visitors to Whitehorse to get a true perspective on this massive park is from the air.

Most Kluane National Park sightseeing tours start from Haines Junction, a scenic 150 km drive from the city. From there, companies such as Rocking Star Adventures and Kluane Glacier Air Tours take guests on a mesmerizing journey over Mount Logan and 16 of Canada’s 20 highest peaks. Along the way, you’ll gaze over some of the most magnificent glaciers on Earth.

Southern Lakes Flightseeing Tours with Alpine Aviation offers a unique experience that includes a stop at Southern Lakes Resort for lunch.

You can read about We Explore Canada writer Hans Temmagami’s experience of flightseeing over Kluane National Park here.

Now It’s Time to Experience These Things To Do In Whitehorse, Yukon Territory For Yourself

There are more things to do in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory than meets the eye. From incredible wildlife experiences and fabulous breweries to relaxing hot springs, and scrumptious food you can find something for everyone in this beautiful region of the Yukon.

Many of these businesses and restaurants are anxious for visitors after a tough year. So let’s support local and make the most of your Edmonton adventure.

Do you have a favourite attraction or restaurant in Canada? Head over to the We Explore Canada Facebook Community and join the conversation! You’ll find an amazing group of people passionate about travel in Canada who love to share their local secrets.

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