A brief look around the town of Whitehorse; fun shops and a nice waterfront
WHITEHORSE - Downtown Whitehorse sits in the Yukon River valley, with towering sand cliffs on each side to give it anice definition. There’s the usual array of WalMart’s and Boston Pizza restaurants as you come into town from the airport (perhaps three minutes away) but it quickly gives way to some colourful shops and restaurants and small hotels.
There are a few t-shirt shops and souvenir places, but also some fun and interesting places, including Mac’s Fireweed Books; a great place to browse and catch up on Yukon history. Across the way on Main St. is one of the city’s true treasures, Baked. They make a huge variety of scones, including ones with cranberry and coconut and also raspberry-chocolate. I hear the cinnamon buns are terrific, and they also sell pretzels with caramel, which I don’t think I have the nerve to try.
The place is packed every morning, as they make a great cup of coffee and a wonderfully rich coffee latte, done up with the shape of a palm tree and even a small coconut. The outside seating is hugely popular when the weather’s nice.
A couple doors down is Tokyo Sushi, which is reasonably good. I guess it’s not surprising to see a couple of sushi places in town, as Whitehorse, after all, is only a two-hour drive from the Pacific Ocean. Some green veggies in the tempura would’ve been nice, instead it was shrimp and all the orange stuff they could find: carrots, sweet potato slices and squash. Not bad, and $21 for two pieces of sushi, a tempura dish and a Diet Pepsi.
It looks like it’s part of a gas station, but G and P outside of the city centre on the Alaska Highway does good Greek food and makes a pretty mean steak. Comes with salad, veggies, roast potatoes and mushrooms for $32. Take that, Ruth’s Chris.
I thought my Rib Tickler portion was fairly skimpy at lunch, but Klondike Ribs and Salmon BBQ is a fun spot with lots of crazy stuff hanging from the walls and ceiling and a small patio up front that’s lovely on a warm spring day. The building is said to be the oldest operating structure in Whitehorse, which seems to be getting a fair bit of new ones these days due to an economic boom.
You might think it’s a reasonably affordable spot, but I was told a nice three-bedroom home in town goes for about $500,000. Not quite Toronto or Vancouver, but by no means cheap.
The MacBride Museum is tons of fun, with great displays on local history and geography and native Canadians and colourful locals over the years. One local artist is said to refer to Whitehorse’s “colourful five per cent,” but I think it’s more like 30 or 40 per cent, personally.
One thing you’ll learn by checking out the Sam McGee cabin at the museum is that writer Robert Service took some rather large liberties with his famous poem The Cremation of Sam McGee. The poem he wrote claims McGee was from Tennessee when, in fact, he was from Lindsay, Ontario. Probably didn’t rhyme as well as Plumtree, Tennessee. Unlike the fictional Sam McGee, the real one is said to have not minded Yukon winters all that much, either. But, hey, artistic license and all that, right?
Whitehorse is a much bigger city than I expected, and there seems to be a pretty genuine counterculture, with tattooed folks and multiple piercing types mixing in with the truckers and outdoor adventure types. There are a few rough spots around the edges. A couple colleagues say they went into a shady-looking bar Tuesday at 5 p.m. and saw a guy get tossed out into the street, which is always entertaining and, yes, could happen in any number of cities around the country.
They’ve done a great job with the Whitehorse waterfront. The old SS Klondike paddlewheel steamer sits at the north end of the waterfront, although it doesn’t go in the water any longer. There’s a great, grassy park for kids with tons of playground equipment and also what looks like a new walking trail along the river down near the foot of Main St., and you also can take the Whitehorse Waterfront Trolley.
Our GoMedia sessions, courtesy of the Canadian Tourism Commission, are taking place at the beautiful and spanking new Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre (see photo) on the waterfront a few blocks south of Main St. It’s a very impressive building, with tons of wood and natural light. There’s meeting space and artist rooms’ and the building also houses the new Whitehorse Library.
All in all, a surprisingly sophisticated and definitely energetic little city with lots of charm.