Visiting Dawson City is like travelling back in time to the gold rush era. The dirt streets are lined with wooden boardwalks all leading to buildings that cause you to believe you have accidentally hit 88mph and travelled back to the wild west.
Although, the cars parked outside are a bit of a giveaway that no time travel was involved.
We spent a lot of time in Dawson City just walking around soaking up the old timey magic. We even went to an old timey gambling hall to watch old timey Can-Can dancers.
When we were finished reliving the gold rush era in the town itself, we headed back across the Yukon river to explore the mysterious paddleboat graveyard. As advertised, it was fully stocked with abandoned, decaying paddle boats for us to nose about in and take altogether too many photos of.
Dawson City has its fair share of old timey gold mining fun. But there is one other thing it is famous for:
The sour toe cocktail
Not so bad, you say, lots of cocktails have entertaining, slightly concerning sounding names.
True. But most don’t come complete with a mummified human toe.
This one does.
Not wanting to miss out on the shiny yellow certificates that were being handed out to those brave enough to sample the toe, we headed to the Downtown Hotel and joined the other milling tourists waiting to taste the ultimate toe-jam cocktail.
So that you can fully appreciate the stupidity of our choice, here is a photo of the mummified, frostbitten toe in all its leathery glory:
The toe is dropped in your beverage of choice (must be 40 proof or greater, due to their exacting toe hygiene/preservation standards)—we opted for a serving of delicious Kraken Rum. In order to earn the certificate (and to have your name added to the official register of people stupid enough to actually do this), when you down the shot, the toe must touch your lips. There is however a $2,500 fine for swallowing the toe. (Apparently this used to be $500, but one day some strong-stomached individual rocked up to the bar, put the $500 down and swallowed his shot—toe and all.)
You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow—but the lips have gotta touch the toe.
Not wanting to spend $2,500 on one drink, or digest a human toe, we opted to just aim for the minimum requirement.
Clearly the ordeal was worth it, as we both received shiny yellow certificates to celebrate our stupidity.
Miles driven: Not many, we just drove into town, parked up at a campground and explored on foot on our first visit. When we came back later, the music festival was on, so we were camping a bit further out of town and used the car a little.
Also, we had one delightful shot of Kraken rum each, complete with a mummified human toe. Delicious.
Toes swallowed: Zero. Thank goodness.
Recommendations to other travellers
Downtown Hotel—Here’s where to go if you want to taste the refreshing sourtoe cocktail and receive your shiny certificate to prove that you have no taste buds (or sense of food hygiene).
Klondyke Cream & Candy serve up an amazing ice-cream on a hot summer’s day. Perfect for washing away the memory of that sourtoe cocktail the night before.
Cheechakos offer the best sandwiches in town. Well, the best sandwiches in the Yukon, possibly even in Canada, although we still have left a lot of Canadian sandwiches untasted, so can’t state this for certain. Regardless of the deliciousness of sandwiches elsewhere in Canada, the ones here are are delicious alternative to paying the hight prices at the local grocer store.
Back Alley Pizza, when you finally drag yourself away from Cheechakos and are looking for an alternate cheap meal option (and the grocery store prices seem prohibitively high) the Back Alley pizza booth behind Drunken Goat Tavern is a tasty option.
Dawson City Museum is the main museum in town. If you time it right you can check out the old engines stored in the train shelter next door. The museum also offers a number of other performances and presentations regularly throughout the day, helping to bring the history of the area to life and provided a welcome break from the usual placard reading of a typical museum visit.
The Gold Rush Campground was a very cute RV park that we camped in, the lady in the office was delightful and made us feel very welcome. It would definitely be our preference to stay in if we were back in the area.
Another great camping spot is the Government Campground across the Yukon. A short free ferry ride across the river from the town itself, it is also conveniently close to the paddleboat graveyard which can be accessed through the back of the sites at the end of the road. The best part is that like all Government Campgrounds in the Yukon, firewood is included in your very reasonable camping fee.