You’ve just stepped off the plane in Whitehorse from your home in the Circumpolar North.
You’re excited and proud to represent your region at the Arctic Winter Games (maybe a bit nervous as well), and you’re looking forward to everything the week has to offer.
Once you’ve had a chance to strut your stuff at the opening ceremonies in the Canada Games Centre’s flexihall, figured out your training and competition schedules, and settled into the athlete’s village, you might want to figure out what this Whitehorse place is all about.
If this is the case, let us be your guide to a few of the many, many things available to keep you busy when you aren’t focused on your sport.
See some sights:
Tourists come from around the world to hang out in Whitehorse. Why not take a few moments to see what all the fuss is about?
Take a stroll along the Yukon River and check out some Klondike Gold Rush history, immortalized in the S.S. Klondike – the paddle-wheeler that dominates the views from downtown Whitehorse.
If you want to learn more, the MacBride Museum and Old Log Church will be happy to open their doors to you and share some of the territory’s rich history.
If you prefer to learn about something a bit older, pay a visit to the Beringia Centre (on the highway beside the airport – look for the mammoths and you won’t miss it).
They’ll let you check out skeletons of ice age mammals and teach you to throw an atal atal if you ask an interpreter nicely.
Right next door is another treasure trove of territorial history, the Yukon Transportation Museum.
Whitehorse is surrounded by trails on all sides and there is a huge number of places to explore.
Take a walk, or grab a set of skis or snowshoes, and head out to Miles Canyon, the Hidden Lakes, or Grey Mountain to experience why so many residents choose to call this place home.
If speed is more your style, take the day to play at Mount Sima on downhill skis or a snowboard, or pick up a sled and try a local sledding hill.
The most accessible option for this is in Shipyards Park downtown beside the river, but if you befriend a local they can point you toward some of the steeper and more exciting sliding locales.
Whitehorse is littered with outdoor skating rinks and there is always someone looking for a game of pick-up hockey or broomball.
Grab a recreation guide from the Canada Games Centre for a map that will point you in the direction of all the free ice that is just waiting for skate blades to mark up its surface.
Take in some culture:
The Arctic Winter Games isn’t just a sporting event. There is a diverse cultural program associated with the games that is worth checking out.
The hubs of this activity are the Yukon Arts Centre, Canada Games Centre, Arts Underground and Baked Café (both on Main Street), the Centre de la francophonie on Strickland Street and the newKwanlin Dun Cultural Centre on the banks of the Yukon River (which is worth seeing for the building alone).
With the huge variety of artists and performers taking part, there is sure to be something to satisfy every taste.
Main Street is the place to check out if you’re looking for the perfect gift to take home. Murdoch’s is worth a stop to see the gold nuggets, mammoth ivory, and an eclectic set of Yukon artifacts hiding throughout the store.
The fudge at Midnight Sun Gallery is famous and the Northend Gallery in the Horwood’s Mall at the river end of Main Street showcases a wide range of Yukon Artists.
If you’re willing to go a bit further afield, the Yukon [email protected] co-op on Industrial Road and the Copper Moon Gallery in the McCrae area are both well worth the trip.
If you’re looking for something a bit more Hollywood, the two local movie theatres, located on Wood Street and across from the Qwanlin Mall on 4th Avenue each have two screens and show new movies.
Take a road trip:
If you have time, taking the opportunity to get out of the city is well worth your effort.
A day trip to Carcross to check out the world’s smallest desert and Bennett Lake, where the gold rushers built their rafts to complete their journey to Dawson City will not disappoint.
Nor will a jaunt to Haines Junction to experience the majesty of Kluane National Park and the St. Elias mountains.
Or, you could try an afternoon of cross country skiing and animal viewing at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve, then relax your muscles in the warm waters of Takhini Hot Springs.
Ask a local:
Whitehorse residents are a friendly and fun-loving bunch. Don’t be afraid to walk up to one and ask for a suggestion of what to do.
More often than not they’ll be thrilled to help and will be able to give you a list that could fill your every waking moment – and give you a lifetime of memories from your week in Whitehorse.
Amber Church is a painter, writer and sports enthusiast. You can reach her at [email protected].