At least if you stay at the Aurora Inn, that is, a 20-room lodging in this northern Canadian town, best known for its role in the turn-of-the-20th-century Klondike Gold Rush.
Here’s the scoop:
Tracy Nordick, who owns and operates the Aurora Inn with her husband Steve, spent many years dancing and singing the role of “Diamond Tooth Gertie,” a Klondike-era showgirl in the local casino and cabaret of the same name. Originally from the Vancouver area, Tracy came to Dawson back in the 1990s.
Although she hung up her dancing shoes several years ago to go about the business of raising a family and running the inn, she’s just one of the Dawson locals who helps keep the town’s often-quirky heritage alive.
Dawson City feels like Wild West town, with old-time storefronts lining the boardwalks along the dirt streets. Although the region had an indigenous population for more than 10,000 years, the town boomed in the 1890s after gold was discovered nearby, triggering the Klondike Gold Rush. By 1898, Dawson’s population had grown to more than 30,000 and became the largest city north of Seattle and west of Winnipeg.
Yet the gold fever was fleeting. Today, Dawson City is home to only about 2,000 hardy residents.
There’s still plenty of heritage to explore in the present-day town. Much of the community is preserved as a National Historic Site, and Parks Canada interpreters lead an informative 90-minute “then and now” tour that walks you through the area’s history.
You can also take a narrated cruise on the Yukon River in a restored “sidewheeler” paddleboat, the Klondike Spirit, or try your own gold rush luck, panning for gold at Claim 33.
The Aurora Inn
Dawson City doesn’t have anything that could be considered a “luxury” property, but there are several simple comfortable lodgings, including the Aurora Inn.
The inn has a parlor for guests to gather with overstuffed chairs and a kitchen where you can help yourself to coffee and tea, or keep your own snacks in the refrigerator.
Guest Rooms and Amenities
The inn’s guest rooms come in all different sizes and bed configurations — singles, queens, king, triples — accommodating everyone from solo travelers to families to groups of friends.
All are furnished with quilt-topped beds, sturdy pine desks and dressers, TVs, and ceiling fans, which are welcome during the short but warm summers. Wi-Fi is complimentary, though service can be a little intermittent here (and elsewhere in town as well).
And then there’s the sour toe…
A short walk from the Aurora Inn is Dawson City’s most infamous attraction, the Downtown Hotel, an old-west saloon that serves the Yukon’s most famous drink, the Sourtoe Cocktail. Scads of visitors line up nightly for their chance to try a beverage of their choice, served with a real human toe.
If you manage to chug your drink — and let the toe touch your lips — you receive a certificate proving your membership in the Sourtoe Cocktail Club.
The toes are donated by people who’ve lost them to frostbite and other mishaps. And yes, they’re real. Don’t even think about swallowing the toe, or you’ll be charged a $2,500 fine!
Diamond Tooth Gertie’s
The cabaret and casino where Tracy Nordick once danced is the oldest operating casino in Canada. Diamond Tooth Gertie’s still offers an old-time song and dance revue that takes you back to the Klondike era.
Back at the Aurora Inn, Steve and Tracy can tell you more about life in remote Dawson City. And if you’ve ever thought about a career as a cabaret dancer, be sure to ask Tracy about her time as the Yukon’s “Diamond Tooth Gertie.”
Hotel feature by Vancouver-based travel, food, and feature writer Carolyn B. Heller. Photos © Carolyn B. Heller. Travel Yukon and the Aurora Inn arranged my stay for review purposes.