Located at Historic Milepost 918 on the Alaska Highway, the downtown business section of Whitehorse lies on the west bank of the Yukon River. Whitehorse has been the capital of Yukon Territory since 1953, and is the hub of the territory's 2,700 mile/4,300 km road system.
The Klondike gold rush brought stampeders and the railroad from Skagway to Whitehorse. The community grew as a transportation centre and transshipment point for freight from the Skagway–Whitehorse railroad and the stern-wheelers plying the Yukon River to Dawson City. A second boom period for Whitehorse occurred during construction of the Alaska Highway, when they city became headquarters for the western sector and one of the largest camps on the pioneer road. The Alaska Highway opened to civilian travel in 1948, encouraging new development, especially in mineral exploration and mining, as well as tourism. Because of its accessibility, Whitehorse became capital of the Yukon Territory (replacing Dawson City in that role) on March 31, 1953.
Perhaps Whitehorse's best known attraction is the SS Klondike National Historic Site. It's hard to miss this grand old stern-wheeler. She sits beside the Yukon River near the Robert Campbell bridge in downtown Whitehorse. The Klondike carried mail, general supplies, passengers and silver lead ore along the 460-mile route between Whitehorse and Dawson City until 1955, when she was retired. Built in 1929, the vessel was the largest on the Yukon. The interpretive centre adjacent the stern-wheeler is open from mid-May to mid-September, and tours of the vessel are available.
Another hard-to-miss landmark in Whitehorse is located in front of the Whitehorse International Airport. It's the world’s largest weathervane—a Douglas DC–3. This vintage plane was mounted on a rotating pedestal in 198l.
Another major attraction in Whitehorse is the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre, which traces the Ice Age in Yukon, which—unlike the rest of Canada—was ice-free. Displays at the centre trace the science and myth of an Ice Age subcontinent inhabited by great woolly mammoths, giant short-faced bears, lions, scimitar cats, camels and Jefferson’s ground sloth. Ice Age artifacts include a cast of the largest woolly mammoth skeleton ever recovered. The centre is open daily from mid-May to late September.
Whitehorse also boasts the Frantic Follies, the territory's longest-running vaudeville stage show; a Transportation Museum; log "skyscrapers"; and the Old Log Church, built in 1900. Historic walking tours of the city's heritage buildings are available.