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Welcome to Juneau, the picturesque capital city of Alaska, nestled in the heart of the breathtaking Inside Passage. This charming city is a perfect blend of rich history, stunning natural beauty, and vibrant culture. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a history buff, or simply seeking adventure, Juneau has something to offer everyone. In this Juneau travel guide, we’ll take you through the must-see attractions, outdoor adventures, cultural experiences, and culinary delights that await you in Juneau.
Getting to Juneau
Juneau is not accessible by road, so most visitors arrive by air or sea. The Juneau International Airport serves as the main gateway for those flying in. Alternatively, you can cruise to Juneau through one of the many cruise lines that frequent this popular destination.
Juneau’s unique location makes it a fascinating destination to reach. Situated along the Gastineau Channel, the city is surrounded by mountains and waterways, creating a natural wonderland that’s both awe-inspiring and remote. As you approach Juneau by air, you’ll be treated to breathtaking aerial views of the lush forests, glaciers, and fjords that define the region. Arriving by sea is equally enchanting, with cruise ships navigating through the narrow passages of the Inside Passage, offering passengers an up-close look at the pristine wilderness that makes Alaska famous.
Best Time to Visit Juneau
Juneau is truly a year-round destination, but the best time to visit is during the summer months, from May to September. This is when you can enjoy the most pleasant weather and take advantage of the long daylight hours.
Summer in Juneau is a magical time. The days are long, with the sun not setting until late in the evening, allowing you to make the most of your outdoor adventures and exploration. The temperatures are mild, ranging from the 60s to 70s Fahrenheit (15-25°C), making it ideal for hiking, fishing, and wildlife viewing.
In contrast, the winter months in Juneau bring a completely different kind of enchantment. Snow blankets the landscape, turning it into a winter wonderland. For those who love cold-weather activities like cross-country skiing and dog sledding, the winter season in Juneau provides an entirely different perspective of this Alaskan gem.
Things to Do in Juneau
As you embark on your Juneau adventure, you’ll find yourself surrounded by towering mountains, dense forests, and glistening waterways, all serving as the backdrop to a multitude of outdoor activities. Whether you’re an avid hiker looking to conquer challenging trails, a wildlife enthusiast eager to spot majestic creatures like whales and bald eagles, or a history buff interested in exploring the heritage of Alaska’s indigenous peoples, Juneau has something to captivate every traveler. Below is a list of the top things to do in Juneau during your visit, ensuring that you’ll make the most of your time in this remarkable corner of the world.
Start your adventure with a visit to the iconic Mendenhall Glacier. This massive river of ice stretches 13 miles from its source to Mendenhall Lake. Here, you can explore the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, which offers informative exhibits and stunning views of the glacier. The visitor center also serves as the trailhead for several hiking trails, ranging from easy walks to more challenging treks. I highly recommend booking a tour to canoe to Mendenhall Glacier with Liquid Alaska Tours. It was an incredible experience and one of our favorite things we did during our time in Juneau!
Nestled within the Tongass National Forest, Nugget Falls is a towering cascade of pristine water. As you embark on the trail leading to this awe-inspiring spectacle, you’ll find yourself immersed in the lush greenery of the Alaskan rainforest, surrounded by centuries-old trees and the soothing sounds of nature. But it’s when you finally lay eyes on Nugget Falls that you’ll truly understand its magnificence. The falls, standing at an impressive 377 feet, plunge into the serene waters of Mendenhall Lake, creating a mesmerizing display of power and beauty.
Tracy Arm Fjord
Embark on a boat tour to Tracy Arm Fjord, a pristine wilderness area known for its dramatic landscapes. As you cruise through the narrow fjord, you’ll be surrounded by towering cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and floating icebergs. The highlight of the trip is reaching the stunning Sawyer Glaciers, where you might witness chunks of ice calving into the sea with a thunderous crash. Keep your camera ready for opportunities to spot seals, whales, and bald eagles along the way.
Mount Roberts Tramway
For panoramic views of Juneau and the surrounding wilderness, take a ride on the Goldbelt Tram. This cable car will whisk you 1,800 feet above sea level to the summit of Mount Roberts. At the top, you’ll find hiking trails that cater to various skill levels, allowing you to explore the alpine terrain and lush forests. There’s also a nature center where you can learn about the local flora and fauna, as well as cultural exhibits highlighting the traditions of the Tlingit people.
Alaska State Museum
If you’re interested in delving into Alaska’s rich history and culture, the Alaska State Museum is a must-visit attraction. Located in downtown Juneau, the museum features a wide range of exhibits that showcase the state’s diverse heritage. Explore the indigenous cultures of Alaska, learn about its wildlife, and gain insight into the experiences of early settlers. The museum provides an engaging and informative journey through Alaska’s past and present.
Alaska Native Heritage Center
Gain insight into the indigenous cultures of Alaska at the Alaska Native Heritage Center. Located just a short drive from downtown Juneau, this cultural center is a living museum where you can interact with indigenous artists, watch traditional performances, and explore exhibits that showcase the rich heritage of Alaska’s native peoples. Learn about the traditions, art, and history of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian cultures.
Outdoor Adventures in Juneau
Juneau is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a plethora of activities to satisfy your sense of adventure. Whether you’re an avid hiker, a kayaking enthusiast, or a wildlife lover, this Alaskan gem has something for everyone. With its lush rainforests, jagged mountain peaks, and pristine waterways, Juneau invites you to explore its rugged terrain in a variety of ways.
With its lush rainforests, rugged mountains, and pristine coastlines, Juneau boasts an abundance of hiking trails suitable for all levels of hikers. Lace up your hiking boots to conquer challenging trails like the Mount Roberts Trail, which rewards hikers with panoramic views of the city and surrounding wilderness. One of the most popular trails is the West Glacier Trail, which takes you to a stunning viewpoint overlooking the Mendenhall Glacier.
Fishing enthusiasts will find themselves in paradise in Juneau. Whether you’re a novice or an experienced angler, you can cast your line in the numerous streams, rivers, and lakes that teem with salmon, rockfish, halibut, and more. Local fishing charters and guides can take you to the best spots for a successful day on the water. A great spot to check out is Auke Bay.
Juneau is one of the premier whale-watching destinations in Alaska. Join a guided tour and head out into the waters of the Inside Passage, where you’ll have the opportunity to spot humpback whales, orcas, and other marine life. These majestic creatures often breach and play in the waters, making for an unforgettable wildlife encounter
Where to Eat and Drink in Juneau
Whether you’re in the mood for seafood, pub fare, craft beer, or a cozy café experience, Juneau has a wide range of dining and drinking options to satisfy your culinary cravings. Enjoy the flavors of Alaska’s capital city while taking in the stunning surroundings and friendly atmosphere.
Tracy’s King Crab Shack
For a quintessential Alaskan dining experience, head to Tracy’s King Crab Shack. Located near the cruise ship docks, this casual seafood joint is famous for its king crab legs. You can watch the chefs cook the crab right before your eyes, and then enjoy your meal at outdoor picnic tables overlooking the harbor.
Hangar on the Wharf
Located on the historic South Franklin Street, Hangar on the Wharf offers a diverse menu featuring Alaskan specialties. Try their halibut and chips or salmon chowder while taking in the views of the harbor. The outdoor deck is an excellent spot to savor your meal in the fresh Alaskan air.
For an upscale dining experience with a focus on local and sustainable ingredients, make a reservation at Salt. This restaurant offers a farm-to-table menu that highlights the best of Alaskan cuisine. Whether you choose fresh seafood or locally sourced meats, the culinary expertise and ambiance at Salt will leave you with a memorable dining experience.
The Wild Alaskan is known for its signature fish and chips, which are made with locally caught halibut that is battered and fried to perfection. The fish is always cooked to perfection, the batter is light and crispy. No matter what you choose to order, you’re sure to enjoy a delicious and satisfying meal at the Wild Alaskan food truck. The Wild Alaskan is located next to the Alaskan Brewery, so it’s a great place to stop for a bite to eat after a tour of the brewery.
Deckhand Dave’s Fish Tacos
Deckhand Dave’s is a culinary gem in downtown Juneau that embodies the spirit of Alaska’s rich seafood heritage. With a menu featuring fresh, locally sourced ingredients, Deckhand Dave’s serves up delectable dishes like the famous fish tacos. The casual and friendly atmosphere, combined with panoramic views of Juneau’s waterfront, makes dining at Deckhand Dave’s an authentic Alaskan experience that will leave your taste buds longing for more.
This cozy cafe boasts a menu that celebrates the finest Alaskan ingredients. Whether you’re savoring a plate of fluffy pancakes adorned with local berries for breakfast or indulging in a savory seafood delight for lunch, each dish is a testament to the cafe’s dedication to quality and flavor. The perfect spot to enjoy brunch and a delicious latte.
Heritage Coffee Roasting Co.
Heritage Coffee Roasting Co. sources their coffee beans from all over the world, and they roast them in-house to ensure freshness. They offer a wide variety of coffees to choose from, including light, medium, and dark roasts, as well as flavored coffees and blends. In addition to their coffee, Heritage Coffee Roasting Co. also offers a variety of food items, including pastries, sandwiches, and salads. If you are looking for a great place to get a cup of coffee in Juneau, this is the spot. You won’t be disappointed!
Amalga Distillery is a craft distillery that produces a variety of spirits, including its flagship Juneauper Gin. Amalga’s Juneauper Gin is distilled using a variety of botanicals, including locally sourced spruce tips, Devil’s Club, Labrador Tea, and rhubarb. The gin has a complex flavor profile with notes of juniper, citrus, and spice. It is a popular choice for cocktails, such as the Negroni and the Gin and Tonic.
Where to Stay in Juneau
Choosing the right accommodation in Juneau is essential for a comfortable and enjoyable stay. Fortunately, the city offers a range of lodging options to suit various preferences and budgets.
Baranof Downtown, BW Signature Collection
The Baranof Downtown, BW Signature Collection offers comfortable accommodations and easy access to downtown attractions. The hotel provides a welcoming atmosphere and a range of amenities, including an on-site restaurant and bar.
Four Points by Sheraton Juneau
For breathtaking views of the Gastineau Channel and modern amenities, consider staying at the Four Points by Sheraton Juneau. Situated downtown, this hotel offers comfortable rooms, an on-site restaurant, and easy access to shops and restaurants.
If you’re looking for a more boutique experience, check out the Silverbow Inn. This charming inn in downtown Juneau offers cozy rooms, a complimentary breakfast, and a convenient location near many of the city’s attractions.
The Alaskan Hotel
The historic Alaskan Hotel is the oldest operating hotel in Juneau. It was built during the gold rush and is in a well-preserved Victorian building with updated touches. This is the perfect place for history buffs to stay.
Juneau, Alaska, is a destination that promises natural beauty, adventure, and a deep connection to Alaskan culture. From exploring glaciers and fjords to immersing yourself in indigenous heritage and savoring fresh seafood, Juneau offers a diverse range of experiences that will make your visit truly unforgettable. So, pack your bags, put on your hiking boots, and get ready to embark on an incredible journey in this remarkable corner of the world. Whether you visit in the summer to bask in the midnight sun or in the winter for a snowy escape, Juneau’s charm and allure will captivate you from start to finish.