22 Amazing Things To Do In Juneau, Alaska

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Despite being Alaska’s capital, Juneau is usually a one-night tourist stopover on an Alaskan cruise. Many first-time visitors mistakenly assume the more populous Anchorage is Alaska’s capital.

However, those who decide to stay a bit longer in Juneau are rewarded with architectural gems, marvelous museums, and, of course, breathtaking natural scenery.

There are dozens of things to do in and around Juneau, especially if you’re interested in outdoor activities, delicious seafood, or Alaskan culture.

In this post, we’ll explore 22 exceptional Juneau destinations in the following categories: natural scenery, historic Juneau, and unique attractions. Here are just a few of the places we’ll detail below:

  1. Mendenhall Glacier
  2. Tracy Arm Fjord
  3. Nugget Falls
  4. Tongass National Forest
  5. Goldbelt Mount Roberts Tramway
  6. Mount Roberts Trail
  7. Glacier Gardens Rainforest
  8. Alaska State Museum
  9. Alaska State Capitol Building
  10. Last Chance Mining Museum

Juneau might not be a great “home base” for exploring Alaska, but it’s worth more than a one-day stop. When you finish this piece, you’ll understand why many cruise passengers wish they’d booked more time to explore this lovely capital.

Why Juneau Deserves a Spot on Your Alaska Itinerary

Situated in southeastern Alaska, Juneau has many unique features. For starters, it’s America’s only landlocked capital city. The only ways to get into Juneau are via plane or cruise ship, so no matter how you travel to Juneau, your initial voyage will surely be memorable.

Of course, the natural beauty of this mountainous area is the top tourist draw, but Juneau’s second claim to fame is its fascinating past. As the oldest city in Alaska and a major center for gold mining, Juneau is home to many of the state’s most impressive museums and houses of worship.

Although Juneau is small, with roughly 30,000 residents, it has all the amenities you’d expect from a major American city. Indeed, since much of Juneau’s economy depends on tourism, you’ll have no difficulty finding high-quality hotels, restaurants, and special tours on your visit.

Juneau’s tourist season peaks between May and August when there’s little precipitation, plenty of sunshine, and temps between 50°F – 60°F. A bonus of visiting during the summer is that visitors enjoy the height of whale migration in the region.

Those who want to avoid tourist traffic should consider visiting during the rainy autumn months. Yes, the fall season is damp and cool, but it’s also the best chance to check out the famed Northern Lights.

Click this blog post to learn the best times to visit Alaska.

22 Things To Do In Juneau, Alaska

As the intro mentions, most of Juneau’s attractions are related to the city’s pristine nature or its long history. Let’s take a closer look at 22 of the must-see destinations everyone should add to a Juneau itinerary.

Natural Attractions

1. Mendenhall Glacier

Measuring approximately 13 miles in length, the Mendenhall Glacier is the most impressive remnant from the most recent Ice Age. Start your tour of this natural treasure at the state-of-the-art Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center for sweeping views of the area and a phenomenal educational film.

Close up of crevasses on the Mendenhall Glacier as it enters lake close to Juneau in Alaska

While at the Visitor Center, you can find out how to reach the area’s many trails and their difficulty level. Don’t hesitate to ask Park Rangers where you’ll have the best chance of seeing wildlife like sockeye salmon, coyotes, and black bears on your tour.

2. Tracy Arm Fjord

The Mendenhall Glacier is undeniably stunning, but it attracts so many tourists because of its convenient location near central Juneau.

By contrast, the Tracy Arm Fjord is about 40 miles south of Juneau and can only be accessed by boat. However, those who take the time and effort to travel to Tracy Arm are never disappointed.

Sawyer Glacier at the end of Tracy Arm Fjord, Alaska

Measuring about 27 miles long with mountains that tower some 3,000 feet, the Tracy Arm Fjord is a jaw-dropping sight. If you only have time for one major natural attraction, most seasoned tourists recommend visiting Tracy Arm over Mendenhall.

Boat tours to Tracy Arm only operate between May and September, so be sure to book your tour a few weeks in advance to be on the safe side.

3. Nugget Falls

A fun side trip on your exploration of Mendenhall Glacier is to visit the two-tiered Nugget Falls by Mendenhall Lake. Created by Nugget Glacier, this powerful waterfall drops some 370 feet and often sprays guests with its powerful mists.

Nugget Falls, also known as Nugget Creek Falls or Mendenhall Glacier Falls, a waterfall downstream of the Nugget Glacier flowing into Mendenhall Lake in Alaska, with Mendehall Glacier in background

The thundering Nugget Falls is accessible via the East Glacier Loop Trail near the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center. Reaching the falls will take about 1.3 miles of hiking, but the trail is relatively flat and great for novice hikers.

4. Tongass National Forest

At almost 17 million acres, Alaska’s Tongass National Forest is the largest in the USA. First founded by President Theodore Roosevelt in the early 1900s, this vast park preserves roughly 80 percent of southeastern Alaska for nature enthusiasts.

Rainbird Hiking Trail in Tongass National Forest in Ketchikan, Alaska. Sitka spruce, ferns, and rocky trail through temperate rain forest.

There are dozens of hiking trails throughout Tongass’ vast landscape, but a perennial favorite with tourists is the West Glacier Trail near Juneau. Measuring about 4 miles, this summertime trail offers unparalleled views of Mendenhall Glacier and its environs.

Of course, countless other fantastic outdoor activities are available in Tongass, such as bird watching, kayaking, and bear viewing. The best place in Juneau to learn more about any Tongass activities you might be interested in is at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center.

5. Glacier Bay National Park

Formally recognized by UNESCO in the 1970s, the Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is one of the world’s largest internationally protected sites, measuring about 3.3 million acres.

Many Glacier in Glacier National Park

As the name suggests, the star attraction is the glaciers, especially in the “Many Glacier” area of the park. Glacier Bay also boasts 750 miles of hiking trails, 13 campsites, boating opportunities, and license-free fishing.

Check out the National Park Service’s official Glacier Bay National Park page for the most up-to-date information on road closures, events, and guided tours.

6. Juneau Channel Island State Marine Park

Over 20 miles northwest of central Juneau, the Juneau Channel Island State Marine Park is a collection of 14 islands dotted along Lynn Canal. Guests interested in visiting these islands could easily book a boat journey to participate in all the outdoor activities.

Scenic view of Gastineau Channel, Douglas Island, and Downtown Juneau from the top of Mt. Juneau in Alaska during Summer

For those who are into fishing, North Pass is highly praised for its large populations of halibut and salmon. If you’re not so into fishing, consider participating in outdoor activities like kayaking, hunting, or amateur photography.

Be forewarned: it can get chilly and damp here, so pack high-quality, moisture-wicking coats.

7. Mount Roberts Trail

Any experienced hikers reading this post might be interested in tackling the Mount Roberts Trail by Downtown Juneau. Beginning at Basin Road, this trail measures roughly 4.5 miles and reaches an elevation of 3,819 feet.

View of Gastineau Channel and Douglas Island from the top of Mt Roberts in Juneau, Alaska

The reward for all your hard effort will be priceless panoramic views of Juneau and the Chilkat Mountains.

For those seeking a less intense hike, consider riding the Golden Mount Roberts Tramway to the halfway point at about 1,800 feet up. Of course, if you’re tired after walking down from this trail’s peak, you could also take the tramway back to Basin Road.

A quick word of warning: this trail is frequently muddy. Don’t wear any clothes you don’t feel comfortable getting dirty while exploring.

8. Glacier Gardens Rainforest

Flower enthusiasts visiting Tongass National Forest cannot pass on a trip to the 50-acre Glacier Gardens Rainforest. On your hour-long shuttled tour, an expert guide will teach you about the fantastic flora preserved in this rainforest region.

Juneau, Alaska, USA_ Glacier Gardens is a rain forest botanical garden in the Tongass National Forest. Upside-down tree trunks serve as planters for a wide variety of colorful flowers.

Guests visiting Glacier Gardens will also be treated to sweeping panoramic views of Juneau at the top of Thunder Mountain. Before leaving, snap pictures of the gardens’ famed upside-down flower towers.

9. Eagle Beach

Alaska isn’t the prime destination for beach bums, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time at Juneau’s Sandy Eagle Beach. Eagle Beach’s main claim to fame along the Lynn Canal is its views of the nearby Chilkat Mountains.

Visitors to this area are also often interested in camping, fishing, or searching for wildlife like sea lions.

Gorgeous sunset on the Chilkat Mountain Range across Lynn Canal from Eagle Beach near Juneau, Alaska

16 dedicated campsites throughout Eagle Beach are available to guests for seven days. For those interested in camping or reserving a picnic shelter, visit Eagle Beach’s official webpage before visiting.

10. Perseverance National Recreation Trail

Unlike Mount Roberts Trail, Perseverance Trail is ideal for beginner to intermediate hikers. You’ll begin your hike up Perseverance Trail by Downtown Juneau at the Basin Road trailhead and travel onwards for about 3 miles.

As you hike, look for evidence of the region’s gold mining past, especially as you look out over Gold Creek. Indeed, this trail once served as a railway dedicated to transporting gold from the nearby mines.

A nice feature of Perseverance Trail is that it’s easily customizable. For instance, you could climb Mount Juneau or take a more leisurely jaunt to the mighty Ebner Falls.

Ebner falls at Perseverance trail in Juneau, Alaska

To learn more about potential side trips at Perseverance Trail, look up area maps online before your trek.

Historic Juneau

11. Alaska State Museum

Schedule a few hours at Juneau’s comprehensive Alaska State Museum to get a thorough overview of Alaska's history. Immaculately preserved objects from indigenous tribes, Russian colonists, and gold miners tell how Alaskan identity has transformed over the centuries.

A few highlights at this museum for the kids include an interactive ship replica, a film highlighting Alaska’s geology, and regal artifacts from Russian tsars.

Alaska State Museum, State Library and Archives in downtown Juneau, Alaska, USA

For all you frugal travelers out there, remember that the Alaska State Museum offers free admission on the first Friday of every month. Hours vary depending on the time of year, so visit the Alaska State Museum’s website for complete details.

12. Shrine of St. Therese

While it’s not as famous as France’s Basilica of Lisieux, Juneau’s Shrine of St. Therese is a beautiful pilgrimage site dedicated to the famous Catholic saint.

For about 80 years, thousands of people from various religious backgrounds have found a serene place to meditate at this National Shrine.

Juneau, Alaska -July 1, 2023_ National Shrine of St. Thérèse. Beach stone chapel named after St. Therese of Lisieux, the patroness of Alaska.

In addition to visiting the stone chapel, take some time to walk around the Good Shepherd Rosary Trail and marvel over a reproduction of Michelangelo’s Pietà.

13. Sealaska Heritage-Walter Soboleff Building

The Sealaska Heritage Museum in the Walter Soboleff Building is a big deal…literally. Dedicated to the indigenous Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian tribes, Sealaska Heritage houses monumental works of traditional Native American artistry made by contemporary craftsmen and women.

In addition to marveling over this incredible art, Sealaska Heritage holds special meet-and-greets with local artists throughout the year, so be sure to check the group’s website for event details.

14. Alaska State Capitol Building

Unlike most state capitols, the Alaska State Capitol Building doesn’t have a huge dome. This building’s rectangular shape might strike you as odd from the outside.

Alaskan State Capitol Building in Juneau

As you take a self-guided tour through the lobby, however, you’ll fall in love with the lovely interior design and the colorful murals depicting Alaskan life.

15. St. Nicholas Orthodox Church

The St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church Downtown is another essential building in Juneau’s religious history. Although this church is formally associated with Russian Orthodoxy, it was formed from a partnership between the Russian colonists and the local Tlingit tribe.

The St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, built in 1894, Juneau, Alaska, USA

Completed in the 1890s, this impressive structure is now listed on the US National Register of Historic Places. Church leaders welcome all those interested in the Orthodox faith, traditional Russian architecture, and the fascinating history of this region to stop by.

16. Juneau-Douglas Museum

The stately Juneau-Douglas City Museum focuses heavily on the industries that made Juneau what it is today. A few topics explored in this museum’s permanent galleries include outdoor skiing, the fishing industry, mining, and prominent local businesses.

There are even a few hands-on exhibits to help everyone better appreciate the hard work that went into gold mining.

17. Last Chance Mining Museum

Tourists who want to learn more about Juneau’s mining past cannot leave town without wandering through the Last Chance Mining Museum.

Situated just north of Juneau’s center, this former compressor building on Gold Creek contains many original pieces of equipment recovered from those Gold Rush days.

The major attraction at the museum is the huge surviving air compressor, which many historians believe is the largest on earth. Plenty of old railroads and cars on the site were once used to transport ore from Gold Creek into the mill.

Unique Attractions

18. Eldred Rock Lighthouse

Eldred Rock is a tiny island with a big claim to fame: the Eldred Rock Lighthouse. Located in the treacherous Lynn Canal, this octagonal lighthouse was first implemented in 1906 to prevent mining ships from crashing.

In addition to being Alaska’s oldest lighthouse, the Eldred Rock Light is one of the most photogenic. The striking waves and snowy mountains contrast dramatically with the stately white-and-red lighthouse.

Aerial photos, aerial images of Alaska

As of today, no tours of the Eldred Rock Light are available, but you could get pretty close on a guided boat ride.

19. White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad

As Juneau’s Gold Rush exploded, so did dynamite in the area. Led by “Big” Mike Henry, engineers created one of America’s most impressive railways to haul out gold: the White Pass & Yukon Route.

White Pass and Yukon Railroad in Skagway, Alaska

Over 100 years later, this railroad is still going strong with regular scenic tours throughout the year.

Since these scenic tours are pretty famous, it’s a good idea to pre-book your tickets online well ahead of time. Be sure to visit the White Pass & Yukon Route’s webpage for more info on all the tour packages available.

20. Alaskan Brewery and Bottling Company

The Alaskan Brewing Company was on the market long before craft beer became the “it” thing. Founded in 1986, the company is one of America’s most successful craft breweries.

Beer enthusiasts can go on a guided tour & tasting at the Alaskan Brewing Company’s Juneau headquarters. On the other hand, those who want to get straight to the good stuff could skip the tour visit entirely to the brewery’s Tasting Room for a frothy flight.

Anyone interested in taking a guided tour must reserve their spot in advance using the Alaskan Brewing Company’s website.

21. DIPAC's Macaulay Salmon Hatchery

Even if you’re not into marine biology, visiting the Douglas Island Pink and Chum’s Macaulay Salmon Hatchery is a fun experience for the whole family.

Here, you’ll see Pacific salmons up close on a tour of the site’s aquariums and rearing facilities. To learn more in-depth information on how this hatchery came to be, you could go on a guided 45-minute tour during the summer season.

Check out the Macaulay Salmon Hatchery’s website for more information on seasonal hours.

22. AJ Mine Gastineau Mill Tour

Have you got the stuff to be an Alaskan gold miner? Well, go on the AJ Mine Gastineau Mill Tour, and you’ll surely find out! Located on Mill Street, this site was once home to a critical Juneau-area gold mine.

Although its “Golden Days” are long past, the AJ Mine is still an active mine that invites tourists to learn first-hand what being a gold miner is all about.

After putting on your safety gear, you and your fellow group members will get to walk down a 360-foot tunnel with the help of a mining expert. After your tour, closely examine all the vintage mining equipment and try your hand at gold panning.

Best things to do in Juneau, Alaska, at night

How do local Juneau residents survive with only 6 hours of daylight in the winter? Sure, omega-3s help, but man does not live by salmon alone!

From the early days of its history, Juneau residents have learned how to entertain themselves when the daylight hours are low, so be sure to check out this city’s rustic nightlife scene.

Here are two ways to have fun after the sun sets in the Alaskan capital.

When To See The Northern Lights

The most obvious thing to do at night in Juneau is to take in the magical Northern Lights. Unfortunately, you can’t see the Northern Lights in the bright summer season. So, if you’re dead set on seeing these famed lights, your best shot is to visit between October and November or March.

Interested in learning more about the best times to see the Northern Lights? Check out our previous post for more detailed information.

Hear Live Music At The Alaskan Hotel & Bar

Since the Alaskan Hotel & Bar was founded in 1913, it has served as the city’s go-to spot for nighttime entertainment. Anyone interested in enjoying a frothy brew, live musicians, and local company will enjoy a visit to this fantastic bar.

Check out the Alaskan Hotel & Bar’s website for a complete list of upcoming live entertainment.

Most Romantic Things to do in Juneau, Alaska

Thanks mainly to its mountainous surroundings, Juneau is an obvious honeymoon destination for outdoorsy couples. Just because Juneau is so close to nature, however, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the refinements of culture.

Indeed, the Alaskan capital has dozens of fantastic dining destinations that will set the right romantic mood.

Here are two suggestions to add a little love to your Juneau vacation.

Book A Wildlife Watching Excursion

No words describe the thrill of seeing a wandering black bear, a soaring bald eagle, or a breaching whale. Luckily for couples that love the great outdoors, you could see all three of these breathtaking creatures on a guided tour of Juneau.

As an added plus, many whale-watching cruise operators now offer special romantic excursions with champagne and snacks. Reserve a spot on your preferred boat operator a few months in advance. Please click this former post for more info on when to see whales in Alaska.

Check Out Juneau’s Growing Foodie Scene

Sure, Juneau is no NYC regarding restaurant selection, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a romantic meal in the Alaskan capital. Indeed, people who are really into game meats or fresh-caught fish will find much to love in Juneau.

A favorite restaurant with tourists is the historic Hangar on the Wharf, which (unsurprisingly) is located in a former aircraft hangar. For a quick bite, check out local favorites like The Salmon Spot, Devil’s Club Brewing, and the Alaskan Crepe Escape. Lastly, if it’s a fine dining experience you’re after, book a reservation in the highly acclaimed Salt.

22 Amazing Things to do in Juneau, Alaska

22 Amazing Things to do in Juneau, Alaska

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