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Juneau is the capital of Alaska and only has a population of around 32,000 people. But even for its modest size, there are still a lot of things to do in and around Juneau, especially if you love the outdoors. Here are our top picks for things to see and do when you visit the Alaskan destination of Juneau.
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Boat tours are incredibly popular in Juneau because they are often the best way to see glaciers and whales. Local guide companies take tourists out on scenic boat rides to see the wildlife and the natural scenery. If you’re looking to be part of a whale migration experience, book your boat tour between May and September. Many of the tours cost at least $100 and last a few hours long.
Seeing Juneau by boat is one thing, but seeing it from the sky is an entirely different adventure! There are some great flightseeing options in Juneau, including personalized helicopter tours that give you a bird’s eye view of the surrounding landscapes and all of their natural wonder. Local guide companies include Wings Airways and Juneau Adventure Tours.
Probably the most well-known thing to see in the Juneau area is Mendenhall Glacier, which is an amazing destination for visitors. This glacier is 13 miles long and easily viewed from the visitor center. It moves and looks differently based on the seasons, so it’s worth seeing again even if you’ve been to Juneau before. There’s a visitor center here where you can learn about what glaciers are and how they’ve been changing over the years. The glacier is only a few miles outside of Juneau, which means that is it very often popular with tourists. It’s also a common stop on cruise ship routes that pass through the area.
A fjord is a narrow waterway that’s surrounded by cliffs, and a scenic one to see in this region is called Tracy Arm Fjord. The fjord is about 27 miles long and is quite dramatic to see in-person. It’s also a great place to possibly see whales, seals, and eagles in the summer months. Come here to get a sense of what glacial scenery is all about and have your breath take away. Bring your binoculars and a camera! Technically, this sight isn’t in Juneau, but it’s only about 45 minutes away and well worth the journey. Even if you’ve already seen the Mendenhall Glacier, come out to see the fjord as well.
Nugget Falls is a rewarding hike that is near Mendenhall Glacier and a must-do for all outdoor lovers in Juneau. This is a picturesque trail that’s short but definitely packs a punch. Located within Tongass National Forest, the trail ends at a 377-foot waterfall that drops into Mendehall Lake. This is an easy and heavily trafficked 1.8-mile trail that welcomes dogs on a leash as well.
To learn about the history, art, and people of Alaska, head to Juneau’s Alaska State Museum. Inside the museum, you’ll learn about Russian America, civil defense in the Cold War, early aviation, early Alaska paintings, canneries and fishing, and much more. If you visit on the first Friday of the month between 4:30pm and 7pm, admission is free. Otherwise, adults will pay $12, and the museum is open from 9am to 5pm daily.
Another great thing to do during your time in Juneau is to take a ride on the Mount Roberts Tramway. This is an opportunity to see the sights from way up high and get a sense of the region’s natural beauty. The ride only lasts about five minutes and picks up south of the downtown area. Alternatively, and if you’re up for some exercise, you can hike to the top of Mount Roberts. You can also take the tram to the top and explore hiking trails from there if you aren’t up for a steep climb. There are lots of other great hikes around Juneau too, and you can stop by the Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau to pick up a trail map.
Juneau is also home to the famous Alaska Brewing Company, which has its beers sold and served well beyond the borders of the state. This brewery celebrates Alaskan history and Juneau’s local history too. The brewery has been independently owned and operated since 1986 and features year-around favorites like the Amber, White, Kicker Session IPA, Big Mountain Pale Ale, SMaSH Galaxy, and Freeride APA. The brewery has a tasting room and offers guided tastings for $20. Stop by the tasting room in the summer from 11am to 7pm daily or in the winter from 12-6 on weekdays, 11-6 on Saturdays, or 12-5 on Sundays.
One interesting and authentic place to visit when you’re in Juneau is the Sealaska Heritage Institute. It’s run by a nonprofit organization that aims to share the culture of Southeast Alaska Natives. The adult admission fee is just $5 and you can see exhibits from the juried art show, monumental art, the clan house, and perhaps even catch a live performance depending on when you visit. There’s also a Native art and gift store where you can shop for souvenirs on your way out. In the summer, the institute is open from 9am to 8pm in Juneau.
Salmon fishing isn’t just a tourist attraction in Juneau; it’s also a way of life. This is one of the best places to fish for salmon in the entire world, and there are professional guides that will take you out on the water to catch your own. Full-day and half-day charters are available in town for guided fishing trips that are based on shore or on a boat.