There are many things to do in Juneau, from easy sightseeing to epic outdoor adventures. If you want to get the most out of your cruise, consider planning a week in town.
The gold mining history of this frontier town is celebrated at the Juneau Douglas City Museum and Last Chance Mining Museum, while art and artifacts give insight into Alaska Native culture at the Alaska State Museum.
1. Mendenhall Glacier
You can’t visit Alaska without seeing its famous glaciers. One of the most famous is Mendenhall Glacier, a river of blue ice that looms over cruise ships docked at Juneau’s port. The glacier is part of the massive 1,500-square-mile Juneau Icefield and a must-see for anyone visiting the state’s capital. Mendenhall is also the most accessible glacier in the region, with a visitor center that offers educational exhibits and elevated views of its blue-hued walls. Visitors can explore the easy-walking trails surrounding the glacier, as well as more challenging routes that lead to the glacier itself.
It’s best to visit the glacier in the morning or early afternoon when it’s cooler, and be sure to pack a good amount of water and sun protection. Be prepared for weather changes, too; the glacier may be covered in snow and fog on some days. It’s also important to remember bear spray and walk in groups – bears are known to frequent the area.
Aside from admiring the glacier, the visitor center also hosts a number of outdoor activities and hiking trails that cater to all levels of experience. The easiest hike is the Nugget Falls Trail, which takes you along a scenic path by Mendenhall Lake with beautiful scenery and a chance to see wildlife. More adventurous hikers can take on the steep Mount Roberts Trail, which offers views of the glacier and Gastineau Channel from the summit.
For a more convenient experience, consider booking a tour that includes round-trip shuttle transportation to and from Mendenhall Glacier and the visitor center. Both Juneau Tours and M&M Tours offer this option, which is quick and easy. It’s also worth noting that the shuttle fee helps to maintain the park and trails.
2. St. Nicholas Orthodox Church
In the midst of downtown Juneau, visitors can find an onion-domed, blue trimmed octagonal church. This is St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, one of the oldest Russian churches in Alaska and the only octagonal one in the state. It was constructed in 1893, just twenty-six years after Secretary of State William Seward facilitated the purchase of Alaska from Russia. It is believed that the church was built by native Tlingit and Slavic gold miners in collaboration. The church is still in use and serves a small congregation. Inside, the original vestments and religious relics are on display and music plays softly from services. The church is open daily for visitors.
There are also a number of museums in Juneau that are perfect for history and culture buffs. The Juneau-Douglas Museum is a great place to learn more about the mining and fishing industries in Juneau as well as the history of the city itself. The museum offers guided tours in the summer and self-guided tours year round. Another must-see museum is the Last Chance Mining Museum, which showcases the history of mining in Juneau and features a fully interactive stamp mill and hydropower unit.
For beer and whiskey connoisseurs, a stop at the Amalga Distillery is a must. This cozy establishment is located in the heart of downtown and offers a variety of spirits for tastings. The distillery also offers brewery and distilling classes for those interested in learning more about the process of making beer and whiskey.
3. Alaska State Museum
For history lovers, the Alaska State Museum is one of the top must see Juneau attractions for tourists. This museum is home to more than 25 thousand historical objects that capture the state’s rich and diverse culture. One of the highlights is a collection of traditional tribal textiles that includes Ravenstail and Chilkat robes. Other exhibits showcase the state’s Gold Rush mining and Russian colonial past. The museum is also home to a stunning Kaagwaantaan dancer’s headgear.
The museum is located on Whittier Street in downtown Juneau. It offers guided tours from May through mid-September. For those visiting at other times, a self-guided tour is available. The museum is also home to a brewery that is famous for its locally made beer. Those who prefer a more spiritual experience can visit the National Shrine of Saint Therese, a Catholic religious destination that honors the patron saint of Alaska.
If you want to learn more about the local culture, you can join a walking tour in Juneau. The city has a number of great walking tours that highlight the historic downtown area, the state capital and more.
If you’re interested in learning more about the local mining history, you can visit Last Chance Mining Museum, which is home to a rusted mine and the world’s largest air compressor. The site was once the headquarters of the Alaska Juneau Gold Mining Company and is worth a visit for its historic setting. It’s best to visit in the summer, when it’s warmer and easier to walk around the ruins. It’s also a great place to spot local wildlife. In addition to the ruins, the park also has hiking trails and a picnic area.
4. Tracy Arm Fjord
While Mendenhall Glacier might be Juneau’s most popular attraction, Tracy Arm Fjord is a hidden gem that rivals the more well-known glacier viewing destination. In this ice-carved fjord, you’ll find turquoise tidewater, elevated glaciers and stunning mountains. Cruise beneath cliffs that rise more than a mile high and feel the mist on your face as your vessel cruises almost directly under a plunging waterfall. The area also teems with wildlife including harbor seals and humpback whales.
Some cruise lines offer an excursion to Tracy Arm right off the ship, while others require you to take a separate tour from the city. Regardless of how you choose to visit, it’s a must-see experience for any Alaskan vacation.
Another top activity in Juneau is to hike the eagle-friendly Eagle Beach, where you can see these soaring birds in their natural habitat. With its sand, gravel and rock beaches, the beach is a prime spot for spotting bald eagles, which can sometimes be seen perching in trees nearby. There are also several hiking trails that lead to a viewpoint overlooking the beach and the sea, where you can see the eagles soaring above in their natural environment.
The Alaska State Capitol is a must-see for visitors to the capital of the state. During the summer, tours are available from the museum while you can walk around and explore on your own during off season months. The building itself is a bit humbler than what you might expect from other state capitols, but it fits perfectly with the character of the city and the people who call it home.
Visiting the State Capitol is a great way to get an overview of the history and culture of Juneau. There are many interactive stops that will teach you about the gold rush days, Alaska’s wildlife and more.
5. Alaska State Capitol
As the capital city of Alaska, Juneau is the logical place to explore the state’s history and culture. Visitors who want a glimpse at Alaska’s political and cultural roots can explore the Juneau-Douglas Museum or take a self-guided tour around downtown, where many historic buildings are still standing.
Juneau is a natural wonder, home to an abundance of wildlife including whales and eagles. It’s also a popular destination for bird-watching and hiking tours, while the Mount Roberts Tramway provides stunning views from the top of this magnificent mountain.
One of the most famous things to do in Juneau is to visit the Mendenhall Glacier. Located in the Tongass National Forest, this massive glacier is a must-see attraction for nature lovers and tourists looking to experience the wilderness of Alaska.
The Mendenhall Glacier Park is an essential stop for anyone traveling to Juneau, as it offers a variety of activities from awe-inspiring hikes to relaxing picnics and scenic vistas. The park is home to a diverse population of animals, with bald eagles, sea otters, and salmon making their way into the area each year.
If you’re a history buff, the Juneau State Capitol is another must-see. It breaks the mold when compared to other states’ capitols in that it’s humbler and more petite, which fits perfectly with Juneau’s personality. Visitors can learn more about the state’s history and civics through guided tours that run May through mid-September.
The capital building is open to the public from Monday to Friday, though it’s at its liveliest during legislative sessions. If you’re visiting at a different time, check out the Jenson-Olson Arboretum, where you can admire sky blue poppies that grow up to 4 feet tall and 200 species of primroses.