Juneau maintains the feeling of a frontier town, permeated by its gold rush heritage. From exploring a mine to gold panning in a creek, there’s a range of ways for visitors to experience Alaska’s gold rush history. Here’s what you need to know.
Things to do in Juneau
Welcome to Juneau
The Alaskan state capital of Juneau is the second-largest city behind Anchorage, but it’s second to none when it comes to spectacular scenery, adventurous outdoor activities, and world-class whale watching. A coastal city on Alaska’s Inside Passage, Juneau sits at the foot of Mount Roberts, and is surrounded by the rugged wilderness of the Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. Outdoor enthusiasts can book a glacier tour, and hike the Mendenhall or Taku glaciers. Other options include a Juneau shore excursion for kayaking or canoeing Mendenhall Lake, dogsledding the Juneau icefield, or ziplining Douglas Island. Also known for its abundance of wildlife, the area offers whale-watching cruises to spot the humpback whales that populate Auke Bay. Book early to secure a limited number of spots to see Pack Creek’s brown bears as they frolic and catch salmon. Other thrilling trips include a float-plane ride or a helicopter tour, which each offer a bird’s-eye view of the snow-capped peaks. Not all of Juneau’s attractions are in nature, however. This frontier city’s history and culture get the spotlight at the Last Chance Mining Museum and the Juneau-Douglas City Museum; and the collection of Alaska Native art and archaeology at the Alaska State Library, Archives, and Museum (SLAM) gives insight into the area’s Native heritage. And lest you think you were leaving thirsty, no visit to Juneau is complete without a brewery tour at the local Alaskan Brewing Co.
Top 10 attractions in Juneau
Alaska's famous drive-in glacier, Mendenhall Glacier, is Juneau's most popular attraction, flowing 12 miles (19 kilometers) from its source, the Juneau Ice Field. On a sunny day it's beautiful, with blue skies and snow-capped mountains in the background. On a cloudy and drizzly afternoon, it can be even more impressive, as the ice turns shades of deep blue. Near the face of the glacier is the visitors center, which houses various glaciology exhibits, a large relief map of the ice field, an observatory with telescopes and a theater that shows the film, Magnificent Mendenhall. Outside you'll find a salmon-viewing platform overlooking Steep Creek, as well as 6 hiking trails, including a short photo-overlook trail to a longer trek up the glacier's west side. Another trail, the East Glacier Loop trail leads through the forest for views of a waterfall near the glacier’s face. Though a little steep, it’s perfect for school-age children....
Arcing upwards from the waterfront at Juneau’s cruise terminal to the crest of Mt. Roberts, a ride aboard the Mt. Roberts Tramway is one of Juneau’s signature experiences. The enclosed gondolas swing away from the dock to glide over downtown Juneau and up through the rainforest to the 1,800-foot (540m) summit of Mt. Roberts. Panoramic views take in stunning vistas of sea and mountains, over to the Chilkat Mountains to the north, the Gastineau Channel, Douglas Island and Silver Bow Basin. Peering down, you might be lucky enough to spot marmots, deer and even a bear. The ride ends on the top of the mountain at the Mountain House cultural center, picturesquely surrounded by Sitka pines and wildflowers. Visit the nature center to learn more about this beautiful part of the world, or follow one of the hiking trails winding away from the terminal. There’s a wheelchair-accessible trail, and a short mile-loop trail with interpretative signage....
One not to miss experience when traveling to Juneau is visiting the Juneau Icefield. The fifth-largest icefield in the Western Hemisphere at 3,900 square kilometers (1,500 square miles), it’s home to over 140 interconnected glaciers. This is where you’ll find Juneau’s most popular tourist attraction, Mendenhall Glacier, a 12-mile (19-kilometer) long drive-in glacier. There are many ways to explore the Juneau Icefield and Mendenhall Glacier, some of which include a whale watching cruise, kayaking, a rafting tour, and trekking on and/or around the glacier. Another popular glacier to visit in the Juneau Icefield is Taku Glacier, touted as the world’s deepest and thickest glacier at 4,845 feet (1,477 meters) thick, which is also possible to hike on....
A white-blue shock tumbling between mountains into the river valley that bears the same name, Herbert Glacier is a popular but still secluded stop for tours to the Juneau Icefield north of Alaska’s state capitol. Though Herbert doesn’t have the wow factor of tumbling into an impressive reflecting pool of its own meltwater like neighboring massive Mendenhall Glacier, Herbert Glacier is deeper inland, boasts a dramatic backdrop of snowcapped peaks and frequently visited by heli-flight. Often combined with fly-overs to Mendenhall and thick Taku Glacier, Herbert Glacier’s flow has several flat landing spots that offer the chance to set foot on its chilly, slow moving mass. Its surface also affords one of the most unique ways to experience a glacier in the region: by dog sled. After landing on the glacier, a team of huskies guided by an experienced musher navigates the glacier’s eternal winter wilds....
The city of Juneau shines a spotlight on its rich cultural heritage and history at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum. Gold-mining history is particularly highlighted, providing plenty of inspiration to take one of the museum’s guided walking tours of the mines and historic old town....
NOTE: THE MUSEUM WILL BE CLOSED FOR RENOVATIONS THROUGH EARLY 2016. CHECK BACK HERE FOR UPDATES! Juneau’s deservedly popular Alaska State Museum celebrates the region’s art, history and the natural world. If you’ve ever wanted to see a life-size eagle-nesting tree, this is the place to come. The museum was established in 1900, and its extensive collection spans a wealth of historical and indigenous materials. The museum successfully brings Alaskan history and science to life, with stuffed bears, re-created landscapes, totem poles and 3-D installations to help tell the story. The Planet Earth exhibit is especially popular with kids, with a 3-D likeness of the Earth spinning in space, complete with computer-generated weather data and special effects. Younger children make a beeline for the replica of the good ship Discovery, where period dress-ups and invitations to climb aboard await....
Visitors flock to Chichagof Island in Juneau for a peek inside of raw, rugged and untouched Alaska. Measuring in at 75 miles long and 50 miles wide, this island is the fifth largest in the United States. Chichagof, also know as Shee Kaax, acts as a port for cruise ships, boasting panoramic views and fresh mountain air. Most are drawn to the island for the untouched landscape and wildlife; Chichagof has the highest population of bears per square mile of anywhere in the world! While the population of the island is quite small — less than 2,000 inhabitants, the activities offered are numerous, including sightseeing, fishing and guided hunting....
There’s many a parched thirst that’s been revived by a chilled glass of Alaskan, pure and crisp as the driven snow. The Alaskan Brewing Company has been brewing craft beers since 1986, and winning plenty of awards along the way. The brewery’s free tours offer a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the brewing processes, including the company’s original 10-barrel and 100-barrel brewing systems. You’ll come across artifacts from the state’s brewing history, admire an international collection of beer bottles and cans, and meet the people behind the beer. The company produces five regular beers, including Alaskan Amber Ale, Pale Ale, Oatmeal Stout and Alaskan IPA. They also produce limited-release seasonal winter or summer ales and specialty beers like smoked porter, so see what’s on tap when you visit....
Alaska’s red-brick state capitol in Juneau is atypically austere, lacking a dome or sprawling grounds. Yet the building does feature porticos of marble from Prince Wales Island, and inside, two murals depict the harvest from both land and sea, while carvings highlight the industries Alaska relies on for its livelihood....
Saunter through the temperate rainforest amid colorful blooms at Juneau’s Glacier Gardens. This natural attraction showcases lively botanical gardens and diverse plant life, secluded inside the dense greenery of Tongass National Forest. The interesting Upside-Down Flower Towers charm visitors, while the towering lookouts offer unobstructed views of wild Alaska....
Top activities in Juneau
Frequently Asked Questions
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What are the top things to do in Juneau?
What are the top activities in Juneau?
Top activities in Juneau include:
Discover the top things to do in Juneau.
- Juneau Shore Excursion: Helicopter Tour and Guided Icefield Walk
- Juneau Helicopter Tour and Dogsledding Experience
- Juneau Wildlife Whale Watching & Mendenhall Glacier
- Juneau Whale Watching Tour
- Mendenhall Glacier Ice Adventure Tour
Discover the top things to do in Juneau.
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