If you are planning an Alaska cruise vacation, you might be wondering what things to do in Juneau Alaska. Juneau is a vibrant city with attractions and activities for every traveler.
Juneau has it all from Mendenhall Glacier to the Alaska State Museum and Glacier Gardens Rainforest Adventure to Eagle Beach.
Before you embark on your vacation to Alaska’s capital city, here is our list of the top 25 things to do in Juneau, Alaska. The best part, many of the activities on this list take less than an hour so that you can plan more than one in a single day.
History of Juneau Alaska
Juneau is the capital of Alaska and the second-largest city in Alaska. Located on the Gastineau Channel, Juneau is within 100 miles of the US-Canadian border. Although not accessible by land, Juneau is the biggest city in southeast Alaska, with 30,000 inhabitants.
The city was founded in 1880 during the Alaska gold rush. Frustrated by their unending search for gold, Richard Harris and Joe Juneau stumbled upon nuggets “as large as beans.” Three of the biggest gold mines in the world came out of their discovery.
The gold mines of Juneau played a vital role in the development and growth of Alaska. By the end of world war II, over USD 150 million worth had been mined.
Juneau’s mines were eventually closed, and the “gold business” was replaced by tourism.
Each year, over 1.5 million tourists visit Juneau – with the vast majority arriving on cruise ships that visit between May and September.
Government employment makes up 50% of the workforce, while tourism accounts for the largest private sector of the economy, followed by commercial fishing & mining.
Located between the Pacific Ocean and the Rocky Mountains, the city experiences an average of 220 days of rain each year. The summer is the best time to visit Juneau, with temperatures in the mid-60s and long daylight hours. But, no matter when you visit, make sure you pack plenty of layers, including a windbreaker or rain jacket.
Juneau’s Cruise Port
The cruise docks are located on the south end of downtown Juneau. The beautiful and scenic pier features a visitor information center, a lovely seaside park with access to Mount Roberts Tramway cable cars! You can also find Patsy the Dog statue on the docks.
Juneau’s boardwalk cruise port can accommodate many large ships at once.
The area measures about 1 mile from propper, which connects Franklin Street full circle back around again – it’s bustling with shops catering exclusively towards tourists!
25 Things to do in Juneau Alaska
AJ Mine Gastineau Mill Tour
Take an educational and entertaining tour of what was once the world’s largest gold producing mill. Hear about this great mine that helped fuel Juneau!
Constructed in 1913, the Alaska Gastineau Mill revolutionized the mining industry with new technologies and mining techniques. Your guide will explain different excavation methods as you walk past displays of old equipment, and you’ll marvel at the incredible view of Gastineau Channel below.
Step into the underground world of gold mining, where you’ll experience a 360-foot long conveyor tunnel and learn about hard rock mining. Don hard hats and proceed along a boardwalk as experienced miners demonstrate mining techniques and give you a feel for the mining lifestyle.
After touring this fascinating site, venture out to the mill site, where after a brief demonstration, you can pan for gold and garnets from the tilings of the mine.
DIPAC Macaulay Salmon Hatchery
According to DIPAC, its mission is to promote the salmon resources of Alaska and provide public education through tourism and outreach.
The hatchery is a fantastic place to learn about the ocean and its inhabitants. Many exhibits are open to the public, such as the tide-pool touch tanks where you can get up close with some sea creatures! They also have saltwater aquariums that house over 150 different species.
The hatchery is a working facility that provides visitors with guided tours. Guides can get up close with Pacific salmon and learn about the life cycles of the fish.
From June through October, guests can use the viewing window to watch wild salmon swimming upstream during the salmon run.
Alaska State Museum
The Alaska State Museum is a one-stop destination for museum lovers. This museum is a great way to experience the history, art, and culture of the many diverse regions of Alaska through extensive permanent exhibits and seasonal ones too, plus there’s an IMAX theater too!
The Alaska State Museum features popular exhibits such as the gold rush, World War Two, and the Russian colonial era.
Gold Creek Salmon Bake
The Gold Creek Salmon Bake is an event that’s been grilling salmon to perfection for over 40 years. Located in the lush Alaska rainforest, you’ll be taken on a scenic nature walk to Salmon Creek Waterfall. If you’re lucky enough to visit in season, you’ll see salmon spawning in the river.
The waterfall is next to the old shaft from the historic Wagner Mine. It was near here that the previously Joe Juneau and Richard Harris first struck gold in 1880. You can even experience the gold rush firsthand and pan for gold during this tour.
While you approach the waterfall, you’ll no doubt smell the fresh, Alaskan-caught wild salmon grilling over an alder wood fire. The all-you-can-eat meal includes baked “cheechako” chicken (“cheechako” is slang for “newcomers”), Gold Rush potatoes, baked beans, wild rice pilaf, fresh salads, and cornbread.
A perfect finish to the tour, after your meal, gather around the campfire to roast marshmallows alongside live music.
Juneau’s Amalga Distillery is a must-see for liquor connoisseurs. The distillery makes Juneauper Gin & Single Malt Whiskey out of its cozy establishment downtown Juneau Alaska.
Enjoy a liquor tasting and sample your favorite cocktails, gins, and whiskeys while you warm up after a long day of adventures.
Goldbelt Mount Roberts Tramway
Experience Mount Roberts without hiking up the steep mountainside. The Goldbelt Mount Roberts Tramway takes you 1,800 feet high and offers a breathtaking panoramic view of Gastineau Channel and downtown Juneau.
After the six-minute ride, you will arrive at the mountaintop observatory. The observatory features a nature center, restaurant, theater, and gift shop.
The Mountain House at the top is also a must-see. It features a live eagle display, a collection of tree carvings, and local Alaskan art you can purchase.
Juneau is famous for the pods of humpback whales that make their way through Alaska’s Inside Passage during their annual migration.
Between May and September, you have the chance to see these amazing sea creatures in their natural habitat. Whales are often seen breaching and hunting for food using the bubble technique of blowing bubbles to bring fish to the water’s surface.
In addition to humpback whales, the nearby Auke Bay is home to orcas and other marine life.
There are many tour operators that you can take who are more than happy to educate passengers on the whale species, the history of Juneau, and the resident orca pods. Most operators guarantee that you will see whales when you book with them. So, if whale watching is on your bucket list, these tours are your best bet to see these majestic animals in their natural habitat.
If you are looking for a high-adrenaline adventure, then a thrill-seeking ziplining excursion might be for you.
Take a boat ride out to the shelter, where you will whip through ten ziplines, two suspension bridges, and finally, a 42-foot abseil to return to the ground.
Tracy Arm Fjord
Tracy Arm Fjord is one of the most famous attractions in Juneau, but, it’s actually located about 45 miles south of the city.
This glacial fjord along with the accompanying Sawyer Glacier is the perfect destination to take in the picturesque Alaskan scenery. Enjoy the stunning blue ice twin glaciers and waterfalls that tumble down vertical rock faces!
Wildlife sightings are common at this fjord, so keep that camera at the ready. In addition to whales, you might be able to see black bears, brown bears, sea lions, mountain goats, moose, and deer.
Shrine of St. Thérèse
This shrine is dedicated to the patron saint of Alaska, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. She is known for her quotes and writings on her belief that all that mattered in life was not our great deeds but our great love.
Picturesque views surround the beautiful shine as well as holy grounds and lodging. The site also holds regular mass for those who want to make their trip a little more spiritual.
The Shrine of St. Therese has welcomed people of all faiths for over 80 years. There are also beautiful gardens to explore and enjoy.
Mendenhall Glacier is the most popular tourist attraction in this city. The thirteen-mile-long ice field drops down to a stunning Mendenhall Lake. The picturesque location is accessible for you can get some great vacation photos!
Make sure you stop by the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, where they have plenty of information on the glacier and a nearby walking trail for better views.
There’s plenty of wildlife in the area; however, this does mean that food is not allowed outdoors at certain times of the year.
There’s no better way for exploring Juneau than to see it from above. You’ll get an eagle-eye view of the awe-inspiring moulins, crevasses, icefalls, ponds, and streams on the Herbert Glacier. Your knowledgeable pilot will narrate your flight as you take in the breathtaking views.
After viewing the glaciers from above, you’ll soar over the spectacular Juneau Icefield to your landing spot on the Herbert Glacier. Upon landing, your pilot guide will escort you on a relaxing and educational walk.
Coastal Helicopter also offers a dog sledding adventure. After a brief helicopter flight, you will arrive at the Herbert Glacier Dog Sled Camp. You’ll get to experience the exciting world of competitive dog sledding as teams of ten to twelve sled dogs pull groups around the camp.
Alaskan Brewing Company
The Alaskan Brewing Company is a local favorite in Juneau. Founded in 1986, The Alaskan Brewing Company has been enjoyed by locals and tourists for generations!
Guided tastings and tours at their original brewery are available where you can learn about the brewery, the beer, and the founders. You can also try some delicious beer in the tasting room or buy it on-site, even beers that are not publically on the market!
Glacier Gardens Rainforest Adventure
The Glacier Gardens Rainforest Adventure takes part in the gorgeous botanical center and an adventure into the Tongass National Forest.
Walking tours begin with a guided walk through the landscaped gardens. In addition to the immaculately manicured flowers and gardens, there is a resident eagle nest on the property.
Then hop onboard a shuttle tour of the 50-acre property. The untouched rainforest is preserved in its natural state. Along the tour, you will stop at several points of interest, including Mendenhall Valley, Gastineau Channel, and the Chilkat Mountains.
The Sealaska Heritage Institute is a must-see for art lovers. This non-profit group’s mission is to promote and share Southeast Alaskan Native culture.
The Sealaska Heritage Institute Collections include art objects, books, manuscript papers, photographs, recordings, with stories of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian Peoples.
Their heritage store features one-of-a-kind art pieces handcrafted by local artists. Best of all, every purchase helps support Alaska Native artists, workshops, native communities, and Indigenous language revitalization.
River Rafting Tour
With plenty of incredible rivers and lakes in Southeast Alaska, it’s no surprise that river rafting is a popular activity. Many tour operators let you choose between adventurous white water adventures and scenic float trips.
No matter your age or ability, it’s worth the trip out of the city to connect with nature.
Alongside Glacier Highway in Juneau, you will find Eagle Beach. The beach is a popular resting and feeding spot for the majestic birds and provides a unique opportunity to see them in their natural habitat.
The large beach provides plenty of space for walking and viewing the infamous birds at a distance.
Tip: If you visit Eagle Beach during low tide, eagles gather in more significant numbers to feed on fish. The beach is one of the best locations to see eagles in Alaska.
Alaska State Capital
The Alaska State Capital is the perfect free activity for history or civics buffs. Guided tours of the capitol building are available from Tuesday to Friday at 1:30 pm and 3:00 pm.
Self-guided tours of the building are available at any time. Grab a brochure from the lobby and explore at your own pace.
Juneau-Douglas City Museum
Right beside the state capitol building is the Juneau-Douglass City Museum. The museum hosts a variety of exhibits about the area’s history, including the gold rush and Tlingit culture.
From Tuesday through Thursday throughout the summer, the Juneau-Douglass City Museum offers guided walking tours of historic downtown Juneau.
Within view of the Mendenhall Glacier is the massive Nugget Falls. The cascading waterfall is 337 feet wide and a must-see natural attraction.
You can access the falls via the 1.5-mile Nugget Falls trail. The flat trail is an easy trek for even the most novice hikers. When you visit the falls, make sure you plan for rain. Although it is a short hike, you are very likely to get wet.
Eaglecrest Ski Area
The Eaglecrest Ski Area is the best place to hit the slopes in Juneau. Located on Douglas Island, the slopes feature 36 runs that cater to beginner, intermediate, and experienced skiers alike.
The ski hill also boasts 10 miles of Nordic trails for cross-country skiers. The ski season is weather dependant but typically runs from December to April. The area transforms into excellent hiking trails and downhill mountain biking in the summer.
Last Chance Mining Museum
Many people flock to Alaska, captivated by the tails of the Alaskan gold rush. If that sounds like you, you’ll have to check out the Last Chance Mining Museum. The museum holds the honor as the only historic mining building open to the public from Juneau’s gold rush era.
The Alaska Juneau Gold Mining Company operated the former mining post from 1912 to 1994. Now abandoned, the museum takes visitors back in time as you wander among the rusty buildings and old mining equipment.
We don’t recommend taking a tour as the small museum does a great job labeling and explaining the exhibits.
After touring the Last Chance Mining Museum, you can try your hand at panning for gold in the river located just in front. You may just find a few specks of gold to bring home.
Patsy the Dog Statue
Patsy was a bull terrier who arrived in Juneau in 1929. Although she was deaf from birth, Patsy had the unique ability to “hear” steamship whistles long before the boats were in sight. She always ran to the docks when boats arrived to greet the incoming ships and sailors. In 1934, Juneau’s Mayor dubbed her the “Official Greeter of Juneau, Alaska.”
Patsy became so popular that the daily newspaper recorded her daily activities. After her death in 1942, the town placed a statue of her on the cruise ship dock to welcome visitors to the city. When you visit her statue, give it a rub on the nose for good luck.
Glacier Bay National Park
Glacier Bay National Park spans over three million acres of rugged mountains, dynamic glaciers, temperate rainforest, wild coastlines, and remote fjords.
Bartlett Cove is the only developed area in the park, where they have hiking trails, campgrounds, and kayaks for rent.
There are many different tours and plenty of ways to explore the park. Take a cruise out into Glacier Bay or a helicopter ride to experience the park from above.
Mount Roberts Trail
Mount Robers Trail is worth the climb for those who want a challenging hike. You’ll get to experience breathtaking views of Gastineau Channel, Juneau, and Douglas Island from the top.
The trail is around 4.5 miles with a 4,000-foot ascension. But once you reach the top, the panoramic view will make you forget the burn in your legs.