29 Best Things to Do in Juneau Alaska on a Cruise
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Juneau, Alaska, is one of the most popular Alaskan cruise ports and serves as the state capital.
After several visits to the state’s Capital, I’ve compiled our list of the best things to do in Juneau, Alaska, on a cruise. The best part is that many of the activities on this list take less than an hour, so you can plan more than one in a single day.
Exploring Mendenhall Glacier is an awe-inspiring experience that should undoubtedly be on your Alaska cruise itinerary.
I believe the best way to experience Mendenhall Glacier is by joining a guided tour. Tours include transportation from the cruise port and provide information about the glacier and the city. You’ll gain insights into the glacier’s history and geology with a knowledgeable guide.
If you prefer a more independent exploration, you can visit the glacier by shuttle, bus, or taxi. These shuttle services typically operate regularly, ensuring you have ample time to visit the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, explore the surrounding trails, and return to the ship before departure.
My recommended tour below bundles the glacier with a whale-watching experience.
Book this Whale Watching and Glacier Tour.
If seeing the Glacier from below isn’t enough, you might consider taking a trip to the top of the ice field.
Stepping foot on Mendenhall Glacier is a highlight for many visitors to Juneau, Alaska. The once-in-a-lifetime opportunity offers an unforgettable experience that combines canoeing and glacier trekking.
My favorite Mendenhall Ice Walk Tour
Nugget Falls is an impressive sight not to be missed. It’s within view of Mendenhall Glacier and is an impressive sight to see. The 377-foot waterfall provides a breathtaking contrast to the tranquil Mendenhall Lake. The glacier has receded in recent years, impacting its visibility from the waterfall’s base.
The 2-mile round trip hike from the Mendenhall Visitor’s Center leads to the falls, offering stunning views of the glacier along the way. The trail is accessible and lined with Alaska’s wildflowers; visitors may spot local wildlife. This picturesque spot is perfect for photography, picnicking, and appreciating Alaska’s natural beauty.
A ride on the Goldbelt Mount Roberts Tramway is an experience you shouldn’t miss during your Alaskan cruise. It’s one of my favorite shore excursions on an Alaskan cruise.
As Southeast Alaska’s only aerial tramway, it offers an unmatched panoramic view of Juneau and the surrounding areas.
The six-minute tram ride takes you 1,800 feet above sea level, taking you over lush temperate rainforests and providing breathtaking vistas of the Gastineau Channel.
The top of Mount Roberts is home to The Nature Center and gift shop. On our last visit, a rescued bald eagle greeted us as we approached the Timberline Bar & Grill.
Timberline Bar & Grill offers Alaskan cuisine and drinks, including locally brewed beers and fresh seafood. It’s an ideal spot for a meal or a drink while soaking in the spectacular views.
Hiking enthusiasts can explore several trails that start at the Nature Center. These trails wind through rainforests and sub-alpine meadows, offering opportunities for wildlife viewing and enjoying the colorful flora. Remember to wear sturdy and comfortable shoes for the best hiking experience.
Visiting Juneau’s historic downtown is like stepping into a vibrant tapestry of history, culture, and culinary delights. The downtown area features well-preserved buildings from the late 1800s and early 1900s.
One of the must-visit spots is the Devil’s Club Brewing Company, located just up the Franklin Street Hill. Known for its exceptional handcrafted beers, including the Grapefruit IPA and Signature IPA, the brewery also serves delicious pizzas on Wednesday nights and various sandwiches on other days. Their Cubano sandwich is a crowd favorite, and their pretzel with beer cheese is a delight for a shared snack.
For a unique dining experience, look for PelMeni in the Merchant’s Wharf. The restaurant offers a singular menu item: Pelmeni, a Slavic dumpling that’s simple yet delicious, served with a choice of beef or potato filling. This cash-only eatery is a hidden gem that offers a taste of Alaska’s historical ties to Russia.
The Imperial Grill, nestled inside the oldest bar in Alaska – the Imperial Saloon, is a great place for classic bar food with a twist. Their unique offering, The After-School Special, combines bacon, jalapeño, and mozzarella cheese in an eggroll wrapper, creating a mouth-watering snack.
Historic Merchants Wharf is another notable destination. This shopping mall offers a blend of local restaurants, unique shops, and fantastic views of the harbor and seaplanes. It houses a variety of dining options, including seafood restaurants, a pizzeria, and the aforementioned Pel’meni. Additionally, it’s a great place to enjoy a cup of Alaskan chaga coffee and tea at 60° North.
These are just a few highlights of what Juneau’s historic downtown offers. Whether it’s for the food, the drinks, or the rich history, this area is a treasure trove waiting to be explored by every visitor.
Tracy’s King Crab Shack is one of Juneau’s most popular eating spots, particularly famous for its Alaskan King Crab. The Shack offers various seafood options, including Dungeness crab, snow crab, crab cakes, and crab bisque, but the King Crab is the star attraction. You can order the crab legs by the bucket, a popular choice among diners.
Stopping by the restaurant is a must if you want to experience a true Alaskan king crab feast. Just note that the portions are a bit small considering the high price of the food. But the authentic Alaskan seafood is well worth the cost.
The restaurant has two locations. The big red building in the photo above is their main location near the cruise ship dock.
If you find a long lineup, head a little further down the pier to their second location. There’s always a shorter wait.
Exploring Peterson’s Gold Mine is one of the best ways to experience Alaska’s Gold Rush history. The unique experience allows you to venture deep into a real gold mine.
You are guaranteed to find gold flakes, which you can keep as a memento of your experience. The tour is family-friendly, suitable for all ages, and accommodates individuals with varying levels of physical ability.
After exploring the mine, you’ll have the chance to try your luck panning for gold. This was the tour I took on my first visit to Juneau, and I still have the gold flakes I found.
The DIPAC Macaulay Salmon 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.
The hatchery experience begins with a close-up view of salmon through a viewing window, offering a fascinating glimpse into these iconic fish. You can then proceed to an elevated walkway where guides provide insights into the hatchery’s operations and its role in enhancing commercial, sport, and subsistence fishing.
The hatchery’s mission is to sustain and enhance Alaska’s salmon resources and promote public understanding of these resources through research, education, and tourism.
From June through October, guests can use the viewing window to watch wild salmon swimming upstream during the salmon run.
The Alaska State Museum is a one-stop destination for museum lovers. The museum is housed in the Fr. Andrew P. Kashevaroff building, offering a glimpse into Alaska’s past.
This museum is well-regarded for its diverse exhibits, encompassing aspects of Alaska’s history, including fine art, mining, fishing, forestry, tourism, the Russian-American period, and World War II. Visitors can immerse themselves in these exhibits, gaining a deeper understanding of the state’s unique heritage.
The museum costs less than $20 per person and takes around 90 minutes to walk through.
Located about 10 minutes from Downtown Juneau at 1061 Salmon Creek Ln, The Gold Creek Salmon Bake has been grilling salmon since 1978.
The bake is known for its all-you-can-eat buffet featuring alderwood-grilled wild Alaska salmon as the signature entrée. The buffet also includes other items like Bonanza barbecue ribs, Chilkoot baked beans, Tongass wild-rice pilaf, various sides and salads, and homemade blueberry cake for dessert. Beer and wine are available for purchase.
You’ll see salmon spawning in the river if you’re lucky enough to visit in season.
The dining area offers covered seating with heating towers, allowing for a comfortable experience regardless of the weather. You can roast marshmallows by the fire or explore relics from the Juneau gold rush era, including the Chilkoot Shaft and a Pelton Wheel.
The waterfall is next to the old shaft from the historic Wagner Mine. It’s near the old mining shaft where Joe Juneau and Richard Harris struck gold in 1880. This tour lets you experience the gold rush firsthand and pan for gold.
A perfect finish to the tour, after your meal, gather around the campfire to roast marshmallows alongside live music.
Book your Salmon Bake Tour.
Juneau is famous for the pods of humpback whales that make their way through Alaska’s Inside Passage during their annual migration. Whale-watching cruises provide a unique opportunity to observe humpback whales and other marine wildlife in their natural habitat, set against the stunning backdrop of Alaska’s scenic beauty.
The best time to visit Alaska for whale watching is between May and September. If you’re lucky, you can see whales from the deck of your cruise ship. But the best way to view whales is through a sightseeing tour.
In addition to humpback whales, the nearby Auke Bay is home to orcas and other marine life.
If you want a high-adrenaline adventure, a thrill-seeking ziplining shore excursion might be for you. Exploring the lush landscapes of Juneau from an aerial perspective is an exhilarating experience that should be on every adventurer’s list, and zip lining provides just that thrill.
The course features a series of zip lines of differing lengths and altitudes. Gliding from platform to platform, you’re treated to breathtaking views of the lush greenery, distant mountains, and possibly wildlife. The thrill of speeding down the lines and the awe-inspiring scenery create a truly unforgettable experience.
Book A Ziplining Adventure Tour
Tracy Arm Fjord is one of the most beautiful spots in Alaska. Visiting the serene landscape and majestic twin Sawyer Glaciers is one of the primary reasons people sail to Alaska.
On my Serenade of the Seas Alaskan cruise, rough seas prevented our cruise ship from sailing through the Fjord. Many passengers were upset at the last-minute itinerary change.
Many people don’t realize that you can visit the Fjord while docked at the Juneau cruise port.
The journey through the Fjord is an incredible experience as your boat navigates through pristine waters, offering awe-inspiring views of the surrounding wilderness. The fjord is located about 45 miles south of Juneau.
Tracy Arm Fjord is home to the twin Sawyer Glaciers, towering ice formations among Alaska’s most active glaciers. The sight of massive chunks of ice calving from the glacier and crashing into the water with a thunderous roar is a spectacle you won’t soon forget.
As you glide through the fjord, keep your eyes peeled for wildlife. Tracy Arm is a habitat for harbor seals, eagles, and sometimes even bears and whales. I’ve seen several seals playing on the small icebergs floating through the waterway.
As you sail through the breathtaking landscape, your knowledgeable guide shares insights into the area’s geology, wildlife, and history.
The Shrine of St. Thérèse is dedicated to the patron saint of Alaska, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. Saint Thérèse of Lisieux 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.
The shrine is nestled on a small, serene island just north of Juneau. It stands as a beacon of peace and spiritual reflection. The journey to the shrine is a contemplative experience in itself, allowing visitors to disconnect from the hustle of daily life and reconnect with nature.
The shrine’s centerpiece is a quaint stone chapel built in the 1930s using local beach stones. The shrine grounds feature walking trails that meander through lush forests and along the shoreline.
Beyond its spiritual significance, the Shrine of St. Thérèse is also a testament to the local community’s dedication and faith. It serves as a gathering place for various religious and cultural events throughout the year, fostering a sense of community and spiritual growth.
Helicopter tours in Juneau, Alaska, offer an unparalleled experience of the region’s natural beauty. The tours feature scenic flights over the Juneau Icefield and the Mendenhall Glacier, providing spectacular aerial views.
Some tours offer a glacier landing, where you can step onto a glacier for a guided walk and explore the icy terrain. There are also tour packages that bundle the helicopter flight with unique activities like dog sledding and airboat adventures for a more immersive experience.
The Alaskan Brewing Company is a local favorite in Juneau. Founded in 1986, locals and tourists have enjoyed The Alaskan Brewing Company 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 publicly available!
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 on 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 aims to promote and share Southeast Alaskan Native culture.
The Sealaska Heritage Institute Collections include art objects, books, manuscript papers, photographs, and 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.
With plenty of incredible rivers and lakes in Southeast Alaska, it’s no surprise that river rafting is popular. Tour operators let you choose between adventurous white water adventures and scenic float trips.
A float trip is more relaxed than river rafting but still provides plenty of fun.
The Mendenhall Glacier float trip in Juneau is a captivating and educational adventure. You’ll encounter serene waters and gentle currents as you float amidst icebergs and the towering Mendenhall Glacier. Along the way, watch for local wildlife, including eagles and seals. The experience is enriched by guides who share insights about the glacier and its surroundings and concludes with a relaxing Alaskan-style snack amidst the stunning backdrop of Alaska’s wilderness.
Book a Glacier Float Trip
Alongside Glacier Highway in Juneau, you will find Eagle Beach. The beach is a popular resting and feeding spot for bald eagles 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.
The surrounding Eagle Beach State Park encompasses around 570 acres, featuring diverse habitats like old-growth forests, wetlands, and river systems. With several cabins and a campground, the park offers immersive natural experiences, especially during late June to early August when eagles and bears are prevalent.
Tip: If you visit Eagle Beach during low tide, eagles gather more to feed on fish. The beach is one of the best locations to see eagles in Alaska.
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.
Adjacent to the Alaska State Capitol, the Juneau-Douglas City Museum stands as a beacon of regional history and culture. This museum is a treasure trove of exhibits that delve into Juneau’s rich past. Exhibits highlight pivotal moments like the gold rush era, the Russian occupation, and the profound influence of Tlingit culture.
It’s a place where history comes alive, offering visitors a deeper understanding of the area’s heritage.
During the summer months, from Tuesday to Thursday, the Juneau-Douglas City Museum enhances the experience with guided walking tours of historic downtown Juneau. These tours are a fantastic opportunity for visitors to step back in time and explore the city’s storied streets. The tours are led by knowledgeable guides who provide fascinating insights into Juneau’s past, showcasing landmarks and sharing tales that vividly depict the city’s evolution from a gold rush town to Alaska’s vibrant capital.
The Eaglecrest Ski Area on Douglas Island is Juneau’s premier destination for skiing enthusiasts. Eaglecrest caters to beginners and more experienced downhill skiers with 36 runs.
In addition to downhill skiing, Eaglecrest also offers 10 miles of Nordic trails, perfect for those who prefer cross-country skiing. The ski season here generally stretches from December to April, depending on weather conditions.
While you can’t ski during the Alaska cruise season, Eaglecrest isn’t just a winter destination.
In summer, the snow-covered slopes transform into scenic hiking trails and exciting downhill mountain biking paths, offering a completely different but equally thrilling experience.
The Last Chance Mining Museum in Juneau, Alaska, is a must-visit for those intrigued by the tales of the Alaskan gold rush. The Gold Rush museum is unique as it’s the only remaining historic mining building from Juneau’s Gold Rush era that’s open to the public.
The mining museum offers a glimpse into the past of the Alaska Juneau Gold Mining Company, which operated from 1912 to 1994. Now serving as a museum, the old mining building invites visitors to step back in time. As you explore the site, you’ll find yourself among old, rusty buildings and vintage mining equipment, giving you a real sense of the mining life during the gold rush.
While guided tours are available, they are not necessary. The museum has done an excellent job with signage, providing detailed labels and explanations for the exhibits, making it easy for visitors to navigate and understand the history independently.
For those looking to get a hands-on experience, the museum offers the opportunity to pan for gold in a nearby river.
Patsy was a bull terrier who arrived in Juneau in 1929. Although she was deaf from birth, Patsy could “hear” steamship whistles long before the boats were in sight. When boats arrived, she always ran to the docks 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 her statue on the cruise ship dock to welcome visitors to the city. When you visit her statue, rub it on the nose for good luck.
Glacier Bay National Park spans over three million acres of rugged mountains, dynamic glaciers, temperate rainforests, wild coastlines, and remote fjords. It’s a place where Alaska’s Last Frontier is on full display.
The park’s only developed area, Bartlett Cove, is a gateway to these natural wonders. Visitors can find hiking trails weaving through the wilderness, campgrounds nestled in scenic spots, and kayak rentals for an immersive water experience.
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 Robers Trail is worth the climb for those who want a challenging hike. From the top, you’ll experience breathtaking views of the Gastineau Channel, Juneau, and Douglas Island.
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.
If you’re looking for a place to sit down and enjoy a drink, look no further than Red Dog Saloon.
The bar takes you back to the days of the Gold Rush with hay-covered floors, wood-paneled walls, and a wait staff that plays the part.
If you happen to find yourself at Red Dog Saloon, be sure to try the Duck Fart. It’s a triple-layer shot, and despite the name, it’s the best shot of alcohol I’ve ever had.
Juneau, the capital of Alaska and its second-largest city, boasts a rich history and a unique geographical setting. Located on the Gastineau Channel and near the US-Canadian border, Juneau is the largest city in southeast Alaska, with a population of around 30,000.
Unlike many cities, Juneau is inaccessible by land. The city is only reached by air or sea, adding to its distinctive character.
Juneau’s founding traces back to the Alaska gold rush in 1880, when Richard Harris and Joe Juneau discovered significant gold deposits, establishing some of the world’s largest gold mines. Hariss and Juneau’s discovery was pivotal in kicking off the Alaskan Gold rush and significantly contributed to Alaska’s development and growth. By the end of World War II, these mines had produced over USD 150 million in gold.
After the gold mines closed, Juneau transitioned from a mining powerhouse to a tourism hub.
Today, the capital city welcomes more than 1.5 million tourists annually. Many visitors arrive by the cruise ships that dock between May and September. Tourism and government employment constitute 50% of the workforce and are vital to the city’s economy.
The city also has notable sectors in commercial fishing and mining.
Geographically, Juneau is nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Rocky Mountains, leading to an average of 220 rainy days per year. Despite the wet weather, summer remains the ideal time to visit, with temperatures hovering in the mid-60s and extended daylight hours.
When planning a visit, make sure you add plenty of layers and waterproof clothing to your Alaskan cruise packing list. Don’t forget to include a windbreaker or rain jacket to explore Juneeau and stay dry.
Juneau’s cruise docks are situated on the southern end of downtown. The cruise port offers cruisers a scenic and convenient gateway as it’s only a 5-minute walk from Juneau’s downtown. The pier features a visitor information center, where you can find resources and tips to maximize your stay.
The Mount Roberts Tramway is a highlight of the area and one of my favorite things to do in Juneau. The popular attraction is accessible from the docks. Another interesting feature near the docks is the Patsy the Dog statue, a unique landmark that adds character to the area.
The boardwalk at Juneau’s cruise port can handle multiple large ships simultaneously, illustrating its capacity as a major stop for cruise lines. If you sail in peak season, you will find crowds when five cruise ships park for the day.
Spanning approximately a mile, the dock and downtown form a loop connecting to Franklin Street, creating a vibrant circle of activity. The downtown area buzzes with shops and establishments catering primarily to tourists, offering a lively and bustling atmosphere for visitors to explore local crafts, souvenirs, and more.
This blend of natural beauty, convenient access to attractions, and a lively commercial area makes Juneau’s cruise docks a perfect starting point for tourists to immerse themselves in the Alaskan experience.