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15 Best & Fun Things to do in Juneau, Alaska

15 Best & Fun Things to do in Juneau, Alaska

Have you ever wanted to take a trip somewhere that isn’t on people’s regular itinerary? Consider Juneau, Alaska as your next travel destination and come see what the most beautiful capital city in the world has to offer.

Although Juneau may seem small population-wise, this capital city has endless options for activities, both indoors and out.

Whether you want to catch a whale breaching the surface or eat at one of the fine-dining establishments downtown; set behind a beautiful backdrop that will leave you speechless, Juneau offers it all.

Let’s dive into the list of the top things to do in Juneau, Alaska!

Best & Fun Things to do in Juneau, AK

Juneau, Alaska is an amazing city for tourists to visit. It’s not only a great place to spend a vacation with your family but it also offers things that you won’t find anywhere else in the world.

Juneau has things for everyone; from those looking for adventure and sightseeing opportunities to those wanting to relax on the beach or attend one of the many festivals around Juneau throughout the year.

So what are some things that make Juneau such a desired destination? We’ve got plenty!

(This list is not ranked in any specific order.)

1. SALT

salt dish with drink and menu

Whether you are just visiting or live in Juneau, make sure to check out SALT. They have an extensive alcohol selection, specifically geared towards wine drinkers and the dark alcohols of scotch, bourbon, and whiskey. They also have signature drinks that pack a punch.

SALT has plentiful starters as well if you’re extra hungry. Coconut prawns, prosciutto-wrapped scallops, and clam chowder are a few of the local’s favorites.

Their menu isn’t extensive. but has everything you could ever want for a fine-dining experience. The signature dishes include, you guessed it…seafood! Don’t want just the steak? Make sure to order surf and turf style with grilled prawns or a king crab leg.

Their ever-changing menu holds true to the Alaskan seafood they serve. Whichever food is in season will always play a big role on the menu.

The atmosphere is cozy yet upscale, with a clean-kept bar and two private dining rooms, this is a perfect place for a special occasion, business event, or one of the many things to do in Juneau at night.

2. Sandpiper Cafe

mascarpone waffles sandpiper cafe

If you are looking for a quaint little breakfast and brunch spot look no further. Sandpiper Cafe has everything you could desire on a menu. No matter if you’re on a health kick, or just waking up after one too many cocktails the night before, you will surely find something your taste buds crave.

I would list this as one of the top places to visit in Juneau. I cannot even begin to describe how good the food is. Although I haven’t tried a good portion of the menu, it’s only because there are so many options to choose from! And the classic dishes keep me ordering time after time.

You must try the bagel and lox, because what is better than freshly smoked salmon spread over a bagel with Mascarpone cheese? Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Headed in for an early (or late) lunch? Sandpiper Cafe has you covered. With their delicious soups, salads, sandwiches, and burgers, there is something on the menu for everybody. No matter what time you get hungry, make sure to stop in and get yourself a bite to eat.

You don’t want to miss this homey corner cafe in downtown Juneau.

See Related: 15 Unknown US Places to Visit

3. Twisted Fish Company

twisted fish logo

If you love all things seafood, do yourself a favor and eat at Twisted Fish Company. This establishment knows how to prepare a meal. Pairing local ingredients and fresh seafood sourced in Alaska this restaurant is a must, on the list of things to do when visiting downtown Juneau.

Their menu is extensive and gives forth a range of options for all palates. With many appetizer options or as they call them, Nibblesstart your meal off with fresh seafood. Oysters on the half shell, crab-artichoke dip, or a number of ways to consume salmon.

Of course, you could just dive right in and get the full pound of jumbo king crab claws served with lemon and butter. There are so many seafood options it is hard to choose just one dish!

Not to worry, the people who aren’t fans of seafood can still eat at Twisted Fish Company. There is an entire section on the menu for Landlubbers. Big slices of meat served with classic sides, along with hamburgers, and pizza options.

As their website states, this is the place to go in downtown Juneau if you are looking for a casual dining, waterfront, surf-and-turf experience.

See Related: Best Restaurants in Fairbanks, AK

4. Top Tourist Activities and Tours

Juneau Harbor with Ship

There are so many things to do while spending time in Juneau, it is hard to fit everything in if you’re on a time crunch!

Juneau activities such as museums and historic buildings are packed with culture, history, and rich in tradition. A lot of these options are on the list of cheap things to do in Juneau.

While historic downtown houses saloon-era hotels and an old saloon itself, there is also a number of colorful Victorian houses, historic churches, and the Governor’s Mansion. You can even take a Juneau tour on foot that leads you straight through the Evergreen Cemetery, where the founders’ of Juneau, Joe Juneau, Richard Harris, and Tlingit Cheif Towee are all buried.

There are three different mining complexes, with remains that still stand from the time they were running gold operations back in the early 1900s. A-J Mine, Last Chance Mining Museum, and the famous Treadwell Mine are all good options if you want to see Juneau’s mining history up close and personal.

Juneau is also home to some of Alaska’s top museum options. These include at least five museums, all unique in their own ways, sharing Southeast Alaskan’s rich history and culture.

The Walter Soboleff Building is on top of the list of Juneau attractions. This museum is specially bound with culture and history, where one can explore exhibits that share Southeast Alaskan history through Alaskan Native perspectives.

There is a number of culturally significant art installations that represent the three tribes of the region: Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian.

See Related: 30 Cheap Places to Travel

5. Eaglecrest Ski Area

eaglecrest ski area view
Eaglecrest Ski Area Facebook

The possibilities for outdoor activities in Juneau are nearly endless. Even though the town is considered “small”, there is no shortage of outdoor territory to explore.

If you are into winter sports then this is the community for you! With large amounts of heavy snow during the winter season, Juneau is home to one of seven Alaskan ski and snowboard resorts. Eaglecrest offers everything from groomed beginner runs, to deep backcountry powder runs, and everything in between.

The views from on top of the mountain make the entire day worth it and the conditions are considered a top destination for backcountry skiing and snowboarding. For some, this is one of the best outdoor things to do in Juneau. This makes for a great day trip away from downtown.

See Related: 15 Best Winter Travel Clothes for Cold Weather

6. THE BEST Thing to See in Juneau: Mendenhall Glacier

Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau

Don’t ski or snowboard? That is ok!

Juneau has many other winter activities to choose from. Check out the Mendenhall Glacier for a beautiful view of the glacier that was formed over 3,000 years ago! There are ice caves you can explore like the picture above. This is an amazing experience and a big tourist attraction that offers spectacular scenery during the summer months.

Check out the visitor center where you can learn loads of information about the glacier and how it was formed. There are education topics on its receding due to climate change and global warming.

It also offers an incredible view of both the glacial lake and the actual glacier. There are a number of trails that lead near the glacier.

Specifically, hike the West Glacier trail if you want to get up close and personal with the glacier. A longer, more difficult hike, leads you to the glacier and access to the Mendenhall ice cave if you are lucky. (Disclaimer: Ice caves can be extremely dangerous, and should only be accessed with a professional.)

On the East Glacier Loop and other trails nearby, easier hikes will gain you access to Mendenhall Lake and a close view of both Nugget Falls and the glacier itself. This is considered one of Juneau’s premier sightseeing spots.

See Related: 7 Best Places to Travel in Alaska

7. Best Free Thing to do in Juneau: Visit the Hiking Trails

Nugget Falls
Juneau Facebook

Below is a variety of hiking trails that are beginner to moderate difficulty, for those who want a casual hike with gorgeous views of the town and the surrounding scenery. A great way to start sightseeing when visiting Juneau.

  • Gastineau Meadows Trail (1.5 miles)- This trail explores the tiny island across from Juneau, named Douglas. The meandering trail winds through the meadows where you can catch glimpses of wildlife such as pollinators, deer, and a multitude of birds.
  • Treadwell Mine Ruins (2 miles)- Located on Douglas as well, the Treadwell Mine Ruins is a moderate loop that offers a nice hiking trail and abundant bird watching. The loop leads to the old gold mine remains and offers historical markers along the way. (Don’t get this confused with the Treadwell Ditch Trail, as this trail leads anywhere from 14 to 29 miles through Douglas, only for experienced hikers!)
  • Airport Trail (1.5-3 miles)- An easy trail for beginners, or someone looking to walk their dog on easy terrain, this meandering trail is suitable for all ages. Walking along the outer edge of the Juneau airport, the trail is a favorite among all locals. With the airport on one side and the Mendenhall River on the other, there is no shortage of scenery. After the trail veers and the river empties into the Lynn Canal, you can either turn back or continue another 1.5 miles to the end of the trail. This trail is very popular among avid bird watchers!
  • Rainforest Trail (1 mile)- This winding trail is a beautiful, yet mild hike. Located on the north end of Douglas, the Rainforest Trail loops through a wooded area with an easily graded trail that leads you down to the ocean. The trail is an easy walk for most. Even in the winter, the path is heavily used so there isn’t any deep snow to worry about. Once down to the ocean, you can walk either north or south on the trails and will encounter rocky beaches when the tide is out. Keep your eyes peeled on the ocean as you can see multiple types of ducks, birds, and possibly even a seal or sea lion!

Hiking is one of the best ways to explore Juneau and on a lot of these trails you go a very short distance for some magnificent scenery. These hikes are among some of the free things to do in Juneau!

See Related: 13 Best National Parks to Visit in November

8. Mountain Trails in Juneau

View of Channel from Mt. Roberts

On this list of outdoor things to do in Juneau, you may want to bring your heaviest pair of hiking boots because we’re exploring mountains around town!

Mount Roberts Trail (7.6 Miles)

This beautiful mountain trail leads all the way up the side of Mount Roberts, to the very peak (if you’re brave enough). This is a heavily traversed trail in the summer, so beware of many people on the trail during the months of June-September.

If you’re up for it, hike to the top and hike back down for an exhilarating day of working out and sightseeing. Beware, if you explore Mount Roberts during the spring or winter seasons, be sure to bring your heavy boots, rain and snow gear.

The trail gets incredibly muddy and snowy during these seasons and can be very dangerous. This trail is not for the inexperienced hiker.

Mount Jumbo (7 Miles)

Another difficult-rated hike, this mountain trail on Douglas traverses steep terrain over a seven-mile journey. The elevation gain alone is a little over 3,000 feet! This trail is not nearly as trafficked as Mount Roberts. Once to the top, the views are practically 360 degrees around. In the summer, the wild blueberries grow all over the trails.

This trail is recommended for summer use only, the spring washes out most of the trail with all of the rain. In the winter, the trail is covered in minimum knee-deep snow, with minimal trail visibility.

This is another hike that is recommended with a friend or group, and should not be done during dangerous weather conditions.

See Related: Best Things to do in Icy Strait Point

Mount Juneau (6.8 Miles)

Located just two miles out of downtown, this mountain trail leads you to one of Juneau’s premier peaks. With an elevation gain of over 3,500 feet, this hike is not for the inexperienced. This hike offers an enjoyable hike for anyone looking to challenge themselves.

There is quite a bit of elevation gain from sea level, so a good leg workout is a guarantee! The abundance of views from the peaks of Mount Juneau is endless and will leave you breathless, literally.

Only recommended during spring through fall seasons, Mount Juneau is difficult on a sunny day, let alone during the rainy season during a washout. Avalanches are a real threat during the winter months, so Mount Juneau is never recommended during the winter season.

But during the safe seasons, this hike is by far some of the best sightseeing in Juneau.

See Our Hiking Trail Guides in Alaska:

See Related: Ultimate Denali National Park Itinerary

9. Things to do in Juneau During Summer: Go on a Fishing Charter

49th Fathom Charters boat
49th Fathom Charters Facebook

Want to make all your friends jealous back home? Sign up for a fishing charter on one of the dozens to choose from, and earn your catch of fresh halibut or one of the five species of salmon that are available in the waters.

This is a great way to explore the land and see the outdoor activities Juneau has to offer.

Full-day and half-day charters are available, and usually, a boat limit of six people is instilled to ensure plenty of fishing for yourselves. Many local charters will also offer  tours for fly fishing.

You may be able to hop in a small seaplane and journey your way to a nearby island, or remote river area. Or venture by skiff to a nearby shore that only the locals know about.

Of course, there are catch and size limits, and an Alaska fishing license is required! Most charters have licenses for sale, before going out. Otherwise, any local Juneau retailer will most likely have them.

Once your group is done for the day and your cooler is stocked; head to one of the local processors where they can process, smoke, and freeze your catch for its journey back home.

Talk about fresh seafood! You’ll be the buzz of all of your friends, especially when they bite into a fresh-caught Alaskan fish for the first time in their lives!

See Related: Where Should I Travel for My Birthday?

10. Bear Watching

Brown Bear in Alaska

Not to save the best for last or anything like that…but bear watching, I mean that’s pretty dang cool if you ask me. 

Admiralty Island National Monument is home to one of the highest density populations of brown bears in the entire world. This is said to have more brown bears than all lower 48 states combined!

There is a bear sanctuary called Pack Creek Bear Sanctuary on the northeast corner of Admiralty Island. It’s said it is possible to see as many as 25 bears at one time feasting on salmon in the rivers.

There is an optimal viewing spot at the mouth of Pack Creek, or if you’re up for a walk, take the one-mile hike to the Observation Tower.

Buying a permit is recommended ahead of time, to ensure there is no wait or difficulty getting in once you arrive.

The best way to explore Admiralty Island is with a guide. They can provide things such as the correct permits needed, travel accommodations, and expertise on all things brown bear.

There are minimal ways to gain access to Admiralty Island, so make sure you have accommodations to a seaplane, boat, or kayak because these are the only ways to get to the island from Juneau.

A perfect day-trip adventure, Admiralty Island is about a 40-mile trek south from the capital city.

If you are planning on staying overnight, make sure to get there with plenty of time to spare because campsites and shelters are on a first-come-first-serve basis. This island is said to have some of the best wild bear viewings in the entire world.

See Related: Best Helicopter Tours in Denali

11. Taku Glacier

Glacier in Alaska

For travelers visiting the city of Juneau, there are many things to see and do while they are here! These range from quirky to breathtaking: the Taku Glacier is a sight for people to enjoy on their visit; it is over 50 kilometers long and was created during a previous ice age.

Here are some things to know about the Taku Glacier:

  1. Taku Glacier is over 50 km long and was created during a previous ice age.
  2. The Taku River flows from the glacier’s melting water and is one of the best places in Southeast Alaska for fishing.
  3. You can see the glacier by air, water, or land; each has its own benefits. If you like the adrenaline rush, you can go on a flightseeing or helicopter tour.
  4. Visitors to Juneau will need to rent lodging in order to stay the night; this is available at hotels and inns scattered around the city, such as the Taku Lodge which offers rooms with a view of the surrounding mountains and lakes.
  5. Visitors should be prepared for harsh weather conditions that Alaska is well known for like rain, snow, and summer heat.

The views are breathtaking! This adventure is perfect for those that want to enjoy nature as well as learn some of its secrets.

See Related: Best Cabin Rentals in Denali National Park

12. Totem Bight State Park

Totem Bight State Park is home to over 500 totem poles dating back centuries.

Totem Bight State Park is located in Juneau, Alaska. There are quite a number of things that you can do at the park while there. They have a seaside boardwalk that extends out onto the rocks so you can view the ocean as you walk along with it.

You can also take in the views of The Mendenhall Glacier from this vantage point. You can also enjoy a whole day of fishing or take a guided tour through the forest and learn about things like bears, whales, fungi, and more!

Totem Bight State Park is open all year round, so you can visit it any time.

Guided tours run from 10 am to 3 pm on Wednesdays and Fridays during the summer months.

See Related: Best Things to do in Fairbanks, Alaska

13. Go on an Alaskan Cruise

Alaskan Cruise in Juneau

I’m generally not a big fan of cruise ships. However, an Alaskan cruise is a bit different than an order cruise ship.

Alaskan cruises allow families to take in the things that make Alaska so great. With so much happening around you, it’s hard not to feel like a kid again.

The boat is going to have lots of things for kids and adults to enjoy. From ice carving demonstrations to game shows, there’s something for everyone on board.

The most popular cruise ships for an Alaskan cruise are:

  • Alaska Dream: The Alaska Dream has things for everyone on board. From ice carving demonstrations and game shows to things that the kids will enjoy, there’s something for everyone on this cruise ship.
  • Norwegian Pearl: Norwegian Pearl is also a great option. The things that the kids will enjoy on the boat are things like ice skating, pools, and arcades.
  • Disney Wonder: Disney Cruise is an ideal destination for family fun. The cruise offers plenty of things to keep both kids and adults engaged, including arcade games or Broadway-style productions.

The best time to go on an Alaskan cruise is between the months of September and May. If you’re looking for a good deal, consider taking your cruise in either October or November.

Many people find that these two months are optimal because they are still warm enough for outdoorsy activities, but school hasn’t started either which means things are cheaper! Win-win!

If you are heading on a cruise, check out our free Alaskan cruise packing checklist.

See Related: Denali National Park Packing Checklist

14. Go on a Whale Watching Tour

Whale Watching in Juneau

Juneau is a perfect destination for someone who enjoys the outdoors. Whale watching is a great opportunity to see these animals up close while on the water and get the best view of their breath-taking beauty.

You can sign up for a tour or just take your own boat out to experience some of nature’s most amazing creatures.

The most popular whale watching tours in Juneau include the short, three-hour tour by boat and the six-to-eight-hour excursion that takes one out deep into the waters of Lynn Canal.

See if you can spot a humpback whale during your tour…. The humpback whale is a baleen whale that commonly inhabits the waters of Alaska. The humpback whale is known to migrate from the cold water of Alaska to other warm bodies of water.

This city is a hot tourist spot for whale watching so plan accordingly. The best time to go is from June to October.

See Related: Best Travel Hoodies

15. Visit Douglas Island

Southeast Alaska’s Douglas Island is a man-made island situated in the Juneau Borough of Alaska and was created by property developers for the intended purpose of living accommodations.

The property developers were granted permission to continue with their project by means of a 99-year lease agreement signed in 1983.

Douglas Island’s uniqueness stems from its geographical location as it is situated on one side of a narrow passage at the head of Gastineau Channel, which separates Juneau from the mainland. It is also home to the true Alaskan wilderness and wildlife.

Make a note and see if you can spot a bald eagle during your visit.

To get to Douglas Island from Juneau, take a car or taxi. The best time to visit Douglas Island is during the fall when the leaves start to change, or anytime between June and September.

See Related: Best Hotels in Fairbanks, Alaska

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What things to do in Juneau?

If you’re going to Juneau, Alaska, there are things to see and things to do for the whole family. One of the best things about Juneau is that it’s a very pedestrian-friendly city in which everyone drives slowly and watches out for bicyclists. Here are things to work into your itinerary (besides rain):

1) Walk along Douglas Harbor cove
2) Go fish for salmon at Juneau Fish House or North Spruce Salmon Camp
3) Take a scenic tour by boat on any of these tours: Scenic Alaska Charters, Sightseeing Boat Express, or Tide Tours
4) Hike onto Auke Bay via Lady Ann Lakeshore Trail

What are the best things to see in Juneau?

Juneau is a beautiful city with plenty of things to see and do, including Mendenhall Glacier. You can also visit the Center for Alaskan Arts and Culture, go on a classic Alaska cruise on the ocean, or take time to read all of the plaques that tell about things like how Alaska became a territory when it was made into one.

Where are all the things to do in Juneau?

Famous Juneau attractions include Mendenhall Glacier, Mount Roberts Tramway, The Tread of Pioneers Museum, and many local shops and eateries. There are plenty of outdoor activities to choose from including hiking trails and kayaking or canoeing at Glacier Bay National Park when it is open for the summer season.

Does it snow in Juneau, Alaska?

In the winter, it’s cold in Juneau. The snow at sea level averages about one or two feet, and elevation often brings six or seven feet of snow. It can also get much colder when blizzards from the North Pole come to town starting off as wet freezing rain turning into black ice.

What are some things to do in Juneau when it’s raining?

Visiting Juneau when it’s raining is a truly delightful experience because nothing compares to taking in the sights and sounds of this coastal paradise while staying dry. Some things include visiting the Mendenhall Glacier (daily guided sheltered tours departing from Nugget Falls Ranger Station), cruising around town via car, or checking out one of Juneau’s many museums.

So what are you waiting for? Come explore the most beautiful capital city in the United States. Your experiences will be nothing short of spectacular.

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