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!
(This list is not ranked in any specific order.)
Table of Contents
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
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
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 Juneau.
Their menu is extensive and gives forth a range of options for all palates. With many appetizer options or as they call them, Nibbles, start 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.
4. Tourist Activities
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 walking tour 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
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.
See Related: 15 Best Winter Travel Clothes for Cold Weather
6. Mendenhall Glacier
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 in Juneau 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 ice caves 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. Hiking Trails
Below is a variety of hiking trails that are a 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
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.
- 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.
9. Fishing Charter
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
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 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.
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.