Experience the breathtaking beauty and charm of Juneau, Alaska with these nine must-do highlights. Start your journey with a self-guided stroll through the compact city, taking in the stunning collection of totem poles and historic buildings. Stay at the luxurious and boutique Jorgenson House, where you can indulge in three-course gourmet breakfasts and enjoy sweeping vistas of snow-covered mountains. Discover the Alaskan Brewing Company, where you can sample over 20 Alaskan beers on tap. Take part in the thrilling glacial flightseeing tour with Wings Airways, soaring over the region’s five glaciers. Explore the enchanting Glacier Gardens, tucked within the lush rainforest, and be captivated by the breathtaking natural surrounds. Immerse yourself in the rich history and culture of Alaska at the Alaska State Museum, marveling at exhibits that showcase the First Peoples of Alaska and the impact of the gold rush. Indulge in delicious seafood snacks from the famous Deckhand Dave’s food truck, and savor authentic Indigenous coffee at Sacred Grounds. Embark on the “tour with taste” with Juneau Food Tours, experiencing the best of Alaska’s foodie scene while discovering famous locations. End your journey with the realization that Juneau is one of the world’s few capital cities without road access, adding to its unique charm and allure.
The self-guided stroll
For the first-time visitor to Juneau, Alaska, experiencing the city on foot is highly recommended. With a population of only 33,000, Juneau has a small-town feel and is easily navigable by foot. Start your self-guided stroll by heading along the waterfront on the “Kooteeyaa Deiyi”, Totem Pole Trail. Here, you will find a stunning collection of 13 carved totem poles, with plans for 30 in total. This trail offers a glimpse into the rich indigenous culture of the area.
Continue your stroll through the historic district, where buildings dating back to the 19th century gold rush still stand. Take in the architecture and imagine the bustling activity that once occurred in these streets. Next, visit the Governor’s Mansion, a beautifully preserved home built in 1899. This iconic landmark provides a glimpse into the political history of Alaska.
As you venture beyond the city center, you will find charming houses nestled on a steep hillside, surrounded by the lush greenery of the Tongass National Forest. Take advantage of the series of staircases that provide shortcuts through residential streets, and enjoy some of the best views over Gastineau Channel. Juneau truly feels like one big neighborhood, waiting to be explored on foot.
When it comes to accommodations in Juneau, the options range from chain motels to cozy bed and breakfasts. However, if you’re looking for a truly unique experience, look no further than Jorgenson House. This boutique hotel offers six luxurious suites spread throughout a restored vintage home and an adjacent modern building.
Each suite at Jorgenson House blends modern and traditional styles, featuring accessories from Juneau’s fascinating past, such as miner’s lamps and sealskin drums. The attention to detail and the personalized touches make for a truly memorable stay. And let’s not forget the food – an on-site chef prepares three-course gourmet breakfasts and other meals, ensuring that you start your day off right. After a day of exploring, unwind on the verandah with a glass of champagne, taking in the sweeping vistas of snow-covered mountains and the harbor.
No trip to Juneau would be complete without visiting the famous Alaskan Brewing company. Founded in 1986, Alaskan Brewing is the first brewery in Alaska since Prohibition. Located nine kilometers northwest of the city, this brewery is a must-visit for beer enthusiasts.
Alaskan Brewing offers over 20 different Alaskan beers on tap, showcasing the unique flavors and ingredients of the region. Sitka spruce tips and alder smoke are just a few of the regional ingredients used in these craft beers. What sets this brewery apart is their commitment to sustainability – they use spent grain to power the brew house, making for beer that is truly “beer-powered”. A visit to Alaskan Brewing is a chance to taste the essence of Alaska in every sip.
If you’re seeking an adrenaline rush and breathtaking views, glacial flightseeing with Wings Airways should be at the top of your list. Take off from Gastineau Channel in a classic de Havilland Otter floatplane and soar over the region’s five glaciers, including the impressive Taku Glacier.
The Juneau Icefield, which spans over 3884 square kilometers, is a sight to behold from the air. The vast expanse of ice and the jagged peaks of the mountains will leave you in awe of the natural beauty of Alaska. For an even more immersive experience, consider landing at Taku Glacier Lodge, where you can enjoy a meal of wild Alaska salmon while taking in spectacular views of the Hole-In-The-Wall Glacier. This adventure is not to be missed for those seeking a truly unforgettable experience in Juneau.
Nestled within the lush rainforest, Glacier Gardens is a hidden gem in Juneau. Located about 10 kilometers from downtown, this botanic garden is the passion project of a local landscaper. After a landslide, he transformed the area into a beautiful garden with both natural and manicured elements.
One of the highlights of Glacier Gardens is the “flower towers” – hollowed-out stumps of massive upturned Sitka spruce and Western hemlock trees that are filled with fuchsias, begonias, and petunias. The cascading vines add to the enchanting atmosphere of the garden. A shuttle takes visitors uphill to Thunder Mountain, offering panoramic views of Juneau and the Chilkat Mountains. Take your time exploring this tranquil oasis and immerse yourself in the beauty of nature.
Reopened in 2016 to much acclaim, the Alaska State Museum, also known as SLAM (State Library, Archives, and Museum), is a treasure trove of art and artifacts that showcase the rich history of Alaska. The museum is divided into chronological exhibits, providing excellent context on the First Peoples of Alaska, including their canoes, totem poles, and clan houses.
As you explore further, the exhibits transition into the gold rush and the impact of the western world on Alaska. Changing displays feature both modern and historic Alaskan artists, with the Chilkat blankets being a standout attraction. The Alaska State Museum is a must-visit for history buffs and those seeking a deeper understanding of the cultural heritage of Juneau and Alaska as a whole.
The food truck
Juneau is known for its excellent food trucks, and among them, Deckhand Dave’s stands out for its focus on seafood. Owner Dave McCasland’s background as a cook and deckhand on an Alaskan fishing vessel shines through in the exceptional quality of the food.
Deckhand Dave’s specializes in sustainably caught seafood, offering delicious dishes such as blackened rockfish, salmon ‘n chips, and beer-battered fish tacos. The menu also features local oysters, adding to the fresh and flavorful experience. Whether you’re looking for a quick snack or a full meal, Deckhand Dave’s is the place to go for a true taste of the flavors of Alaska.
Sacred Grounds is Juneau’s only authentic Indigenous cafe, owned and operated by Tlingit and Haida tribal citizens. With a focus on bringing the community together, Sacred Grounds offers delicious coffee made with beans roasted regionally.
In addition to coffee, the cafe serves fresh fruit smoothies and an array of breakfast and lunch options. From halibut fish ‘n chips to a daily “sacred soup,” there is something for everyone. The cozy and inviting atmosphere of Sacred Grounds provides the perfect opportunity to engage with friendly locals and learn more about the rich culture of the area.
For those looking to experience the best of Juneau’s culinary scene, Juneau Food Tours offers a guided tour that combines delicious food with an exploration of Alaska’s unique products. The tour focuses on seafood, showcasing local specialties such as halibut and ceviche.
In addition to sampling a variety of dishes, you’ll also get to try local drinks. For example, Harbor Tea & Spice offers their popular ice-cave tea, paying homage to the ice caves found near the Mendenhall Glacier. This tour is a great way to get a taste of famous Juneau locations, including Tracy’s Crab Shack and Alaskan Brewing. Let your taste buds guide you through the flavors of Alaska.
One more thing
It’s worth noting that Juneau is one of the few capital cities in the world that does not have road access. The only way to reach Juneau is by air or by water along the Gastineau Channel. This unique aspect adds to the charm and remoteness of Juneau, making it a truly special destination.
In conclusion, Juneau, Alaska offers a wide range of activities and experiences for visitors. From self-guided strolls through historic neighborhoods to thrilling glacial flightseeing adventures, there is something for everyone in this charming city. Explore the rich history and culture at museums, indulge in delicious food from local food trucks and cafes, and embark on guided tours to discover the flavors of Alaska. No matter how you choose to spend your time in Juneau, you’re sure to create lasting memories in this unique and picturesque destination.