Juneau, Alaska.

Best Things to Do in Juneau, Alaska

BY Bailey Berg | December 10, 2021

Welcome to Fifty Grande’s Best of the U.S. Bucket List series. This is your travel guide to the best, most unique and quintessential experiences of a city, state or event. Want to know how to “do” Juneau? We’ve got you covered. Curated by experts, vetted by in-the-know locals, this is all you need to have the best trip ever. If we’ve written a Bucket List, we recommend you go. If it’s on this list, it’s the best the city has to offer right now. Consider this your one-stop answer to “What are the best things to do in Juneau?”

To many travelers to Alaska, Juneau is one of many anchorages. A place to disembark their cruising vessel, noodle around the downtown shops or go on a packaged excursion for a couple of hours, snap a few photos and maybe eat some food before getting back on the ship to continue their port crawl of the southeast panhandle. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s hard to fully appreciate Alaska’s capital city in such a short timeframe. There really are few places like it.

It’s the second-largest city in the U.S. by area but only has 30,000 residents. It’s the only capital city you can’t drive to — it’s only possible to get there by water or air. And it’s sandwiched between a waterway that never freezes and an ice field that hasn’t fully melted in millennia. 

Juneau has also done a solid job of making itself an altogether cool place to visit. From the classic Alaska outdoors experiences to the drool-inducing seafood to the quirky local hangouts, it’s a place worthy of a few of your days. 

YOU’RE HERE FOR NATURE

When it comes to exploring Alaska’s vast and unspoiled wilderness, there’s a maximum and a minimum. Meaning, no matter if you’re a newbie in the outdoors or could win “Alone,” there’s something for you. Here are some of the ways to enjoy nature in and around Juneau. 

Mendenhall Glacier and Lake in Juneau, Alaska. Photo by Shutterstock.
#1
Mendenhall Glacier and Lake in Juneau, Alaska. Photo by Shutterstock.

Mendenhall Glacier

6000 Glacier Spur Road, Juneau, AK, USA

Going to Juneau and not visiting Mendenhall would be like going to the Big Island of Hawaii and skipping Volcanoes National Park. It’s arguably the most popular natural attraction in the area. And for good reason. The 3,000-year-old glacier flows 13 miles from its source and is a half-mile wide at its face. It’s impressive. While you can see the glacier from the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, to really appreciate it, it’s worth hiring a guide and getting on it (going alone is not recommended for safety reasons). Above & Beyond Alaska offers both an eight-mile round-trip hiking excursion and a canoe paddle across the lake. When you get to the ice, you’ll click into some crampons and spend some time exploring. 

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Sea Lion Adventure Tours
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Sea Lion Adventure Tours

Sea Lion Adventure Tours

709 W. Ninth St. #20778, Juneau, AK, USA

Humpback whales and Steller sea lions and harbor seals, oh my! Sea Lion Adventure Tours takes passengers out into the chilly but abundant waters of Auke Bay for a marine safari. The vessels only hold up to six passengers, so you won’t be fighting for shoulder space with other guests. If you’re looking for something a little more adventurous, the brand also offers kayak tours where guests can get even closer to nature.

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Wild salmon
#3
Wild salmon

The Local Guy Charters

11957 Glacier Highway, Juneau, AK, USA

Fishing in The Last Frontier is a bucket-list item for many, and for obvious reasons. Here if you catch an 18-inch pink salmon, you’re going to turn around and use it to try to bait a “barn door”-sized halibut. There are few places where fishing is this epic. The Local Guy, as well as other area charters, take guests out for a day of angling for salmon, halibut and rockfish.

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Mount Roberts Tramway
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Mount Roberts Tramway

Mount Roberts Tramway

490 S Franklin St, Juneau, AK, USA

Sure, you can hike yourself up Mount Roberts. The 1,800-foot, four-mile climb is a leg-burner, but it’s doable. Or you can board the tram near the docks and be at the top in five minutes, gloriously sweat-free. From the top, you can see the entire town, various waterways and nearby peaks. There are a handful of gift shops, a raptor center and a restaurant. 

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Eaglecrest Ski Area
#5
Eaglecrest Ski Area

Eaglecrest Ski Area

3000 Fish Creek Road, Juneau, AK, USA

You might not think of Juneau as a ski destination — it is in a temperate rainforest, after all — but last winter the area’s ski hill saw a record 640 inches of snow. The community-owned and -operated ski area has a peak elevation of 2,750, from which it’s possible to see the multi-hued coastal waterways surrounding the island. If you’re keen, there are also hundreds of acres of backcountry access and plenty of untouched powder. 

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BUT ALSO SEAFOOD

When you’re on an island surrounded by scores of salmon, halibut, rockfish, king crabs, shrimp and more, it literally can’t get any better or fresher than what you’ll find here. Get your crab bib and start cracking. 

Tracy’s King Crab Shack
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Tracy’s King Crab Shack

Tracy’s King Crab Shack

432 S Franklin St, Juneau, AK, USA

If you’ve ever read the price for a pound of king crab legs at a Lower 48 restaurant and thought “fuck that,” prepare to be delighted. Even though the restaurant is mere steps from the cruise ship terminal, it’s probably the most reasonably priced plate of king crab in the country. And it’s really, really good. Other popular menu items include crab bisque, crab cakes and supremely buttery rolls. 

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Hangar On The Wharf
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Hangar On The Wharf

Hangar On The Wharf

2 Marine Way, Ste. 106, Juneau, AK, USA

Housed in a converted airplane hangar on a wooden pier overlooking the water, this seafood restaurant is known for its tempura fish and chips, citrus salmon, halibut macadamia and a rotating selection of 20+ craft beers. 

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Deckhand Dave’s Fish Tacos
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Deckhand Dave’s Fish Tacos

Deckhand Dave’s Fish Tacos

139 S Franklin St, Juneau, AK, USA

Helmed by a former commercial fisherman, it makes sense that this taco truck only uses locally sourced fish — they know that freshness is important for flavor. The outdoor eatery also recently launched a champagne oyster bar in the same lot. It’s worth noting that Deckhand Dave’s does close for the winter season. 

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EXPERIENCE INDIGENOUS CULTURE

Indigenous people have called this region home for millennia. Get a better understanding of what that means through Juneau’s museums, festivals, art and Alaska Native-owned businesses. 

Alaska State Museum
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Alaska State Museum

Alaska State Museum

395 Whittier St, Juneau, AK, USA

Various populations have called Alaska home, including myriad Indigenous communities, Russian immigrants and Americans from the Lower 48. This museum does the best job at explaining what it looked like through each of their eyes, with artifacts, artwork and interactive displays. 

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Elizabeth Peratrovich mural
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Elizabeth Peratrovich mural

Elizabeth Peratrovich Mural

292 Marine Way, Juneau, AK, USA

Elizabeth Peratrovich might not have big name recognition outside of the 49th state, but she’s an important civil rights icon. As an activist, she urged territorial legislators (this was in 1945, before Alaska achieved statehood) to pass the Alaska Equal Rights Act, the first anti-discrimination bill in the country. Peratrovich was part of the Tlingit nation, and the bill made it illegal to discriminate against Alaska Natives, so she’s honored with a holiday statewide each year. 

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Celebration
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Celebration

Celebration

101 Egan Drive, Juneau, AK, USA

In 2022, Juneau will host the 40th anniversary of Celebration, a biennial festival that honors the 10,000 years of Southeast Alaska Native culture. The four-day event (June 8-11) will fill the town with people performing traditional songs and dances, wearing traditional regalia, sharing arts and crafts and more. 

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Allen Marine Tour
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Allen Marine Tour

Allen Marine Tours

13391 Glacier Highway, Juneau, AK, USA

Keep your shutter finger at the ready. This marine safari company offers four-hour tours, where whales, sea lions, porpoises, seals, eagles and more are often sighted. Their sister company, Alaska Dream Cruises, the only Indigenous-owned cruise company in the country, also offers week-long sailing throughout the region, either starting or ending in Juneau. 

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DRINK YOUR WAY THROUGH TOWN, TOO

The winters are long and quiet in Juneau, and it’s given a handful of locals ample time to perfect their beverage craft, be that brewing beer, distilling spirits or doing latte art. 

Alaskan Brewing Co.
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Alaskan Brewing Co.

Alaskan Brewing Co.

5364 Commercial Blvd, Juneau, AK, USA

Alaskan Brewing Co. is arguably the best known Alaska-based brewery, largely because it’s one of only a few that distributes to the Lower 48. At any given time they have 20 or so craft beers and hard seltzers on rotation. They also have a shuttle that will take guests from downtown to their taproom. We recommend the Icy Bay IPA and the Smoked Porter. 

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#14

Barnaby Brewing Co.

165 Shattuck Way, Juneau, AK, USA

If you’re looking for a wild ride, Barnaby Brewing is your place. Given that the tap list is incredibly inventive (especially for a place where getting ingredients is a challenge) and constantly rotating, there’s usually a crowd at this pint-sized brewery downtown. That’s all to say: you’ll have a good time. 

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Amalga Distillery
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Amalga Distillery

Amalga Distillery

134 N Franklin St, Juneau, AK, USA

The only distillery in Juneau (and one of very few in Southeast Alaska), this joint serves up snifters and specialty gin and whiskey cocktails for on-site consumption. You can also purchase a couple loose cocktail cans to-go — they pair well with Alaska adventures like fishing, hiking and whale watching. 

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The Rookery Cafe
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The Rookery Cafe

The Rookery Cafe

111 Seward St, Juneau, AK, USA

If you’re out all night chasing the midnight sun, chances are you’re going to need a good cup of joe to get moving the next day. The Rookery is a laid-back cafe with rocket-fuel coffee, homemade scones and walls festooned with local art. 

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WHERE TO STAY IN JUNEAU

Juneau, like much of Alaska, is pretty lacking in boutique hotels. It’s a state that is more interested in function than fashion. That being said, if you’d rather eschew the major chains, there are a handful of independent hotels, as well as some lodges (though those tend to be a bit outside of town). 

Juneau Hotel
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Juneau Hotel

Juneau Hotel

Juneau Hotel, 1200 West 9th Street, Juneau, AK, USA

What’s notable about the Juneau Hotel is that it is on the shore of the cosmically beautiful Gastineau Channel and it’s entirely made up of suites. Each of the 72 rooms has either one or two queen-sized beds, a full kitchen, cable TV and an in-unit washer and dryer. It’s not winning any awards for its design, but it’s within walking distance of everywhere downtown.

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Auke Lake B&B
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Auke Lake B&B

Auke Lake B&B

11595 Mendenhall Loop Road, Juneau, AK, USA

This family-run lakeside lodge is just a few miles outside of town, but a world away. It’s small, with just five private suites, but that makes it easier to enjoy the surrounding nature. Guests can hang out on the lake, relax in the hot tub and hike near the property. The owners can also help organize local tours. 

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