Since we hope to visit all 50 states, Alaska has technically always been on our bucket list but admittedly it wasn’t anywhere near the top. However, when we got the opportunity to visit Juneau, Alaska with Royal Caribbean we jumped at the chance and are so glad we did. It is one of the most breathtaking places we’ve visited and in our top 5 along with Kenya, Brazil, Morocco and our southwest road trip. We spent 11 days in Alaska visiting Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan. Most of our time was spent in Juneau and here is our can’t miss list of things to do in Juneau.
How to get to Juneau Affordably
Alaska isn’t the most affordable place to visit but it’s very worth the visit. You can reduce costs by using points and miles from travel credit cards or by getting a flight deal. Scott Cheap Flights recently had some for under $300 from multiple cities which will help reduce costs. Juneau is in the SE part of Alaska and while many people take road trips through the state, especially Anchorage to Fairbanks, the only way to get to Juneau is by flight or boat.
How Many Days Do You Need to Experience the Best Things to do in Juneau
We spent 5 days in Juneau but I’d recommend 7 because the weather can cancel activities and you’ll definitely want to reschedule missed activities. If you don’t have 7 days to spare don’t worry, you can make 5 days work if you’re okay with doing activities rain or shine. We personally still went on a canoe trip in the rain so it’s doable just not as ideal! Be sure to book your most wanted activities on your first day so you have time to reschedule if the weather is poor.
What is the Weather Like in Juneau?
Packing for things to do in Juneau with the varying weather can seem like you’re packing for multiple seasons in different places. We typically have ease packing light and are team carry-on but for Alaska we checked bags. This is because even in the summer you could need winter boots and a snow suit one day, shorts and a t-shirt the next and rain jackets and rain boots another day.
If you’re coming from an always warm place such as Miami like we were, you may not have winter gear. Before spending lots of money on clothing you might not wear again, check if the tour companies you’re using to go on the adventure offer the gear you need. The tours we took to Mendenhall Glacier did provide boots and waterproof pants and jackets. If you’re more comfortable bringing all your own gear, check out our Alaska packing list here for more details on what to bring.
Things to do in Juneau, Alaska
Visit Mendenhall Glacier
If you do nothing else in Juneau make sure you visit Mendenhall Glacier. It was so amazing we did two different tours that brought us to this beauty!
Helicopter Ride to Mendenhall Glacier
The first day we visited Mendenhall Glacier we took a helicopter ride to the top of the glacier with Northstar Trekking. It’s a short 5-7 minute ride with breathtaking views of the lake, waterfalls and more. Once you land on top of Mendenhall you’re able to walk around the glacier easily thanks to the crampons they attach to the bottom of your boots.
We walked all around the top. There was a naturally occuring glacier pool that my girls enjoyed sipping glacier water from. There were also little creeks we jumped over and little “caves” my girls enjoyed exploring. It was amazing!
Glacier Paddle and Trek Tour
We couldn’t get enough of the glacier so the next day we went back to Above and Beyond Alaska. This time we did a glacier paddle and trek tour. The tour starts in the Tongass National Forest where you meet the crew and change into waterproof pants and boots (depending on the weather).
The tour starts with a 3 mile canoe to the glacier. On the way you’ll pass Nugget Falls, icebergs and have the potential to see wildlife, we mainly saw a variety of birds. The day we went it was raining but we didn’t let that stop us. We put on waterproof gear and weathered the rain.
Once your canoe ride is over you’ve reached the bottom of the glacier and to me it looked like we were in another world. We then took about a mile hike on uneven rocky pavement to one of the most spectacular things I’ve seen, an ice cave! These are naturally formed and they go and come so there is no guarantee there will be one on your tour but if you’re lucky enough it’s breathtaking.
Whale Watching Tour
There are so many whale watching tours in Juneau. We personally went with Gastineau Guiding to see humpback whales! They offer both a 2.5hr whale watching only tour and a 5hr land and sea tour for cruise passengers if you’re here on a cruise. We didn’t see any breach like in the photo below (it’s actually a statue in Juneau called The Whale Project) but we did see a lot of whales including a few babies.
To enhance your whale watching experience you can get out of the boat and into a kayak via Above and Beyond Alaska. This is a way to get even closer to the whales and even if you don’t you might see otters and other sea animals close up. The tour includes lunch on the beach of one of the islands.
Explore Tracy Arms
One of the top things to do is take a boat ride through Tracy Arms. This is basically boating through tons of icebergs. We didn’t get to do this but my parents who were on this trip with us did. They saw so many icebergs and brown bears climbing along the mountains.
Visit Pack Creek
If you want the highest chance of seeing brown bears definitely book a kayak trip to Pack Creek with Above and Beyond Alaska. This includes a seaplane flight to Admiralty Island to the Stan Price Sanctuary which has the densest population of brown bears. You’ll see these beauties roaming freely and possibly see them up close and personal but safely as well. The best time to see the bears here is between June and September.
Alaska State Museum
Visit the Alaska State Museum to learn the history of Native Alaskans and the effect colonization had on them. In 1867 is when the US purchased Alaska for 7.2 million dollars from Russia. However, Native Alaskans didn’t receive voting rights until 1922. Meanwhile the hunt for gold here started shortly after its purchase and the gold rush had a huge negative impact on the Natives. The museum goes into lots of history and the culture of the Natives and it was a great visit which I highly recommend.
Take the Goldbelt Tram to Mount Roberts
The Goldbelt Tram takes you up to Mount Roberts. It costs $25 for adults and $15 for kids which is very pricey in my opinion but it’s also the only way to get up so there’s that. At the top you can go on various hikes looking for wildlife. It is possible to see bears up here but we didn’t see any. However, we did see tons of bald eagles. They were so soaring above us at the top, it was quite a sight to see. Worth the cost to get up just for that. Some days you’ll also see the paragliders jumping off the platform at the top here paragliding to the bottom.
As an alternative you can hike all the way to the top. The hike is 3 miles up and takes about 2-3 hours due to the slow incline to the top. You can always take the tram down and if you spend at least $10 in the bar or gift shop the ride down is free.
Zach Gordon Youth Center
One day it rained non-stop and there was really nothing we could do. If this happens to you and you’re traveling with kids I suggest taking them to the Zach Gordon Youth Center to burn off some energy. It’s much better than being stuck in a small hotel room. Here they have a rock climbing wall, covered basketball court with other sports equipment. It’s free to hang out here and definitely saves the day from complete boredom.
Okay coming from living in Miami and being Jamaican I don’t consider Sandy Beach a beach but in Juneau they do. It’s more of a lake to me that I personally wouldn’t swim in but there were kids and adults swimming. We did do some stand up paddle boarding here though and I mean the views all over Juneau are just amazing.
Things to do in Juneau On Our Next Visit
Unfortunately we didn’t get to do everything we wanted in Juneau but that’s just more reason to revisit. When we do we hope we’ll be able to cross these things off our bucket list.
Dog sledding was definitely high on our bucket list of things to do in Juneau. However, since we went in June 2021 while we nearly had Juneau to ourselves which was amazing the lack of tourists meant all tours weren’t available. If we never make it back to Juneau we do hope we can at least do this in a different location some day.
Zipline on Douglas Island
If you love a good thrill you’ll enjoy ziplining with Alaska Zipline Adventures. Here they have 7 lines, 10 platforms and a suspension bridge. If you’re visiting in the summer this place becomes a great place to ski instead of ziplining.
Hike the West Glacier Trail
Juneau obviously has a lot of snow/iceberg/glacier activities but they also have a rainforest. You can explore them on a hike up the West Glacier Trail. Like the name says, it’s located on the west side of Mendenhall Glacier. At the end of the hike there is an amazing viewpoint which overlooks the glacier and the lake. You can book a guided hike with Adventure Flow.
Take a Floatplane to Taku Glacier
This flight flies right over the Juneau Ice Field which is the source if every glacier in the area. The tour lands on the water which is one of the aspects I’m most looking forward to right at Taku Glacier Lodge. Before heading back to Juneau you can have a salmon bake and take in all the glacier views.
Explore Glacier Bay National Park
As a family who has had an America the Beautiful National Park Pass for 3 years in a row it really saddened us that we couldn’t make it to Glacier Bay National Park. To get here from Juneau you can book a day trip or stay a few nights in the park.
Where to Eat in Juneau, Alaska
Honestly I’d go all the way back to Juneau just for the food! There were so many amazing places to eat and as a seafood lover I was in heaven. Here were my favorite places to eat.
The Rookery Cafe
We ate here for both breakfast and lunch but breakfast was my favorite. The french toast was so good as it’s cornflake crusted so nice and crunchy. My girls were in heaven because they had almond milk for them to have hot chocolate. They also have tons of great pastries.
One of the most popular places for breakfast in Juneau, be sure to come here early if you don’t want a long wait. They also have a really good french toast made on brioche bread.
Alaska Fish & Chips Company
If you are looking for the best fish and chips look no further. I even came here once after eating dinner somewhere else because they are just so good and I had to eat them one last time before leaving Juneau. Just get the halibut and thank me later! On Instagram they are @flightdeck_ak.
The best tacos in Juneau hands down are at Deckhand Dave’s Fish Tacos. I see why the line here is always so long. They have quite a few options
Tracy’s Crab is the most famous restaurant in Alaska and I see why. It might even have turned this crab hating lady into a crab loving one, the only place I’ll even deem cracking crabs after paying an arm and a leg for them is worth it. The crabs are made to order and you can actually watch them make your order right in the front of the restaurant. As sides, they have rolls, bisque, fries, hush puppies and more.
Gold Creek Salmon
Salmon Bakes are apparently the thing to do in Alaska so you have to do one while here. We did one but I can’t remember the name of the place we went. You can see them grilling the salmon and then they had buffet style for sides with potatoes, rice, veggies and more. The particular place we went also had fire pits to roast marshmallows and sip on hot chocolate after dinner.
Juneau, Alaska is by far one of our top trips in the United States and internationally as well. I truly hope we’ll be able to revisit this beauty again. If you found this article on things to do in Juneau helpful please do share it with a fellow traveler!