Juneau, AK, USA cruises

Beneath an ice field that never melts, on a waterway that never freezes, Juneau is the unusual and disarmingly beautiful capital of Alaska. The Mendenhall Glacier is the not-to-be-missed attraction.

Juneau port guide.  

Despite its status as Alaska’s capital, Juneau’s urban area spans just 14 square miles but its appeal far exceeds its city limits. Frequently cited as Alaska’s most scenic city, Juneau is nature’s playground, and what a playground it is. Waters abound with Humpbacks and orcas, forested trails leading to snow-ensconced mountains, and the ever-present majestic eagles circling overhead.

The town that kick-started Alaska’s gold rush is rich with treasures of all varieties, from native Tlingit history and excellent seafood to an abundance of outdoor pursuits. It’s little wonder that most of Juneau’s residents arrived for a short stay and decided never to leave.


Top landmarks and sights in Juneau.

Spending time in Juneau is an experience to savor. The city is home to some of Alaska’s finest museums and galleries, showcasing native art and objects of historical significance. Downtown Juneau is the city’s oldest district, with many buildings dating from the dawn of Alaska’s gold rush. It’s a wonderful area to explore, with helpful signposts to guide your way.

By far, one of the most popular excursions from Juneau is to Mendenhall Glacier. At half a mile wide, the glacier is one of the most accessible in Alaska and a visit here is high on many Juneau visitor’s wish lists. The aptly named Photo Point Trail offers a great vantage point from which to take photos while a longer trek brings you to Nugget Falls.

Admiralty Island, home to the world’s largest concentration of brown bears, is also easily reached from Juneau. The island offers several places from which to observe the bears safely, and is just a short seaplane journey from Juneau. 


Things to do in Juneau.

The waters that surround Juneau are a magnet for humpback whales, and a sightseeing tour to seek out these majestic beasts is just one of many ways you could choose to pass your time in the city.

Of course, one of Juneau’s biggest draws is its scenery and taking the aerial tram to Mount Roberts offers a phenomenal bird’s eye view of the area’s icefields all around. If you do decide to make the journey, you’ll be greeted by a shop and restaurant at the summit, as well as the Raptor Center where injured bald eagles are nursed back to health.  

Glacier Gardens is a must for horticultural fans, and a chance to experience a different side to Alaska altogether. Rich with verdant fauna across a variety of tree and plant species, these mesmerizing botanical gardens offer exceptional views from several vantage points, but the attraction’s biggest draw has to be its famous upside-down trees, which have to be seen to be believed.

If you happen to be in Juneau for Independence Day, expect parades and firework displays. The city also traditionally celebrates its gold rush history and founding with a number of activities in June.


Eating and drinking near Juneau cruise port.

More than 30 saloons once lined Juneau’s streets, and some of the oldest are still in business today. You’ll find these in the city’s historic district, along with a wide variety of restaurants to whet your appetite.

Like all of Alaska, Juneau is surrounded by salmon-rich waters and fresh seafood is the focus of its culinary offer. You’ll find crab, shrimp and scallops on many menus, all of which can be washed down with a craft beer from one of the city’s local breweries, some with over 20 beers on tap.

Fresh coffee is also never far away in Juneau. Practically every street has its own café and two roasteries are based in the city so there’s no shortage of invigorating options if you’re craving a caffeine fix while out exploring.

If you like to eat with a waterfront view (and who wouldn’t in this part of the world) then Franklin Street is where you’ll want to head. With casual crab shacks and laidback Alaskan grills, you can savor a taste of the Great Land, while taking in its scenic beauty.


Shopping in Juneau.

Juneau’s shopping offer is a reflection of its history and community. You’ll find stores selling local artists’ works as well as wood carvings, jewelry and wellness items.

The city has long been a magnet for creativity and many of its shops offer unique handmade items that make wonderful keepsakes.

The largest concentration of Juneau’s shops can be found along the waterfront in Franklin Street, while a gift shop is also available on the peak of Mount Roberts, where the aerial tram terminates. A couple of smaller shopping centers are situated in Mendenhall Valley (The Valley to locals), an area around 10 miles from Juneau’s downtown.


Juneau culture and history.  

Juneau is a culturally rich Alaskan port with a strong Native American heritage and gold rush history. Originally inhabited by Tlingit tribespeople, the city’s fate forever changed when gold prospectors Joe Juneau and Richard Harris happened upon the area in the 1880s. It was first known as Harrisburg, before being renamed Juneau which eventually became the city’s official name.

Early Juneau settlers had been drawn to the area for its abundant resources, but the discovery of gold attracted a new Juneau native. Gold mining was Juneau’s foremost industry for almost six decades, with the world’s then three largest mines located in the city. A mix of flooding and the arrival of WWII eventually caused the industry to collapse.  

Today, guests can learn more about Juneau’s founding in the Alaska State Museum, which features myriad exhibits documenting the city’s heritage and evolution. Anyone specifically interested in Juneau’s mining history may prefer to visit the Juneau-Douglas City Museum, which focuses on how the discovery of gold shaped Juneau during the 19th century.


Juneau port facilities and location.

Juneau’s port consists of multiple terminals, and it’s not unusual to see up to six ships docked at once. Cruise ships tend to berth at dock AJ (AJD), about a mile from town. A regular shuttle service is available in port to take you the short journey should you have difficulty walking. The drop off point is the Mount Robert Tram Station, where you’ll also find a number of tour operator ticket booths.