If you’re reading this you’re probably going to visit Juneau sometime soon, and I bet you’re going to do so in a cruise. You probably started in Vancouver or Seattle and are making your way up the west coast of Canada heading towards Sitka or Anchorage. Right? No, I’m not a wizard, but you’re simply following the same itinerary 90% of the people who visit Juneau follow. While this is a convenient and comfortable way of covering a lot of distance, it does have one drawback: you don’t get to spend much time on land.
So, what can you do during those 10-12 hours you’re going to be in Juneau? And what if you’re one of the few who, like me, traveled to Juneau by air and have a few days to spend? I was there for almost five days and had a blast. In this post you’re going to learn all the things to do in Juneau in September and throughout the year, which many people seem to enjoy too.
Visit Mendenhall Glacier
It’s one of the most visited glaciers in the world, and extremely convenient to reach. Grab a taxi from the dock and you’ll be looking at it in less than ten minutes. The glacier is huge, and there’s a small trail that will take you closer to it, ending at an also large waterfall. A fantastic photo opportunity.
Cost= Free (only pay taxi)
Mount Roberts Tramway
This scenic and appropriately named tramway takes you to the top of- duh- Mount Roberts. You not only get amazing views of Juneau and nearby surroundings but will also get the chance to enjoy as much trail walking as you want along the trail network at the top of the mountain. Make sure you have a cell phone with you and let people know if you decide to make it to the top on foot- people have gotten lost when hiking alone…to the point of going missing.
This said if you take the less adventurous route there’s no reason to not enjoy it safely with your family and friends. You may also want to know that there’s a great souvenir shop, a small but very fun wildlife center kids will love, and a superb restaurant where you’ll get to enjoy amazing local food and produce ( I had some delicious Russian dumplings and crab). And here’s a tip: with the purchase of your ticket you also get to return at night at no additional cost for a wonderful dinner with your partner.
Cost: Adult 33 USD
Visit the Sealaska Heritage Institute
This culture and research center is dedicated to the study and sharing of the Tingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska. Once you walk in you’ll be amazed by its hand made interior or shop original handcrafts at the store, and will be able to appreciate the work this nonprofit institute is doing through its numerous exhibitions.
You’re in Alaska! This is one of the best places in the world to see whales in their natural environment and it would be a shame to miss this opportunity. There are plenty of tours to join and you may even get to see them from your cruise if this is how you’re getting here in the first place. Tours last about two and a half hours and will get you up close to these fantastic creatures. You can learn more about what to expect when joining one of these by reading my whale watching tour in Juneau.
Look For Bears in Pack Creek
If you want to see a wild bear odds are in your favor if you spend enough time in the wild- but you simply may not have enough time. While there are easier ways of seeing a bear, a float-plane tour to Pack Creek is an unbelievable experience that will not only almost guarantee you see bears but will take you on a low flight across beautiful scenery in South East Alaska. The flight lasts about 25 minutes and you then spend about 4 hours observing bears in a beautiful location, accompanied by experienced guides who’ll teach you many things while there.
Cost: 729 USD/ person (not cheap, I know)
Eat Mouthwatering Local Food
One of the things that surprised me most about Juneau was it’s food scene. It’s fresh, tasty and uses natural ingredients that result in an explosion of color and flavor. King Crab and salmon are among the dishes I liked best (in different presentations) but there’e a lot more to try too thanks to Russian and indigenous influences. You can try your luck at several restaurants or simply join a local food tour guided by local food expert Midgi who’ll make sure you learn and have fun while eating fantastic local dishes (you read about the tour on this article I wrote about it).
Visit the Alaskan Brewery
In 1986, 28-year-olds Marcy and Geoff Larson opened the Alaskan Brewing Company, the 67th independent brewery in the country. The interesting part of the story is that banks were not willing to fund their project, and thus decided to knock on doors asking for 5000 USD investments in their project. Those who did invest are making a lot of profit today, and those who did not are…well, are probably crying.
You can take a direct shuttle from the downtown Alaskan Brewing Depot to the Brewery and Tasting Room for $20.00 round trip. The shuttle departs from the Depot at :40 past each hour, beginning at 10:40 am.
The tour does not take you to every section of the brewery, but you do get a very good explanation of the process, about different kinds of beers and – in case you’re wondering- you do get to sample plenty of it. One of the many things to do in Juneau in September!
Cost: 20 USD
Walk Around Downtown Juneau
Downtown Juneau is very small and can be easily walked. There’s some shops, a few interesting pubs and nice restaurants to stop for a meal of a coffee. Perhaps the most interesting stop is Saint Nicholas Orthodox church, one of the oldest buildings in town that was under renovation when I was there but could still visit it anyhow. It is simple, but definitely worth a visit.
Visit the Macaulay Salmon Hatchery
The Macaulay Salmon Hatchery Visitor’s Center offers an in depth visit of its our outdoor hatchery operations while learning about the fascinating salmon spawning process. Visitors and locals will get the opportunity to learn about hatchery operations and learn about the life cycle of pacific salmon during an informative commentary by an experienced local guide, watch millions of baby king and coho salmon grow from the sky bridge in the new rearing facility and much more!
Cost: 3.25 USD
While July and August are warmer and sunnier months to visit Alaska, by mid September the weather is already changing and the first snowfalls of the season happen in the mountains. It can be rainy, the sky will usually be gray, but with less tourism you’ll get more out of your money. Most visitors come here with a cruise, which in my opinion is a pity as they don’t get to experience a lot of what this great little city has to offer. In any case make sure you at least try local food and enjoy as much as you can of the natural attractions when here!
My visit to Juneau was supported by the Juneau Conventions and Visitors Bureau. Make sure you stop by to get detailed info and many tips on what interests you more!
Have you visited Juneau? Is there an attraction I missed I should have included? Are you planning on visiting and have a question? Share your thoughts in the comments section below and this post too if you think others may find it useful!