Alaska’s scenic state capital Juneau is an essential calling point on any Alaskan cruise. Inaccessible by road, the city covers a vast expanse, comprising of huge areas of wilderness, massive glaciers and a charming city centre brimming with captivating local culture.
6 hours in… Juneau
As with the majority of Alaskan cruise destinations, Juneau’s main attraction is its astonishing natural beauty. One of the region’s most iconic natural attractions is the incredible Mendenhall Glacier, a colossal frozen landmark stretching around 1.5 miles in width. This amazing glacier is situated about 13 mile north of central Juneau and there are numerous ways to explore it. Whether you set off on foot along the Mendenhall Glacier’s West Glacier Trail, or you organise a breathtaking helicopter ride over the glacier, offering a spectacular bird’s eye view of the region’s icy terrain.
Another fantastic way to appreciate Juneau’s majestic landscapes is to embark on a journey up the Mount Robert Tramway. Running regularly from the Juneau’s downtown dock, this excellent tram service can take you to the peak of Mount Roberts, where you’ll not only enjoy unforgettable views across the region, but also the chance to learn more about Alaska’s wildlife and ecology at the Mount Roberts Nature Center, which is located at the summit.
Wildlife tours from Juneau are also a fabulous option for anyone with an interest in the Alaska diverse and beautiful fauna. Whale-watching is a particularly popular excursion, as the ocean waters just of the shores of Juneau are a hotspot for all types of marine activity, including orca, minke and humpback whales.
While Juneau’s natural beauty is by far the region’s most popular draw, the city also boasts a rich heritage and historic culture, which can be uncovered at an array of local museums, exhibitions and visitors centre.
The Alaska State Museum is only about 10 minutes walk from the main cruise terminal, and offers a fascinating insight into the state’s long history, beautiful wildlife, art and culture. The Juneau Arts and Humanities Council also features a wealth of wonderful artworks and sculptures from Alaskan artists, showcasing the talents of the local community. A tour of the Alaskan Brewing Company Brewery also offers a look at one of the region’s most prominent industry, as well as the chance to sample some great free beer!
You could even delve further in Juneau’s intriguing history by visiting one of many enchanting local landmarks. Some of the city’s most notable historic buildings include the Saint Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, the Shrine of St Therese and the quaint Chapel by the Lake, from which you can enjoy beautiful views across Mendenhall Glacier and Auke Lake.
Can’t keep away?
Although Juneau is quite sparsely populated, around the centre of town you’ll discover a wealth of independent shops and dining venues from which to purchase authentic local souvenirs and sample of range of traditional Alaskan and delicious international dishes. From wonderful carvings and works of art, to clothing, jewellery and tasty snacks, you’ll find plenty of fantastic options when it comes to stroll through Juneau’s charming downtown area.
Don’t even bother!
Juneau’s amazing natural landscape is truly spectacular and rugged, and as such, it is very important to take the necessary precautions before heading out to explore. Hiking through the city’s dramatic surroundings on your own is not advisable, so if you are planning on taking an expedition into the Alaska wilderness, make sure to stay with an experienced rambler or expert tour guide.
I love that you mentioned how wildlife tours are a great option when you’re visiting Alaska. I’m planning a surprise trip for my wife and me. But I’m not sure about where to go or where to do it, we both love nature, and we haven’t been to that area before. That’s why, after reading your article, I’m completely convinced about booking a whale watching tour while visiting Alaska. I’m sure my wife will love it! Thanks for the tips about discovering the ocean’s wildlife when going on vacation.