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12 Unforgettable Things to Do in Juneau (While on an Alaska Cruise)

Looking for some cool things to do in Juneau from your cruise ship? Here are some of the top Juneau attractions and excursions so you can have an epic stay in Alaska’s unique capital city.

Juneau is a popular port city on many Alaska Inside Passage cruises. With endless natural beauty and a bounty of unforgettable experiences, it’s easy to see why. 

Even though it’s the capital of Alaska, it is a relatively chill and laid-back city, which almost has a charming small-town feel. Still, there are many amazing things to do in Juneau, and it was one of my favorite stops on my one-week Alaska cruise aboard the Celebrity Millennium

You’ll find plenty of unique Juneau attractions and excursions, including those quintessential Alaska experiences that can’t be found anywhere else. Some of these include getting up close to a glacier, going whale watching, eating fresh seafood, meeting adorable Alaskan sled dogs – and much more.

While I only had one day in Juneau, it definitely made me want to come back in the future. There were so many cool Juneau excursions and activities, and I feel like I barely scratched the surface.

Here are all the best things to do in Juneau while on your Alaska cruise – from the best excursions, top attractions, and epic experiences. 

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About Juneau, Alaska

Juneau is the capital city of Alaska, although it is often mistaken as Anchorage (which is the largest Alaskan city by population). 

It is the largest US state capital by area, at 3255 square miles. With only 32,000 residents, that means there are only 12 residents per square mile!

Once inhabited by the native Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian tribes, Juneau eventually attracted settlers looking for gold in 1880. It then became an incorporated city in 1900 (one day after Skagway), and the capital of Alaska in 1906.

Juneau also has a unique geography, surrounded by tall mountains, protected waterways, and the Juneau Icefield. This not only creates some dramatic scenery, it also is the only US state capital that is inaccessible by car. The only way to reach Juneau is by air or sea, which makes it a popular stop on Alaska cruises.

Quick Tips for Visiting Juneau

  • Wear layers: Southeast Alaska’s weather is notoriously unpredictable, so I suggest wearing layers. Visiting in late July, I found that Juneau was the warmest out of our 3 port cities, but it got chilly as the day went on so be sure to bring a warm jacket (I love my Patagonia puffer because it’s warm, lightweight, and compact!.
  • Watch the time: You don’t want to miss your cruise ship departure, to be sure to keep an eye on the time! If you want extra peace of mind, you may also consider booking your excursions through the cruise line so they don’t leave without you (they are a bit more expensive though).
  • Book excursions early: Some of the bucket list-worthy excursions, such as helicopter tours or dog sledding, book up super quickly. In addition, the Juneau tourism board has advised that there is limited tour and commercial transportation capacity for the Mendenhall Glacier, so be sure to book those excursions early as well.
  • There’s plenty to do: If you miss out on your desired excursions, don’t worry! There are still plenty of things to do around town on your own, so you’ll still have a wonderful time in port. 

Unforgettable Things to Do in Juneau (From Your Cruise Ship)

Admire the Mendenhall Glacier

The Mendenhall Glacier is known as one of the most accessible glaciers in the world. This was one of the things I was most excited about when visiting Juneau, since this was my first time seeing a glacier and it was so cool!

Located just 13 miles from downtown Juneau, the Mendenhall Glacier is part of the vast Juneau Ice Field and is a half mile wide and 1800 feet deep. Because of its accessibility, it’s one of the top Juneau attractions and there are plenty of unique excursions to choose from.

We took a combination Mendenhall Glacier and wildlife whale watching excursion, and it was convenient to have all the details planned out for us. If all you want to do is just  see the glacier, you don’t necessarily need to book a tour and can take a shuttle bus. You can take a taxi as well, but getting back can sometimes be tricky.

However, there are some unique experiences at the glacier that are only accessible via guided tour.

If you do book a tour or shuttle, be sure to do it ASAP as Travel Juneau has advised that there is limited tour and commercial transportation capacity and fill up quickly. They suggest booking well in advance of your visit to Juneau, as day-of bookings may not be available.

Here are some of the ways you can experience the Mendenhall Glacier:

  • Visitors Center: We only stopped at the Visitors Center, but the view from there was still pretty cool! You can see all the shades of blue in the glacier, and sadly, you can see how it has recessed in recent years. We also walked around the shore of the lake a bit for even more views.
  • Nugget Falls: A short 2 mile hike from the visitors center will bring you to the base of Nugget Falls, a 370 foot waterfall neighboring the glacier. We intended to do the hike but got too distracted taking tons of photos near the visitors center and ran out of time, whoops!
  • Canoe or Kayak in Mendenhall Lake: I’m hopeless at all rowing activities so I passed on this, but I really wish I sucked it up because it allows you to get even closer to the glacier! My friends did this canoe adventure tour and got some awesome photos!
  • Glacier Ice Adventure Tour: Next time I go to Juneau, I am definitely going to book this tour. You’ll paddle your way towards the glacier and then actually hike *ON* the glacier, allowing you to see the ice field up close. What an epic experience!  

Take an Epic Helicopter Flight Over the Juneau Ice Fields

For a one-in-a-lifetime experience, consider booking a helicopter flight and guided ice walk over the Juneau Ice Fields. This was actually by #1 choice for my excursion, but it sold out so quickly!

Yes, this is one of the priciest Juneau excursions, but you’ll get the incredible experience of flying over million year old glacial icefields – truly epic. You’ll then land on the remote Hebert Glacier, which you will explore on foot.

You can even combine it with a dogsledding experience and even an additional glacier landing for a truly unforgettable day!

Enjoy a Whale Watching Cruise

Juneau is known as one of the best places for whale watching in Alaska, thanks to the nutrient rich waters that are found here. Every year, over 600 humpback whales migrate here each year after spending the winter in Hawaii. You can sometimes see orcas and other whales as well.

The whale watching season runs from April through November, which is perfectly in line with the Alaska cruise season. Therefore, whale watching is one of the most popular things to do in Juneau while on an Alaska cruise. 

We took a whale watching + Mendenhall Glacier combination tour (here is the whale watching tour on its own), and saw sooooo many whales! They definitely put on a show for us and it was so fun to see. 

While you can often spot whales right off your cruise ship, I enjoyed my whale watching tour since we were able to get so much closer to them since we were in a smaller boat.

The tour operators here are so confident that you’ll see whales that many also offer a 100% guarantee that you’ll see them. It was so nice to see so many whales, especially since I was still salty after we saw exactly 0 whales in the San Juan Islands a few months earlier.

Experience Alaskan Dog Sledding

Another experience unique to Alaska is dog sledding, and visiting a sled dog camp is one of the highlights for many. While I didn’t have a chance to do this excursion, some friends in our group got to go on it and said it was such a cool experience – and the dogs were adorable!

You’ll get to meet and pet the dogs, and learn more about them and their mushers, some of whom have raced in the famous Iditarod race. You’ll then go on a short one-mile ride on a sled with the dogs and an expert musher – and yes, you can even do it in the summer! 

This is an excursion that is perfect for those of all ages, and one of the best things to do in Juneau with kids.

For a truly memorable experience, you can also combine dog sledding with a helicopter flight to the Hebert Glacier. For an epic day, you can combine it with two glacier landings.

Feast at Tracy’s Crab Shack

If you love seafood, then you won’t want to miss eating at Tracy’s Crab Shack. I still have dreams about the crab here!

We got the Crab Shack Combo, which comes with 14 oz of crab, crab cakes, and bisque. The king crab legs here are some of the best that I’ve ever had, and were just soooo meaty and juicy. The crab cakes were delicious as well!

As Tracy’s Crab Shack is one of the most well-known restaurants in Juneau, you may encounter a long line, but trust me, it’s worth it! We were actually so excited to eat here that we literally ran here off our ship to be one of the first ones here, haha. 

Sample Juneau’s Best Eats on a Food Tour

One of the best Juneau activities for foodies is to go on a walking food tour with Juneau Food Tours

Their most popular tour is the daytime A Tour With Taste, which includes eight tastings at some of the famous eateries in Juneau. You’ll get to taste fresh seafood, tasty local treats, and sample locally crafted drinks.

If your ship doesn’t leave until late, you can also book the evening Prohibition Progressive Party tour. In this 2 hour tour, you’ll learn about the Prohibition era in Alaska and its bootleggers, all while tasting delicious food and boozy drinks.

Take in the Views from the Goldbelt Tramway

For a panoramic view of the Juneau area, hop on the Goldbelt Tramway, another one of the top Juneau attractions. From downtown Juneau, you’ll climb up 1800 feet to the top of Mount Roberts in 6 minutes.

From nearly 4000 feet high, you’ll enjoy breathtaking views of the city of Juneau, as well as the majestic mountains, rainforests, and ocean that surround it. You can even see if you can spot your cruise ship below. The view is especially gorgeous around sunset.

There are also a number of activities at the top as well. You can check out the interactive displays at the Nature Center or watch the award-winning movie about the Tlingit people that once called Southeast Alaska home. There’s a restaurant and gift shop here as well.

In addition, there are a number of hiking trails that start from here. Some of these include the Mount Roberts Trail, The Perseverance Trail, and the Granite Creek Trail.

It costs $55 ($40 for children) to go on the tram, but your ticket is valid for unlimited rides all day. If you wish, you can go up once during the daytime and again around sunset.

Drink a Cocktail With Glacial Ice at the Narrows Bar

I always love enjoying a well-made craft cocktail when I travel, so I was excited to hear about the Narrows Bar.

You’ll find a menu full of unique cocktails that showcase fine spirits and seasonal ingredients. It’s not the kind of place I expected to find in Juneau, but I was so glad I did because the cocktails were so creative and well-made. 

Our bartender was also awesome, and so helpful with answering questions and giving recommendations, even though it was busy and she was the only one there. 

Also ask to see if you can get your drink made with glacial ice! They don’t always have it (they didn’t when we were there), but you might get lucky.

Visit the Historic Red Dog Saloon

One of Juneau’s most iconic establishments, the Red Dog Saloon dates back to the city’s gold rush era and makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. 

The Western-style saloon has swinging doors that lead into a pub and restaurant with a lively atmosphere and kitschy decor. They sometimes have live music here as well.

The drink to order here is the Duck Fart, which is to Alaska what a mai tai is to Hawaii. It’s a shot made out of Kahlua, Bailey’s and whiskey and I thought they were quite tasty!

Wander Through Historic Downtown Juneau

Juneau has a charming and quaint downtown area, filled with well-preserved 19th century buildings. These house a wide array of local businesses from restaurants, bars, shops, art galleries, and museums.

Downtown Juneau is relatively compact, so you should set aside at least a little bit of time to wander through the area and see what it has to offer. 

If you’re looking to pick up unique local souvenirs, you’ll find plenty of gems in downtown Juneau. The shops here sell everything from Native American handicrafts, handcrafted jewelry, local art, and more.

Learn Something New at a Museum

Juneau has a number of museums where you can learn more about the history of the city and Alaska, as well as its gold rush past. If there’s inclement weather, visiting a museum is a fantastic indoor activity.

Here are some museums to consider checking out:

  • Alaska State Museum: Just a short walk from downtown, this is the official museum for the state of Alaska. The museum has permanent and rotating exhibits on Alaska’s native cultures, history, and art. You’ll learn more about Alaska’s history from prehistoric times through the modern era.
  • Juneau-Douglas City Museum: This museum in downtown Juneau focuses on the city’s history. You’ll find artifacts and interactive exhibits about Juneau’s mining history as well as the Tlingit people who once lived in the area.

Visit the Alaska State Capitol

Alaska’s state capitol building may not be as grand as some others, but it still has marble columns and houses a replica of the Liberty Bell, as well as numerous artifacts on display pertaining to the history of Alaska.

You can take a self-guided tour of the capitol year-round – simply pick up a brochure in the lobby and make your way through the building. There are also free guided tours available from May through September.

Things to Know Before Visiting Juneau on Your Alaska Cruise

About the Juneau cruise port

Juneau’s main cruise port is located just next to its downtown area. You can walk from your berth to downtown Juneau in as little as 5 minutes, and the furthest point in downtown is less than 30 minutes away.

However, depending on your cruise line, you may dock at a different port about a mile away, as ours did. In this case, a shuttle will bring you downtown and all the top Juneau attractions are easily accessible from there.

It can get quite busy in Juneau, especially considering the fact that its population is only about 32,000 people. However, as of 2024, only 5 ships will be allowed to dock here at a time, which should ease the crowding a bit.

Weather in Juneau

Like the rest of southeast Alaska, the weather in Juneau can be quite variable. 

Here are the average highs and lows in Juneau during the Alaska cruise season:

  • April – 48° / 35°
  • May – 56° / 42°
  • June – 62° / 48°
  • July – 63° / 51°
  • August – 63° / 50°
  • September – 57° / 45°
  • October – 49° / 39°

Generally speaking, June through August sees the warmest temperatures. These are also the most popular months to cruise through Alaska. 

My Alaska cruise was in late July, and Juneau was our warmest port. It was in the low 60s when we visited, which I found to be perfect! However, I’ve also heard that sometimes the highs reach the 80s and people end up wearing shorts and tank tops. 

May and September are considered to be the shoulder season, and still see relatively mild temperatures in the mid to upper 50s. April and October are the low season, and also see the chilliest temperatures of the cruising season.

Juneau does average around 90 inches of precipitation each year (which is not as much as in Ketchikan). Do note that the city can see up to 19 days of precipitation even in the summer, so be prepared with some waterproof layers. However, most of the rain occurs in the fall and winter months. 

Be sure to check the weather forecast before departing on your Alaska cruise, and even then, be prepared. I’ve got an Alaska cruise packing list to help you figure out what to pack and what to wear.

Getting Around in Juneau

Downtown Juneau is relatively compact and you can get from one end to another in less than 30 minutes. Therefore, you can easily get around on foot.

If you can’t or don’t feel like walking, there are taxis relatively available, as well as Uber/Lyft services.

For those Juneau excursions that are not located in the downtown area, you’ll want to book a tour either through the cruise line or third party. These tours all include transportation from the downtown area, making it easy to access from your cruise ship.

Otherwise, you can rent a vehicle, take a shuttle, or hire a taxi, or rideshare service.

More Alaska content you may enjoy:
Essential Alaska Cruise Tips for First Timers
The Ultimate Packing List for Alaska Cruises
Amazing Things to Do in Ketchikan
Celebrity Millennium: A Complete Review

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