12 Things To Do in Juneau, Alaska

Last Updated on March 4, 2024 by Emily Johnson


Juneau is a picturesque capital city located in Alaska’s majestic Inside Passage. Nestled at the base of Mount Juneau and Mount Roberts, Juneau offers breathtaking natural scenery of lush green forests, dramatic glaciers, and sparkling blue waters.

No.ActivityDescription
1Mendenhall GlacierIconic glacier viewing, with trails and kayaking options.
2Flightseeing ToursAerial tours showcasing Juneau’s landscapes, including glaciers and forests.
3Glacier Bay National Park CruiseCruise offering views of glaciers and wildlife in a UNESCO World Heritage site.
4Gold Panning at Gold CreekExperience Juneau’s mining history by panning for gold.
5Whale Watching ToursBoat trips to view migrating whales and other marine life.
6Hike Perseverance TrailTrail offering scenic views of Juneau’s natural landscape.
7Dogsled Ride on Mendenhall GlacierUnique dogsledding experience across the glacier’s surface.
8Mt. Roberts TramwayTram ride to a mountain peak for panoramic views and hiking.
9Downtown JuneauExplore shops, restaurants, and cultural sites in the heart of Juneau.
10Mendenhall Glacier Visitor CenterVisitor center with exhibits and views of the glacier.
11Food TourGuided tasting tour of local eateries and specialty shops.
12Auke Bay & Auke LakeRelaxing outdoor area with fishing, swimming, and kayaking.

Juneau makes for an unforgettable travel destination with no shortage of things to see and do. From exploring massive glaciers to whale watching, flightseeing tours to gold panning, Juneau has an adventure for every type of traveler. Read on as we share our top picks for the 12 very best things to do in Juneau, Alaska.

Explore the Majestic Mendenhall Glacier

Name and Location: Mendenhall Glacier, located 12 miles from downtown Juneau, Alaska.

History and Significance: Mendenhall Glacier is a 13-mile-long glacier named after Thomas Corwin Mendenhall, a prominent American scientist. The glacier is part of the Tongass National Forest and has been retreating since the mid-1700s, offering a unique opportunity to study the effects of climate change.

What to Expect: Visitors can enjoy stunning views of the glacier from the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center or take a short hike to the base of the glacier. The area around the glacier offers several trails of varying difficulty, allowing visitors to explore the lush rainforest and witness the power of the glacier up close.

Visitor Information: The Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center is open daily from May through September, with reduced hours in the shoulder seasons. Admission is $5 per person, with children 15 and under admitted free. The center offers exhibits, educational programs, and guided walks. Visitors should dress in layers and wear sturdy shoes for hiking on the trails.

The most iconic attraction and a top reason many visitors travel to Juneau is to view the spellbinding Mendenhall Glacier. One of Alaska’s most easily accessible glaciers, the massive Mendenhall Glacier is located just 13 miles from downtown Juneau.

Visitors can admire Mendenhall’s surreal landscapes of icy blue pools, cravasses and cliffs on easy walking trails or opt for a more adventurous kayaking or canoeing trip to paddle along its serrated face. Don’t miss the high-powered Visitor Center operated by the Tongass National Forest to enjoy panoramic views and exhibits detailing the glacier’s history and geology. Seeing the Mendenhall is easily one of the top things every first-time visitor should experience when traveling to Juneau.

Flightseeing Tours Around Juneau

Name and Location: Flightseeing Tours Around Juneau, departing from the Juneau International Airport or various seaplane bases in the area.

History and Significance: Flightseeing tours have been a popular way to experience the stunning beauty of the Juneau area since the 1920s. These tours offer a unique perspective on the region’s glaciers, mountains, and coastline, showcasing the raw power and beauty of the Alaskan wilderness.

What to Expect: Visitors can choose from a variety of flightseeing tours, ranging from short 30-minute trips to longer excursions that include landings on glaciers or remote lakes. Tours are conducted in small planes or helicopters, offering each passenger a window seat and a headset for communication with the pilot, who provides narration throughout the flight.

Visitor Information: Flightseeing tours are available year-round, weather permitting. Prices vary depending on the length and type of tour, but typically range from $150 to $500 per person. Advance reservations are recommended, especially during peak season (June through August). Visitors should dress in warm layers and wear sunglasses to protect against the bright glare off the glaciers.

One of the best ways to fully appreciate Juneau’s magnificent landscapes is seeing them from the sky. Flightseeing plane or helicopter tours offer an exciting bird’s eye perspective of mountains, ocean, fjords and glaciers that surround the remote capital city not accessible by road.

Most flight tours include an exhilarating ride over the massive Juneau Ice Field with a breathtaking flyover of the Taku Glacier, Hole-In-The-Wall Glacier and Norris Glacier. Other scenic highlights above Juneau include soaring over endless icy mountain peaks and the lush Tongass National Forest dotted with lakes before a final approach back over downtown.

With no shortage of entities offering thrilling flightseeing adventures in Juneau, be sure to compare all the options to find a perfect aerial tour matching your budget and interests. Tours generally range from 30 minutes helicopter rides to several hours in a bush plane. Seeing Juneau’s amazing scenery from the sky during a once-in-a-lifetime flightseeing tour should top everyone’s Alaska bucket list!

Cruise Through Glacier Bay National Park

Name and Location: Glacier Bay National Park, located west of Juneau, Alaska, and accessible by boat or plane.

History and Significance: Glacier Bay National Park was established in 1925 and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park is known for its massive glaciers, which have been receding rapidly over the past 200 years, offering a unique opportunity to study the effects of climate change and glacial retreat on the ecosystem.

What to Expect: Visitors can explore Glacier Bay National Park by cruise ship, kayak, or small boat. The park is home to an abundance of wildlife, including humpback whales, orcas, seals, and seabirds. Visitors can witness the calving of glaciers, where large chunks of ice break off and crash into the sea, creating a thunderous sound and massive waves.

Visitor Information: Glacier Bay National Park is open year-round, but the best time to visit is from June through August, when the weather is mild and the days are long. Visitors can access the park by cruise ship, charter boat, or flights from Juneau or Gustavus. The park has a visitor center and several camping areas, but accommodations and services are limited. Visitors should come prepared for changeable weather and bring warm, waterproof clothing.

A cruise to magnificent Glacier Bay National Park is considered one of the very best ways to spend a day exploring Juneau’s breathtaking wilderness. Located 65 miles away, lush Glacier Bay is only accessible by plane or boat. Visitors can tour the 3.3 million acre National Park, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve, on either day-trip boat cruises or multi-day small ship cruises from Juneau.

Glacier Bay boat tours cruise along Glacier Bay’s dramatic coastline to twin tidewater glaciers Margerie and Grand Pacific Glaciers. Passengers will have the best views of the giant glaciers actively calving as massive pieces break off then crash into the sea below. Tour boats search for wildlife like seals, porpoises, mountain goats, bears, eagles and whales that calls the bay’s rich marine environment home.

Multi-day small ship cruises also provide the opportunity to kayak among icebergs, hike and spend more time viewing Glacier Bay’s tidewater glaciers. If you only visit one Alaskan glacier, make it Glacier Bay National Park easily accessible as a phenomenal day or multi-day cruise from Juneau.

Go Gold Panning & Visit Gold Creek

Name and Location: Gold Panning & Gold Creek, located in downtown Juneau, Alaska.

History and Significance: Gold Creek was the site of the first major gold discovery in the Juneau area in 1880. The discovery sparked a gold rush that drew thousands of prospectors to the area and led to the founding of Juneau. Today, visitors can try their hand at gold panning in the creek and learn about the area’s mining history.

What to Expect: Visitors can explore Gold Creek and the surrounding area on foot, taking in the beautiful scenery and learning about the area’s gold rush history. Several local tour companies offer gold panning experiences, where visitors can learn how to pan for gold and keep any flakes or nuggets they find. The creek is also a popular spot for hiking and picnicking.

Visitor Information: Gold panning tours are available from May through September and typically last 1-2 hours. Prices vary but usually range from $25 to $50 per person, which includes equipment and instruction. Visitors should wear comfortable shoes and clothing that they don’t mind getting wet or muddy. The creek is easily accessible from downtown Juneau and is a short walk from the cruise ship docks.

One of the most unique things to do to experience Juneau’s colorful mining history first-hand is trying your luck at gold panning! Visitors can pan for real gold flakes all along the streams of historic Gold Creek located just 10-minutes from downtown Juneau.

The historic Gold Creek area operated commercially for decades and today is one of the most popular places to try hobby gold panning. Beginners can join a guided panning tour and learn proper technique from the staff at Gold Creek or rent all the panning gear for DIY gold seeking.

Visitors are often surprised by how much glittering gold dust can be filtered from the creek even today. Gold panning at scenic Gold Creek allows you to channel your inner prospector and is a fun, family-friendly activity highlighting Juneau’s role in the Klondike Gold Rush.

Whale Watching Tours

Name and Location: Whale Watching Tours, departing from various locations in Juneau, Alaska, including Auke Bay and the downtown waterfront.

History and Significance: The waters around Juneau are home to an abundance of marine life, including humpback whales, orcas, and other species. Whale watching tours have been a popular activity in the area for decades, offering visitors a chance to see these majestic creatures up close in their natural habitat.

What to Expect: Visitors can choose from a variety of whale watching tours, ranging from short 2-hour trips to longer full-day excursions. Tours are conducted on small to medium-sized boats, with indoor and outdoor seating and restroom facilities. Knowledgeable guides provide commentary on the whales and other marine life, as well as the history and ecology of the area.

Visitor Information: Whale watching tours are available from May through September, with peak season in July and August. Prices vary depending on the length and type of tour, but typically range from $100 to $200 per person. Advance reservations are recommended, especially during peak season. Visitors should dress in warm layers, as the weather can be cool and windy on the water. Binoculars and cameras are recommended for the best viewing experience.

One of the best ways to spend a day while visiting the Inside Passage is to spot whales and marine life. Due to the rich feeding grounds created by mixing warm and cold currents, numerous species of whales migrate through waters around Juneau making it one of Alaska’s premier whale-watching locations.

Orcas, humpbacks and grey whales are commonly seen breaching and surfacing near the waters outside Juneau from early Spring into Fall. Tour companies offer whale-watching boat trips ranging from half-day to all-day adventures with knowledgeable guides onboard ready to share stories and facts when whales are sighted.

Some tours offer whale-watching options combined with other activities like flightseeing or glacier hiking for travelers who want a multi-experience Alaskan day trip. Watching whales emerge from the sparkling ocean depths is a once-in-a-lifetime thrill no visit to Juneau is complete without.

Hike Perseverance Trail for Scenic Views

Name and Location: Perseverance Trail, located in the Silverbow Basin area of Juneau, Alaska.

History and Significance: The Perseverance Trail follows the route of the former Perseverance Mine, which operated in the early 1900s. The trail offers a glimpse into the area’s mining history, as well as stunning views of the surrounding mountains, waterfalls, and glaciers.

What to Expect: The Perseverance Trail is a moderately strenuous hike that covers approximately 6 miles round-trip, with an elevation gain of 1,500 feet. The trail winds through dense rainforest and along the banks of Gold Creek, offering views of waterfalls and the remnants of the old mine. At the end of the trail, hikers are rewarded with panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and glaciers.

Visitor Information: The Perseverance Trail is open year-round but is most accessible from May through September. The trailhead is located at the end of Basin Road, approximately 3 miles from downtown Juneau. Parking is available at the trailhead. Hikers should allow 4-6 hours for the round-trip hike and bring plenty of water, snacks, and rain gear. The trail can be muddy and slippery, so sturdy hiking shoes are recommended.

A favourite free activity to enjoy Juneau’s incredible mountain and ocean scenery is taking a hike on the Perseverance Trail. Easily accessible from downtown, the popular trail leads hikers up into the hills above Juneau for a moderate 3-mile roundtrip hike filled with gorgeous vistas, leading to the bull wheel of an old abandoned tram station.

Along the well-maintained Perseverance Trail, trekkers will pass through a serene rainforest environment filled with lush vegetation and see cascading waterfalls in the distance before opening up to a rocky ridgeline revealing sweeping views of mountains, Gastineau Channel and downtown Juneau below.

Whether visitors hike a portion or the entire easy trail, Perseverance Trail serves up some of the best free panoramic scenery found anywhere in Alaska’s capital.

Take a Dogsled Ride on Mendenhall Glacier

Name and Location: Dog Sled Rides on Mendenhall Glacier, located on the Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau, Alaska.

History and Significance: Dog sledding has been a part of Alaskan culture for centuries, serving as a mode of transportation and a way of life for many Alaskans. Today, dog sledding is a popular tourist activity, offering visitors a chance to experience this unique aspect of Alaskan culture and history.

What to Expect: Visitors can take a helicopter ride to a dog sledding camp on the Mendenhall Glacier, where they will meet the sled dogs and learn about the history and techniques of dog sledding. They will then have the opportunity to take a ride on a dog sled, gliding across the snow-covered glacier while taking in the stunning views of the surrounding mountains.

Visitor Information: Dog sledding tours are available from May through August, weather permitting. Tours typically last 2-3 hours, including transportation to and from the glacier. Prices vary but usually range from $500 to $600 per person. Advance reservations are required. Visitors should dress in warm layers, as the weather on the glacier can be cold and windy. Cameras are recommended to capture the stunning views and unique experience.

The most unique way to explore Alaska’s extraordinary landscapes is during an adventure-packed dogsled ride. For outdoor lovers visiting Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau, dogsledding across the ancient blue ice allows you to relive the historic mode of Alaskan travel while getting up-close views of the frozen marvel not possible any other way.

Guided summer dog sledging tours from operators like Alaska Icefield Expeditions take small groups by helicopter to secluded areas of Mendenhall Glacier’s backcountry not reachable otherwise. Friendly staff outfit you with boots, parkas and sledge driving 101 before taking command of your sledge pulled by eager teams of huskies for an unforgettable ride across the glacial landscape.

In the end, taking photos with the adorable dogs who pull these sleds with passion makes for one-of-a-kind Alaskan memories.

Take a Mt. Roberts Tramway up to the Peak

Name and Location: Mt. Roberts Tramway, located at 490 S Franklin St, Juneau, AK 99801.

History and Significance: The Mt. Roberts Tramway opened in 1996 and is one of Juneau’s most popular tourist attractions. The tramway takes visitors from the cruise ship dock in downtown Juneau to the top of Mt. Roberts, offering stunning views of the city, the Gastineau Channel, and the surrounding mountains.

What to Expect: The Mt. Roberts Tramway is a scenic, 6-minute ride that ascends 1,800 feet up the side of Mt. Roberts. At the top, visitors can explore the alpine hiking trails, visit the Nature Center to learn about the local flora and fauna, watch an 18-minute film about the Tlingit culture, and enjoy a meal or drink at the Timberline Bar & Grill while taking in the panoramic views.

Visitor Information: The Mt. Roberts Tramway is open daily from early May through late September, with reduced hours in the shoulder seasons. The first tram departs at 8:00 am, and the last tram down is at 9:00 pm. Prices are $35 for adults and $18 for children (ages 3-12), with discounts available for seniors and military. Tickets can be purchased online or at the tramway station. Visitors should bring warm layers, as the temperature at the top can be significantly cooler than at sea level.

For effortless access to the best panoramic views found anywhere in Juneau, take a 5-minute ride up the side of a mountain on the Mt. Roberts Tramway. The tram transports visitors 1,800 feet to the top of Mt. Roberts where a nature centre and hiking trails wait offering boundless vistas of mountains, glaciers and downtown Juneau in the Gastineau Channel.

At the top, guests can enjoy lunch or a drink at the Timberline Bar & Grill while soaking up a bird’s eye view of Juneau and exploring hiking trails like the short Mount Roberts Trail. Or visit the Alaska Native culture centre to learn about Tlingit people or see the film “Seeing Daylight” at the theatre highlighting Glacier Bay.

Whether 19 minutes or a full day, Mt. Roberts Tramway provides the most scenic perspective of Alaska’s remote capital city not to be missed from the convenience of a world-class aerial tram.

Wander Through Downtown

Name and Location: Downtown Juneau, located in the heart of Juneau, Alaska.

History and Significance: Juneau was founded in 1880 following the discovery of gold in the area. The city grew rapidly during the gold rush era and became the capital of Alaska in 1906. Today, downtown Juneau is a bustling hub of activity, with a mix of historic buildings, modern shops and restaurants, and cultural attractions.

What to Expect: Visitors can explore the streets of downtown Juneau on foot, taking in the unique mix of historic and modern architecture. The area is home to several museums, including the Alaska State Museum and the Juneau-Douglas City Museum, as well as art galleries, souvenir shops, and local boutiques. The waterfront area offers stunning views of the Gastineau Channel and the surrounding mountains, as well as opportunities for whale watching and other water activities.

Visitor Information: Downtown Juneau is easily accessible from the cruise ship docks and is a short walk from most hotels in the area. Many of the attractions and shops are located along Franklin Street and Front Street. Visitors should be prepared for rain, as Juneau receives an average of 220 days of rain per year. A waterproof jacket and comfortable walking shoes are recommended. Parking can be limited, so walking or taking public transportation is recommended.


Juneau’s lively downtown district next to the cruise ship port overflows with shops, restaurants and attractions perfect for wandering when visiting Alaska’s capital city.

The area around South Franklin Street and Seward Street near the Mt. Roberts Tramway base is Juneau’s central business hub filled with stores selling everything imaginable from Alaskan handicrafts, and native art and jewelry to smoked salmon, cold weather gear and souvenirs. Downtown Juneau also offers plenty of coffee shops, cafes and seafood eateries to refuel during a long day of exploring.

First-time visitors should stop into the Alaska State Museum downtown exhibiting the area’s rich indigenous culture, art and historic gold rush era artifacts. Wandering Juneau’s compact downtown area delivers the perfect taste of Alaskan city charm.

Visit Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center

Name and Location: Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, located at 6000 Glacier Spur Rd, Juneau, AK 99801.

History and Significance: The Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center was built in 1962 and is managed by the U.S. Forest Service. The center offers exhibits and educational programs about the glacier and the surrounding ecosystem, as well as stunning views of the glacier and the Mendenhall Valley.

What to Expect: Visitors to the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center can explore the exhibits inside the center, which include interactive displays about the history and geology of the glacier, as well as the plants and animals that inhabit the area. The center also offers several short hiking trails that lead to different viewpoints of the glacier and the surrounding landscape. Rangers are available to answer questions and provide information about the area.

Visitor Information: The Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center is open daily from May through September, with reduced hours in the shoulder seasons. Admission is $5 per person, with children 15 and under admitted free. The center is located approximately 12 miles from downtown Juneau and is accessible by car, taxi, or shuttle bus. Visitors should allow at least an hour to explore the center and the surrounding trails. The weather can be cool and rainy, so visitors should dress in layers and bring a waterproof jacket.


Mendenhall Glacier’s impressive Visitor Center is operated by the U.S. Forest Service and no trip to see the famous frozen phenomenon is complete without stopping in. The popular attraction features jaw-dropping up-close glacier views, interpretive exhibits explaining glacial geology and history, theater presentations, hiking access and more all under one roof.

Expert naturalists are onsite daily to answer questions and lead guided walks. Interactive displays illustrate Mendenhall’s retreat over time since the Little Ice Age and impacts climate change has on the sensitive ecosystems of Southeast Alaska.

Guests can scope out hiking trails, learn about the salmon run and even touch an iceberg. Whether 5 minutes or a few hours, the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center is the premier place to immerse yourself in everything related to Juneau’s star attraction.

Take a Food Tour Around Town

Name and Location: Juneau Food Tours, various locations throughout downtown Juneau, Alaska.

History and Significance: Juneau has a thriving food scene, with a mix of local seafood, Alaska Native cuisine, and international flavors. Juneau Food Tours was founded in 2014 to showcase the best of Juneau’s culinary offerings and to provide visitors with a unique and delicious way to explore the city.

What to Expect: Juneau Food Tours offers several different tours, each focusing on a different aspect of Juneau’s food scene. The “Taste of Juneau” tour includes stops at several local restaurants and food producers, with samples of seafood, Alaska Native cuisine, and local craft beer and spirits. The “Bites and Booze” tour focuses on Juneau’s craft beverage scene, with stops at local breweries, distilleries, and bars. All tours include commentary from knowledgeable guides about the history and culture of Juneau and its food scene.

Visitor Information: Juneau Food Tours are available year-round, with most tours running from May through September. Tours typically last 2-3 hours and cover a distance of about 1.5 miles on foot. Prices vary depending on the tour but typically range from $75 to $125 per person, which includes all food and drink samples. Advance reservations are required. Visitors should wear comfortable walking shoes and dress in layers, as tours take place rain or shine.


A delicious way to get better acquainted with Juneau is by booking a guided food walking tour for tasty samplings at some of the city’s best local eateries and speciality shops. Knowledgeable guides lead small groups on 2 to 3-hour tasting tours to a variety of restaurants serving up signature Alaskan dishes like freshly caught salmon, reindeer sausage, king crab and regional craft brews paired with fascinating local history.

Juneau Food Tours are a fun way to meet fellow travellers while supporting family-owned businesses and discovering local gastronomic favourites most visitors would otherwise miss.

Stops along the movable feast may include classic diners, cafes, frontier-style saloons and ethnic restaurants not found on the typical tourist trail. If you think you already know Alaskan cuisine, think again and let your tastebuds take you on an edible adventure showcasing Juneau’s delicious side.

Relax at Auke Bay & Auke Lake

Name and Location: Auke Bay & Auke Lake, located approximately 12 miles northwest of downtown Juneau, Alaska.

History and Significance: Auke Bay and Auke Lake are located in the Mendenhall Valley, which was originally inhabited by the Auke Tribe of the Tlingit people. The area was later settled by gold miners and fishermen and has since become a popular recreational area for locals and visitors alike.

What to Expect: Visitors to Auke Bay and Auke Lake can enjoy a variety of outdoor activities, including fishing, boating, kayaking, and hiking. The bay is home to several marinas and boat launches, as well as a number of charter companies offering fishing and wildlife viewing tours.

Although cruising glaciers and flying over peaks makes for unforgettable adventures, sometimes nothing refreshes the spirit more than leisurely downtime enjoying Juneau’s beautiful beaches and outdoors. One beloved local area offering laid-back scenic relaxation perfect for families is Auke Bay and Auke Lake Recreation Area about 10 miles north of downtown.

Visitors will discover pretty Auke Bay Beach renowned for salmon fishing, sailing and incredible views across Lynn Canal to Admiralty Island.

Nearby, Auke Lake is a stunning freshwater lake surrounded by forests and trails equipped with a swimming beach, kayak and paddleboard rentals, fishing docks and picnic areas to pass an afternoon kicking back “Alaska-style”. When you need a break from Juneau’s go-go sightseeing pace, Auke Bay and Lake offers visitors and locals alike room to unwind against an equally beautiful backdrop.

Conclusion


As one of Alaska’s most breathtaking capital cities, Juneau serves up no shortage of incredible scenic landscapes from icy glaciers to soaring mountain peaks surrounded by lush rainforest terrain and wildlife rich waters that inspire awe and adventure.

From heart-pounding helicopter glacier tours and whale watching to leisurely wildlife hikes or panning for real gold, Juneau packs plenty of unique experiences into a remote location not accessible by road.

Its rich indigenous traditions combined with gold rush roots make for an unforgettable taste of Alaskan culture. If getting off-the-beaten-path to witness Mother Nature’s majesty is what entices you to visit Alaska, then the capital city of Juneau should top your travel bucket list today!

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