Alaska’s capital city is an odd one. The second-largest city in the U.S. by area, Juneau only has 30,000 residents, making it one-tenth the size of Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city. In a state known for bitterly cold winters, Juneau is a temperate rainforest—and only accessible by water or air. According to Travel Juneau’s website, “You can’t drive all the way to Juneau without taking the ferry, but you can get much of the way along the 1,500-mile Alaska-Canadian Highway (ALCAN).”
With incredible hikes, dazzling natural wonders, dynamic dishes, and world-class craft beer, there’s no shortage of ways to explore and enjoy the capital of The Last Frontier. So whether you’re just in port for a day or planning to spend a season in the city, here are some of the best places to eat, drink, and sightsee in Juneau.
1. Mendenhall Glacier
Arguably the most popular natural attraction in Juneau, the Mendenhall Glacier packs a wallop. Flowing 13 miles from its source, its face is about a half-mile wide. You can see the glacier from the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center and, even from a distance, it’s impressive. Or escape the crowds and hire a guide to get onto the glacier (going alone is possible, but not recommended). Above & Beyond AK offers an 8-mile round-trip hiking excursion, as well as a canoe trip across the lake. For both, guests don a pair of crampons and get to explore the impossibly blue crevasses.
2. Mount Roberts Tramway
Located in the middle of downtown, the Mount Roberts Tramway can race patrons from the cruise terminal to the top of the ridgeline (1,750 feet) in minutes. The top boasts panoramic views of the skinny city wedged between the mountain range and the water, as well as a small raptor center, multiple gift shops, and a restaurant. Or, you can hike the (strenuous) 4-mile Mount Roberts trail to the top, and if you buy something from the restaurant, they’ll let you take the tram down for free.
3. Juneau Food Tour
Seafood, bar snacks, and beer—oh my! For the last 6 years, local Midgi Moore has been leading visitors around her city, stopping for bites and beverages at local favorites, such as Tracy’s King Crab Shack, V’s Cellar Door, Harbor Spice & Tea, and McGivney’s Downtown. Each tour includes eight stops.
4. Alaska State Museum
Only 5 years old, the Alaska State Museum feels fresh (the previous iteration was demolished and rebuilt for $140 million). Well-curated displays show the history and artifacts of Alaska through the eyes of those who’ve inhabited and settled in the 49th state, including Indigenous communities, Russian immigrants, and people traveling north from the lower 48.
5. Alaska State Capitol
One of the only capitol buildings in the country that wasn’t built to be a capitol—the building pre-dates statehood—may look more like a high school than the place where Alaska’s laws are crafted. The Alaska State Capitol building has no dome or any other tell-tale capitol markings, but visitors wishing to take a self-guided tour can pick up an informational pamphlet in the lobby.
6. Alaskan Brewing Co.
If you’ve ever had a beer brewed in Alaska, chances are good it was from Alaskan Brewing Co. In operation since 1986, the craft brewery distributes to most of the states west of the Mississippi. Take a brewery tour or just hang out in the taproom and try some of the award-winning suds. If you’re still thirsty, other Juneau breweries include Devil’s Club Brewing Company, Forbidden Peak Brewery, and Barnaby Brewing Company.
7. Sightseeing cruises
Alaskan Dream Cruises has some incredible multi-day sailings, but if you’re pressed for time, do yourself a favor and at the very least go on a whale-watching day trip with its sister company, Allen Marine Tours. The 4-hour tours often encounter humpback whales, orcas, sea lions, porpoises, seals, eagles, and more.
8. The Rookery Cafe
With few daylight hours in the winter (and almost constant daylight in the summer) there’s a good chance your sleep schedule will be off while visiting Alaska. The Rookery Cafe, located in downtown Juneau, has all the coffee you might need to help get you going, in addition to delicious breakfast and lunch options (the Cereal Killer Toast is a must).
9. Tracy’s King Crab Shack
If king crab is on your Alaska bucket list, Tracy’s King Crab Shack is the place to get it. Despite being located downtown, just steps from the cruise ship terminal, it’s fairly priced—in fact, it boasts some of the best prices in the state and nation, so grab a bib and get cracking. Other notable dishes include crab bisque, mini crab cakes, and buttery rolls.
10. Red Dog Saloon
The sign above the door of the Red Dog Saloon reads “Booze, Antiques, Sawdust Floor, Community Singing,” and it pretty much explains what you can expect inside. In its current Franklin Street location since 1988, the famous saloon has moved several times over the years. According to its website, “During territorial days, during his tenure of over twenty years as owner, Gordie Kanouse would meet tour boats with his mule that wore a sign saying ‘follow my ass to the Red Dog Saloon.’” Is it a hokey tourist trap? Yes. But that’s part of its appeal.