While it is the capital of Alaska, Juneau is not a big city by any means. With that said, there’s plenty to see and do in this coastal town, from historic landmarks to natural wonders and beautiful wildlife. Pack a nice winter coat, some long johns, and plenty of chap sticks—here’s where you should visit first in Juneau, Alaska.
You can’t miss this massive chunk of ice, it’s about 10 miles out from Juneau. On the way to the nearby Nugget Falls, stop by Mendenhall Glacier for some striking blues and enormous views. The backdrop of Mendenhall is filled with the 12 mile-long Juneau Icefield, which has shrunk over the years because of climate change. Take this opportunity to appreciate what makes Alaska what it is today.
The towering fjord juts out from the water, dotted with trees and filled with animals running down its length, including bears, deer, moose, and various birds. If you are patient and have a keen eye, you might even spot a bald eagle, as well as aquatic wildlife around the fjord. This place is active during all the times of the year, but whales are most active during the warmer months.
Moving up to the show-stopping Nugget Falls, tourists are treated with a 377 foot tall waterfall that cascades into Mendenhall Lake. Here, you can also catch another view of the previously-mentioned Mendenhall Glacier. Tours run around the Falls with a mild hike that takes about an hour to enjoy all the great views and wildlife spotting.
Don’t miss your opportunity to ride the aerial tram, it takes you right over the mountains and provides the best view of Juneau, by far. You can hop on board at the dock in downtown Juneau, taking you to the Mountain House, where tourists can have fun at various attractions, like the Chilkat Theater or go on a hike on any of the many trails around the surrounding mountains.
Okay, this next stop might sound a bit confusing, as a rainforest shouldn’t be located this far north of the equator, but it carries similar traits to what you would associate with a tropical one. This patch of forest is protected and mostly undisturbed by man. It contains numerous unique species to the area and a really interesting backstory as told by the tour guides.
History of Juneau is as diverse and captivating as the scenery itself. You can enter this museum for free at any time during off season months. Inside you will find information and exhibits that detail the native culture of the city of Juneau, as well as the development of the city since its founding. A short, but interesting stop for any vacationer.
This is shrine that anyone will feel welcomed, not just practicing faiths. Its architecture is magnificent and is worth the trip if you are one who likes to go off the beaten path. The environment is very peaceful and soothing. Sit down and learn the story of St. Therese of Lisieux, it is one that resonates in all of us.
Address: Tongass National Forest, 21425 Glacier Hwy, Juneau, AK 99801
This is another great quick stop in the city of Juneau. The State Capitol breaks the mold in that it is much humbler and more petite than what you would normally expect. It was built on a budget, so that’s why the building itself looks so modest when compared to other states. It fits perfectly with the personality of the city and its people.
Beer is a fantastic way to warm you up on a frigid day—and in Alaska there sure are a lot of those days. This famous brewing company christens their beer with the best water on Earth, straight from a glacier, as well as some local spruce tips to give it the unique blend of flavor. It is highly recommended to take a tour of this great place, sampling some brews along the way.
This museum highlights the major gold rush era in American history. The museum houses the same tools and equipment that were used by the workers that mined during the 1900s. It may not sound exciting on paper, but there are some mammoth pieces of equipment that have to be seen in-person to truly appreciate what miners did back in the early days of Juneau.