fun things to do in Juneau, Alaska

Alaska’s state capital really packs a punch when it comes to wilderness adventure and cultural immersion. Juneau is famed for its wildlife encounters and glacial landscapes, where hidden gold twinkles in the sun and hiking trails meander through dramatic valleys. Back in town you can ride on historic tramways, visit art galleries, and eat all the salmon you can handle.

There are enough fun things to do in Juneau to keep you busy for weeks, but if you only have a few days, here are the top picks.

1 – Go whale watching

whale watching in Juneau

Seeing whales in Juneau is no fluke. Humpbacks are frequently spotted in these wildlife-rich coastal waters, so you have a good chance of enjoying their antics.

Relax on deck as your boat cruises into the Pacific Ocean on a hunt for these majestic marine giants. The scenery is stunning, but don’t get too distracted because Mother Nature always has a surprise up her sleeve. Maybe in the form of a pod of orcas, or some playful sea lions!

2 – Tour the Glacier Gardens

Glacier Gardens, Juneau

Glacier Gardens are about as far removed from their chilly namesake as they could get! Hidden away in the green Tongass National Forest, this botanic garden is more jungle than ice.

Go on a rainforest adventure as you delve deep into the hanging gardens on a guided tour. The upside-down flower towers will make you think you’re in the tropics. Take a moment to drink in the spectacular views of Mendenhall Valley while you’re there.

3 – Venture down Tracy Arm Fjord

Tracy Arm Fjord, Alaska
Sawyer Glacier

Tracy Arm Fjord is remote and tricky to access, which just makes the adventure even more worthwhile. Jump in a floatplane or climb on board a boat and head off to explore this deep turquoise inlet.

Towering cliffs loom either side of the water, which is fed by plunging waterfalls and the Sawyer Glacier. You’ll spot icebergs bobbing on the waves, and wildlife foraging on the shores. Keep your eyes peeled for porpoises.

4 – Walk on the Mendenhall Glacier

ice walking in Mendenhall Glacier

The Mendenhall Glacier is one of the coolest places to visit near Juneau. Stroll along walkways to viewing points where you can gaze down over the sapphire ice. Your favorite vacation snaps are guaranteed to come from here!

For the ultimate thrill, strap on some crampons and venture out on a guided walking tour of the vast icefields. You’ll be skirting deep crevasses and exploring secret ice caves so keep your wits about you.

5 – Kayak along Mendenhall Lake

kayaking along Mendenhall Lake

One of the best ways to experience Mendenhall Lake is by kayak or canoe. Dip your paddle into the sparkling blue water and float in the shadow of the mighty glacier. You’ll be humbled by nature as those sheer walls of ice keep watch over your progress.

There are wetlands to explore too, where bald eagles rule the skies. You might be joined by humpback whales or orcas as you venture deeper into the lake.

6 – Spot bears at Pack Creek

bears at Pack Creek, Alaska

One of the top things to do in Juneau is seeing brown bears at the Pack Creek viewing area on nearby Admiralty Island. It’s a quintessential Alaskan experience, and as a bonus, you get to ride in a floatplane!

Spend a few magical moments observing the antics of these wild bears as they forage for clams and tussle with their siblings. If you’re there mid-summer you may even see them fishing for salmon.

7 – Ride the Goldbelt Mount Roberts Tramway

Goldbelt Mount Roberts Tramway, Juneau

Climb aboard the Goldbelt Tram and be whisked off up the mountainside to explore Mount Roberts in style. As you ascend to 1800 feet watch the rainforests and alpine meadows fall away beneath your feet.

The views over Juneau and the Chilkat Mountains will make you weak at the knees so keep your camera handy. At the top go in search of marmots and deer who often show their faces if you’re patient.

8 – Hike the Mount Roberts Trail

Mount Roberts Trail, Alaska

Juneau is home to some of Alaska’s best hikes, some of which can be accessed directly from town. You’ll need to put in a bit of effort on the Mount Roberts Trail, but the superb panoramas of the Gastineau Channel and Douglas make it worth every puff.

Listen for rustles in the meadows that give away the presence of grouse. Black bears are sometimes spotted too so keep an eye out as you walk!

9 – Feel the spray on your face at Nugget Falls

Nugget Falls, Alaska

Plummeting 377 feet from the Nugget Glacier into the deep waters of Mendenhall Lake, this powerful cascade is a sight to behold. Experience the full force of nature as you stand beneath Nugget Falls on the gravel flats – the roar of the water is pretty powerful!

The viewing point is accessed by an easy mile-long trail from the visitors center which even the smallest of adventurers can handle.

Directions in Google Maps

10 – Take to the skies on a helicopter tour

helicopter tour in Juneau

Fly over the glinting icefields and discover hidden glaciers on a thrilling helicopter tour from Juneau. Seeing the Alaskan landscape unfold from up above is super special – not many visitors get a bird’s-eye-view of the wilderness.

You’ll see icefalls and unusual rock formations from your lofty vantage point, as well as panoramas of distant peaks. The pilot will point out key landmarks and give an insight into Alaska’s natural history.

11 – Visit the Alaska State Museum

Alaska State Museum, Juneau

Discover culture, history, and art from all corners of Alaska at this must-see Juneau attraction. The Alaska State Museum has enough permanent and changing exhibits to keep you enthralled for hours.

Check out sacred textiles that tell the story of native weaving and admire intricate ceremonial objects and archaeological finds. Don’t miss the watercolor painting from Captain Cook’s Alaska explorations in 1778. There are shipwreck artifacts and 19th-century gold rush exhibits too.

12 – Discover the Wickersham State Historic Site

Wickersham State Historic Site, Juneau

James Wickersham was a legendary judge who brought law and order to the gold-rush settlements of Fairbanks, Eagle City, and Nome. He was also responsible for the building of the railroad.

For a glimpse into life during Alaska’s frontier days, you can visit his Victorian house, which was built in 1898. As you stroll around the Wickersham State Historic Site, you’ll discover period furnishings, historical photos, and documents signed by Teddy Roosevelt.

13 – Explore the Macaulay Salmon Hatchery

Macaulay Salmon Hatchery, Juneau

Looking for unusual things to do in Juneau? Then head to the Macaulay Salmon Hatchery and clap eyes on these Alaskan icons. Over 130 million fish are raised here annually, and visiting is a fun way to learn about the process.

If you come between June and October, you’ll see adult salmon battle up the fish ladder into the holding pools. Take a walk on the sky bridge to spot baby salmon in action.

Directions with Google Maps.

14 – Embrace peace at the Shrine of St. Therese

Shrine of St. Therese, Juneau

Get in touch with your soul as you pay your respects at the Shrine of St. Therese. This spiritual sanctuary is a bit of an insider secret and a deeply beautiful place that can’t fail to impress.

Built on an island accessed by a causeway, the shrine draws visitors seeking solace in nature. You can stay overnight in a cabin and spend the day picnicking and meeting the resident sea lions.

15 – Hike the Perseverance National Recreation Trail

Perseverance National Recreation Trail, Juneau

Reveal your true grit as you take on the Perseverance National Recreation Trail. Starting in Downtown Juneau, this beautiful path leads you straight into the wilderness.

Walk down into a dramatic canyon before ascending above Gold Creek Valley on this former rail line. See if you can spot the old mine shafts along the way.

Take a short detour to the plummeting Ebner Falls, and savor the sweet taste of salmonberries in summer.

16 – Pop into the Juneau-Douglas City Museum

Juneau-Douglas City Museum, Juneau

The Juneau-Douglas City Museum has a history all of its own – it lies on the site where Alaska became an official state in 1959!

If you’re into local lore and cultural heritage, you’ll love checking out the exhibits here. Learn about the lives of the early pioneers and delve into the city’s fishing industry – don’t miss the ancient native fish trap. There is a canoe-building display and an interactive mining gallery too.

17 – Feast at the Gold Creek Salmon Bake

Gold Creek Salmon Bake, Juneau

Hidden in a nearby rainforest, the Gold Creek Salmon Bake is the place to go if you want to sample this famous Alaskan fish. Sink your teeth into delicious flakes of salmon that have been roasted to perfection over an alder wood fire. There’s wild rice, cornbread, and local ale too.

Finish up with blueberry cake and marshmallow toasting around the campfire while being serenaded by local folk musicians.

18 – See the statue of Patsy Ann

statue of Patsy Ann, Juneau

Patsy Ann was Juneau’s most famous canine inhabitant. This enterprising and lovable bull terrier came to the city in 1929 and spent her days greeting steamships as they came into dock. Apparently, she never missed a boat!

Known to trot down theater aisles during performances and pop into shops for tasty treats, Patsy Ann really left her mark on Juneau. A waterside statue now honors her memory, ensuring her presence is everlasting.

19 – Roam through Juneau Rainforest Garden

Juneau Rainforest Garden

Alaska isn’t all snow and ice – it has tropical pockets too! The Juneau Rainforest Garden is a haven for native vegetation and a center for studying the cultural and medicinal uses of plants.

Enjoy a leisurely meander along the forest paths, observing swathes of wildflowers and oddities like skunk cabbages. There are photo opportunities around every corner, as well as a few botanical surprises. Sip tea in the floral pavilion after your explorations.

20 – Get hands-on during a dog sledding tour

dog sledding tour in Juneau

Become a musher for the day as you go dog sledding through the Alaskan wilderness. It’s one of the most exhilarating things to do in Juneau and a must for dog lovers.

Inhale the pine-scented air as you slice through snowy forests under the watchful eye of majestic peaks. Have a go at commanding your trusty husky team as they negotiate remote trails. Hold on tight, these guys know how to run!

21 – Have a wild time in Tongass National Forest

Tongass National Forest, Alaska

Head deep into Alaska’s biggest tract of forest in search of wildlife and adventure. Surrounding the Inside Passage, Tongass National Forest is where you’ll find Alaska at its wildest.

Pull on your boots and hit the trails, go dog sledding on a glacier, or fish for salmon in remote streams. Want to see bears in their natural habitat? Then head to the viewing platforms and put that camera to work.

22 – Tour the State Capitol Building

State Capitol Building, Juneau

Take a tour of Alaska’s State Capitol Building and discover what goes on behind the scenes. Built in 1931 it housed the federal government until statehood a couple of decades later.

Admire the entrance columns that were crafted from Ketchikan marble and see where the senators debate. Of particular note are the murals dedicated to the ocean. Living off the sea is still a huge part of life here, and several politicians are fishermen.

Directions with Google Maps.

23 – Hunt for gold on the Treadwell Mine Historic Trail

Treadwell Mine Historic Trail, Juneau, Alaska

Wannabe gold prospectors will love exploring industry remnants along the Treadwell Mine Historic Trail. A whopping $70 million in gold was found here, so keep your eyes peeled for glints of the shiny stuff.

You can still see building ruins, old pulleys, and pumping plants as you wander around the site. Don’t miss the Glory Hole, which was the mine entrance and today has a waterfall tumbling into the shaft.

24 – See native art at the Sealaska Heritage Institute

Sealaska Heritage Institute, Juneau

Each piece of art at the Sealaska Heritage Institute tells a story. As you step across the threshold of the Walter Soboleff Building, you’ll be transported into a world of indigenous culture and creation.

The Alaskan tribes of Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian are all represented here. Immerse yourself in tales of Wasgo the whale hunter, and the magical raven who features in many First Nations creation stories. Prepare to be spellbound!

25 – Descend into the AJ Mine

AJ Mine, Juneau

Experience Juneau’s industrial heritage on a thrilling tour of the AJ Mine and Gastineau Mill. Put on your hard hat and venture deep underground on a quest into the past.

As you follow your guide along the dark tunnels, try and imagine what mining life was like for those who chipped away at the hard rock. Back up in the sunlight, head over to the mill and have a go at panning for gold.

26 – See the sights on a segway tour

segway tour in Juneau

Forget about walking tours and bus excursions, seeing the highlights of Juneau by Segway is the only way to roll! Whether you’re wheeling around Downtown or breezing along rainforest trails, this is the way to travel.

You’ll be learning about the Gold Rush heritage, indigenous cultures, and natural history of Juneau while having a blast. First time on a Segway? Don’t panic, you’ll soon master the motion.

27 – Spot wildlife at Eagle Beach

Eagle Beach, Alaska

Coastal exploration is the name of the game at Eagle Beach State Recreation Area. Locals agree that pottering along the tidal flats is one of the best things to do in Juneau, thanks to the epic Chilkat Mountain views. You might see whales and sea lions playing in the waves too.

Go beach-combing, try kayaking, or enjoy a picnic on the shoreline. Just make sure the sea eagles don’t pinch your sandwiches!

28 – Visit the St. Nicholas Orthodox Church

St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, Juneau

Founded in 1893 by the local Tlingit community, the St. Nicholas Orthodox Church is a pleasant contrast from wild mountains and icy lakes. It was funded by Russian donations and remains an important part of Juneau life today.

Enter this small but spiritual holy sanctuary and discover religious relics and historical vestments over a century old. The striking domed church sits against a backdrop of Mount Juneau making for top-notch photos.

29 – Examine history at the Last Chance Mining Museum

Last Chance Mining Museum, Juneau

You’ll get a real sense of Gold-rush life as you explore the Last Chance Mining Museum. The star of the show is the air compressor, which is one of the largest in the world.

Stroll around the industrial ruins and see the electric trains which transported workers to the mine and took ore to the mill. Then scramble up the little hill to visit the museum for your artifact fix.

30 – Marvel at the whale sculpture

whale sculpture, Juneau

You’ll need to look twice at the life-size whale sculpture to realize that it’s not real! This incredible bronze work of art shows a humpback whale breaching in an infinity pool on the waterfront.

Crafted by local artist R. T. Wallen to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Alaska’s statehood, the masterpiece is a focal point in Downtown Juneau. Pose for photos beside the leaping giant as the fountains provide some convincing spray.

31 – Play games in Cope Park

Cope Park, Juneau

Down on the banks of Gold Creek, Cope Park is the perfect space for letting off some steam.

Perfect your putting skills on the golf course, slam some balls around on the tennis courts, or enjoy a game of pickleball. Then fill your lungs with fresh air on the hiking trails that meander through the forests.

Reward your efforts with a picnic, because we all know that food tastes even better when eaten outdoors.

32 – Go on a gold panning tour

gold panning tour in Juneau

Gold panning is one of the quintessential things to do in Juneau. You won’t come away a millionaire, but the fun you’ll have trying is worth its weight in gold.

Head down to the creek and learn how to cull the waters for the shiny metal. It takes practice and patience, but the feeling when you see that first sparkle of gold is priceless. If you find anything, you get to keep it!

33 – Discover the Jensen-Olson Arboretum

Jensen-Olson Arboretum, Juneau

Tucked away on the shores of the Inside Passage at Pearl Harbor, the Jensen-Olson Arboretum is a world away from bustling Juneau. Established in 1904 by German settlers, the gardens are home to several European species.

There are plenty of unusual native plants to admire, which are rarely seen elsewhere in the US. Amble along the paths and enjoy the pops of color from the beds of Primula, which are at their best during summer.

34 – Watch salmon spawning at Steep Creek

bear eating salmon in Steep Creek

It’s all about the salmon at Steep Creek, where a viewing point gives you front-row seats to spawning sockeye and coho. Wander along the Moraine Ecology Trail to the forest platform and watch these iconic fish in action.

There’s a cool underwater “fish cam” at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Centre for a different perspective. Come between mid-July and October for the best salmon show in town, and don’t forget your camera!

35 – Be entertained at the Juneau Arts and Humanities Center

Juneau Arts and Humanities Center, Juneau

Culture vultures should make a beeline for the Juneau Arts and Humanities Center, where concerts and exhibitions are on tap. The Friday block parties are buzzing, with food trucks, local crafts, and live music to enjoy.

There are changing monthly events so check the schedule to see what’s on during your visit. Swing by the market for handicrafts and art, or tuck into local delicacies at the culinary festivals.

36 – See the Empty Chair Memorial

Empty Chair Memorial, Juneau

The striking Empty Chair Memorial pays tribute to those who suffered during the forced removal and resettlement of Juneau’s Japanese community. This took place in World War II after Pearl Harbor was bombed, and many local Japanese Americans were incarcerated.

In 1942 an empty chair was left at the Juneau High School graduation ceremony as a mark of respect for their absent Japanese friends. The memorial today is a permanent extension of that gesture.

Directions in Google Maps

37 – Dine at the Twisted Fish Company Alaskan Grill

Twisted Fish Company Alaskan Grill, Juneau

One of the most popular things to do in Juneau for foodies is to taste the offerings at the Twisted Fish Company Alaskan Grill. It’s friendly, relaxed, and so delicious!

Enjoy waterfront views over the Gastineau Channel and the Douglas Island mountains as you tuck into your surf and turf. Clam chowder and king crab legs are local favorites, which taste even better when washed down by some craft cocktails.

38 – Browse the Juneau Artists Gallery

Juneau Artists Gallery

The Juneau Artists Gallery features some of the finest interpretations of the Alaskan wilds in town. You can pop in to browse the wide range of vibrant wall art, or shop for a souvenir to hang on your wall back home.

As well as paintings you’ll discover glass jewelry, intricate beadwork, and unique ceramics on display too. It’ll be tough to choose between the gems in this treasure trove, but it’s fun trying.

39 – Sip whiskey at the Amalga Distillery

Amalga Distillery, Juneau

Lick your lips as the legendary “Juneauper Gin” trickles down your throat, setting your senses on fire. Or sample the special “Solstice” cask whiskey as you enjoy a tour behind the scenes at the Amalga Distillery.

Discover the secret ingredients that make these botanical favorites so memorable and knock back a few cocktails in the still house tasting room. You might want to buy a bottle or two to take home.

40 – Eat out at Hangar on the Wharf

Hangar on the Wharf, Juneau

Relax on the terrace of Hangar on the Wharf and watch floatplanes coming into land as you chow down on your lunch. Choose from steak salads, buffalo chicken burgers, and baskets of crispy tempura shrimp as you soak up those views.

Still got room for more? Then enjoy a delicious mud pie or apple crisp along with some local craft beer for the full Alaskan dining experience.

41 – Drink at the Red Dog Saloon

Red Dog Saloon, Juneau

The Red Dog Saloon is a lively Juneau joint, with a convivial Alaskan atmosphere and burgers worth licking your fingers for. During the summer there’s live entertainment to get those feet tapping.

Dating to the city’s mining era, this traditional saloon is full of historical antiques, guns, and furs. Walk through those swinging doors and journey back in time as you settle in for an evening of revelry at this iconic watering hole.

42 – Go beer tasting at the Alaskan Brewery

beer tasting in Juneau

Try the state’s newest ales at the Alaskan Brewery and Bottling Company. There are over 20 beers on tap each day, including some rare specimens you won’t find anywhere else.

Head to the tasting room and hedge your bets with a flight of samples, or get stuck into a full pour of your favorite tipple. Feeling hungry? Then pop over to the food truck and try an Alaskan stout blueberry burger. Yum!

There are so many great things to do in Juneau that it can be tough to narrow down your options. We hope our guide has helped you decide which activities to include on your vacation.

Have you booked your accommodation? If not, take a look at these hotels in Juneau for some inspiration, and to bag some great online deals.

You might also want to think about arranging airport transfers before your trip, for the most competitive prices. After all, you want to arrive in style!

Happy travels!