Juneau, Alaska is a popular destination for tourists, with roughly 900,000 cruise ship passengers and about 100,000 additional visitors every year.
Due to its location, geography, and other factors, it is truly a unique city, although the same can be said for much of the rest of the state as well.
The City of Juneau also contains the community of Douglas, which is located across a bridge from downtown on its namesake island.
Auke Bay, about 15 miles south of downtown, is occasionally considered by some of its locals to be its own city, although it is unincorporated and legally a neighborhood.
With a population of over 32,000 people, Juneau is Alaska’s third-largest city and by far the largest in Southeast Alaska.
By area, it is the third-largest city in the United States and is bigger than both Rhode Island and Delaware!
The major employers in the city are governments, with nearly half of the workers being employed by the federal, state, or city.
The largest private sector employer is tourism, which makes sense given the large number of visitors Juneau sees every year.
Since most of these jobs are seasonal, a lot of them are held by non-Juneau residents who come up to work for the summer before returning home.
Things To Do
Juneau, Alaska is a beautiful place filled with natural attractions and activities to suit everyone’s interests. Whether you’re looking for an adventurous helicopter tour over a glacier or something more low-key like visiting one of the museums downtown, there’s something for everyone in this coastal city. Here are some of the best things to do in Juneau!
The Mendenhall Glacier is about 13 miles from downtown Juneau and can easily be reached by bus or shuttle from the cruise ship docks. This 12-mile long glacier is a popular spot for nature lovers and photographers alike, as it offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and glaciers that can only be seen in Alaska.
Mount Roberts Tramway
The Mount Roberts Tramway is another great way to take in the beauty of Juneau. A six-minute ride takes visitors up 3,000 feet of Mount Roberts where they can take in breathtaking views of nature and the city itself. Not only will you get amazing sights but also an interesting history lesson on how this part of the world was formed.
If you’d prefer something low-key while visiting Juneau, then consider heading down to one of the many museums downtown. There are several museums dedicated to Alaskan Native artifacts that show off their culture, as well as items from Juneau’s mining days. These museums are a great way to learn more about what makes this region so unique and special.
Air & Boat Excursions
There are also several boat and air excursions available if you’d like to take your exploration further out into nature. These excursions will take you on lovely boat rides around the area, giving you plenty of opportunities for great photos and wildlife sightings. If you’re feeling brave enough, try your hand at charter fishing boats that will take you deep into the waters to catch salmon or halibut!
How To Get To Juneau
Despite the fact that Juneau is situated on the Alaskan mainland, there are no roads going in or out of the city. The only way to get here is by plane or by boat.
The most common way for visitors to come to Juneau is by cruise ship, with sometimes as many as five in town at one time.
Others fly here on Alaska or Delta Airlines to Juneau International Airport and rent a car for their journey.
Another popular way is to take the Alaska Marine Highway ferry from Bellingham, Washington, and sail up through the Inside Passage.
Taking a ferry also allows people to bring their own vehicles instead of renting one in town. Drivers can also put their vehicles on the ferry to or from Skagway, which does have road access through Canada.
Where to Stay, Eat, and Shop in Juneau
For those visitors not coming on a cruise ship, your choice of hotel should be determined by whether or not you plan on renting a car.
If you do, there are several great hotels by Juneau International Airport in the Mendenhall Valley a few miles from downtown, including an Extended Stay directly across the street and the Aspen Hotel just a few blocks away.
If you will not be renting a car, you may want to stay downtown, where almost everything you’ll need will be within walking distance. The historic Alaskan Hotel is very near to gift shops and bars on South Franklin Street.
There are many great dining options downtown as well, including the halibut and chips at the Twisted Fish on the cruise ship docks, near the Mt. Roberts Tram.
There are also several food trucks in Pocket Park, located at the corner of South Franklin and Front Streets, including Deckhand Dave’s, which sells fish tacos.
There are many gift shops located on South Franklin Street as well, across the street from the cruise ship docks, with many selling jewelry, souvenirs, Billikens, and much more.
A full-service grocery store called Foodland IGA is located about half a mile down Egan Drive, across the street from the bowling alley.
History of Juneau
The Tlingit people have called Juneau their home for many years, which they call Dzántik’i Héeni, “Where The Flounders Gather.”
The Haida came to Juneau and there has long been cooperation between the two groups, with the names “Tlingit and Haida” being used more commonly together than apart in many cases.
There are also some Tsimshian people in Juneau, although they primarily live in Metlakatla or British Columbia.
During the Klondike Gold Rush in the late 1800s, two prospectors came to Southeast Alaska looking for gold, a gentleman from Quebec, Canada, named Joe Juneau, and a man from Ireland named Richard Harris.
They were taken to Douglas Island by the local Tlingit leader, Chief Kowee, who is credited with discovering much of the area.
The town was originally named Harrisburg, after the Irish-born Harris, but was officially named Juneau after a vote took place in the miner’s camp. Juneau received the most votes after allegedly buying drinks for his fellow miners in exchange for their support.
Juneau was officially founded in 1905, four years after Ketchikan was incorporated as Alaska’s first city. The next year, the capital was officially moved to Juneau from Sitka.
Today it remains one of the most popular cities to visit in Southeast Alaska and we can’t wait to see you on your next visit!