Taking a cruise to Juneau, Alaska can be one of the most beautiful and fun trips you’ll ever take. The scenery is beautiful and several museums around the city give you the chance to experience our rich history.
Unfortunately, if you only have one day in Juneau, you have to choose your activities carefully to make sure you get everything in, which can be a little overwhelming.
In order to help you out, here is a sample itinerary for a day in Juneau, which we’ll define as about 11 hours, from 9 AM to 8 PM.
We’ll further assume that those 11 hours start the second you disembark from the ship and set foot on land. They end an hour or so before the ship departs and you’re expected back in line to reboard.
If you don’t have a full day, this will still be useful to you as it will give you an idea of how long things will take.
10:00 AM: The Mendenhall Glacier
This is the biggest attraction and you’ll probably want to get here first. I’ll assume that you’ve eaten breakfast on the ship, which you should do because there will not be any food available during this part.
After you leave the ship and step onto dry land at exactly 10:00 AM, you’ll see everyone heading to the gift shops that line South Franklin Street. Instead, you’ll head over to the Mount Roberts Tram parking lot (which is the best way to get to the Mendenhall Glacier)
From there, you’ll see the Blue Glacier Express pulling in. You’ll show the attendant your reservation slip showing that you paid the $50 online and get on board the bus. Around 10:30, once everyone has loaded, you’ll be on your way.
You’ll get to the Mendenhall Glacier around 11:00, at which point you’ll have time to walk around, take pictures, and explore. I’ll say about an hour because the buses go back downtown every half hour and 30 minutes doesn’t seem like enough time.
12:30 PM: Back Downtown
After boarding the bus at 12 from the same place you were dropped off, you’ll head back downtown to the place you were picked up. Around 12:30, you should arrive at the Mount Roberts Tram Parking Lot.
That’s very convenient because your next steps will be to enter the building, pay the $30 per person fee, and go up the tram.
1 PM: Mount Roberts Tram
After the five-minute ride that will take you 1800 feet up the mountain, you can enjoy the most amazing views of downtown Juneau.
There is much to do up here, with a restaurant, a 120-seat movie theatre that shows a 20-minute video about the history of the Tlingit people, various nature trails, a gift shop, and more.
The Juneau Raptor Center is also on the mountain. They rescue sick and injured animals, which you can see during their recovery periods. There aren’t very many other places in the world where you can see a bald eagle up close.
It would be easy to spend all day here, but for the sake of time management, we’ll assume about an hour at the top before heading back down.
2 PM: Lunch
Now that we’re back downtown, it’s time for lunch. Eating at 2 PM gives us a slight advantage, as things will be a little less crowded.
Believe me, everything will be crowded the entire time you’re here, but that’s why this itinerary is designed with off-peak hours in mind.
From the Mount Roberts Tramway parking lot, it’s just a short walk to the Twisted Fish restaurant, which is also located near the cruise ship docks.
A few minutes later, you’ll be seated at a table and ready to order. I recommend the halibut and chips for $26.99, but they also have a great salad, steak, fish tacos, and garlic bread twists as an appetizer.
This is one of my favorite local restaurants and I try to eat here a few times a year when I can.
The food is very delicious, but it will take a while for your meal to be ready, so plan on an hour and a half for lunch just in case. It will depend on the size of your group, but just to be on the safe side, we’ll assume 90 minutes.
If you’re not in the mood for fish (spoiler: I have fish planned again for dinner…) then you can check out some of the other lesser-known restaurants in Juneau where you can grab a bite.
3:30 PM: Gift Shops
Once your meal is finished and you’re ready to go, you’re in the perfect position to start looking at the gift shops on South Franklin.
The Twisted Fish is across the street from The Juneau T-Shirt Company, a massive gift shop with all sorts of souvenirs, postcards, t-shirts, and more.
As you exit the t-shirt company and head to your right, you’ll see a ton of gift shops that will have anything and everything you couldn’t find at the T-Shirt Company.
After about a block and a half, you’ll find the Alaskan Fudge Company. They have amazing fudge in a variety of flavors that I didn’t even know existed until I went there for the first time as a high school senior. I highly recommend it.
You’ll also find a couple of Heritage Coffee stands if 4 PM isn’t too late for you to have a cup. If it is, consider getting some while you’re up on Mount Roberts.
I personally don’t drink coffee, so I wouldn’t know, but a dear friend of mine who is a coffee enthusiast tells me that she much prefers Heritage to almost anything else she’s ever had.
It’s a local company that was started in 1974 and distributes coffee throughout Southeast Alaska. They also sell bags of beans or grounds in various locations if you want to brew some yourself when you get home.
There are a lot of tourist shops down there and there will be a lot of people on the streets, as we sometimes get up to five cruise ships in town at the same time.
For this reason, we’ll set aside an hour and a half for shopping. No matter what time of day you’re downtown, there will be lines inside the shops. They should be slightly shorter during this time, but they will still exist.
At this point, you’ll probably be carrying a lot of bags. You might want to drop them off at the ship if you can, or maybe a member of your party who is tired and is ready to relax will take them back for you.
If not, that’s okay. The rest of the list is indoors and will allow you to set your bags down for most of the rest of the time.
5 PM: Red Dog Saloon, The Imperial, or Devil’s Club Brewing
At around 5 PM, most people here are going to dinner. That’s why we had a late lunch, so we can avoid the crowds.
If you don’t want to or don’t feel like drinking, that’s completely fine. You can skip this step and add an hour to either the tram or the glacier earlier in the day.
If you want to see some of the historical Juneau, you’ll want the world-famous Red Dog Saloon, located close to the cruise ship docks. They also have a gift shop around the corner from the main bar.
If you want to see Alaska’s oldest bar, you’ll want the Imperial Saloon, down at 241 Front Street, across the street from the food trucks at Pocket Park.
They have a pool table, four televisions that usually have some type of sporting event on them, a restaurant that sells burgers and other bar food, and a pub quiz trivia competition on Wednesdays at 7:30 for teams of one to five.
If you want some locally brewed beer and maybe a Bavarian pretzel with cheese, you’ll want to walk up the hill on South Franklin Street about a block and go to Devil’s Club Brewing Company.
You can actually see their brewing operation as you’re walking down Front Street, with the large vats of beer visible through the open windows. The operation isn’t open to the public, but you can still look inside.
No matter which one you’ll choose, you’ll have a great time. You’ll get to talk to some locals if you’d like and, since we’re leaving about 6:30, nobody will be terribly drunk yet.
Prices vary based on the bar and what you’re ordering but you can plan on between $5 and $8 for a drink unless you’re going for high-end scotch or another more expensive choice.
6:30 PM: Dinner at Tracy’s Crab Shack
Now that our time in Juneau is coming to a close, it’s time to eat dinner and head back to the ship.
Since we have an hour and a half to get back to the ship, I recommend Tracy’s Crab Shack. It’s conveniently located across the street from the docks, close to the public library.
For about $35 before tip, you can get a king crab leg with a side of either coleslaw or jasmine rice and something to drink.
It’s on an outdoor patio, so you’ll have an amazing view of Douglas Island and the nearby mountains.
After you’re finished eating, you can just walk across the street and you’re back on the docks. You can reboard the ship and get ready to visit the next town on your cruise.
Alternatives and Last Thoughts
This itinerary can be adjusted as you see fit, of course. If you want to skip either the glacier or the tram, you’ll have two more hours or so at the other location.
If you aren’t a big drinker, you can skip that portion and move either the glacier or the tram into that spot.
The Alaska History Museum is about a 15-minute walk from the docks and is located a block or so away from a grocery store.
I didn’t include the museum on this list because it closes at 4:30 and it focuses a lot on the history of the Tlingit people, who you’ll already be learning a lot about if you take the tram up Mount Roberts.
If you are a fan of the Alaskan Brewing Company, you can take the city bus out to the Lemon Creek area and see where it’s made.
Now, if you have kids that hate cruises and hate Alaska, maybe you’ll want to consider a few options on our other list of things to do in Juneau like see a movie and get pizza.
No matter what you choose to do in Juneau, you’re in for a treat! You’ll see amazing views, meet amazing people, and have an amazing time. We can’t wait to see you on your next visit!