Spotlight on Juneau – Capital of Alaska

Published: March 6, 2024

Behind its sleepy Southeast façade, the Alaskan city of Juneau is both exciting and enchanting for visitors, offering something for every traveler to discover and enjoy.

What Alaska Visitors Love About Juneau

Even though Juneau is not on Alaska’s road system, this destination remains a popular, must-visit location for curious Alaska travelers and Alaskans alike. Many cruise ships making their journeys along the iconic Inside Passage dock here for a day trip of land based adventure. And commercial airlines bring other visitors here from all over the state.

an aerial view of the city of Juneau, Alaska

Explore Juneau and explore at your leisure (Travel Juneau)

Juneau is also among Alaska’s more unique towns, being both the state’s capital as well as its unofficial outdoor adventure hotspot. Accessible only by air or water, Juneau is remote yet welcoming, rugged yet delightful. Located in at the heart of Alaska’s infamous Inside Passage (the Alaska Marine Highway) on the Gastineau Channel in the southeastern part of the state, Juneau’s natural environment is breathtaking. And the city is steeped in Alaska Gold Rush history, Alaska Native culture and Alaska heritage, and has become a mecca for many modern art enthusiasts and culinary aficionados.

Juneau’s History, Commerce and Culture

Juneau’s downtown is where Alaska politics and business blend with its welcoming small-town vibe. The streets are lined with colorful shops and storefronts, eclectic eateries with the freshest Alaska cuisine, and fascinating arts and artifacts. Juneau visitors meander between “must go to” stops like the Alaska State Museum, Juneau Arts & Humanities Council Gallery, and St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church. You can also visit the Alaska State Capitol Building for a guided tour and learn about the state’s political history and legislative process. It’s practically effortless to step back in time when you visit this Alaska hotspot. On a guided walking tour, you can trace Juneau’s history from the indigenous Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people who first called this region home, to the city’s role as a hub in the busy Gold Rush era, to its eventual birth as Alaska’s State Capital.

Exploring Downtown Juneau

Adventures Near Juneau: Mendenhall Glacier to Tongass National Forest

Equally exciting for most visitors are the many outdoor adventures that can be found within Juneau’s Southeast setting. Mountains, rainforests, seacoast ecosystems surround this vibrant town and the majestic Mendenhall Glacier is only a short drive away. Mendenhall is both a large Alaska glacier and a big-time Alaska traveler draw. Massive, glistening ice walls draw hikers and glacier walkers, kayakers and canoers, raft floaters, and sightseers to it year-round. Also a hit with many Alaska visitors is Tongass National Forest, the largest temperate rainforest in the world where ancient trees and moss-covered trails create unforgettable hikes. And a scenic and thrilling tram ride up Mount Roberts offers panoramic views of the city and surrounding wilderness. Want more outdoor excitement just outside of Juneau? No problem! You can hop on a helicopter flightseeing tour, go zip-lining or even take a ride with a local dog sled team.

Juneau Dogsledding Fun with Temsco Helicopters

Juneau Wildlife Viewing Experiences

Now it’s true that this area in Southeast Alaska is infamous for its heavy rain and snow so travelers should arrive prepared for anything and with lots of layers. But Juneau’s silver lining is that its many, diverse ecosystems provide a rich habitat for Alaska wildlife. Guided wildlife tours can take you to areas where you’ll spot bald eagles soaring overhead. You can see playful seals frolicking in the waters, bears roaming the beaches of Admiralty Island (a short flight away from Juneau), and experience magical moments watching whales breaching.

Bubble net feeding frenzy seen on a whale watching trip from Juneau.

You can also choose to explore the rugged coastline of Juneau by foot, aboard a kayak, or with a local guide as you discover hidden coves, secluded beaches and even more wildlife. Another Juneau highlight is discovering the wonders of Tracy Arm Fjord on a scenic boat tour, where towering cliffs and cascading waterfalls create a dramatic backdrop. And fishing charters are popular outings for day trippers hoping to land a big one, either the state’s iconic (and delicious) salmon or halibut.

Gold panning fun from Juneau.

Juneau is a can’t-miss travel destination for those seeking genuine Alaska adventure and activity, natural beauty, and cultural and historic experiences. But don’t just read about it, venture north and come check it out yourself!