Spotlight on Juneau: Capital of Alaska

Published: March 6, 2024

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

an aerial view of the city of Juneau, Alaska

What Alaska Visitors Love Most About Juneau

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

Juneau is also among Alaska’s more unique towns, being both the state’s capital as well as its unofficial outdoor adventure hotspot. Juneau is remote yet welcoming, rugged yet delightful. Located on Alaska’s Marine Highway, Juneau’s natural environment is breathtaking. And the city is steeped in Alaska Gold Rush history, Alaska Native culture and heritage, and has become a mecca for many modern art enthusiasts and culinary aficionados.

Juneau’s Highlights: 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 Native Alaskan 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. And of course, you can always try your hand at Gold Panning yourself!

Outdoor Adventures Near Juneau: Mendenhall Glacier to Tongass National Forest

Equally exciting as visiting Juneau for most visitors are the many outdoor adventures that can be found nearby. Juneau day tours will introduce you to the towering 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 float trip enthusiasts, and glacier 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: Admiralty Island to Tracy Arm Fjord

Now it’s true that this area in Southeast Alaska is infamous for its heavy rain and snow so Juneau travelers should arrive prepared for anything and pack for their Juneau trip with lots of layers. But this area’s silver lining when it comes to its climate 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.

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!