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Top 5 Things to Do in Juneau, Alaska

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Top 5 Things to Do in Juneau
Mendenhall Glacier (Photo by Mel)

Juneau, the capital of Alaska and brief home of Sarah Palin, is a must see stop on any Alaskan adventure. As part of the inside passage into Alaska, it has slightly better temperatures than lots of other cities in America’s biggest state, making summer a great time to check it out.

Here are the top 5 things to do in Juneau:

1)  Mendenhall Glacier

If you are going to stay in Juneau, Mendenhall Glacier is definitely a can’t miss. Named for Thomas Corwin Mendenhall, the person who determined the exact border between Canada and Alaska, Mendenhall Glacier is truly an amazing sight, especially if you’re from the lower 48. The colors in the ice are absolutely gorgeous and sheer immensity of the glacier is awe-inspiring.

There are plenty of ways to see the glacier. From expensive tours that take you up to walk on it in a helicopter to the budget friendly local bus that drops you off by the visitors center, there’s an option for every price range. I recommend checking into the Visitor Center for a whopping $3 a person. They have several fun little exhibits to give you a better idea of how glaciers are formed and that emphasize the native wildlife.

If you want to take the bus there from downtown Juneau, just walk along the waterfront until you see the bus terminal across the street. The bus will be called the Mendenhall or Glacier bus and it will be in big letters on the front of the bus. For about $2 each way, you’ll get dropped off about 1 mile from the visitors center, although it will be obvious which way to head.

You can also take the Mendenhall Express blue bus for about $16 round trip. It’s right down on the pier and is a very obvious big, blue bus.

2) Mt. Roberts Tramway

You know how if you go to Pisa, you have to take that picture of you trying to hold up the tower? The Mt. Roberts Tramway is kind of like the mandatory Pisa picture. Everyone I know who has gone to Juneau and found out that I went there too asked “did you go up Mt. Roberts?”

At the top of the mountain there’s a visitors center with more information on the local wildlife, a blind eagle, and a hiking trail. Occasionally they also have local and native musical acts up in the Visitor Center, which are actually the most enjoyable part of a visit.

You can also save the tram fare and hike up Mt. Roberts, but you’ll want to be in pretty good shape and plan for about a two-hour hike, all uphill.

3) Eat at Tracy’s King Crab Shack

There are plenty of places to eat crab in Alaska and most of them are pretty good, but none hold a candle to Tracy’s King Crab Shack.

Back in the day, it was legitimately a little shack, patronized by locals and crew members. It’s a little pricey, but it’s a meal not to be missed. I recommend the Crab Shack Combo – it says it can feed up to two, but you’re not going to want to share. If you’re not a fan of spicy crab cakes, ask them if they’ll substitute the coconut kind (that was always my favorite).

4)   Alaskan Brewing Company

For the 21+ crowd who are looking for things to do in Juneau, a short bus ride will take you to the home of the Alaskan Brewing Company. There you can enjoy a brief tour and a sampling. I’m not even a huge fan of beer and they have quite a few flavors I like – from light to dark to inventive holiday beers, there’s something for everyone.

If you want to save a few dollars, you can take the local bus to the Costco stop and the brewery is right between the Costco and the bus stop. It looks like a bunch of warehouses. If you’d rather go for convenience, there’s an Alaskan Brewing Co. store along the main road downtown. They offer a $15 round trip shuttle to the brewery.

5)   Gold Creek Salmon Bake

This is the dorkiest of my top five things to do in Juneau, but I really enjoyed it. It’s definitely a commercialized version of Alaska, but still a good bit of fun. There’s also food, which is an extra bonus in my book.

Gold Creek is set up to look like a little mining town. You can pan for gold or go for a hike to a small waterfall. The excitement level isn’t high, but it’s a nice, calm afternoon, enjoying some nature with a solid 1800’s mining vibe, which is what Alaska really used to be.

The salmon is also delicious and another Alaskan delicacy that it would be shame to miss. The rest of the food was hearty and delectable as well. The final touch on the ambiance is the musicians with a banjo playing old miner tunes… and the occasional “North to Alaska” upon request.

Any other Alaskan regulars out there got a must see stop to add?

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