Fun things to do in Juneau

  • Mendenall Glacier
    Mendenall Glacier
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  • Signs explaining the process
    Signs explaining the process
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  • Roots of trees with gardens up in the air
    Roots of trees with gardens up in the...
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Most Viewed Things to Do in Juneau

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    Bears!

    by K.Knight Updated Apr 22, 2011

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    While at Mendenhall glacier we decided to go for a walk on an elevated platform that leads from the western side of the car park. While on this walk we noticed a small group of people assembling with their cameras at the ready.

    On further inspection we saw a mother bear with 2 cubs, all enjoying the spoils of their latest fishing trip! We stood and watched these bears eating and playing for approx 25 minutes before it was time to return to Juneau and attend the Salmon bake!

    A feed of salmon with the kids. Mmmmm, salmon. At play.
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    Natures power.

    by K.Knight Written Apr 22, 2011

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    There are several walking trails at the Mendenhall glacier. The easiest and most accessable trail leads from the lakes edge to the east.

    After an easy stroll of approx 800 yards you will come to a very impressive waterfall, a release of all of the glacial melt that is flowing down from the Juneau plateau and ice fields.

    The attached photo shows several people standing at the foot of the waterfall while ice slowly floats past. An impressive sight.

    The waterfall dwarfs the tourists.
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    Take a tour.

    by K.Knight Written Apr 22, 2011

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    After viewing the salmon it was time to board our coach and head for the Mendenhall Glacier, via the Macaulay Salmon Hatchery.

    We had pre booked this adventure through the Princess Cruises website as we felt that we did not know how long it would take to see all of the highlights and we wanted to have an experience that we would look back on for years to come, not be worried that we would miss a highlight….or miss the ship!

    We are glad we did as the coach was very comfortable, the guide was informative and we were provided with plenty of time to experience all that the attraction we chose had to offer.

    Our coach pulls along side our ship.
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    Salmon Spawning.

    by K.Knight Written Apr 22, 2011

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    I was amazed at just how close the salmon are! In plain view of the ship were thousands of salmon making their way back to their birth place to spawn¡K..and die. The circle of life at its best.

    Just a short stroll from the dock, heading toward the town, you can see plenty of salmon lining up to enter the thousands of streams and fish jumps that line the entire coast of Alaska. I was equally amazed at the hundreds of tourists that were lining up to catch a bus to see this same event, yet it was all happening right beside them LOL ļ

    I guess it is not as interesting when there is no tour guide, armed with a microphone, describing every aspect of the ins and outs of a fish¡¦s life.

    Preparing to run the gauntlet. A gathering feed for the bears!
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    Juneau - Our first sight.

    by K.Knight Updated Apr 22, 2011

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    The pilot has now guided us safely through the deep waters that surround this beautiful place and we get our first glimpse of Juneau.

    Towering mountains that fall away into the turquoise waters dwarf Juneau as I wonder how harsh this environment will be in just a few short months. The sun on our backs and the clear skies just don’t give us the true picture of just how unforgiving this town must be in the grip of winter.

    Enough of that….get me of this ship…I want to explore!

    Juneau - Alaska. Towering mountains dwarf Juneau
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    The Pilot boat.

    by K.Knight Updated Apr 22, 2011

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    What a great job! To think people actually get paid to do this!

    As the ship was gliding through the beautiful waters around Juneau the peach was only broken by the arrival of the pilot boat. This event heralded our pending arrival into Juneau and what promised to be a sensational day for us.

    As Juneau was our actual first port of call in Alaska, Anne and I were eager to leave the ship and experience the Alaskan hospitality. We had planned a big day!

    First, we were off to see the salmon spawning, then we were off to see the Mendenhall Glacier and hopefully get our first glimpse of a bear in the wild before heading to a salmon bake for lunch.

    Finally we were going to explore the town before ending our day with quiet ale at the Red Onion Hotel…what a perfect day.

    The pilot boats heads toward us. Along side, the pilot prepares to board. Safely aboard, the pilot boat now returns to port.
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    Stunning Scenery.

    by K.Knight Updated Apr 22, 2011

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    I have to warn you…you will be impressed by this special place!

    Anne and I sailed on the Sea Princess in August 2010 and I believe that this was a perfect time of year. The weather was beautiful and the wildlife was on the move, what more could you ask for.

    The sail into Juneau was a memorable event as the morning sun raised it head over the peaks to reveal snow capped mountains that disappeared into a majestic, calm and glistening whale filled ocean under a cloudless blue sky….I was in heaven.

    You read so much about Alaska but nothing can prepare you for what the State of the Union has to offer.

    Stunning scenery Land Ahoy! I love this place.
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    Whales!

    by K.Knight Updated Apr 22, 2011

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    As well as the stunning scenery, one of the first things you notice around Juneau is the number of whales in this beautiful and unspoilt part of the world.

    After rising early to catch the sunrise I noticed a large amount of “plumes” rising from the water in the distance. It was though the whales were coming from everywhere to greet this latest batch of tourists!

    As we closed in on each other, and the ship sounded its horns, the whales put on a spectacular show for us as they raised their huge bulk out of the water and slowly slipped back into the water like an olympian diver....I was impressed!

    A stunning sight for everyone. Beautiful creatures. About to duck under the ship.
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    GLACIERS AND ICEBERGS

    by travelgourmet Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Alaska is a land of many wonders, but the one thing that you must do is see a glacier up close and personal. A change in life attitude takes place.
    Get up close to a broken off piece, an iceberg, and see water frozen for thousands of years, then taste the purity of water as it once was, as you caress a sliver of ice. So clear, so pure, so refreshing.
    It is possible to see, touch, and taste all of this, at the Mendenhall Glacier, about fifteen miles outside of Juneau, Alaska. The glacier is 1.5 miles wide and 200 feet tall. You cannot go on the glacier by walking, but the edge is available with a Forest Service guide and proper equipment.

    THE MIGHTY FLOW
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    Helicopter Glacier Tour

    by Colewade Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    We opted for and loved the Tracy Arm Cruise to see whales and the tidewater glaciers. An 8.5 hour tour might not be within your timeframe.

    This is a reliable but expensive shorter tour option that is not for everybody, but it gets rave reviews.

    Being an avid reader of the Cruise Critic message boards, I have seen Coastal Helicopters recomended many times as the best independent helicopter company. Those that book primarily with the cruise lines such as ERA or Temsco will always have to give cruise passengers priority booking and have to pay the cruise lines their 20% commission. If you a using the toursaver coupon book you should book with ERA to get the substantial savings.

    The ICEFIELD EXCURSION is Coastal Helicopters most popular tour. You will depart from the Juneau airport for your 1 hour tour over the Juneau Icefield traveling to the Herbert, Taku, Lemon or Norris Glacier. Moments after departing from the airport you will be flying over spectacular rock formations and icefalls. The tour is narrated by our custom CD or by our pilot/guide. Upon reaching your destination your pilot/guide will shut down the helicopter and escort you on an informative, relaxing walk while describing the area that surrounds you. Coastal Helicopters will provide transportation to and from the downtown area at no additional cost. Please allow an additional 45 minutes each direction for transport. Advance reservations are recommended and may be confirmed with a credit card.

    Tour price: $173.00 per seat . . . *$259.50 (passengers weighing 250 pounds or more)

    1.5 hour tours are available $290.00 per seat/3 seat minimum . . . *$435.00 (passengers weighing 250 pounds or more)

    If you are also considering a whale watching excursion check out the tip on whale watching. Captain Larry can arrange transport to a Coastal Helicopter Flight in conjunction with the best whale watching excursion in Juneau. Book early with him beacuse he is booked months ahead by independent travelers who just happen to be on cruise ships.

    Glacier Landing
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    Save Big Money on Tours: Toursaver Coupon Books

    by Colewade Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    I am not affiliated with this company in any way, but I know from my previous work on Expedia's travel boards that this is legitimate. Many people have saved a great deal of money with these books. You pay $99.95 for the coupon books and tours are two for one or free. (Many tours and attractions have stipulations of course.) Most people that I have talked to about the coupon books were able to actually book the tours at the advertised price. On the more popular tours, book at least 2-3 months ahead of time. This could be particularly beneficial if you plan to stay close to the coast in Alaska, and you do not plan to rent a car. Look at "The deals" section on their web site and decide whether it is worth the money for you. I opted not to buy the book on my last trip. See if your desired tour is listed. You may be suprised!

    This is the company line:
    The Great Alaskan TourSaver offers Alaska's top-flight attractions. Everything in the book is either totally free or two-for-one. Airlines, cruise boats, railroads, attractions, tours, adventure trips, hotels, car rental companies and cultural trips all on a 2-for-1 basis. Additionally, there are more than 20 totally free offers including jetboat rides, museum passes, tours…even a glacier cruise!

    Check them out!

    You could save big bucks!

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    Downtown Juneau

    by WulfstanTraveller Written Oct 6, 2010

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    Downtown Juneau is fairly good-sized, with some attractive buildings, a number of old buildings, places to shop and eat, etc. It is also right next to the waterfront and easily walkable. It is a short walk also to Mt. Roberts and the Mt. Roberts Tramway (see my tip on those), the tram taking one up to the top of the mountain.

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    Alaska State Capitol

    by WulfstanTraveller Written Oct 6, 2010

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    Alaska has a relatively small, but attractive and interesting capitol building. Completed in 1931, it was previously the federal building and home of the territorial government and became the state capitol when Alaska became a state. Because of the growth of the state's population (though still small - close to 700,000 people as of 2010) and economy, the government has somewhat outgrown the capitol building and taken over the former Masonic lodge next door, as well.

    The building is of course open to the public and has free guided tours roughly every 30 minutes.

    Senate Chamber (the assembly is largely identical) Old Senate Chamber Entrance
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    SKUNK CABBAGE

    by balhannah Written Sep 10, 2010

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    Once we reached the top of Mt. Robert's, we went hiking. Wildflower's were just starting to bloom, it would have been very pretty in a couple more weeks.
    This was the end of May.
    On our walk, we noticed the plant's in my photo coming up everywhere. They were a lovely green, and I was quite interested in what they may be. Later on, I asked, and was told they were Skunk Cabbage, and that if they were bruised or hurt in some way, they gave off the foul odour of a Skunk.
    Thankgoodness I didn't touch them!

    Skunk Cabbage popping through the ground
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    Amazing Humpback Whales

    by Donna_in_India Updated Apr 7, 2010

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    This was my second time in Juneau going with Captain Larry (Orca Enterprises) on a whale-watching trip. Although there are several whale-watching companies, I was extremely happy with both of my trips with Captain Larry. Each trip has a guide/naturalist on board as well. Captain Larry's track record of spotting whales is over 99%. I went in early May in the afternoon and in mid-August in the morning and both times saw whales.

    From my journal of the 2nd trip with Captain Larry: "After lunch we went to the offices of Orca Enterprises for our whale watching tour with Captain Larry. Seems we lucked out and most of the people from the ship went earlier in the day so there would only be 6 of us on a boat that holds 40! We had the run of the boat and I have to say that Captain Larry gave us an excellent time with total disregard for the fact that there were only 6 of us. I think we actually got a better trip. A small shuttle bus took us the 15-20 minutes to Auke Bay where we met Captain Larry and boarded our purple boat.

    Driving out of the bay is so beautiful with all the sailboats and small boats against the backdrop of snow-topped mountains and Mendenhall glacier. It wasn’t long before we saw our first humpback – actually two – a mother and her calf. We watched them for a long time – with the baby putting on quite a show. We spotted several other whales during our time out there as well as a buoy with stellar sea lions sleeping on the bottom and a bald eagle sitting on top. Several sea lions came right over to the boat doing all kinds of aerobics right in front of us. They were extremely cute but between the overcast sky and the movement of the animals, it was difficult to get any decent photos.

    We were served a small snack on board – I tried some salmon and crackers. We continued to find and watch more humpbacks and even went further out to try and find some orcas (no luck). After 2+ hours – all very content and with a ton of pictures of whale tails – we headed back to the bay. Off the boat, onto the shuttle and back into town."

    Check the website for additional details and amazing photos.

    Book online in advance to get the time/day you want. These are very popular excursions and fill up quickly especially when the cruise ships are in town. Total trip time is 3 1/2 hours. First trip of the day is 9:30 a.m., last is at 6:00 p.m.

    Prices (2009) range from $57 (child under 5) to $120 (adults).

    Please see my Juneau travelogues for more photos from our whale watching trip!

    Whale Tail

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