One Day in Juneau Guide

Nugget Falls in Juneau

Welcome to the capital of Alaska! If you’re taking a cruise through Southeast Alaska, there’s a good chance that there’s a stop in Juneau. This guide will take you through everything you should do and eat during your one day in Juneau. 

After visiting Sitka, Juneau was the second stop on our cruise through the Inside Passage. We actually got to the port earlier than initially planned, so we had extra time to explore the city. 

While Juneau is one of the largest cities in the U.S. based on size, it still feels like a small town. The city is known for its beautiful scenery, home to mountain ranges, rainforests, and glaciers. It’s also one of the best places in the world to see whales as they migrate to colder waters for the summer. 

Overview

How To Get There

Juneau is an island city meaning there are no roads connecting it to the rest of the state.   Visitors all have to come by air or sea. If you’re coming in on a cruise ship, you’ll likely dock right downtown. To fly in, the primary airport is Juneau International Airport (JNU), or you could also use the Alaska Marine Highway System to get to Juneau by ferry.

Note: If your cruise comes into the AJ Dock, it’s a mile walk to downtown or you can pay a small fee to take the shuttle.  

When To Visit

This is Alaska, so unless you’re looking for snow, I would plan to visit in the summer. Summer is the ideal time to visit as temperatures rarely rise about 75°F, and you can get as much as 18 hours of sunlight. However, Juneau also experiences over 200 days of precipitation so be prepared for some rain. 

We visited near the end of July, and it was actually in the 70s while we were in the city. The temperature drops near the glacier and once you’re up in the mountains, so I recommend dressing in layers. 

Getting Around

Downtown Juneau is very walkable, which is great for those coming by cruise. If you want to explore the outskirts of the city, you’ll need a car. Rental cars are available, but it may be cheaper to take a taxi (Uber and Lyft are very limited). To save even more money, the public bus, the Capital Transit, will get you to most spots on this guide for $2 per ride. 

The easiest way to get to Mendenhall Glacier from downtown is by shuttle. There are a few different companies, but we had a great experience with Juneau Tours. The bus will drop you off at the glacier’s visitor center and runs back to town throughout the day. 

One Day in Juneau Guide

This guide is perfect if you have a limited amount of time in Juneau, but if you are looking for more ideas, check out the More To Do section!

Breakfast at The Rookery Cafe || 111 Seward Street

The Rookery Cafe is the perfect way to start your morning in Juneau. Grab a coffee and a hearty breakfast. 

Mendenhall Glacier

Mendenhall Glacier is Juneau’s top attraction so I’d recommend going there first to give yourself as much time as you’d like. It’s about 12 miles (a 20 minute drive) from downtown. The glacier is 13 miles long and ends at Mendenhall Lake, which has formed as the glacier melts.   

Although you’ll get stunning views of the glacier at the visitor center, the best way to see Mendenhall Glacier is on the water. There are kayaking tours that will take you onto Mendenhall Lake to get up close with the glacier. 

Nugget Falls Trail

If you have a limited amount of time, make sure to at least do the Nugget Falls Trail. It’s an easy two-mile roundtrip hike to the shores of Mendenhall Lake where you’ll see Nugget Falls.  

Trail Of Time

The Trail of Time is an easy loop (less than a mile) that will take you through the history of Mendenhall Glacier and its retreat.  

Steep Creek Trail

The Steep Creek Trail is another easy trail and only ¼ mile. It’s a great area to spot wildlife, like bears and salmon.  

Mendenhall Glacier and Nugget Falls in Juneau

Lunch at Deckhand Dave’s Fish Tacos || 139 S Franklin Street

If you didn’t already know, Alaska is the place for fresh seafood. Deckhand Dave’s only uses fresh Alaskan fish for their tacos. You can choose between rockfish, halibut, and salmon tacos; or you can order the fish sampler for one of each.

The Whale Project 

The Whale Project is a quick, but cool, photo-op. Along the Juneau waterfront is a life-size bronze sculpture of a humpback whale. The statue, named Tahku, commemorates the 50th anniversary of Alaska’s statehood.

Goldbelt Tram || 490 S Franklin Street

Goldbelt Tram

See Juneau from above on Mount Roberts. While you can hike the mountain, the easiest way up is on the Goldbelt Tram. It’ll take you 1,800 feet above the city for panoramic views of Juneau, the Gastineau Channel, and the surrounding mountains.  

Once you’re at the top, there’s the Chilkat Theater to learn about Tlingit history and culture, a nature center, and hiking trails. The trails are more strenuous than the ones around Mendenhall Glacier and tend to be muddy, so they may not be for everyone. Also, be mindful as there are bears in the area.

Shop Downtown Juneau

There are plenty of places in downtown where you can pick up a unique keepsake. While there are the usual stores selling t-shirts and magnets, there are also shops with local art and jewelry.  

Dinner at The Hangar on the Wharf || 2 Marine Way

Finish your day with an amazing meal at The Hangar on the Wharf. In the mid-1900s, the building served as an aircraft hanger, hence the name. Today, the restaurant serves fresh seafood and over 100 beers. Grab a seat near the window to watch the seaplanes take off and land as you eat. 

More To Do

Humpback whale

If you have some more time or just want some other ideas, here are some suggestions!

To Eat & Drink

To Do

  • Glacier Gardens Rainforest Adventure || 7600 Glacier Highway || An hour-long guided tour through Glacier Gardens and into the rainforest on Thunder Mountain, where you’ll get some beautiful views of Juneau
  • DIPAC Macaulay Salmon Hatchery || 2697 Channel Drive || Learn about salmon and see their journey upstream
  • Wildlife Tour || It’s estimated that over 500 humpback whales are in the Inside Passage from April to November. Book a tour and spend the afternoon on the water searching for whales, seals, and more
  • AJ Mine Gastineau Mill Tour || 5880 Thane Road || Visit what was once the world’s largest gold-producing mill. You’ll get a hard hat and a chance to pan for gold

If you’re visiting Alaska on a cruise or looking for more places to visit, check out my One Day in Sitka Guide.

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