Tucked midway up the Gastineau Channel in beautiful South-East Alaska, Juneau is a city of contrasts. The only state capital in the United States to border a foreign country (Canada is less than 40 miles/60km to the East), Juneau is also rare in that it has no roads leading in or out – a point of some contention among locals.
While there are ferries from the mainland, most visitors arrive via the gangplank of a cruise ship.
More than 420 ships are expected to grace the city’s harbour over the course of the 3-month summer cruise season, and tourism is the second largest employer here. As such, downtown Juneau’s colonial charm is overlaid with a veneer of pastel-coloured kitsch. Venture too close to the docks and you’ll suddenly find yourself being accosted by pushy salespeople from the doorways of glittering jewellery stores, all desperate to get you through their doors before you drift past.
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Beyond the Tourist Traps in Juneau
Arts & Crafts
Juneau’s art scene is thriving and you’ll find a healthy selection of galleries here to while away your port time.
Annie Kaill’s Art & Craft Gallery on Front Street, just a few blocks back from the Cruise Terminal, is a firm favourite with locals and tourists alike. Established in 1975 they’re dedicated to showcasing Alaskan artists and, in fact, most of their wares hail from around Juneau itself.
While you’re in Annie’s neighbourhood, wander around the corner to Rainy Retreat Books – it’s a veritable haven for book lovers, crammed with old and new reading fodder. It’s particularly well-stocked with Alaskan themed tomes.
Juneau is a town steeped in history and they’ve done an excellent job of showcasing it.
The Walter Soboleff Building is hard to miss and worth a visit for the art alone, but I’d also recommend heading a few blocks back to the smaller Juneau-Douglas City Museum on the corner of Main and W 4th streets.
The quaint yellow building which houses the museum is historically significant in itself – built in the 1950s and being the site of the 1959 Statehood Ceremony. It’s run by public trust so entrance fees are minimal but the exhibits are well thought-out, engaging, and easily worthy of an hour or two of your time.
Image credit: Gillfoto, Wikimedia Commons
If you fancy getting away from the crowds for a bit, Juneau is host to over 250 miles of hiking trails.
For something within walking distance to downtown, check out Cope Park – it’s a peaceful and beautiful spot on the banks of Gold Creek, with a handy combo of playground, dog park and of course nature trails.
Take a picnic or If you have time, wander right through to connect up with the longer Mt Roberts Trailhead. Read more about hiking in Juneau here.
Make sure you head along the sea walk – The Flight Deck (look for the big blue Historic Merchants Wharf building) is THE place to call in for your dose of halibut fish and chips, and a cup of the best seafood chowder I’ve ever had. Wash it down with an Alaskan beer on tap!
Anita | Burgess Travellers
Anita Burgess is in the business of making memorable family moments. Soccer mum, travel broker & writer, she’s happiest with a camera in her hand and the sand between her toes. Find insider travel tips and inspiration for your memorable moments on her blog, Burgess Travellers, or get in touch if you’re ready to make your holiday happen.
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