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  • Writer's pictureVicky Lopez

Juneau - Alaska's Capital City

Alaska’s remote capital city of Juneau is tucked away on the Gastineau Channel, surrounded by snow-capped mountains, thick forests, and the Juneau Icefield. Accessible only by air or sea, Juneau’s rugged natural landscapes and gold rush roots make it a truly unique capital city.

Start your Juneau visit by riding the iconic Mount Roberts Tramway, riding 1,800 feet to the peak of Mount Roberts overlooking lush trees and the downtown area below. Up top, hiking trails lead onward for those wanting an even higher vantage point. Or wander back downtown to stop in the historic Red Dog Saloon, as you hit the sawdust floors and taxidermy wildlife to grab a locally brewed Alaskan beer on tap, you’ll for sure know you’re in Juneau.

No visit to Juneau is complete without embarking on an Alaska whale watching and wildlife quest. Hop aboard boats headed out to Stephen’s Passage, Admiralty Island National Monument, and other rich marine environs where humpback and orca whales frequently appear. Keep your eyes peeled also for sea lions, puffins, bald eagles, and other species that call this region home.

Juneau also serves as a gateway for flightseeing and glacier tours across the channel. These high-flying adventures soar over massive ice sheets and descend onto blue glacial ice, letting you explore ice caves and get up-close glimpses of the glaciers.

For cruisers with just a half-day stopover, Juneau’s downtown area offers plenty of attractions within walking distance from the docks. Stroll through the sprawling Juneau-Douglas City Museum housed in the historic Alaska-Juneau Mine building, where exhibits chronicle the region’s native cultures, mining eras, and early pioneers. Wander down Franklin Street as well to peruse many local native-owned galleries filled with intricate carvings, fiber weavings, and prints that make for ideal souvenirs. 

Before heading back, indulge in quintessential Alaskan dishes like fresh rockfish tacos, wild salmon chowder, and ale-battered halibut cheeks in the burgeoning downtown food scene (guaranteed to be better than cruise food, lol). With glacier and wildlife-laden wilderness beyond and cultural attractions steeped in indigenous and gold rush influences within, Juneau offers a one-of-a-kind Alaskan escape whether you have a few hours or a few days to spare.

The Shrine of St. Terese, nestled on the scenic outskirts of Juneau, is not to be missed. This tranquil sanctuary offers visitors a serene refuge surrounded by nature's beauty. The Shrine - which holds a labyrinth and picturesque chapels - carries an aura that invites contemplation and peace. Unique in its serene and spiritual appeal amidst stunning landscapes, it provides a gentle reminder of the interplay between spirituality and nature.

The Treadwell Mine is your gateway to understanding Juneau's dynamic history. An important piece of Alaska's gold mining legacy, this abandoned mine narrates a tale of boom and bust cycles, of dreams made and broken. A walking tour here will allow you to explore the remnants of the once bustling mine, making it a must-see for history enthusiasts and those intrigued by tales of yesteryears.

Mendenhall Glacier, with its awe-inspiring icy facade, is an adventurer's delight. Whether it is walking the trails around Mendenhall Lake, visiting Nugget Falls, or simply witnessing the grandeur of the glacier - it's an experience that underscores the raw, untamed beauty of Alaska. This glacier's uniqueness lies in its accessibility and the opportunity it affords visitors to witness climate change effects firsthand.

Alaskan Brewery beckons beer connoisseurs and those curious about brewing traditions. A tour here allows a behind-the-scenes look at the fascinating process that results in some of Alaska's finest beers. This microbrewery's uniqueness stems from its brews that encapsulates elements of Alaska, like the spruce tip ales, making each sip a reminder of the wild Alaskan landscapes.

Finally, the historic Alaskan Hotel and Bar, the oldest operating hotel in Alaska, offers a glimpse into the state's past while also serving up cold beers and warm company. Filled with fascinating memorabilia and quaint charm, a visit here is like stepping back in time. Its uniqueness lies in the preservation of original Victorian-era furnishings and the tales swirling around the resident ghost; it’s a palpable connection to the rich, storied past of Alaska.

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