Would a week in Juneau be fun?
July 3, 2023 4:51 PM   Subscribe

Trying to figure out early August vacation plans and my wife and I are both intrigued by Juneau, which we visited briefly on a cruise a few years back. Would this be a good destination to spend a week at?

On our past visit we enjoyed an amazing whale watching boat ride, and spent a brief time at Mendenhal Glacier, both of which we'd enjoy doing again. Beyond that, is there enough in the area to make it a good vacation spot for about a week? We're reasonably physically able and very much love the outdoors, but probably wouldn't go on strenuous hikes. We could rent a car if need be but I'd prefer not to drive 4+ hours to other spots. We're not big partiers and mostly enjoy the outdoors, museums, and fun places to have a drink or good food. Is Juneau a good place for us or should we cast or gaze elsewhere?
posted by DingoMutt to Travel & Transportation around Juneau, AK (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
We've visited Juneau twice for a day each time. I'm not sure if there's a whole week of things to do there, but there's definitely more than a day's worth. There are many short hikes around the Mendenhal Glacier. The Alaska State Museum is worth a long visit. I would also look into whale watching cruises.
posted by ALeaflikeStructure at 5:03 PM on July 3, 2023 [2 favorites]


I spent about 24 hours in Juneau and it was MORE than enough. The town is tiny, without much to do beyond the touristy cruise terminal. The Mendenhall Glacier is somewhat interesting, but it’s about a morning. I did not find the Alaska museum to be very interesting, I would not spend more than an hour there. There are not a ton of restaurants (being a very tiny town), although I will say where we did eat was better than expected (but not like, amazing).

Keep in mind any hiking in Alaska involves bears - you either need to go with guides who know how to handle it or you need to be prepared.

TBH the best way to visit Alaska is either by boat (there are much smaller ships than the big cruise ships you can book trips on, Nat Geo runs good ones). Or go on a camping expedition with a group and trained guides. Staying in town is probably the least fun way to visit Alaska.
posted by annie o at 10:00 PM on July 3, 2023


What do you want to do while you're there? A few years ago my wife and I spent several days in Petersburg, and I could totally see going back there. At the time there wasn't the south ferry point on the island, but one or two days we got on our tandem bicycle and went exploring, we did two days whale watching in Frederick Sound, and a boat trip out to Le Conte glacier, and then got on the ferry and went up to Juneau, and if we do SE Alaska again, we'll just stay in Petersburg. Not a deep enough port for the cruise ships, so none of the cruise ship town stuff, gorgeous country, and rich history and cool community to chat with people in.
posted by straw at 10:16 PM on July 3, 2023 [2 favorites]


You might want to consider catching a quick flight over to Sitka for a few days. There's the small but interesting Sheldon Jackson museum, Sitka National Historic Park (historical buildings, trail with totem poles, small museum), a bear sanctuary, Raptor center, & salmon hatchery/tiny aquarium. You could do all those in a couple days. Then spend the rest of your time hiking or biking on the many beautiful trails, catch a wildlife-watching cruise, or go snorkeling to look at sea life.

I come for a month each summer & never get bored. My favorite easy/moderate hiking trails this year are Indian River Trail, the Cross Trail, Thimbleberry/Heart Lake (bring a swimsuit for the lake), and Starrigavan/Muskeg Trail. Just be sure to bring some bear spray.
posted by belladonna at 11:33 PM on July 3, 2023


I had a lovely week in Juneau maybe a decade ago. I imagine the cruise ships have further changed the town. They had already started.

I was visiting relatives of our traveling partners who showed us around. This was part of the fun. (For example, I discovered that locals often got into things for a lower or no price. There were no signs posted for this, however!) We stayed at a B&B which was charming and again a source of info. The legislature was not in session or the B&B would have been full up with lobbyists. We drove the two roads out of town until each just ended, maybe 20 miles out.

If you like food, the freshest halibut ever and not necessarily from fancy restaurants. The museum, yes.

Helicopter to the inner part of the glacier and go on a sled ride with dogs who seem eager to go. Only on such a ride can you get a sense of the distances involved.

I was there in salmon spawning season and watching the fish fight to get up streams not much deeper than the fish were thick was fascinating. (Made me think of my own teen age urges.) Also seeing bears feed at rapids.

A ship to the glacier and heard and saw calving, an iceberg breaking on the edge of the glacier. The blue color of the glacier below the surface is a memory I hold still. From Wikipedia: "The rare blue ice is formed from the compression of pure snow, which then develops into glacial ice...Calving of glaciers is often accompanied by a loud cracking or booming sound... before blocks of ice up to 60 metres (200 ft) high break loose and crash into the water. The entry of the ice into the water causes large, and often hazardous waves." We got some big waves from the break but not enough to threaten the boat. The captain would only get so close to the edge of the ice.

Yes, I think there's a week of things to do. You do have to dial down your pace from what you might expect in New York, Chicago, Las Vegas. But that's part of what made it so memorable.
posted by tmdonahue at 5:34 AM on July 4, 2023 [4 favorites]


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