Juneau: Recreation


A good place for visitors to start exploring Juneau is at the Davis Log Cabin Visitor Center, which offers guides and maps. The Downtown Historic District of the city contains many buildings dating back to 1880 and has wider sidewalks reminiscent of the old boardwalks. The Governor's Mansion, built in 1912, is not open to the public on a regular basis but tours can be arranged by contacting the governor's office. Alaska's State Capitol Building, with columns fashioned from a quarry on Prince of Wales Island, houses both the governor's office and state legislative offices and is open for tours. From January through May visitors may watch floor sessions from the galleries. The House of Wickersham, built in 1898 and the former home of famous local judge, James Wickersham (1837–1939), contains historic memorabilia as well as a genuine Chickering grand piano circa late 1800s, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Juneau-Douglas City Museum includes various exhibits related to the areas's rich history and provides educational and public programs while concentrating on the city's mining history. Tours are available of the St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, the oldest original Russian Orthodox church in the state, which was founded in 1893. The Shrine of St. Therese, a chapel located on an island north of Juneau that is connected to the city by a narrow path, has stations of the cross on a trail circumnavigating the chapel in the surrounding woods and can be visited year-round.

The Last Chance Basin Historic District, usually referred to as the Jualpa Mining Camp, features many old mine buildings and attractions for visitors such as gold panning and, in summer, an outdoor salmon bake. A 5,000-gallon aquarium full of local sea life is the highlight of the Macaulay Salmon Hatch-ery, which is located three miles from downtown. Green Angel Gardens is a botanical facility featuring a variety of local plants and a salmon stream located near a low, active volcano.

Nature is the star at Juneau, and the walk-up Mendenhall Glacier, located 13 miles from downtown, is a must-see experience. It features a visitor center, built in 1962, which describes the progression of the glacier and the icecap from which it descends; the visitor center also features a movie and self-guided walking tour map. The 1,500-square-mile Juneau Icefield, the birthplace of the Mendenhall Glacier and 37 others, is located just over the mountains behind the city and is the fifth largest in North America. Light plane charters and helicopters offer an up-close tour.

Many visitors enjoy taking walking tours of Juneau's four local harbors, where fishing boat captains are usually amenable to discussing the day's catch. Whalewatching and wildlife viewing charter boat tours are a popular visitor attraction; a variety of companies offer tours from in or around Juneau, and many guarantee sightings.

Arts and Culture

The Alaska State Museum, established in 1900 when the state was a territory, offers more than 27,000 fine historical, cultural, and artistic collections under one roof. Juneau's gold rush history is captured at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum, which also contains a "Back to the Past" hands-on room for children, and a large relief map of Juneau's topography. Juneau has a very active artists' community, and there are many works of art located in public areas throughout downtown, including sculptures and totem poles.

Alaska's only professional theater company, Perseverance Theatre of Juneau, presents a variety of classic, comedic, and dramatic plays during its fall-winter-spring season that typically draws 20,000 annually. The Naa Kahidi Theater, supported by the Sealaska Heritage Foundation, performs ancient Tlingit legends via storytelling for special events. The Gold Nugget Revue presents comedic historical adventures of Juneau's history, along with cancan dancers and other entertainment.

Festivals and Holidays

April is the time for the annual Alaska Folk Festival, which has been running since the mid-1970s. Music lovers assemble for the 10-day Juneau Jazz & Classics Festival in May. August's Golden North Salmon Derby, a tradition since 1947, offers big prizes, including scholarships, for catching big fish.

Sports for the Participant

Juneau has five mountain peaks within reasonable day-trip distances, affording many hiking and climbing opportunities. Hiking trails lead from downtown to overlooks on 3,576-foot Mt. Juneau, 3,819-foot Mt. Roberts, and 3,337-foot Mt. Bradley (also known as Mt. Jumbo). The Mt. Roberts tramway travels from Juneau's waterfront to an elevation of nearly 2,000 feet. Guided tours, a restaurant, and theater are available at the upper terminal. The Juneau visitor's center offers free guides to more than two dozen trails to glaciers and historic gold mining ruins.

Fishing, sailing, kayaking, and river rafting are available on the protected waters of the Inside Passage. In summers, operators offer gentle river rafting, salmon watching, and gold panning. Picnics, camping, fishing, and beachcombing are popular on the area's beaches.

Mendenhall is the only golf course in Southeast Alaska, a par-three, nine-hole course built on private land behind the airport and only 10 miles from downtown. Winter downhill skiing and snowboarding are offered at Eaglecrest, 12 miles from the city's downtown, with alpine runs, Nordic trails, and a vertical drop of 1,400 feet. Helicopter ski packages are available from late November through early April.

Juneau also has a racquet club, indoor rock-climbing, several aerobic studios, yoga classes, and local Parks and Recreation Department seasonal sports programs that welcome visitors.

Shopping and Dining

Visitors will find galleries, shops, and restaurants throughout the downtown Juneau area. Specialty shops and gift shops offer hand-crafted work by local artists. Nugget Mall, the largest shopping destination, is within walking distance of the airport; its more than 35 stores feature Alaskan gifts and clothing and the mall has a visitor information center. Senate Shopping Mall houses eight eclectic shops from Native art to flyfishing supplies. Merchant's Wharf, an office and shop complex, is located at harborside. Gift shops and taverns line South Franklin Street. The Emporium Mall contains specialty shops and stores, as well as the Heritage Coffee Co., a sandwich and coffee shop on the main floor. Fantastic mountain views and a traditional steak and seafood menu are signatures of the historic Hangar on the Wharf restaurant.

The state's most famous bar, the lively Red Dog Saloon, provides local pictorial history, music, and excitement, especially when cruise ships are in port.

Visitor Information: Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau, One Sealaska Plz., Ste. 305, Juneau, AK 99801; telephone (907)586-1737; toll-free (800)587-2201; fax (907)586-1449; email info@traveljuneau.com