Juneau is one of the most popular ports for cruise ships sailing through the stunning landscapes of Alaska. With its breathtaking natural beauty, rich cultural heritage, and range of exciting activities and attractions, Juneau offers something for every traveler on an Alaska cruise adventure.
Whether you are a first-time cruise guest or returning to Alaska to enjoy the great outdoors, you will love Juneau. We recommend you combine the beautiful scenery with a local cultural and historical experience to make the most of your day.
Most often, your cruise to Alaska will start from the port of Seattle or Vancouver. All the major cruise lines, such as Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Celebrity Cruises, and Royal Caribbean, offer fantastic cruise itineraries that include the port of Juneau.
Let’s take a closer look at what to expect when visiting Juneau and some of the best things to do if you choose to explore on your own rather than booking a cruise ship shore excursion.
The Port of Juneau
The Port of Juneau is in the heart of downtown, making it easy and convenient to get into the town. It’s just a short walk to many of the city’s top attractions, including the Alaska State Capitol Building, the Alaska State Museum, and the Juneau-Douglas City Museum.
There are six main docks in the port, most of which are very close to downtown. The port has many shops, restaurants (be sure to order the delicious blackened halibut or the Yakobi Smoke Chowder at the Red Dog Saloon), a tourist information center, and excellent transportation links if you prefer not to walk far.
Juneau’s tourist information center
The Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau operates a tourist information center near the port. Speak to the friendly staff and get advice about what to see and do in the city, a street map, and tips on planning your day. The center is staffed by knowledgeable locals who can answer questions and offer recommendations based on your interests. You can also purchase entrance tickets to the most local attractions.
Things to do in Juneau
The Mendenhall Glacier
The Mendenhall Glacier is one of the most popular attractions and our favorite when we visit Juneau. This massive glacier stretches over 12 miles and offers stunning views of ice, mountains, and waterfalls. You can view the glacier from a distance or take a closer look by hiking on nearby trails or kayaking in the glacier’s lagoon.
While you are there, enquire about the ice caves tour, and if you are feeling brave, join a kayak tour for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
The visitor’s center for the glacier is open from 8 am until 7.30 pm in the summer months. You’ll need to purchase a pass to enter the visitor’s center, which costs around $5. This pass will also give you access to the Photo Point, the Pavillion, and Steep Creek Trails and is well worth the money. If you use a shuttle bus to reach the glacier, your shuttle bus ticket will often include the entrance fee to the visitor’s center.
Two shuttle bus companies offer a ride from the port to the Mendenhall Glacier Visitors Center, and the tourist information staff will help you.
The buses run several times an hour, and most run on schedule with the ship arrivals. Using the shuttle buses means you get a round trip plus guided commentary on the bus during the journey to the park.
Note that it is on a first-come, first-served basis to get a seat, so you may have to wait for the next bus if it is crowded. If you are not a fan of waiting, we recommend you book an excursion to Mendenhall Glacier before you leave home. We like the Blue Bus Tour!
Goldbelt Mount Roberts Tramway
Hop on the Goldbelt Mount Roberts aerial tram for a visit up to a mountaintop station where you can hike, ship, and dine with stunning views of the city and surrounding wilderness.
The ticket prices are relatively high, around $35 per person for the 5-minute journey. However, the views are unforgettable; therefore, this experience is high on our recommended “to-do” list. It’s a spectacular way to experience the beauty of this region. Climb aboard the tram at the port, close to where your ship docks.
Alaska State Museum
The Alaska State Museum is a must-see if you love history and culture. There is an excellent exhibition about Alaska’s native cultures as well as art and artifacts from across the state.
The museum is a 15-minute walk from the cruise port. Note that if you visit Juneau on Mondays, the museum is only open in the afternoon, from 1 pm until 4.30 pm. The entrance costs $14, and you get a discount if you are a senior or under 18 years old.
Juneau is home to fantastic marine wildlife, including humpback whales, orcas, and sea lions. You can take a whale-watching tour to see these majestic animals up close and learn more about their behavior and habitat from knowledgeable guides. Look out for orcas, bald eagles, and sea lions.
Many companies are offering whale-watching tours when you arrive. Harv and Marv’s Whale Watching Tours, for example, have excellent reviews. If you prefer to book in advance to secure your spot, you’ll find a good selection of whale-watching tours here.
We love strolling downtown when we visit Juneau. Stroll along the waterfront, visit local art galleries and boutiques, or tour the historic State Capitol Building.
A little further from the city center is the Glacier Gardens, the stunning rain-forest botanical garden open between May and September. The gardens are located in Tongass National Forest.
Follow the colorful trails and be rewarded with fantastic views. There are hourly tours for around $30 per adult, and unless you are a group, you do not need to book in advance. You’ll find a gift shop, refreshments, and restrooms; this is a fantastic family day out.
The best time to cruise in Alaska
Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Celebrity Cruises, and Royal Caribbean all offer cruises of various lengths to Alaska, some beginning in Vancouver and others with a cruise from Seattle.
Get inspired, search, compare and book a cruise to Alaska here to find the best deals!
The cruise season in Alaska is relatively short, from April until October, with most travelers choosing to cruise in the summer months when each destination offers the most activities and opportunities to see fantastic wildlife and landscapes.
And if you’re fortunate, you may even see the Northern Lights.
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