How to Make the Most of One Day in Juneau, Alaska

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Nestled among the mountains and meandering waterways of Alaska’s Inside Passage, Juneau is an unlikely place for a state capitol. Originally a Lingít Native Alaskan campsite, Juneau was settled by European-descended people in 1880 and became territorial Alaska’s second city in 1900 (one day after Skagway!). Today it’s a bustling small Alaskan city with the seat of government, blue-collar industry, and lots of tourism thanks to the cruise port that can host up to seven ships on a single day.

One Day in Juneau Hero

I recently visited Juneau as part of my cruise aboard Alaskan Dream Cruises. Mr. V and I spent two full days sampling the best Alaska’s capital city has to offer. Based on experiences, I wanted to put together a guide to help others who find themselves in Juneau with limited time – whether that’s due to it being a port stop on their cruise itinerary, a pre- or post-trip for a cruise, or a destination they’ve always wanted to visit.

So if you’re planning a trip to Southeast Alaska and find yourself with one day in Juneau, read on. In this post, you’ll learn how to make the most of your limited time – and why you should consider giving yourself one extra day to enjoy even more.

In this post, I promote travel to a destination that is the Lingít Aaní of the Áak’w Ḵwáan (Tlingit) people. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.

Juneau Travel Tips

Before jumping into the full list of things to do in Juneau on your one day there, it helps to cover a few basic aspects of visiting Juneau first.

Getting to Juneau

Most people are surprised to learn that Juneau is inaccessible from the mainland. Yep – there’s no road you can drive to reach Juneau, and it’s the only state capitol in the country like that. All this to say, you’ll need to arrive in Juneau by boat or plane.

For boat options, a lot of folks arrive by cruise ship. Juneau is one of the major cruise ports in Southeast Alaska, and almost all major (and minor) cruise companies make a port of call here. Additionally, small-ship companies like Alaskan Dream Cruises and Uncruise offer itineraries that start and end here.

By plane, you’ll fly into Juneau International Airport. Alaskan Airlines offers multiple daily flights year-round; Delta offers flights too though the schedule changes frequently enough that I don’t want to commit to any details here! The airport is located about 9 miles from downtown Juneau and requires either a rental car or taxi/rideshare to get into town.

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Getting Oriented in Juneau

Speaking of town, it helps to get oriented in Juneau a bit. Broadly speaking, there are two parts of Juneau: Downtown and The Valley. Most locals (70%) live in The Valley, which is located 8 miles northwest of Downtown. Most tourist attractions are located downtown – other than Mendenhall Glacier, for which The Valley is named. In this one-day Juneau itinerary, I recommend spending all of your time downtown and only heading into The Valley if you have an extra day.

When to Visit Juneau

Though it’s located in the heart of Alaska’s temperate rainforest, Juneau experiences four distinct seasons and gets plenty of rain all year and snow in the winter (almost 90 inches of precipitation annually!). In the summer months, average temperatures range between the mid-50s and mid-60s Fahrenheit – but there’s still plenty of rain.

Since precipitation is a given, the best months to visit Juneau are during the spring and summer, especially between April and July. These are the driest months with the warmest (or warming) temps each day.

What to Pack for Juneau

Whenever you visit, it’s best to plan for rain! In addition to the essentials I recommend packing for Alaska, I suggest:

  • A waterproof jacket – Because water resistance isn’t going to cut it in here! (I wear the Pendleton Sonoma; the most similar jacket they currently offer is the Eureka.)
  • Waterproof boots – I love XTRATUFs, and a lot of other Alaskans do too.
  • Good walking shoes – If you’re planning to hike, but be prepared that they might get muddy.
  • An eye mask – Juneau experiences up to 18 hours of daylight during the summer months; the OwlzzZ is my go-to eye-mask for travel.

If you need more boot and shoe recommendations, check out my list of the best footwear for Alaska; I also have more jacket recommendations too.

How to Spend One Day in Juneau

If you’re reading this post, it’s likely because you’re either an independent traveler headed to Alaska or going on a cruise and want to do your own thing. (I do have a list of the best Juneau cruise excursions if you want help choosing a designated excursion.) You’ve come to the right place! Read on for how I would spend one perfect day in Juneau.

Grab Breakfast Downtown

Every big day of adventure requires the right fuel; there are some great spots for breakfast in Downtown Juneau that are within walking distance of the cruise piers and all the hotels I recommend at the end of this post. Start the day as early as you can – whether that’s being the first to disembark your ship or setting that alarm at your hotel.

I recommend The Rookery for a delicious, quick sit-down breakfast. Mr. V and I had breakfast here during our Juneau trip and their breakfast menu is eclectic and delicious. Sandpiper Cafe is another good option, though they can fill up really fast (we tried to go here and the line was crazy long). For a backup, there’s a Heritage Coffee Roasting cafe in the Foodland grocery store nearby that serves incredible scones and coffee.

Go for a Hike

If you only have one day in Juneau, you probably don’t have a car available, so stick close to downtown for a hike. If you’re up for a challenge, you could head up the valley between Mt. Roberts and Mt. Juneau toward the moderate 3-mile Perseverance Trail. This is a 2-4 hour hike so plan accordingly.

An easier option is the Gold Creek Flume Trail, which requires a walk uphill to the trailhead and back down at trails end – but all along streets and sidewalks. This 1.4-mile one-way trail is a great way to feel like you’re way out of town though it’s close and easy to reach. It’s also a cool way to reclaim the land from a previous electrical energy project. You can do this hike in about 60-90 minutes, making it perfect for the morning’s agenda.

Take a Walking Juneau Food Tour

After finishing your hike, you might be feeling peckish: it’s the perfect time for a light lunch. The best way to make the most of one day in Juneau’s dining scene is by taking the “Tour with Taste” from Juneau Food Tours.

This 2.5-hour tour takes you to several stops around Juneau where you can sample local foods – including famous spots like Tracy’s Crab Shack and the Alaskan Bar. It also includes local faves like Deckhand Dave’s and a stop at the Juneau Food Tours office where you can try items in the Taste Alaska box they offer. There are two tours offered daily: 11:30am and 2:30pm. I recommend the midday tour so it allows you to have a great lunch at a number of places.

On our recent trip, there were only two cruise ship passengers wise enough to book this as their Juneau cruise excursion; I guarantee they ate better than everyone else that day.

Head to the Alaska State Museum

Unless the weather is crazy nice on the day you visit Juneau (unlikely due to the general weather patterns of Southeast Alaska), I recommend heading into the Alaska State Museum for an hour or two to dry out and learn more about Alaska history and culture.

After a massive renovation, the Alaska State Museum reopened in 2016 with an incredible series of galleries that introduce you to every aspect of Alaskan life, culture, and art. The museum starts by educating about the Alaska Native groups across the state, covers the chapters of Alaskan territorialism, and more modern aspects like tourism, the oil industry, and more. There are also rotating exhibits with modern and traditional art – including weaving and dioramas (when I visited).

While the Anchorage Museum is bigger and perhaps more impressive, I still consider the Alaska State Museum a must-do if it’s your first trip to Alaska and/or you’re not planning to visit the museum in Anchorage.

(If the weather is really nice, I recommend spending the whole afternoon outside: walk along the Juneau Seawalk, spend the entire time on Mt. Roberts, or look into getting a ride out to Mendenhall Glacier for a short time.)

Ride the Mt. Roberts Tramway

To cap off a day of exploring Juneau, end by ascending the Mt. Roberts Tramway to enjoy views from 1,800 feet above the city – and to take another small walk in the woods learning more about Juneau and its traditional people.

You can’t miss the tramway station at the bottom of Mt. Roberts; it’s right next to the cruise port and travel information office. The tram ride itself takes three minutes and is beautifully scenic, even on a rainy day. You might spot eagles in the trees, and can certainly see sweeping views of Juneau, Douglas Island, and the Gastineau Channel (Lingít: Séet Ká) between them.

At the top, there’s a large visitor center with a cafe, gift shop, and theatre. There’s also a nature center from which you can start a short quarter-mile loop that has an audio tour and several stop points along the way. It’s a super easy walk though the trail can get muddy on rainy days.

On the way back down, don’t forget to take in the sights again for that three-minute descent.

Enjoy a Local Dinner

If you’re on a cruise, you probably won’t get to have dinner in town; you may not even get to do all the activities I recommend for one day in Juneau. That’s (what I consider) a mega bummer on the mega cruise ships: you don’t get enough time in port.

If you aren’t on a mega ship though, you’ve got time for a lovely dinner before calling it a night. You could head back to your favorite spot from the food tour, or explore somewhere new. SALT is great for a fancier dinner option; you may want to freshen up at your hotel before heading here but it’s not required. For a more casual option, Devil’s Club Brewing Company has a cool tasting room and really good bar-food menu. For dessert, head over to Captain’s S’mores & Brew for a sweet treat.

Have an Extra Day in Juneau? Here’s How to Fill It

Sold on visiting Juneau for (at least) one day? The crazy part is that there’s still so much I didn’t mention that you can do! If you decide to extend your Juneau trip and add another day, here are some other activities and experiences you can do.

Visit Mendenhall Glacier

Mendenhall Glacier is probably Juneau’s most popular attraction – though it’s actually located up the valley and thus requires a rental car or bus (provided from your cruise ship) to reach.

To be honest, I wasn’t as impressed with Mendenhall as I expected to be; you can’t get nearly as close to the glacier as I imagined. Instead, you’ll spend time out here hiking (Nugget Falls is a good 2-mile out-and-back trail to a roaring waterfall) and at the Visitor Center – which does have cool panoramic views of Mendenhall and its lake, plus a great video that discusses the glaciology of the region.

I’d give yourself no more than a half-day at Mendenhall if you have the time, but I don’t consider it a must-do if you only have one day in Juneau. (Especially if you’re on a cruise – you’ll see plenty of other glaciers!)

Explore Douglas Island

Across the Gastineau Channel (Lingít: Séet Ká), Douglas Island used to be its own town – and the traditional site of the Tlingit people when the T’aaku Kwáan had a winter camp here.

Today it’s fully modernized and very local; this is the place to escape the crowds. If you have a car (or arrange a taxi), you can head out to the southern end of town for a good hike. Two options here include the Mt. Jumbo trail or the Treadwell Mine Historic Trail. The latter takes you past some sites of the old gold mine that used to operate in this area (and was part of the reason the Lingít camp was destroyed).

Visit the Alaska State Capitol

One Day in Juneau - Alaska State Capitol

Governmental history buffs will consider the Alaska State Capitol a must-visit. This building seems understated from the outside compared with the dazzling domes of many other state capitols in the Lower 48, but it can still impress.

To visit the Alaska State Capitol, you can do a self-guided tour on weekdays between 7am and 5pm, or arrange your itinerary to participate in a guided tour (Tuesday to Friday at 1:30pm and 3pm) if it works in your schedule.

Go Fishing

Juneau is a great spot for a half-day or full-day fishing charter if you have the time in your Alaska itinerary! You can fish for Alaskan halibut throughout the summer season, as well as a number of salmon species, depending on the time of year you visit.

A number of charters operate from all around the Juneau area; Travel Juneau has a great resource page with everything you need to know about charters, fishing licenses, and more.

Take a Whale Watching Tour

If you’re visiting Juneau with no plans to board a cruise ship (big or small), you should A) definitely spend more than one day in Juneau and B) book a whale watching tour!

There are a number of whale watching tour operators that will take you out of the close, shallow waterways near Juneau to look for orcas, bears, eagles, and more. Humpback whales are also common in between April and November as they migrate to and from Alaska.

Where to Stay in Juneau

For those not visiting by cruise ship, you might need a place to stay for a night or more while visiting Juneau. There are plenty of options for accommodation in Juneau; I recommend staying near downtown so you can easily walk to all of the activities I recommend.

  • Four Points by Sheraton – Where we stayed, this modern hotel is right along the waterfront and has all the amenities your expect. Rooms at the Four Points by Sheraton are comfortable and spacious, and the staff is very helpful. From $229/night; book on or
  • Silverbow Inn – Located in the heart of downtown, the Silverbow Inn combines modernity with rustic elements of Juneau’s past. You’ll be staying right in the center of it all – making this a super convenient option for those without a car who want to walk everywhere. From $149/night; book on or
  • Alaska’s Capital Inn B&B – For those who love the B&B style, this homey property is set up the hill but still within walking distance of downtown. As a B&B, they fill up quickly and the 1906 house has quirks – but that’s part of the charm of staying here. From $161/night; book on or
  • The Alaskan Hotel & Bar – Stay in a slice of history! The Alaskan Hotel & Bar is one of the oldest hotels in Alaska, and I can neither confirm nor deny whether any past guests still roam the halls. The rooms are all updated and you can’t beat the location, though it’s likely to be a bit more… lively on weekend nights. From $TK/night; book on or

I have an entire list of places I recommend for where to stay in Juneau if you want even more options.

There you have it – everything you need to spend one day in Juneau – or longer, if you have the time! Have any questions about visiting Juneau? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks to Travel Juneau who hosted us during our visit. This post was produced as part of our partnership.

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I was born on the East Coast and currently live in the Midwest – but my heart will always be out West. I lived for 15 years in Alaska, as well as four years each in California and Washington. I share travel resources and stories based on my personal experience and knowledge.


  • Jan E

    Juneau is not on an island. Per Wikipedia:
    “The absence of a road network is due to the extremely rugged terrain surrounding the city. This in turn makes Juneau a de facto island city in terms of transportation, since all goods coming in and out must go by plane or boat, in spite of the city’s location on the Alaskan mainland.”

    Also for future Juneau info, you might investigate helicopter flights. I had a great time with TEMSCO.
    I was in Alaska in May/June 2021 for an UnCruise tour. Arrived the night before the cruise hoping to get a helicopter flight the day the cruise started, but the weather did not cooperate. Then a week cruising. Then for the day in port I had rebooked the helicopter flight and it worked out! I splurged for a private flight due to COVID. The only problem was that I am short and I could not get in and out of the helicopter (maybe just the smaller one I was on) without a short ladder. Too icy to get out of the helicopter on the glacier with the ladder, so I stayed in it when we landed on two glaciers. Still a lot of fun for me! Then another week of cruising, ending up in Ketchikan, where I spent a couple extra nights. Took buses to two places to see totem poles. The whole trip was excellent!

    If you want pictures from another traveler, email me and I will send you a link, not to be shared with your readers.


  • Laura

    I love this article overall, it gave me a lot of great ideas and I plan on basically copying it. I might want to adda brewery tour but that depends on what brewery the walking tour goes to. But, if you will allow me a moment to be nitpicky lol, you did say that Juneau was the only capital that you could only reach by boat or plane and was in assessable from the mainland. As someone who lived in Hawaii for many years, you also need a bot or plane to reach Honolulu

  • Lisa Philpott

    How accessible is Juneau…. I use a mobility scooter and cane. Are the ideas you listed able to handle a scooter?
    We are on a cruise ship stop.

    Thank you for your valuable information!

    Lisa Philpott
    Blue Springs, MO

    • Valerie

      The core of Juneau is accessible via scooter, as is the tram and museum. You might reach out to Midgi at Juneau Food Tours directly if you want to do that, just to confirm the stops are all accessible too.

  • mellow

    love you blog! we’re headed to juneau next year! love all you pics! wondering where you guys took the pic of “how tall would you be standing next to a bear”
    such a cute photo!

  • Tricia

    I was just researching the Mt. Roberts/Goldbelt Tram and tickets (all day, unlimited) for a family of 4 in 2024 are nearly $200 ($55 adults/$40 kids)! And that appears to be the only ticket option in 2024 (no one ways). In your opinion is this money well spent? Or, if we are on a budget, is our money better spent getting up to Mendenhall Glacier? Thanks for all of your Alaska guides!

    • Valerie

      Tricia, hi! Thanks for reading. What’s bringing you to Juneau? Will you be on a cruise? Tbh, I think the tram is (now) overpriced compared to when I did it… but my answer depends a bit on what brings you to Juneau and what other activities (and glacier experiences) your Alaska travel plans might already include… Feel free to reply here and I’ll get back to you!

  • Charlene Baron

    We are planning to visit Juneau in August 2025 with our main goal to see bears. We’ve looked at Above and Beyond tour Co. We loved our time bear viewing in Katmai. Will we have just as much of an opportunity in the Juneau area?


    • Valerie

      Juneau is not known for its bear viewing the way Katmai is, so if that’s your goal, I wouldn’t prioritize Juneau for that experience.

  • Dixon

    There are bear tours out of Juneau depending on the time of the year. Look for tours to Admiralty Island (also trails at Mendenhall
    are closed at certain times of the year due to bears.)

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