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What to do in Juneau, Alaska

Juneau (1)

Known for its diverse terrains of abundant open spaces, mountains, forests and wildlife, Alaska is America’s largest and sparsely populated state. It’s not much of what you do once you get there but it is about how you go to places.

There are plenty of places where you can paddle a kayak, cruise in a boat, or even soar in a seaplane. There are a seemingly infinite number of activities fitted for all ages, abilities and experience levels.

Juneau, Alaska’s remote capital, is filled with activities that would seem enigmatic when you’re back home. Getting there is also an adventure itself, as Juneau can only be accessed by boat or seaplane.

Juneau (3)
Image credit: Sonny SideUp

One of the common yet unfathomable thing to do in Juneau is by experiencing Mount Roberts. The mountain can be accessed by the Mount Roberts Tramway, an aerial tramway that makes a 3,819-foot ascend from the docks to a height of 1,800-feet. At the top, you would have a panoramic view of the city and the surrounding channels and islands. But of course those are just a bonus to the landscape of the glacier carvings through the mountains.

Speaking of glaciers, a trip to Alaska isn’t complete without a trip to Mendenhall Glacier. 12 miles from downtown Juneau, Mendenhall Glacier is the most Alaskan thing you would see here. A giant sheet of ice flowing downhill from the Coast Range mountains behind Juneau into Mendenhall lake.

You can kayak up to its 70-foot face, walk onto the icy stretch with a certified guide or simply view it from the nearby trails. Sadly, the glacier is melting faster than it is growing due to climate change.

 Juneau (2)

Apart from conquering mountains or spotting glaciers, you can also go on a walking tour of downtown’s art galleries and public works. Such works worth the visit would be the life-size bronze statue of a breaching humpback whale and the huge ‘Nimbus’ sculpture outside the new Alaska State Museum.

In the Alaska State museum, you can get acquainted with the ancient and modern history of the diverse Native populations who have sustainably resided the lands for thousands of years.

As Juneau lies in the Tlingit territory, a Pacific Northwest coastal tribe known for their elaborate art and totem poles, the Sealaska Heritage Institute has an exhibit that highlights the wonderful mix of traditional and modern indigenous art from Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian tribes.

If you ever travel to Juneau during the frigid months, you can catch plays in the renowned Perseverance Theatre. Downtown’s Goldtown Nickelodeon Theater is also booming with local comedy nights, burlesque shows and the popular ‘Not-so-silent Film Series’ which features live original acoustic soundtracks with classic silent films.

If you want to spend a wild week in Juneau, come in April during the Alaska Folk Festival. Seven nights of bluegrass, blues and folk music which draws a crowd of 1,200 yearly. So be sure to book your hotel early and bring some earplugs if you don’t wish to hear music 24/7!

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