One weekend in May, I made the trek back up to my latest infatuation: Alaska
I met up with some friends and we spent three days in the tiny capital city. The land area of the city is actually pretty large (second largest city in the U.S…. and only second to its neighbor, Sitka)… but the downtown and inhabited areas are very small. There is one road, The Road, that runs through Juneau and is the best way of getting from place to place. The Road is Alaska Route 7 (segmented route through the panhandle of Alaska) or Glacier Highway (northern road in Juneau) or Egan Drive (southern road in Juneau), depends on who’s asking.
We stayed downtown at the Ramada in the downtown area and found that most of the attractions were within walking distance. To get to Nugget Falls, Mendenhall Glacier, and the kayak rental store, we rented a car. There are taxis and there is also a shuttle that goes from downtown to the glacier ($45pp). The brewery is not downtown (it is in the residential area I circled on the map above), but does have a complimentary shuttle from downtown.
Juneau sits within the Tongass rainforest, which is the largest temperate rainforest in the world. We heard from the locals that it is a very rainy city, and we were extremely lucky to have had sunshine throughout our stay. Juneau’s longest days have 18 hours of sunshine, and we were lucky to experience all of it. Sunset was around 10pm while we were there.
Eat at Sandpiper Cafe
Cute cafe with good food and an adorable logo. We decided to be tourists and buy shirts with the sandpiper wearing rain boots. There is a usually a wait on weekends.
Walk the docks and rent kayaks
The Alaska Boat and Kayak Rental Shop does half (4 hours or less) and full day (4-9 hours) rentals for both single and double kayaks. What was surprising to me was that their half day rentals only go out at two times per day, 9am and 2pm. If you arrive at a different time, you will have to either get the full day rental or wait until the next 9am or 2pm slot.
We made this mistake, arriving too early, and walked the docks to make up time.The docks were great to walk around and an hour went by quickly. Some docks had enclosed squares in the water so you could see sea creatures like jellyfish making their homes there (similar to tidepooling). I loved seeing all the different boats and their names and where they were coming from.
Once our wait was finished, we headed back up to the shop to get our kayaks. After we got the kayaks, I was surprised at how little restrictions there were for places to go. The guide there told us that the Alaskan thing to do was to kayak to a beach at one of the nearby islands, go for a brisk swim, and then kayak back. So that’s what we did!
In total, it was a 7.5 mile trip to get around the island and come back, but the hour we spent at the remote beach, napping, exploring, and swimming, was well worth it.
If I were to do it again, I would bring a lunch and some other supplies to spend the whole day relaxing at a remote beach. You can also kayak right up to the Mendenhall Glacier or Nugget Falls if you take a different route than the one we did.
Walk around downtown
Many cutesy tourist and souvenir shops downtown.
Dinner at the Aviator at the Hangar on the Wharf
It’s a little confusing, but the Hangar on the Wharf is the big blue building by the water and it houses several restaurants, including the Aviator. I don’t have a photo of this, but it was boasted as the best Halibut fish and chips in town. All of the waiters and waitresses wear aviators.
Eat at Rookery
Tasty breakfast. Ate so fast, didn’t get a photo.
Hike Mendenhall Glacier
Juneau is known for its trails. You don’t even need to drive to them, they start right from downtown. We did two hikes during our weekend stay.
The first hike we did was a morning walk around Mendenhall Glacier on the Nugget Falls trail. The Nugget Falls trail comes off the Glacier Loop trail. In total, it was a very flat and scenic walk that ended at the waterfall.
Brewery Tour Hallway Guided Alaskan Brewing Company
You are shuttled to the brewery from downtown and get to taste the Alaskan Brewing Company beers. You get to a room where you sit with a guide who gives you a 45 minute history lesson about the brewery. He gives you 3 tastings while he talks, I honestly don’t remember if it was 2 or 3 or much about the history lesson. At first, I was really interested in how the founders were denied a loan from the bank so they went door-to-door looking for investors – sharing their beer at each pitch. After that, I couldn’t pay attention anymore, but that’s just me and my inability to sit still and listen for a long time. Oh! Another fun fact is that they allow their employees to create their own beers and, if they are good, the beers get placed on tap. After the guide’s speech, he gives you 3 (or 4?) tokens to get the rest of your 3 (or 4?) tastings in 15 minutes before you have to get on the shuttle to downtown. You pay $25 for this experience.
Do I recommend doing this? I am not sure. The beer was good, but the history lesson was too long for my attention span / ability to sit still and quietly while on vacation. Perhaps it was just my guide? Perhaps this would be a great way to escape the rain when the weather is more normal? You tell me.
Also, there is no tour.
Also, every restaurant in Juneau serves this beer.
Eat at the food trucks
We were shuttled back downtown after the brewery tour and quite hungry for lunch. Everywhere we turned, we were recommended to walk to the food trucks, so that’s what we did. Three of us went to Deckhand Dave’s and didn’t regret getting the fish tacos. The fourth went to the Alaska Crepe Escape truck and ordered a pizza crepe. It took considerably longer to come out than did the food from Deckhand Dave’s, so we were all finished by the time she started to eat. I am ashamed to say we all looked at her pizza crepe so hungrily until she offered to share it with us gluttons.
Also, crepes are super popular in Alaska.
Mount Roberts tram
The second hike we did was on the Mount Roberts trail. You can hike up from downtown, but we decided to take the tram instead.
The path was moderate with options for mildly challenging to expert level trails. The views of the surrounding islands and mountains were worth the trek up and we enjoyed seeing Juneau from above as well. We spent quite a bit of time watching seaplanes landing by the docks.
Eat dinner at twisted fish
So (Alaskan) fancy. So tasty.
Things we did not get to do:
But you might enjoy!
Admiralty Island National Monument (this was extremely pricey to get to – I am talking $800 to $1,000 per person to see some bears. There is a ferry that leaves for maybe $60 a person but it only goes Thursdays and Sundays so you would need to have overnight lodging on the island. Also, you need to worry about getting a license to even be able to be on the island. If I had more time and money, I would have done this.)
Enjoy your trip!