Revision as of 10:20, 20 May 2013
Juneau ("JOO-noh")  is the capital city of Alaska, located in the state's Southeastern region, with a population of about 30,000 and an area bigger than Rhode Island or Delaware. It has been the capital of Alaska since 1906, when the government of the then-Alaska Territory was moved from Sitka.
One of the interesting things about Juneau and Alaska is the effect on public life of being such a geographically large state. The state legislature, for instance, takes telephone testimony during its committee hearings. They have a state-wide video conferencing system to facilitate government meetings and deliberations.
Geography and Climate
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Check Juneau's 7 day forecast at NOAA
The climate in Juneau and the southeast panhandle is best described as a "cooler wetter version of Seattle." It is a mid-latitude oceanic climate in the southern sections and a subarctic oceanic climate in the northern parts. On an annual basis, this is both the wettest and warmest part of Alaska with milder temperatures in the winter and high precipitation throughout the year. Juneau averages over 50 inches (1,270 mm) of precipitation a year, while other areas receive over 275 inches (6,990 mm). This is also the only region in Alaska in which the average daytime high temperature is above freezing during the winter months.
Juneau is located at 58°18′7″N, 134°25′11″W (58.302003, -134.419724).GR1
According to the United States Census Bureau, the borough has a total area of 8,430.4 km² (3,255.0 mi²). 7,036.1 km² (2,716.7 mi²) of it is land and 1,394.3 km² (538.3 mi²) of it (16.54%) is water.
Average annual rainfall ranges from 55 inches to over 90 inches (1400 to over 2300 mm) depending on location.; annual average snowfall is 101 inches (257 cm).
The average high temperature in July is 65°F (18°C), and the average low temperature in January is 20°F (-4°C)
Juneau is Alaska's capital, however you can't get there by road. Southeast Alaska is sandwiched between the rugged coastal mountain range and the Pacific Ocean. Constructing roads between many of the towns and cities of SE Alaska is prohibitively expensive and sometimes impossible. Only three towns (Haines, Skagway, and Hyder) in the SE Panhandle are connected to a roadway to the lower 48 states (often called "down south"). Access to the rest (including Juneau) is only by air or by sea.
Juneau International Airport (IATA: JNU) is a public airport located seven miles (11 km) northwest of downtown Juneau. The airport serves as a regional hub for all air travel, both bush carriers and the regional airline, Alaska Airlines , which provides daily jet service to Anchorage and Seattle. Alaska Airlines also has regularly scheduled flights to Ketchikan, Sitka, Wrangell, and Petersburg -- with summer service to Gustavus. Smaller airlines that operate regularly scheduled and chartered flights out of Juneau to nearby communities have offices at the airport. The most trusted are Wings of Alaska, Haines Air, and Air Excursions.
Juneau is a main port for the Alaska Marine Highway , Alaska's ferry system. The ferry runs regularly throughout Southeast Alaska with regular stops in Ketchikan, Petersburg, Wrangel, Sitka, Haines, and Skagway. Small communities, such as Angoon, Hoonah, Tenakee Springs, Pelican, and Kake, get occasional AMHS service. The closest port with a road connection is Haines, about a five-hour ride away from Juneau by regular ferry or a two-hour ride on one of the state's new catamaran ferries. The ferry system is the only way to transport a car to Juneau, short of shipping it up on a barge.
Juneau is a major port of call for cruise ships plying the Inside Passage, which bring several thousand visitors almost every day between May and September. The cruise ships typically dock just south of downtown Juneau in the following docking facilities, listed in order of distance from downtown Juneau:
- Sea Drome Dock (SD)
- Alaska Steamship Dock (AS) -- large ship
- Cruiseship Terminal (CT) -- large ship
- Intermediate Vessel Float (IVF)
- South Franklin Street Dock (FKL) -- large ship
- A J Dock (AJD) -- large ship -- Free shuttle to CT
A typical summer day may have four or five cruise ships calling on Juneau, which could bring up to ten thousand visitors for the day. To plan your day, check the cruise ship schedule for Juneau.
Juneau is also the Alaska home port for the luxury yachts of the American Safari Cruises and the small ships of CruiseWest.
Downtown Juneau is compact and highly walkable, though above 4th Street it gets very hilly. Watch for the 20 signs that detail the fascinating history of Juneau.
The public Capital Transit provides daily bus service for downtown Juneau and vicinity and charges $2.00 for travel in one direction. Route 3/4 serves the Mendenhall Valley, but can get you no closer than about a mile to the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center.
Car rentals are available at the airport and are necessary if you wish to explore far on your own.
At the cruise ship docks, several bus services offer low-cost rides ($16 round trip) to the Mendenhall Glacier during the summer visitors season.
- Mighty Great Trips "Blue Glacier Express" is a blue schoolbus that departs every 30 minutes, 9am to 6:30pm on most summer days.
- Juneau Tours Glacier Shuttle  runs from the cruise ships to the Mendenhall Glacier and back every 30 minutes on most days.
Taxis are an economical alternative. Taxi vans can carry up to 7 passengers and cost about the same as busses for 5 or more. Drivers who want to do tours can often be found in the taxi zones near the Mt. Roberts Tram or the Red Dog Saloon. Metered fares and charter rates are regulated by the city.
- Alaska State Museum, 395 Whittier Street, ☎ +1-907-465-2901 (fax: +1-907-465-2976), . Open year round: May-Sept, daily 8:30AM-5:30PM: Oct-Apr, Tu-Sa 10AM-4PM. One of Alaska's best exhibits covering the breadth of the State's history, native cultures, wildlife, industry, and art. Approximately a ten-minute walk from the Cruise ship Terminal. Adults: May-Sept $5, Oct-Apr $3: children 18 and under free.
- Saint Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, 326 5th St., ☎ +1-907-586-1023 (fax: +1-907-465-2976), . Tiny ornate octagonal structure was originally built by the Tlingits in 1893. When the Russians were still in Sitka 50 years earlier, Father Ivan Veniaminov of the Russian Orthodox Church translated the Bible into Tlingit. Thus this building became southeast Alaska's oldest continuously operating church. $2 entrance donation.
- Alaska State Capitol, 4th Street and Main Street, . M-F 8:30AM-5PM: Sa-Su 9:30AM-4PM. Completed in 1931 as the territorial Capitol, this building does not have the typical imposing architecture of a State capitol. Today this Capitol building, remodeled in 2006, houses the State Legislature, the Governor, and the Lieutenant Governor. Extensive exhibit of historic photographs in the hallways. Complimentary 30-minute tours are available from mid-May through mid-September. Free.
- Mendenhall Glacier This is a massive 1.5 mile wide glacier calving into its own lake, located about 13 miles north of downtown Juneau. To get there, you may take a bus or taxi from where the ships dock to the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area. You can pay the driver in cash or buy two tickets at one of the many kiosks on the dock. A taxi ride is about the same cost as a bus if you have 5 or more passengers.
- Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, 8510 Mendenhall Loop Road, ☎ (907)-789-0097 (fax: (907)-789-6643), . May-Sept: 8am-7:30pm daily; Oct-April: 10am-4pm Thurs-Sun. Although you can't get right up to the glacier, you can get a great view of it from the visitors center, which is operated by the US Forest Service and is very informative. Photo Point Trail and the salmon, bear and Steep Creek Trail are easy and accessible trails. In August and September, black bears, often with cubs, visit Steep Creek to feed on spawning sockeye (red) salmon. Some trails may be closed then. A series of viewing platforms let the bears walk underneath the many folks watching them fish. No food or soft drinks are allowed in the recreation area, and dogs must be on leash. If you want a moderate hike through some beautiful forest, try the East Glacier trail which loops around east of the visitors' center. Follow the trail clockwise to avoid having to climb many steps -- you'll come down those steps at the end of your hike and to keep the best views of the glacier ahead of you, instead of over your shoulder. $3 fee for visitors center from May to September. Activities outside the center building itself are free of charge, and visitors may use the restrooms and visit the bookstore without paying the fee.
- Mendenhall Glacier West Glacier Trail - For the more adventurous, the West Glacier trail which leads directly to the glacier (you can walk on it, but be careful to stay away from crevasses!) and also to a look out. Get off the bus just past the Mendenhall Glacier Campground stop. The stop is called Montana Creek. Walk up the road to the car park at the end (around 2km) and you will see the trail-head. Stick to the path, maybe dropping down to the lake side to checkout the icebergs and grab some photos. Continue along the path, across several bridges and up some switchbacks with fixed cables. Soon you will come to fork in the path, the left is steep and heads to the lookout, the right goes downhill into some dense vegetation. Shortly into the right-hand trail you will come across a shelter slightly off the track. Continue for several miles along the track, taking care on the slippery rock areas. Eventually you will come to a break in the cliff where it is possible to scramble/climb to the top. Recommend taking crampons if you want to walk on the glacier, stay away from crevasses and don't fall in. There are usually guides walking people out there so watch where they walk. Return the way you arrived, the whole thing should take about 5 hours. Don't forget to sign out when you leave the area.
helicopter on Mendenhall Glacier
- Several businesses offer helicopter rides which will take you from the city to Mendenhall Glacier, giving you a bird's eye view of the surrounding terrain, and some time on the ice itself. They're fairly expensive (about $200 per person and up, depending on the length of the excursion), but a remarkable experience that many consider well worth the price.
- Mount Roberts Tramway, 490 South Franklin St., ☎ (888)820-2628 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: (907)-463-5095), . May-Sept: M 12PM-9PM, Tu-Th 8AM-9PM, F 9AM or 1 PM-9PM, Sa-Su 9AM-9PM. There is a tram that runs from the docks in downtown Juneau up Mount Roberts, one of the peaks overlooking the city. At the top is the Mount Roberts Nature Center which features a captive eagle (not as impressive as seeing them from a distance in the wild) and some not-too-difficult scenic hiking trails with interpretive information. The more adventurous hiker can branch off from these trails and continue upward to the summit, where snowfields can be found even in the warmth of summer. It's difficult going in places, but provides some stunning views of the channel and city far below. If you don't want to pay $27 to ride up the tram, you can also hike the whole mountain. The trailhead starts at the end of 6th street and takes about an hour to climb up to the top of the tram. A one way tram ride down the mountain costs $5. $27 adults, $13.50 children, 5 and under free.
- Alaskan Brewing Company Brewery Tour, . If you head down to the Alaskan Brewing Company headquarters they will give you a tour/talk and free tasting of some great beer. A good way to end a day of hiking. To get there, jump on the bus and ask the driver which stop to get off at. Walk across the road and turn at the second right.
- Shrine of St Therese, Mile 23 Glacier Highway (past Auke Bay Ferry Terminal), ☎ (907) 780-6112, . This is a Catholic retreat center operated by the Diocese of Juneau, with a small stone chapel on a small island connected by a causeway to the mainland, a very peaceful and scenic location. The three albums of wedding pictures demonstrate the Shrine's popularity as a wedding site. There are extensive gardens, a prayer labyrinth, and a columbarium (memorial site for storing ashes of the deceased) with an outdoor chapel, and a lodge and cabins that are available for rental when they are not being used for Church purposes. Sunday Mass is held in the Shrine Chapel at 1:30 on Sundays from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The Shrine may be closed occasionally to the public for retreats. Free, but donations are encouraged.
- Chapel By The Lake, 11024 Auke Lake Way (Glacier Highway, just past Auke Lake), ☎ ( 907 ) 789 - 7592, . A 60+ year old log cabin church with an amazing view of Auke Lake and Mendenhall Glacier through its picture window.
- Juneau Arts & Humanities Council (JAHC), 350 Whittier St (housed in the JACC, the old armory across from the Coast Guard Station), ☎ (907) 586-2787, . 9-6. Built in 1959 as the National Guard Armory, this building was retired in 2004, and lay empty for several years, until the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly, under Mayor Bruce Botelho, turned the facility over to the Juneau Arts & Humanities Council to manage as the Juneau Arts & Culture Center. It currently houses a gallery and lobby shop that represent ONLY local artists and artisans. They have a large and diverse selection of jewelry, pottery, glassware, and native arts. $-$$$.
The most popular activities in Juneau for visitors are shopping, flight seeing, charter fishing, visiting the Mendendhall Glacier, and hiking. Be aware that Juneau is very spread-out. It is broken into sections. There is "Downtown", and "The Valley" (where the Mendenhall Glacier, Mendenhall Mall, a skate park, as well as most of the residential is located). The distance between the two is a good 15 minutes.
Of the cruiseship tour options, an air tour leaves the biggest impression—especially if the weather is clear. Behind Juneau lies the Juneau Icefield. Helicopter and floatplane tours are available. The most popular floatplane tour is with Wings Airways  to the Taku Lodge . Most of the helicopter tours include a stop landing on the glacier. Alternatively, get a group together and charter an small airplane tour. These will generally be less expensive (you pay by the hour) and allows you to customize your experience. Ward Air  is highly regarded, but Wings of Alaska and other carriers offer charter flights.
Be sure to go for a hike while in Juneau. There are over 90 hiking trails in the area (many very steep). A few lead to rental cabins available from the US Forest Service or State of Alaska parks. If you want a guide, Gastineau Guiding  offers guided hikes on many popular trails and combines some hikes with whale watching or kayaking.
- Alaska String Band (Southeast Alaska Odyssey), 325 Gold Street (5 minutes from the cruise terminal * north on S. Franklin St. * right on 3rd St.; one block to Gold St. * (McPheters Hall is located in the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church @ 325 Gold St.)), ☎ 907-321-5471, . The Alaska String Band brings their extraordinary music and fascinating Southeast Alaska Odyssey Show to the McPheter's Hall stage in historic downtown Juneau, Alaska. This family-friendly performance artfully weaves a tapestry of atmospheric impressions giving an intimate peek into the curiosities of one of America's treasured and pristine wilderness escapes. Of particular interest are original tunes composed and sung by this ensemble which reflect the hardship of the Alaskan gold fever experience as well as a ballad, The Wreck of the Princess Sophia, which soulfully depicts the courage and tragedy of early explorers in Alaska's untouched wilderness. $27.50.
Juneau, like many towns dominated by the cruiseship industry, is ripe with jewelery, t-shirt, and trinket shops. On busy cruiseship days you can watch as thousands of cruisers in matching track outfits ply the shopping district to get trinkets for their grandchildren and jewelry for themselves.
There are a few locally owned stores that attract locals and tourists. Check out William Spear Design  (Franklin Street above Heritage Coffee) for awesome pins.
Peer Amid Beads on Front and Seward is a bead store that also carries art (mainly carvings) done by local artists. Also has a large collection of anime.
The Aurora Project on South Franklin has customizable gifts for travelers who don't want a boring, touristy-looking T-shirt.
The Alaska General Store on Front Street is a quirky shop with gifts that can't be found in other shops downtown. It also has a great selection of jeans and clothing. This store is not for the budget traveler.
The Alaskan Brewery  also has good Alaska based products that are popular with locals and tourists alike. There is a large gift shop downtown on South Franklin that also offers a shuttle to the brewery.
Look for a sign in shop windows that says "This store is owned by an Alaskan family."
- Rainbow Foods, 224 4th St (at Franklin), ☎ +1 907 586-6476, . M-F 9AM-7PM, Sa 10AM-6PM, Su noon-6PM. Natural food store in Downtown Juneau. Decent produce, awesome weekday deli, and Thursday night dinners. Prices are not so bad considering everything comes in by jet or boat.
- A&P Market (downtown). Unsatisfactory meat and produce, but convenient for other items you may need that you don't want to spend an arm and a leg on at Rainbow Foods.
- Super Bear (Mendenhall Valley)
- Safeway (Mendenhall Valley)
- WalMart (Lemon Creek which is between Mendenhall Valley and downtown)
- Breakwater Inn, 1711 Glacier Avenue, ☎ 586.6303. Better for drinks. Not a very relaxing atmosphere during the summer, and the food isn't that great. An order of bread will get you a sandwich roll from Costco with some cheese on it.
- Canton House, 8585 Old Dairy Road, ☎ 789.5075. One of the best, most consistent restaurants in town.
- Douglas Café, 913 3rd Street, Douglas, ☎ 364.3307. Tues 11A-2:30P, Wed-Fri 11A-9P, Sat 9A-9P, Sun 9A-12:30P.
- El Sombrero, 157 S. Franklin Street, ☎ 586.6770. Mon-Thurs 11A-9P, Fri & Sat 11A-10P. Try the halibut fajitas or the halibut fajita salad. A Juneau institution for 30 years. No hot sauce (aside from Tabasco) or liquor available.
- Seongs Sushi is small and crowded but has good sushi and sashimi.
- Silverbow Bakery Great fresh bagels; Tuesday is two for one! The Silverbow also has a movie theater where they show the occasional free movie. It is a meeting place for a diverse group of people. Free Wirelesss access with purchase. They host wine tastings, an independent film/video makers conference and the occasional LGBT event. A really great place.
- The Hangar (On the Wharf), 2 Marine Way, ☎ 586.5018, . Great place to sit at the bar and gaze at the view. It also has a good selection of food. The Halibut Taco is good as are the burgers and soups. It hosts a mixture of locals and tourists.
- The Hot Bite, Boat Harbor, Auke Bay, ☎ 790.2483.
- The Island Pub, 1102 2nd Street, Douglas, ☎ 364.1595. Has good pizzas and sandwiches, a good vibe, and a stunning view of the channel looking back towards Juneau. Sometimes you can catch a local bluegrass or jazz band there.
- The Twisted Fish is also a good bet for food but it caters to tourists (closed in the winter). Not cheap but not outrageous either. A bit loud for quiet conversation.
- Zen is in the Goldbelt Hotel across from the downtown waterfront. Rather pricey but has truly fantastic Asian fusion cuisine. Serene atmosphere, not too touristy.
- Suwanna Cafe, Jordan Creek Mall atrium (across from Nugget Mall), ☎ 907-789-1250. 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.. Suwanna Cafe is run by two Thai sisters and their momma. Open Mon-Fri only for lunch, they have great summer rolls that are like a salad in an uncooked rice wrap, great Thai curries, wonderful Satay, and Pad Thai, along with Thai iced tea. Great lunch for under $10!
- The Juneau Arts & Humanities Council offers TLC: A Taste of Local Culture for Visitors, an opportunity to enjoy a home-cooked meal with real Alaskans in their home, and support the arts at the same time. Contact them at  or call them at 907 586-2787 to arrange your dinner. $35/person.
- Tracy's Crab Shack located in the alley behind the library downtown. Offers great king crab legs and crab cakes. Their bisque is to die for.
- Pel Meni. Pel Meni serves authentic Russian Dumplings. There is no menu as Pel Meni dumplings are all they serve. it's small and not the fanciest place in the world, but it is a must visit while in Juneau. Only $6 per order. A local favorite because it's cheap, quick, delicious, and open after bar-closing hours.
- Twilight Cafe, 324 Willoughby Ave (Next to Bullwinkle's Pizza), ☎ (907) 523-1044. 9 am-3 pm. Conveniently located across the street from the Willoughby Avenue entrance of the State Office Building and next to Bullwinkle's Pizza. Full Espresso bar and Filipino food. The Chicken Adobo and Pork Adobo are great, and they also have other Filipino soups and stews. When it's not raining, you can sit under the trees on the deck in back and eat your lunch or drink your latte. Open for coffee around 9 a.m., for lunch from 10 a.m. until food's gone.
By far the most popular with locals is The Alaskan Bar (South Franklin Street) to hang out with locals, listen to music (Thursday is open mic night) and drink an Alaskan (beer) with an Alaskan in the Alaskan. A bit rough looking but a great hangout.
- The Hangar which is also good for food. Sit and watch the float planes takeoff and the cruise ships come and go. During daylight hours in the tourist season, when the floatplanes are constantly arriving and taking off next door, either sit inside or plan to leave with a headache and a hoarse throat. When tourist season is over, sit outside and enjoy the relative solitude.
- The Triangle Bar. Looks like somewhere you wouldn't want to go, but sometimes it fills the bill, especially during legislative season when the lobbyists, lawyers and aides can be found there.
- Island Pub in Douglas (see the Eat section above)
- Squire's Rest out in Auke Bay for a rustic experience.
- Drop into the Alaskan Brewery to sample the brews.
- Juneau International Hostel, 614 Harris St, ☎ +1 907 586-9559, . checkin: 5PM-10:30PM (winter), 5PM-11PM (summer); checkout: 9AM. Lockout from 9AM-5PM daily. Guests are assigned a daily job. Walking distance to downtown. Curfew at 10:30PM (winter) or 11PM (summer). Five night maximum stay. $10.
- Goldbelt Hotel Juneau, 51 Egan Dr, ☎ +1 907 586-6900 (fax: +1 907 463-5861), . $109+.
- Westmark Baranof Hotel, 127 N Franklin St, ☎ +1 907 586-2660 (fax: +1 907 586-8315), . $129-$250.
- Prospector Hotel, 375 Whittier St, ☎ +1 907 789-5005 (fax: +1 907 789-2818), . $109-$179.
- Best Western Country Lane Inn, 9300 Glacier Hwy, ☎ +1 907 586-3737 (fax: +1 907 586-1204), .
- Best Western Grandma's Feather Bed, 2358 Mendenhall Loop Rd, ☎ +1 907 789-5566 (fax: +1 907 789-2818), .
- Extended Stay Deluxe, 1800 Shell Simmons Dr, ☎ +1 907 790-6435 (fax: +1 907 790-6621), .
- Beachside Villa Luxury Inn, 3120 Douglas Hwy, ☎ +1 907 463-5531, . checkin: 5PM; checkout: noon. This is one of Juneau's extremely rare waterfront inns. Beachside Villa has views of Mt. Juneau and Mt. Roberts as well as the city lights and cruise ships, watercraft and Alaskan wildlife on the water. Sometimes you can see whales out in the harbor. The rooms are nice and have fresh nice coffee/tea/cocoa in the rooms.
- The Driftwood Lodge, 435 Willoughby Ave, ☎ +1 907 364-1595, . In downtown Juneau. You will also find a restaurant, a liquor store and a deli nearby.
- Juneau Public Library, (292 Marine Way), ☎ +1 907 586-5249, . M-Th 11AM-8PM, F noon-6PM, Sa-Su noon-5PM. Internet terminals and free wifi.
Juneau is in a temperate rain forest, so complaining about the rain will probably warrant a few eye rolls, or flat-out rudeness.
Juneau is a great place to base for a camping vacation or cruise tour. It's the gateway to the Admiralty Island National Monument  and the Tracy Arm/Ford's Terror Wilderness Area. . Both areas are popular with kayakers.
- The U. S. Forest Service operates two campgrounds  on the Juneau road system, one at Auke Bay Recreation Area at the site of Juneau's original Tlingit village, and one located on Mendenhall Lake near Mendenhall Glacier.
- If you don't want to tent camp, there are a number of public use cabins in the Juneau area, some located on trails accessible from the Juneau road system. Those located in state parks are operated by Alaska State Parks, and those located in Tongass National Forest  are operated by the U.S. Forest Service. They are often fully booked for weekends and holidays early in the year, but it's possible to find cabins available on weekdays.
Dawes Glacier at the head of Endicott Arm, 2010
- Tracy Arm/Sawyer Glacier and Endicott Arm/Dawes Glacier are two spectacular deep-water fjords with active tidewater glaciers at their termini (Dawes, a compound glacier, is about 20 stories high and a mile across). The mouth of these sister fjords (Tracy is the north arm and Endicott the south arm) is about 50 miles south of Juneau, off Stephens Passage east of Admiralty Island, and both fjords/glaciers are accessible by cruise ship big and small. Small vessel day cruises operate daily in the summer.
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