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
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°21′5″N, 134°30′42″W (58.351422, -134.511579).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 prohibitivily 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 is only by air or by sea. Cruise ships plying the Inside Passage bring thousands of visitors to SE Alaska and Juneau almost every day between May and September.
Most locals and non-cruise ship visitors fly in from Seattle or Anchorage with Alaska Airlines. 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 and Haines Air. Many locals avoid LAB Flying Service.
Juneau is also a main port for the Alaska Marine Highway, Alaska's ferry system. The ferry runs regularly throughout Souteast Alaska with regular stops in Ketchikan, Petersburg, Wrangel, Sitka, Haines, and Skagway. Small communities, such as Angoon, Hoonah, Tenakee Springs, Pelican, and Kake, get occasion AMHS service. The closest port with a road connection is Haines, about a five hour ride away from Juneau by regular ferry and 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.
Most locals travel by personal vehicles or the local bus. Car rentals are available at the airport and are necessary if you wish to explore far on your own. The MGT bus service offers inexpensive ($6) trips from downtown to the Mendenhall Glacier, airport, and AMHS ferry terminal.
The most popular activities in Juneau for visitors are shopping, flight seeing, charter fishing, visiting the Mendendhall Glacier, and hiking. Be aware the 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.
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 trickets for their grandchildren and jewelry for themselves.
There are a few locally owned stores that attract local and tourists. Check out William Spear Design (Franklin Street above Hertitage Coffee) for awesome pins.
The Alaskan Brewery also has good Alaska based products that are popular with locals and tourists alike.
Look for a sign in shop windows that says "This store is owned by an Alaskan family."
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.
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.