Exploring Juneau: Families, Solo Cruisers and Older Adults

In this article:

Juneau is an exciting destination where most of the adventures are focused on the outdoors, from hiking through a rainforest and kayaking next to glaciers to viewing wildlife around nearly every corner.

This handy guide helps match you with the right activity in Juneau, whether you’re traveling with friends, on your own, or with your family.

For Families:
 Kids touring Macaulay Salmon Hatchery in Juneau, Alaska
Credit: DIPAC Macaulay Salmon Hatchery

Younger Kids: Salmon Hatchery

At the Macaulay Salmon Hatchery, visitors learn everything there is to know about salmon through education exhibits, viewing windows of the salmon, and saltwater aquariums teeming with 150 species of marine life. Kids love the touch tank filled with sea cucumbers, urchins, crabs and sea stars. During mid-summer, hordes of adult salmon put on a show as they attempt to climb the 450-foot fish ladder. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children; a 15-minute guided tour is included. Taxis run around $15, or guests can take the public bus (number 3 or 4) from the transit center at the corner of Main Street and Marine Way. Tip: The hatchery is a great activity for rainy days.

Teens: Kayaking to the Glacier

Credit: ABAK Wilderness Trips

While many of the adventurous Mendenhall Glacier tours come with a high price tag, a kayak excursion is a moderately-priced option — particularly for families with teens who love the outdoors. A four-and-a-half-hour tour with Above and Beyond Alaska includes three hours of paddling on Lake Mendenhall past Nugget Falls and icebergs, and getting up close to the glacier for breathtaking photo opportunities. Rates are $169 per person (ages 8 and up) and include transportation.

For Friends:
 Crowd toasting at Alaska Brewing Co. in Juneau
Credit: Alaskan Brewing Co.

Brewery Tour

Two 28-year-olds who followed their dreams and moved to Alaska opened Alaskan Brewing Co. in 1986, with Alaskan Amber Ale as their first brew. You can try any of the eight beers offered year-round (as well as seasonal options), which are infused with local vegetation like spruce tips, alder and glacier-fed water. Sample a flight in the tasting room, check out the original 10-barrel brewing system and see a collection of historical brewing artifacts. The brewery is five miles from the port (a $20 one-way cab ride), or Liquid Tours operates a round-trip shuttle every hour for $20 (with a tasting included) from 219 S. Franklin Street.

River Rafting

Credit: Alaska Travel Adventures

Raft through a lake lined with icebergs to the exciting whitewater rapids of Mendenhall River. Throughout the three-and-a-half-hour adventure you’ll glide past wildlife such as otters, seals and salmon and will have views of the towering mountains and lush forests with 11 others on your raft. You’ll also learn about the glacial features and local history from an experienced guide. Ideal for groups, the tour starts at Lake Mendenhall, with awe-inspiring views of the Mendenhall Glacier. The cost is $135 per person and includes round-trip transportation with Alaska Travel Adventures.

For Older Adults:
Peaceful waterfalls seen at Glacier Gardens Rainforest Adventure in Juneau, Alaska
Credit: Glacier Gardens Rainforest Adventure

Botanical Gardens

A unique temperate garden made of a 50-acre rainforest, Glacier Gardens Rainforest Adventure is a peaceful oasis filled with waterfalls, streams and the signature “flower towers.” A shuttle tour is available, or you can take a self-guided tour. Most cruise lines offer an excursion to the gardens (pricing may vary) with transportation included. Tickets are $24.95 per adult when booking directly through Glacier Gardens.

Whale Watching

Credit: Gastineau Guiding Company/ Megan Holt

Established in 1994, the Gastineau Guiding Company is a solid choice for whale-watching expeditions in Juneau, and it also assists organizations with scientific research. Snacks and water are provided while searching for bears, humpback whales, orcas and other wildlife on the four-hour tour. The cost is $169 per person, with transportation included. You will need to either book ahead of time through the company website (which directs you to the cruise line you’ll be sailing with) or book once you get on the ship. We recommend booking ahead to ensure the excursion does not sell out.  

Tip: Spotting wildlife can be tricky, but these tips will help train you spot wildlife in Alaska.

For Solo Cruisers:
Man hiking with Adventure Flow in Juneau, Alaska
Credit: Adventure Flow

Group Hike

For solo travelers who love to hike but would rather not trek into unfamiliar mountains alone, Adventure Flow is a perfect match. The company offers small-group hikes (10 or less) around Mendenhall Glacier (not on the glacier) that last five to six hours. The guides are outdoor enthusiasts and truly love Alaska, and that kind of energy is contagious. Rain pants and waterproof footwear are suggested (it is the rainforest). The Mendenhall Glacier Adventure departs at 8 a.m., but other hikes or even walking tours in Juneau are available for late-arrival ships. The fee is $94 per adult and includes transportation to the trailhead, and an optional lunch is an additional $13.

Zip Line Course

Credit: Alaska Canopy Adventures

There’s nothing like an exhilarating treetop course to bond with other shipmates, and Alaska Canopy Adventures offers just that with 6,000 feet of dual zip lines, suspension bridges and a ground-based trail. The three-and-a-half-hour zip line tour includes a boat transfer from the port to nearby Douglas Island. You’ll soar over the treetops of the Tongass National Forest and past a historic gold mine from the 1880s. Tickets are $189 per person.

For Couples:
Group helicopter ride to Mendenhall Glacier with Alaska Icefield Expeditions in Juneau
Credit: Alaska Icefield Expeditions

Helicopter Over Mendenhall Glacier and Go Mushing

For an epic trip, Alaska Icefield Expeditions whisks couples away for a 25-minute scenic helicopter ride to the Mendenhall Glacier, where it lands on the ice field. Dog lovers can then interact with the huskies at the dog camp, go mushing on a dog sled, and learn about the Iditarod and the tradition of dog sledding. The tour lasts just under three hours. At $519 per person, it is a splurge, but also a memorable “only in Alaska” experience.

Quiet Hike

Credit: Travel Juneau

For a less-strenuous — yet interesting — hike, check out the Treadwell Mine Historic Trail on Douglas Island, just across the channel. Gold mining remains can still be seen in the stamp mill, pulleys, rollers and buildings that made up a mini city. To get there, take the Douglas bus service to the Treadwell Ice Arena and walk to Savikko Park (Sandy Beach). The trail entrance is behind the playground, and the Alaska tourism website offers a free walking guide. Buses run every 30 minutes from downtown, or taxis are around $15 each way. The uncrowded hike takes an hour to 90 minutes round-trip, although it’s easy to spend extra time combing the beach. Afterward, walk down to The Island Pub for pizza and a pint (1102 Second Street).


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