Dozens of storefronts are scattered in Juneau’s downtown area just steps from the ships, making it a convenient port of call for shoppers. While some shops sell the typical souvenirs (like T-shirts and shot glasses) others offer unique products made in Alaska. A word of caution: Be aware that knockoff artwork is often sold as “authentic local art,” so stick to stores that are family-owned and -operated.
Here are five ideas for what to buy in Juneau.
You may have seen infomercials for “ulu” knives, but the trendy kitchen accessory was first used by Native Alaskans nearly 4,000 years ago. The curved knives feature a handle on top of the blade and are particularly useful when filleting fish. They can also be used for chopping and mincing and often come with a matching bowl. Alaska Knifeworks (2 Marine Way) sells ulus, as well as a variety of expertly crafted pocket and hunting knives with walrus jawbones or caribou antlers for handles.
Insider’s Tip: Most cruise ships require you to check the ulu knife with the ship security. And if you’re flying home, be sure to pack the ulu knife in your checked bag or TSA will confiscate it.
Historically, the artwork of Native Alaskans was made with whalebones, animal hides, walrus tusks and woven grasses and was used for practical and spiritual purposes. Operated by a Tlingit family, Tripp’s Mt. Juneau Trading Post is a two-story shop in the historic Seward Building (151 S. Franklin Street) filled with native artwork and handicrafts. Cruisers will find carved masks, paddles, soap-stone carvings, moccasins, jewelry, totems and more.
Salmon tops the list for “must-have” local food products, and Alaska Knifeworks has a selection of smoked sockeye and salmon caviar products. They also sell bull kelp marmalade (a citrus jam made with local kelp (seaweed)), as well as spruce-tip sea salt (a rub that adds an herbal flavor to meats, poultry and seafood).
Birch syrup is another food item earning notoriety and is sold at Juneau Mining Co. (425 S. Franklin Street) and Juneau Trading Co. (720 S. Franklin Street) as a breakfast blend, or the traditional version can be found at Raven Eagle Gifts (490 S. Franklin Street) at the top of the Mount Roberts Tramway.
In 2001, the owners of Glacier Smoothie sprinkled glacier silt into bar soaps and customers were delighted with how soft it made their skin. Since launching the original soap bar, the company now offers a variety of products, including body wash, bubble bath, silt scrubs, shaving “cakes” and scented bar soaps such as fireweed, a lovely scent from the ruby-shaded wildflowers. Glacier Smoothie can be found at 365 S. Franklin Street. Note that the company is closed on Sundays, but online ordering is available.
There’s no denying the beauty of Juneau, and local artists get to experience it during changing seasons and atmospheric conditions. The result is gorgeous images and paintings of a magical region. Try Wilderness Peaks (159 S. Franklin Street) for Daniel Buck’s stunning photography, or Annie Kaill’s gallery (244 Front Street), which offers prints, paintings and other art mediums from numerous local artists.