As I’ve probably mentioned in previous posts, I work for a cruise line called Holland America as a stage manager. This job is only on the big boats, so there are only a few itineraries I get to go on, and the most popular itinerary is Alaska. Thanks to that, I’ve spent at least part of my last four summers cruising way up north. So if you’re going to Juneau, the capital of Alaska, anytime soon, here are some recommendations for places to see and things to eat.
#1 – Eat at Tracey’s Crab Shack
Let me repeat this to make sure you get it – EAT AT TRACY’S CRAB SHACK! It is my favorite place to eat in the entire world. I am addicted to their crab like it’s crack. I think I’ve probably eaten more than a month’s salary in crab over the last four summers. When you get there, you might see the prices and think that nearly $30 a person is too much to pay for lunch or dinner, but you’d be missing the best thing in Juneau if you walk away. You should also note that the place is often packed, and even more telling than that, it’s often packed with crew members. Tracey’s is located next to the library, right down by the cruise ship dock, and it is literally a shack (although a growing one – it’s more than doubled in size since I first started going).
#2 – Mendenhall Glacier
Mendenhall Glacier is the popular glacier to check out in Juneau. You can take express shuttles from by the cruise ship terminal for about $10 and then wander around the glacier for free. If you want to go in their visitor center, it costs a few dollars. If you’re really into glaciers, it could be worth it, but for the most part, I’d skip it and just hike the trails. You can also take the Mendenhall Glacier bus for $1.50 each way. It’ll take a lot longer – probably close to an hour – but riding the Juneau busses is an experience in and of itself as the natives are very… colorful.
#3 – The Alaskan Brewery
If you like beer, or even if you don’t, this is a pretty cool stop during your stay. There is an Alaskan Brewery Depot downtown that sells all their t-shirts and cooking supplies, etc., but it’s not the actual brewery. It’s my understanding you can take a shuttle from there out to the brewery, but it’s expensive. So I’m going to redirect you again to the bus station, which is right across from the water’s edge if you walk like you’re going toward the Taku Lodge shack and heading into town. For $1.50 each way, you also take the Mendenhall bus, but get off when they announce for Costco and the Brewery. from the bus stop, you’ll be able to see Costco and the Home Depot, head in that direction, but turn down the first road on your right, which will look like an industrial section. The Brewery is on this road. Anyone 21 and over can try six good sized samples of the assorted beers they have to offer. There is also a brief brewery tour. I don’t even like beer and I think Alaskan Pale Ale and Alaskan Summer are pretty good.
#4 – Mt. Roberts
Mt. Roberts is definitely very touristy, and if you’re into hiking, you can actually hike up the mountain in about an hour and a half. I couldn’t begin to tell you where the trail is because hiking often seems like punishment for being alive to me. But if you ask around downtown, people can point you to the trail head. At the top there is a lodge, some more hiking trails, and a blind bald eagle that they keep in a cage. Most people, however, will choose to take the tram up to the top. The tram is ridiculously expensive for non-crew members. Even for crew, it’s still $10, but for passengers it’s $27. It is kind of a “thing to do” in Juneau, so if you’re into traveling and you don’t want to admit you didn’t just spend the $27 to go up in the tram, I guess that kind of makes it worth it.
#5 – Alaskan Canopy Adventures (Ziplining)
This is another of my favorite things to do in port. I luck out and often get to escort the ship tour for free, but ziplining in Juneau, if you arrange the tour yourself, will set you back about $150. It is so much fun though! The Juneau ziplining also has several suspension bridges you cross and, at the end, you rappel off a platform down to the ground. The tour takes about 3 and a half hours. I’ve done it several times and I’ve always had a blast.
#6 – The Wizard of Oz in Juneau
This last little thing is more a roadside oddity, if anyone is into them (heaven knows, I am). If you go to the Brewery, this can be found at the same stop. You’ll actually drive right past it right before getting to that bus stop. So if you backtrack the way the bus comes from the Costco/Brewery stop, you can find the Wedding Dress shop (out of business, I think), that has a ton of Wizard of Oz characters in tin on top of it. I think it’s awesome and ridiculous.
Those are really the Juneau highlights. If you’re looking for free internet in port, you can find a decent signal at The Viking, located just off the main street, near the movie theater. The Silverbow has much better signal, but is often more crowded. It’s best to hit it at the beginning of the day. The library also used to have free internet, but I’m not sure if that’s still true.
One tourist trap to decide for yourself whether or not it’s worth a visit is the Red Dog Saloon. It’s supposedly a staple from the goldrush days, but I just feel it’s overpriced food that you have to listen to an annoying guy with a guitar sing while you eat it. If you wanted an “authentic” goldrush-like meal, I’d recommend taking one of the busses they have on the pier to the Liarsville Salmon Bake, which is delicious and kind of cool. You get the atmosphere without the annoyance, you’ll just probably have to set aside about an hour and a half of your day to do it.