Juneau, a port of call on a Disney Cruise Line Alaska Cruise vacation, is the state capital of Alaska located along the Gastineau Channel of southern Alaska's panhandle. Nestled at the base of Mount Juneau amid a rainforest, Juneau is the largest capital in area in the United States and the only state capital accessible by air or ship only.
Things to See and Do
Although the population of Juneau is small compared to other capital cities, there is still a plethora of exciting sites to see and adventures to undertake that will surely inspire everyone in the family.
If you seek natural beauty, Juneau has it in droves. The Mendenhall Glacier, a half-mile wide, 1,800-feet deep ice field, is the most accessible glacier in Alaska and, for many, the most breathtaking. Offering panoramic views of the city, the Mount Roberts Tramway whisks Guests up to an observation deck that is approximately 2,000 feet about Juneau, providing arguably the best picture-taking opportunities in the state.
Guests looking to explore the natural and cultural roots of Juneau need look no further than the Alaska State Museum, which recounts not only the native people of Alaska and its early settlers, but also the natural wildlife that can be seen throughout the region. From June through October, the Macaulay Salmon Hatchery offers visitors an intimate glimpse of breeding salmon as they make their way up a 450-foot fish ladder.
Historic sites include the Saint Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, the state's oldest operating church, and the Red Dog Saloon, built during the city's mining era, which is home to swinging saloon doors, saw dust floors, live music and unique memorabilia.
For treasure hunters looking to shop, South Franklin Street—which parallels the dock—and the downtown area offers a myriad boutiques and stores selling typical Alaskan wares like furs, Alaskan jewelry, baleen baskets, carved ivory, lacquered boxes and nesting dolls.
Local Culture and Flavor
With its rugged mountainsides, sweeping glaciers and rainforests, Juneau is a scenic wonderland everywhere you look. Witnessing wildlife, like a brown bear fishing for food during a nature hike or a bald eagle casually soaring overhead, is not out of the ordinary.
As the capital of Alaska, Juneau's primary employer is the government—one out of every 2 Juneau workers is employed by the state, federal and municipal branches. Fishing, mining and tourism are also important parts of the Juneau economy. Recreational activities include hiking, kayaking, fishing, skiing, whale watching and wildlife viewing. Of the city's 31,000 residents, a large percent are fisherman, legislators, teachers and business owners.
Juneau is home to Alaska's only professional theater, Perseverance Theatre and the area hosts both the Alaska Folk Festival and the Juneau Jazz & Classics music festivals.
Past and Present
Originally a fishing outpost for local Tlingit Native Americans, the area now known as Juneau was founded in 1880 after 2 prospectors—Richard Harris and Joseph Juneau—discovered gold, thanks to help by Chief Kowee of the Auk Tlingit Tribe. Shortly thereafter, the town, originally called Harrisburg, was struck with "gold fever" and began to flourish, followed by hard-rock mining, sawmilling, canning and an expanding fishing industry. Juneau became the capital of Alaska in 1906.
Today, Juneau remains a treasured tourist destination that includes not only a Tlingit Native American influence, but also a tradition steeped in Russian culture. Boasting timeless natural wonders, museums and the historic sites, Juneau continues to stir the imaginations of all who visit.
Fun Facts & Tips
Juneau was named after gold prospector Joe Juneau.
Before the Europeans settled the area now known as Juneau, the region was a favorite fishing ground for local Tlingit tribe of Native Americans.
Juneau is larger in area than the state of Delaware.
Juneau continues to be the only U.S. state capital located on an international border: it is bordered by Canada to the east.