Juneau, Alaska Visitor Guide
Juneau, Alaska, the state capital, is a unique and picturesque destination that offers visitors a range of activities and attractions, from outdoor adventures to historical exploration. In this guide, we’ll cover Juneau’s latitude and longitude, directions from Anchorage, things to do, the area’s history, RV and camping information, annual festivals and events, and famous people who have called Juneau home.
Juneau is located at approximately 58.3019° N latitude and 134.4197° W longitude.
Getting to Juneau from Anchorage
Juneau is not directly accessible by car from Anchorage, as there are no roads leading to the city. The most common ways to reach Juneau from Anchorage are by air or by sea.
Several airlines operate flights between Anchorage and Juneau, including Alaska Airlines and Ravn Alaska. Flight time is approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes. Upon arrival at Juneau International Airport, you can rent a car or take a taxi or shuttle to your destination.
The Alaska Marine Highway System operates a ferry service between Whittier (about 60 miles southeast of Anchorage) and Juneau. The ferry ride takes approximately 35-45 hours, depending on the specific route and schedule. You can bring a car on the ferry, but advance reservations are recommended.
Things to Do
Juneau offers a wide variety of activities and attractions for visitors.
One of Juneau’s most popular attractions, Mendenhall Glacier, is a must-see. Located just 12 miles from downtown Juneau, the glacier can be reached by car or by tour bus. The Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center offers exhibits about the glacier, as well as walking trails and viewing platforms.
Juneau is a prime location for whale watching, with humpback whales frequenting the surrounding waters. Numerous tour operators offer whale watching excursions, providing the opportunity to witness these majestic creatures up close.
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve
Accessible by air or boat from Juneau, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that features stunning glaciers, rugged mountains, and abundant wildlife. The park offers various activities, including kayaking, hiking, and wildlife viewing.
Alaska State Museum
The Alaska State Museum, located in downtown Juneau, showcases the state’s history, culture, and art. Exhibits include Native Alaskan artifacts, Russian-American history, and works by contemporary Alaskan artists.
Mount Roberts Tramway
The Mount Roberts Tramway offers a scenic ride from downtown Juneau to the top of Mount Roberts. At the summit, visitors can enjoy panoramic views of the city, Gastineau Channel, and surrounding mountains, as well as hiking trails and a restaurant.
Juneau’s history dates back to the late 1800s when gold was discovered in the area. The city was founded in 1880 by Joe Juneau and Richard Harris, two prospectors who discovered gold in what is now known as Gold Creek. The town quickly grew as miners and settlers arrived in search of fortune, and in 1906, Juneau became the capital of the Alaska Territory, later becoming the state capital when Alaska joined the Union in 1959.
Juneau’s rich history is deeply intertwined with the region’s natural resources, Native cultures, and the gold rush era. Let’s take a closer look at some key moments and aspects of Juneau’s history:
Before European exploration, Southeast Alaska was inhabited by the Tlingit people, who lived in the region for thousands of years. The Tlingit relied on the abundant resources of the land and sea for sustenance, and their culture was deeply connected to the natural environment. The area now known as Juneau was once home to the Auk and Taku Tlingit tribes.
European Exploration and Russian America
In the mid-18th century, European explorers began to map and explore the Alaska coastline. The first Europeans to arrive were the Russians, led by Vitus Bering in 1741. The Russian-American Company established a fur trade monopoly in the region, but the area that would become Juneau was not significantly impacted by the Russian presence.
Gold Rush Era
The discovery of gold in Gold Creek in 1880 by Joe Juneau and Richard Harris marked the beginning of Juneau’s gold rush era. The area saw a rapid influx of miners and settlers, leading to the establishment of the town of Juneau. Several mines were opened in the area, including the Treadwell, Alaska Juneau, and Perseverance mines, which produced millions of dollars’ worth of gold.
In 1906, Juneau was named the capital of the Alaska Territory, in part due to its thriving economy and strategic location. With the decline of the gold mining industry in the early 20th century, Juneau transitioned to a more diversified economy, focusing on government, tourism, and fishing.
Statehood and Beyond
Alaska became the 49th state in the United States in 1959, with Juneau retaining its status as the state capital. The city continued to grow and develop, with infrastructure improvements and the expansion of the state government contributing to the local economy.
In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, Juneau has also seen a resurgence of interest in its gold mining history, with new mining operations and exploration taking place in the region. Additionally, the city has embraced its cultural and natural heritage, with a focus on tourism, outdoor recreation, and the arts.
Native Alaskan Cultural Revitalization
The latter half of the 20th century saw a revitalization of Alaska Native culture and an increased emphasis on preserving and promoting traditional practices and knowledge. In Juneau, organizations like the Sealaska Heritage Institute and the Juneau-Douglas City Museum have played crucial roles in fostering a greater understanding and appreciation of the region’s Native history and culture. Today, Juneau’s history is celebrated and honored through various events, museums, and cultural centers, which highlight the city’s unique blend of Native, gold rush, and contemporary history.
Today, Juneau remains an important center of government and commerce, as well as a popular destination for tourists seeking to experience Alaska’s natural beauty and rich history.
RV and Camping Information
There are limited RV and camping options within Juneau city limits, but nearby areas offer accommodations:
Spruce Meadow RV Park
Located about 14 miles north of downtown Juneau, Spruce Meadow RV Park offers RV sites with full hook-ups, as well as tent camping sites. Amenities include restrooms, showers, laundry facilities, and Wi-Fi.
Auke Bay RV Park
Auke Bay RV Park, situated approximately 12 miles northwest of downtown Juneau, provides RV sites with partial hook-ups. Amenities include restrooms, showers, and a dump station.
Annual Festivals and Events
Juneau hosts several annual events and festivals that showcase the city’s unique culture and natural surroundings.
Gold Rush Days
Held in June, Gold Rush Days is a celebration of Juneau’s rich mining history. The event features mining competitions, live music, food vendors, and family-friendly activities.
Alaska Folk Festival
The Alaska Folk Festival, held each April, showcases local and regional musicians performing traditional and contemporary folk music. The week-long event offers free performances and workshops for all ages.
Juneau Jazz & Classics Festival
Taking place in May, the Juneau Jazz & Classics Festival is a 10-day music event featuring jazz, blues, and classical music performances by local, national, and international artists. The festival includes concerts, workshops, and community outreach events.
Famous People of Juneau
Juneau has been home to several notable individuals who have made significant contributions in various fields, both past and present. Here are a few famous people from Juneau:
Carlos Boozer is a retired professional basketball player who was born and raised in Juneau. He played in the NBA for 13 seasons, including stints with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Utah Jazz, Chicago Bulls, and Los Angeles Lakers. Boozer was a two-time NBA All-Star and won an Olympic gold medal as part of Team USA in 2008.
One of Juneau’s co-founders, Richard Harris, played a significant role in the city’s gold rush history. He and Joe Juneau discovered gold in Gold Creek, leading to the establishment of the city and the subsequent gold rush. Harris’s contributions to the development of Juneau are commemorated by the naming of Harris Street in downtown Juneau.
A longtime Juneau resident, Marie Darlin was a community activist and historian who dedicated her life to preserving and promoting Juneau’s history and culture. She was involved in numerous local organizations, including the Juneau-Douglas City Museum, the Gastineau Channel Historical Society, and the Alaska State Museum. Darlin was instrumental in the creation of the Last Chance Mining Museum and the preservation of several historic mining structures in Juneau.
Hilary Lindh, born and raised in Juneau, is a former World Cup alpine ski racer and Olympic medalist. Lindh competed in the 1992 Winter Olympics, where she won a silver medal in the Women’s Downhill event. She also won three World Cup downhill races and a World Championship downhill bronze medal during her career.
Byron Mallott, a Tlingit Native Alaskan, was a prominent political figure in Juneau and the state of Alaska. He served as the Mayor of Juneau, the President of the Alaska Federation of Natives, and the Executive Director of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation. In 2014, Mallott was elected as the Lieutenant Governor of Alaska, serving from 2014 to 2018.
Margo Waring is a poet and artist based in Juneau. Her poetry has been published in numerous literary journals, and her work has been recognized with several awards, including the Alaska State Council on the Arts’ Connie Boochever Fellowship. Waring’s poetry and art often reflect the natural beauty and cultural landscape of Juneau and Alaska.
Zach Gordon, a lifelong resident of Juneau, was a dedicated youth advocate who played a significant role in establishing a youth center in the city. The Zach Gordon Youth Center, named in his honor, provides recreational, educational, and social opportunities for Juneau’s youth. Gordon’s legacy continues to impact the lives of young people in the community.
Neka Dias, a talented chef from Juneau, has garnered recognition for her culinary skills and innovative approach to Alaskan cuisine. Dias has represented Juneau and Alaska in national culinary competitions, showcasing the unique flavors and ingredients of the region. Her work in the culinary field has helped put Juneau on the map as a destination for food lovers.
Sealaska Heritage Institute
Founded by notable figures from Juneau and Southeast Alaska, the Sealaska Heritage Institute is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving and promoting the cultural traditions of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian people. The Institute is located in Juneau and plays a vital role in fostering a greater understanding and appreciation of Alaska Native culture and history.
Teri Tibbett, a singer-songwriter and activist based in Juneau, has used her musical talents to raise awareness and support for various social and environmental causes. Tibbett has released several albums and performed at numerous events, using her platform to promote positive change and engage the community in important conversations.
These individuals, along with those previously mentioned, showcase the diverse talents and contributions of Juneau’s residents. Their achievements and dedication to their respective fields have helped to shape Juneau’s identity and create a vibrant and dynamic community.