Top 10 kid-friendly things to do in Juneau, Alaska

Recently, we spent a few days in Juneau, Alaska’s state capital, located in Southeast Alaska. This little town is tucked in a temperate rainforest between the base of Mount Juneau in the Tongass National Forest and the Gastineau Channel. Juneau is a true gem for nature lovers and is home to soaring bald eagles, brown bears, and majestic humpback whales.

Interestingly, with no road access, Juneau is the only state capital in the mainland United States that can only be reached by airplane or boat.

Juneau has a rich Gold mining history, with the mining industry being a significant part of the local economy in the past. The legacy of mining in Juneau still lives on through the many historical sites and artifacts – from abandoned mines to preserved mining equipment.

Without a doubt, Juneau is a great destination for a family vacation, with activities to suit all types of travelers. Here are the top 10 kid-friendly things to do in Juneau, Alaska:

Osprey Atmos AG 65 Men's Backpacking Backpack, Black

What to pack for Alaska?

To help you prepare for your Alaskan journey, we’ve put together a comprehensive family packing list to Alaska that covers everything you’ll need to make the most of your family adventure.

1. Visit Mendenhall Glacier

Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska
Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska

Mendenhall Glacier, located in the Mendenhall Valley of the Tongass National Forest, is one of the 38 large glaciers that flow from the Juneau Icefield.

This glacier is only within a 20-minute drive from downtown Juneau and is one of the most accessible glaciers in the whole of Alaska. You can take a tour bus or rent a car and drive at your own pace, just like we did.

Adult (15+) day passes to Mendenhall Glacier cost $5, and season passes are $15 for cardholders and one guest. Federal passes like “America the Beautiful” Senior Pass or Military Pass are also accepted.

Everything you need to know about visiting National Parks with kids

After visiting 20 National Parks with our kids and experiencing their unique beauty, we have put together a guide detailing the essentials of planning and participating in park programs to ensure a rewarding family adventure in the National Parks.
Continue reading →

Visiting glaciers is always fascinating, and Mendenhall Glacier marked our fourth Alaskan Glacier visit (you can read more about our 10-day trip to Denali National Park and Kenai Fjords National Park here).

One thing is for sure – the glaciers are melting dramatically and are a present reminder of climate change. Did you know that only a hundred years ago, Mendenhall Lake did not even exist?

Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska
Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska

2. Stand under the Nugget Falls

Nugget Falls, Juneau
Nugget Falls, Juneau

Just within a short hike from the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, you can find yourself under the gorgeous Nugget Falls! This 377 ft. waterfall is located close to the Mendenhall Glacier in the Tongass National Forest. Gracefully cascading into Mendenhall Lake, Nugget Falls is, in fact, fed by the creek from the small Nugget Glacier.

Reaching the waterfall was easy and only took us about 20 minutes on foot from the Visitor Center.

Nugget Falls, Juneau
Nugget Falls, Juneau

3. Venture into the woods for Gold Creek Salmon bake

Gold Creek Salmon Bake, Juneau
Gold Creek Salmon Bake, Juneau

Don’t miss your chance to attend an all-you-can-eat wild Alaskan salmon event. This experience is not just about trying a delicious grilled salmon but is also about enjoying the perfect setting right by Salmon Creek in the rainforest.

💡 Good to Know

We booked our Gold Creek Salmon Bake tour in advance and selected a specific time slot from several options ranging from 11 am to 6:30 pm. The price was $69 for adults ages 13 and up, $49 for children ages 4-12, and kids under 3 were free. This price included round-trip transportation from Downtown Juneau and an all-you-can-eat salmon buffet meal.

Gold Creek Salmon Bake, Juneau
Gold Creek Salmon Bake, Juneau

The venue offers wild salmon, slowly grilled over alder wood (try the brown sugar glaze on top!), a variety of sides, salads, and a blueberry pie – all served in a buffet style. Moreover, you can finish your dinner by roasting marshmallows over a campfire!

Lastly, you can take a short stroll along Salmon Creek to the entrance of Wagner Mine at Salmon Creek Falls. Enjoy this beautiful waterfall while checking out mining relics and looking for salmon in the creek (spoiler alert, we saw none 😟).

Salman Falls, Gold Creek Salmon Bake, Juneau
Salman Falls, Gold Creek Salmon Bake, Juneau

Overall, we spent a few hours at Gold Creek Salmon Bake, enjoying our meal and the outdoors, and we think this place is a must-visit while you are in Juneau.

The good news is that you can take any shuttle to downtown Juneau, whether you want to leave earlier or later.

4. Dine at the Mount Roberts Mountain House

Mount Roberts Mountain House, Juneau
Mount Roberts Mountain House, Juneau

Although travel guides highly recommended the Goldbelt Tram ride in Juneau, we found it somewhat overrated, especially considering the round trip cost of a ticket ($50 per adult, $35 for kids 3-12) and waiting in line for 1.5 hours.

What we definitely recommend is dining at Mount Roberts Mountain House with panoramic mountain views. If you are wondering how to get to the top of the mountain without taking a tram, the answer is – hiking! 

You can take the Mount Roberts Trail from Juneau (trailhead is a 5-minute drive or a 20-minute walk from downtown Juneau) and hike 2 miles uphill through the rainforest (it would take you approximately 2 hours). The trail itself was steep and gained 1,800 feet along the way. When you get to the Mountain House, there is an observation deck with stunning panoramic views of Juneau and Gastineau Channel (the same view you get from the tram).

Top family-friendly travel tips for stress-free trips

Traveling with kids can be a wonderful experience, but it can also be challenging. From organizing and packing everything you need to keep your kids entertained and comfortable during flights and road trips, there are many factors to consider.
Continue reading →

After the hike, the kids were happy to dine with a view at Timberline Bar & Grill. And when we spotted some mountain goats through our binoculars, it definitely made their day.

Goldbelt Tram, Juneau
Goldbelt Tram, Juneau

Since the girls insisted, we decided to take the tram down after all. The ride was just a few minutes long, and we paid $20 per person. Apparently, if you dine at the Mountain House restaurant, you can ride the train down for free. Unfortunately, the staff seemed overwhelmed, and no one mentioned it, nor was there a sign about it (they even wanted to charge us for our 2-year-old 🫢). 

5. Stroll through Downtown Juneau

Downtown Juneau, Alaska
Downtown Juneau, Alaska

Juneau is a perfect place to explore on foot as it is highly walkable. The downtown area boasts picturesque and colorful buildings that look like they came straight out of a postcard!

You can stroll around to shop, taste the famous halibut chowder at The Hangar On The Wharf, or visit the historic Red Dog Saloon, which is kid-friendly, by the way (adults can try the popular Duck Fart drink while they’re there). Juneau offers something for everyone!

6. Explore local hikes

Mendenhall Glacier Area, Alaska
Mendenhall Glacier Area, Alaska

Unfortunately, our time was limited and we were unable to explore all of the local hiking trails that we wanted. Here is what we could do:

Nugget Falls Trail:

Trailhead: Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center
Round-trip Distance: 2 miles
Time: 45 minutes
Level: Easy, paved
Elevation: 108 ft.

Trail of Time

Trailhead: Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center
Round-trip Distance: 1.1 miles
Time: 30 minutes
Level: Easy, paved
Elevation: 120 ft.

Mount Robert Trail, Juneau
Mount Robert Trail, Juneau

Mount Roberts Trail (to Goldbelt Tram station)

Trailhead: Mount Roberts Trailhead on Basin Rd.
Round-trip Distance: 2 miles
Time: 2 hours
Level: Moderate
Elevation: 1,800 ft.

Gold Creel Flume Trail, Juneau
Gold Creel Flume Trail, Juneau

Gold Creel Flume Trail

Trailhead: At the end of Evergreen Ave.
Round-trip Distance: 1.4 miles
Time: 40 minutes
Level: Easy, on a boardwalk
Elevation: 180 ft.

7. Try Alaskan King crabs

Tracy's King Crab Shack 2, Juneau
Tracy’s King Crab Shack 2, Juneau

When in Alaska, be sure to try the Alaskan King Crab. Sweet and meaty, paired with melted butter and a garlic roll – it’s definitely a must-try. If you are looking for a place in Juneau, Tracy’s King Crab Shack is an excellent choice to enjoy this delicacy.

We suggest that for a more enjoyable and scenic experience, skip the MAIN SHACK located Downtown and head to SHACK 2 (just within a 5-minute drive from Downtown), with a nice outdoor setting. Not only do you get to skip long lines, but you also have a great space for kids to play and run around while you eat the same perfectly cooked crab meat.

Tracy’s King Crab Shack sells crab meat by the pound (Red king crab was $75/lb), and 2 pounds was more than enough for the four of us!

8. Go on a Whale watching tour

Juneau Whale Watch Tour, Juneau
Humpback whale, Alaska. Juneau Whale Watch Tour, Juneau

We decided to go on a whale-watching tour to see majestic humpback whales in their natural habitat. Every year humpback whales embark on one of the longest migrations of any mammal on the planet, swimming 5,000 miles from tropical breeding grounds (in Hawaii) to colder feeding grounds, particularly the Alaskan shores.

Juneau Whale Watch Tour, Juneau
Juneau Whale Watch Tour, Juneau

Adult humpback whales get their common name from the distinctive hump on their back. They are typically 14-15 m (46-49 ft) long and are well-known for surface activities such as breaching (jumping out of the water) and slapping the surface with their fins and tails.

We went with Juneau Whale Watch Tour and booked our 2-hour Auke Bay tour in advance (kids under three a free). We learned that every whale has a unique fluke (the two lobes of the whale’s tail), and we were happy to spot several different whales! The highlight of the tour was a baby whale jumping out of the water! Incredible!

💡 Good to Know

Now, about the weather in Juneau. As we mentioned above, it is located in a temperature rainforest, and it rains 230 days per year on average. While we were there for five days in early July, it rained only once, and the locals said they had two weeks of nonstop rain just before that.

The air temperature ranged from mid-50 F to mid-60 F. To be honest, we were expecting much colder weather and had a whole suitcase of jackets and hats which we barely got a chance to wear 😅.

As for the bugs, there weren’t that many, and we never even had to use bug spray.

9. Visit Alaska State Museum

Alaska State Museum, Juneau
Alaska State Museum, Juneau

The Alaska State Museum is conveniently located within minutes from downtown Juneau. Visiting the museum is an excellent opportunity to explore the rich history, art, and culture of Alaska’s regions through permanent exhibits and seasonal displays.

💡 Good to Know

The general admission fee to the museum is $14, but it is free for those who are 18 and under. The museum is open every Monday from 1:00 PM to 4:30 PM; from Tuesday to Sunday, it operates from 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM

Consider spending at least 1 hour exploring different exhibits. The girls really appreciated the Octopus playroom and “embarked on a journey” through the seas.

Alaska State Museum, Juneau
Alaska State Museum, Juneau

10. Dine at Pocket Park (with Deckhand Dave’s Fish Tacos and Alaskan Crepe Escape)

Deckhand Dave's Fish Tacos
Deckhand Dave’s Fish Tacos

Although Juneau offers abundant dining options, we think that it is worth mentioning this area in particular. There is a secluded area on Front and S Franklin Streets in Downtown Juneau with a mountain view outdoor sitting area and two permanent food trucks – Deckhand Dave’s Fish Tacos and Alaskan Crepe Escape. Trust me, the halibut and salmon tacos are absolutely the best, and the crepes were so delicious! The girls could not get enough of the stuffed sweet crepes and begged us to come back a few times.

💡 Good to Know

Some of our other favorites included delicious halibut/salmon chowder at Hangar On The Wharf and breakfast with buttermilk pancakes at the Sandpiper Cafe (which also surprisingly offered a very affordable breakfast).

Bottom Line

We loved our trip to Juneau and think it is a perfect destination for a short-term family trip. The Alaska state capital is surrounded by incredible natural beauty and is truly a treasure for any nature lover. As we mentioned before, it is only accessible by water and plane, so staying in this particular area would not let you take any day trips or travel further to other parts of Alaska by car at your leisure.

It’s worth noting that Juneau is a favored spot for cruise ships, with three to four new vessels and hundreds of passengers docking in the Downtown area every day. As tourists ourselves, it’s easy to see why people come here. However, if you want to avoid large crowds, it’s best to plan your visit between September and April when there are no cruise ships. Just keep in mind that the weather during this time is typically worse than in the summer.

Leave a Comment