Juneau was Tlingit land long before the arrival of Russian explorers, prospectors, miners, settlers and later, cruise ships. But it was gold in the 1880s that spurred the birth of the town. In 1906, Juneau became Alaska ‘s capital when the government was transferred from Sitka. Today, federal, state and local governments employ one out of every two Juneau workers, and cruise liners bring an influx of seasonal revenue to the port. While government buildings dominate the skyline, you’ll find plenty of history, nature and culture to explore in Juneau.
Goldbelt Mount Roberts Tramway
Goldbelt Mount Roberts Tramway offers spectacular views of Juneau and Gastineau Channel. Two 60- passenger aerial trams transport visitors from the downtown waterfront to a modern mountaintop complex at the 1,800-foot level of Mount Roberts. From there, avid hikers can trek to the 3,819-foot summit.
The Alaskan Hotel
Stop in for a cocktail. The Alaskan Hotel is one of the oldest operating hotels in Southeast. Four men built the lodge in 1913 in just six months. Its historic turn- of-the-century bar is a local center of activity year-round.
State Capitol Building
Alaska’s capitol building is one the few capitols in the U.S. that doesn’t have a dome. Completed in 1931, the brick-faced reinforced concrete structure, with its limestone-and- marble portico and lobby, once contained the legislature, governor, the post office, courts and other federal and territorial agencies. Free tours are available.
Take a drive past the residence at 716 Calhoun Avenue, which has been home to Alaska’s chief executive since 1913. Or, if you’re in the neighborhood during the holidays, stop by for a visit during the public open house, an event which has been held every year, with the exception of two years during World War II.
This scenic and popular trail offers a wonderful hike along what is said to be the first road in Alaska. Originally called Johnson Road, it provided access to gold mining operations in the Gold Creek Valley including Perseverance Mine. Ruins and artifacts remain scattered throughout the valley today.
Glacier Gardens began as a stream restoration project and soon became a unique botanical garden in the Tongass National Forest. Exquisitely designed landscapes complement the bubbling waterfalls, ponds, and streams that were brilliantly restored from a storm-damaged hillside.
Sealaska Heritage Institute
Learn about the Tlingit and Haida cultures. A work of art in its own right, the Walter Soboleff building offers art demonstrations and exhibits, and has a traditional clan house clad in hand-adzed cedar. It features large-scale work by several prominent Native artists.
Shrine of St. Therese
Hands down, this is one of the most serene places in Juneau. The Shrine of St. Therese, built in honor of St. Therese of Lisieux, Patron Saint of Alaska, began with construction of a retreat house in 1933. It was followed by construction of a log chapel on Crowe Island—a tiny island located about 400 feet from the shore. The chapel, crafted with natural stone, sits in a quiet glade surrounded by gardens, Stations of the Cross, a labyrinth and lodge.