family travels off the beaten path

Tips for Spending 36 Hours in Juneau

Tips for Spending 36 Hours in Juneau

What do you do when you are hungry for adventure and realize you could sneak in a quick trip somewhere epic that your kids haven’t been before? You pack up your bags and head to Alaska! Juneau was gorgeous + funky and just the right mix of active and quirky. I loved it. I’ll be planning a trip back there. But I am going to be honest, probably not with our kids. This was one of those trips that had us as parents at first questioning, “What were we thinking?!” We had a whopping 36 hours in Juneau, Alaska with three sleep deprived children under the age of 8, but somehow, we lived to tell about it. And most of all, we all had a great time.


How do you spend 36 hours in Juneau? Here’s the nitty gritty in 5 simple tips:

  1. DO rent a car so you can enjoy all that Juneau has to offer. While downtown Juneau is charming, there is much to see beyond the downtown area next to the cruise ship docks.
  2. DO head up Basin Road and hit up the Last Chance Mining Museum. DO be sure you have cash for the $5/person admission fee. Credit cards are not accepted. You will also want to be sure to purchase a few items so you can pan for gold yourself in the nearby stream. DON’T forget to pet the adorable pup, Galena, who is waiting for you upon crossing the river on your hike up to the Museum.
  3. DO make the drive up to the Shrine of St. Therese. For moments of quiet in nature and admiring the amazing views the Juneau area has to offer away from the hustle and bustle of a cruise ship port city…this is the place to be.
  4. DO visit the Mendenhall Glacier. While there DO spend time in the Visitor’s Center and discuss the reasons the glacier is shrinking with your children. DO be sure you are able to hike to Nugget Falls to appreciate the breathtaking waterfalls, let the kiddos get misted and get closer to the glacier. DO take part in the Junior Ranger Program at the park if your children are with. This free program focuses on educating youth about the plants, animals and changing state of the glacier. DO finish the four activities in the workbook of your child’s choosing so they can earn a patch stating them in as an Official Junior Ranger at Mendenhall Glacier.
  5. DON’T try to eat in the downtown area when there are cruise ships in town. Nothing against cruises or cruise passengers – but everything all of a sudden goes from feeling very “gold rush-esque” and adventurous to completely touristy. Our advice is simply – eat where the LOCALS eat, drink where the locals drink, not where the yelp reviews tell you to go. Who is reviewing things on Yelp in my experience? Not locals typically, it is a review from someone passing through that enjoyed their meal. Best salmon in town…ask a local. We didn’t find it…this time.

By the end of the trip, our kids were raving about their time in Juneau, especially the honor of being bestowed a certificate and patch from a real park ranger naming them Junior Rangers. Quite the accomplishment, I’d say. We’ll definitely be back to Juneau, most likely for a longer chunk of time — and definitely with cash in hand so we can pan for gold like we had promised the kids we would.

5 Tips for Visiting Juneau, Alaska with Kids