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The Mendenhall Glacier

6 Things You HAVE to do When You Visit Alaska

Did you know that takes less than two hours to fly from Seattle to Juneau, Alaska? If you’re looking to shake things up and discover something new, there’s no better place to go. Here are a few things the entire family can enjoy on a weekend trip to “The Last Frontier.”

1. Visit The Mendenhall Glacier

Conveniently located only 12 miles from downtown Juneau, the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center (and the actual glacier, of course) are well worth a visit. Learn about glacial phenomena and ecosystems, then take in the beauty of this 13-mile long natural masterpiece.

Whether you simply look at the glacier and nearby icebergs or you take a tour to hike the glacier and explore its pools and ice caves, this is a can’t-miss part of Alaska.

2. Watch some whales

The Humpback whales around Juneau employ a special feeding technique that’s only observable in a few places in the world: bubble net feeding. The whales swim in a circle below a school of fish and blow bubbles, slowly contracting the circle. The column of air bubbles forces the fish upward into a concentrated area, then the whales swim upward through it with their mouths open, often catching thousands of fish in a single gulp.

There are a variety of whale watching tours available. Whether you prefer to ride on a charter boat and relax or paddle a kayak up close to the action, the whales’ natural majesty and remarkable display of teamwork are something you won’t soon forget.

3. Take a ride on the Tramway

The Mount Roberts Tramway takes visitors up 1,800 feet, from downtown Juneau through the rainforest up to the (almost top) of Mount Roberts, offering incredible views of Juneau and the Gastineau channel. Once you land at the top, visit the Nature Center to learn about the natural history and wildlife in the area.

You can hike around the sub-alpine meadow for views of the Gastineau Channel, wildlife, an eagle rescued from the wild and native carvings in the trees. There’s also a restaurant, a gift shop and a theatre with the short film “Seeing Daylight,” which explores Tlingit history and culture. The hike is suitable for all ability levels, and the tram is handicap-accessible.

4. Explore an Alaskan rainforest

Glacier Gardens is a unique botanical garden set within the Tongass National Forest. Motorized shuttles will take you through the temperate rainforest, and tour guides walk you through the landscaped gardens with the waterfalls, streams and ponds that were restored after a landslide in 1984.

See thousands of flowers, including the famous “flower towers” hailed as one of the country’s most interesting natural landmarks, and end your tour in the greenhouse for a beautiful display of flowers, a gift shop and a small café. If you want to get close to the flora of Alaska, Glacier Gardens can’t be beat.

5. Acquire – or just appreciate – local products

Artisans fill the streets in the heart of the wonderfully walkable downtown Juneau. Storefronts display pottery, Tlingit beadwork, jewelry, clothing and housewares, all made by local families. You can learn more about the special shopping opportunities here.

6. Chow down and drink up

Visit Amalga Distillery and sip libations in the same room as the still. Try gins and vodkas infused with local ingredients like spruce, rhubarb and kelp. If you prefer beer, stop by Alaskan Brewing Co. for a taste of classics like Kicker Session IPA and Hopothermia or go for seasonal and limited edition brews like the Husky IPA or the Smoked Porter.

Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head to any of the unique restaurants in Juneau for fresh crabs, salmon or halibut for a treat straight from the sea. You can also book a local food tour to experience a variety of tastings, history and a bit of local lore. Check out Juneau Food Tours to learn more.

A trip to Juneau doesn’t only promise a ton of fun – because the downtown is very compact and shuttle services, tours and buses run from downtown to all of the attractions, you won’t even need a car! Just catch a shuttle from the airport and get started on your adventure.

To learn more and plan your weekend away, visit traveljuneau.com.

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