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Experience Juneau, The Most Beautiful Capital City

downtown Juneau

Juneau, the most beautiful capital city, as often ranked on lists of the most spectacular destinations, is hard to beat when it comes to incredible scenery. It’s even outranked tropical Honolulu. Overlooking the Inside Passage, the downtown area is nestled between the Gastineau Chanel, Mount Robers and Mount Juneau. Its maze of narrow streets are lined with 19th-century architecture like the 1889 Madsen’s Rooming House, along with enticing shops, galleries, breweries, bars and eateries. But the stunning surrounding nature is what calls most.

Just minutes from downtown Juneau and you can be marveling at a glacier, strolling through lush forest or climbing a mountain. Without even leaving its boundaries, bald eagles are a common sight, and if you’re lucky you might see a humpback or a pod of orcas swim right past town. It’s not all that uncommon to see a black bear stroll right through either. There’s no other capital city like it.

To make the most of your time in Juneau, the most beautiful capital city, you’ll want to include these options on your itinerary.

Cruise Through the Inside Passage

Mother and calf humpback whales in Juneau

If you want to see whales and other marine life, there’s no better way to do it than a luxury yacht, cruising through the Inside Passage. Helmed by an experienced naturalist/master captain, with extensive knowledge when it comes to the local wildlife, you’ll have the chance to see humpback whales, orcas, Steller sea lions, bald eagles, and more. Of course you’ll be able to soak up all the incredible scenery too, from rocky shorelines and dense forest to the dramatic mountain peaks.

Marvel at Mendenhall Glacier

a body of water with a mountain in the background

While you can see Mendenhall Glacier while out on the water, get a closer look from the visitor center or via the short Nugget Falls Trail. Not only will you get a breathtaking view of the 13.6-mile-long glacier that covers some 1,500 square miles, but of the surrounding Tongass National Forest and Nugget Falls, plunging 377 feet onto the beach below.

It’s rare to find a place where you can be standing in awe at the grandeur of a glacier and then head right into a national forest, but in Juneau you can.

While you’re here, keep an eye out for wildlife like black bears, mountain goats, beavers, and river otters.

Tongass National Forest

There’s plenty to see in the national forest too. The country’s largest, Tongass, is nearly 17 million acres in size. As such a vast area there’s no one particular place to visit but one of the top spots is Tracy Arm Fjord. A best-kept Alaskan secret, watch for chunks of ice to calve off the face of the glacier while waterfalls cascade down sheer cliffs. Hundreds of seals can be seen lounging on the icebergs at the face of the twin Sawyer Glaciers too.

Or, head to Steep Creek Bear Viewing to witness bears feast on salmon, with the peak time July through mid-September (depending on the salmon runs). A short elevated boardwalk winds past viewing platforms along the creek where bears wade up and down just a few feet away.

Watch the Bald Eagles at Eagle Beach

a bird flying over a body of water

About a 30-minute drive north of Juneau along Glacier Highway you’ll find Eagle Beach. While there are dozens of bald eagles throughout the area, this is one of the best places to spot them. They often arrive in high numbers from late June through early August to feast on the salmon that swim through shallow streams on the flats. You’ll also have a great view of the Chilikat Mountains. This is nature’s bounty at its best.

Take in an Aerial View via the Mount Roberts Tramway

For an aerial view of Juneau and its surroundings, take a ride on the Mount Roberts Tramway. You’ll ascend 1,800 feet up to the summit of the mountain while taking in vistas of Juneau, the Gastineau Channel, and Douglas Island. Plus, at the top there are miles of scenic trails to hike, a gift shop, restaurant, a nature center, and a theater where you can learn more about the indigenous Tlingit people.

The Best Way to Experience it all: Land and Sea

If we haven’t convinced you that Juneau, the most beautiful capital city, is a place that more than lives up to the hype, we don’t know what will. But if you’re ready to go, there’s no better way to enjoy it than on an exclusive luxury tour that combines the highlights. While your excursion can be exclusively customized for you and your group, the 5-Star Juneau by Land and Sea is a great place to start. It includes a three-hour cruise on a luxury yacht through the Inside Passage as well as a guided land-based tour in a Mercedes Sprinter “land-yacht.”

In addition to experiencing the natural beauty, you might conclude your day by indulging in some of Juneau’s most mouthwatering eats (king crab anyone?), paired with a cold brew or two. There are few better ways to end an unforgettable day in Juneau.