Juneau

Juneau ("JOO-noh") is the capital of Alaska, located in the state's Southeastern region, with a population of about 30,000 and an area bigger than Rhode Island or Delaware. It has been the capital of Alaska since 1906, when the government of the then-Alaska Territory was moved from Sitka, Alaska would only become a state fifty three years later.

Understand

One of the interesting things about Juneau and Alaska is the effect on public life of being such a geographically large state. The state legislature, for instance, takes telephone testimony during its committee hearings. They have a state-wide video conferencing system to facilitate government meetings and deliberations.

Geography and Climate

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°F) 35 37 41 49 57 62 63 63 57 48 40 37
Nightly lows (°F) 26 28 30 35 42 48 51 50 46 39 31 28
Precipitation (in) 8.0 6.7 6.3 4.6 5.0 4.4 5.4 8.2 12.7 13.2 8.4 9.2

   Data from NOAA (1981-2010)

The climate in Juneau and the southeast panhandle is best described as a "cooler wetter version of Seattle." It is a mid-latitude oceanic climate in the southern sections and a subarctic oceanic climate in the northern parts. On an annual basis, this is both the wettest and warmest part of Alaska with milder temperatures in the winter and high precipitation throughout the year. Juneau averages over 50 inches (1,270 mm) of precipitation a year, while other areas receive over 275 inches (6,990 mm). This is also the only region in Alaska in which the average daytime high temperature is above freezing during the winter months.

Average annual rainfall ranges from 55 inches to over 90 inches (1400 to over 2300 mm) depending on location; annual average snowfall is 101 inches (257 cm).

The average high temperature in July is 65°F (18°C), and the average low temperature in January is 20°F (-4°C)

Get in

Harbor view, Juneau

Juneau is Alaska's capital, however you can't get there by road or rail. Southeast Alaska is sandwiched between the rugged coastal mountain range and the Pacific Ocean. Constructing roads between many of the towns and cities of SE Alaska is prohibitively expensive and sometimes impossible. Only three towns (Haines, Skagway, and Hyder) in the SE Panhandle are connected by a roadway to the lower 48 states (often called "down south"). Access to the rest (including Juneau) is only possible by air or by sea.

By air

Juneau International Airport (IATA: JNU) is a public airport located seven miles (11 km) northwest of downtown Juneau. The airport serves as a regional hub for all air travel, both bush carriers and the regional airline, Alaska Airlines, which provides daily jet service to Anchorage and Seattle. Alaska Airlines also has regularly scheduled flights to Ketchikan, Sitka, Wrangell, and Petersburg -- with summer service to Gustavus. Smaller airlines that operate regularly scheduled and chartered flights out of Juneau to nearby communities have offices at the airport. The most trusted are Wings of Alaska, Haines Air, and Air Excursions.

By sea

Juneau is a main port for the Alaska Marine Highway, Alaska's ferry system. The ferry runs regularly throughout Southeast Alaska with regular stops in Ketchikan, Petersburg, Wrangel, Sitka, Haines, and Skagway. Small communities, such as Angoon, Hoonah, Tenakee Springs, Pelican, and Kake, get occasional AMHS service. The closest port with a road connection is Haines, about a five-hour ride away from Juneau by regular ferry or a two-hour ride on one of the state's new catamaran ferries. The ferry system is the only way to transport a car to Juneau, short of shipping it up on a barge.

Juneau is a major port of call for cruise ships plying the Inside Passage, which bring several thousand visitors almost every day between May and September. The cruise ships typically dock just south of downtown Juneau in the following docking facilities, listed in order of distance from downtown Juneau:

A typical summer day may have four or five cruise ships calling on Juneau, which could bring up to ten thousand visitors for the day. To plan your day, check the cruise ship schedule for Juneau.

Juneau is also the Alaska home port for the luxury yachts of the American Safari Cruises and the small ships of CruiseWest.

Get around

On foot

Downtown Juneau is compact and highly walkable, though above 4th Street it gets very hilly. Watch for the 20 signs that detail the fascinating history of Juneau.

By bus

The public Capital Transit provides daily bus service for downtown Juneau and vicinity and charges $2.00 for travel in one direction. Route 3/4 serves the Mendenhall Valley, but can get you no closer than about a mile to the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center.

Car rentals are available at the airport and are necessary if you wish to explore far on your own.

At the cruise ship docks, several bus services offer low-cost rides ($16 round trip) to the Mendenhall Glacier during the summer visitors season.

By taxi

Taxis are an economical alternative. Taxi vans can carry up to 7 passengers and cost about the same as buses for 5 or more. Drivers who want to do tours can often be found in the taxi zones near the Mt. Roberts Tram or the Red Dog Saloon. Metered fares and charter rates are regulated by the city.

See

helicopter on Mendenhall Glacier

Do

The most popular activities in Juneau for visitors are shopping, flight seeing, charter fishing, visiting the Mendendhall Glacier, and hiking. Be aware that Juneau is very spread-out. It is broken into sections. There is "Downtown", and "The Valley" (where the Mendenhall Glacier, Mendenhall Mall, a skate park, as well as most of the residential is located). The distance between the two is a good 15 minutes.

Of the cruiseship tour options, an air tour leaves the biggest impression—especially if the weather is clear. Behind Juneau lies the Juneau Icefield. Helicopter and floatplane tours are available. The most popular floatplane tour is with Wings Airways to the Taku Lodge. Most of the helicopter tours include a stop landing on the glacier. Trips are fairly expensive (about $200 per person and up, depending on the length of the excursion), but a remarkable experience that many consider well worth the price. Alternatively, get a group together and charter an small airplane tour. These will generally be less expensive (you pay by the hour) and allows you to customize your experience. Ward Air is highly regarded, but Wings of Alaska and other carriers offer charter flights.

Be sure to go for a hike while in Juneau. There are over 90 hiking trails in the area (many very steep). A few lead to rental cabins available from the US Forest Service or State of Alaska parks. If you want a guide, Gastineau Guiding offers guided hikes on many popular trails and combines some hikes with whale watching or kayaking.

Buy

Juneau, like many towns dominated by the cruiseship industry, is ripe with jewelry, t-shirt, and trinket shops. On busy cruiseship days you can watch as thousands of cruisers in matching track outfits ply the shopping district to get trinkets for their grandchildren and jewelry for themselves.

There are a few locally owned stores that attract locals and tourists - look for a sign in shop windows that says "This store is owned by an Alaskan family."

Eat

Groceries

Restaurants

Drink

By far the most popular with locals is The Alaskan Bar (South Franklin Street) to hang out with locals, listen to music (Thursday is open mic night) and drink an Alaskan (beer) with an Alaskan in the Alaskan. A bit rough looking but a great hangout.

Sleep

Cope

Internet

Respect

Juneau is in a temperate rain forest, so complaining about the rain will probably warrant a few eye rolls, or flat-out rudeness.

Go next

Dawes Glacier at the head of Endicott Arm, 2010

Juneau is a great place to base for a camping vacation or cruise tour. It's the gateway to the Admiralty Island National Monument and the Tracy Arm/Ford's Terror Wilderness Area.. Both areas are popular with kayakers.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Wednesday, February 10, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.