Juneau was a bit of a shock to our system after Bethel. Bethel is well off the tourist path and Juneau is right smack in the middle of it!
The flight into Juneau was incredibly picturesque. There are glacier-capped mountains, small lakes dotting the landscape, and a beautifully treed coastline running as far as the eyes can see. It definitely set the tone for the city, and provided a different perspective from all the cruise-ship passengers.
Luckily for us, Juneau is full of family activities.
The Salmon Hatchery
One of the coolest things we did in Juneau was a visit to the Macaulay Salmon Hatchery. We learned a lot, and there was enough to keep the girls busy for at least a few minutes! They absolutely LOVED the touch tanks, and the staff were incredibly helpful and informative.
We learned a lot about the salmon life cycle and sustainability. A large number of eggs don’t survive in the wild so the hatchery grows them to a certain maturity level (depending on the type of salmon) then sets them free. This ensures that a large percentage of the eggs go on to be adults, and therefore more salmon are available for the fishermen! The tanks of salmon fry that they have set up are absolutely teaming with fish!
Once they reach the right age the fish are moved into outside holding tanks to imprint. This ensures that they’ll return to the hatchery when they’re ready to spawn in a few years thus completing the cycle.
Once they return, they work their way through a ladder that mimics the battle upstream to spawn. By the time they get to the top they have already begun to decay. It’s a little bit disturbing to see white flesh hanging off their mouths.
Once up the ladder they end up in a giant holding tank and are separated out by species.
The girls loved just standing and watching the salmon swim and jump. It was amazing just how high some of those fish were able to jump out of the water.
Downtown Juneau is incredibly touristy, however it still manages to be quaint and picturesque.
We also had fun gawking at the cruise ships…they are certainly massive!! (You can see one below poking out over the tops of the buildings)
There were a few stores where we could go in and see the artisans at work, either sculpting or painting. The one below was our favourite. The girls wanted to go in and say ‘hi’ every time we walked past. The painter was very friendly, even when the girls were asking why it was taking him so long to paint the totem pole!
This carved bear was also a favourite downtown attraction – it got a hug each time we walked by. I think it’s possibly the best-loved wooden bear in town!
It was a little easier to hug than the giant metal grizzly bear!
Eating King Crab at Tracy’s Crab Shack
We had a delicious spread at Tracy’s Crab Shack. The Crab bisque was buttery and creamy, the crab cakes crunchy, and the crab legs…well, they were fresh king crab legs. No description needed!
Kacela ate an entire crab leg to herself!! We ordered 2 legs for the 4 of us to share, and ended up ordering 2 more because the girls ate one each. They definitely have expensive little tastebuds!
While Randy and I finished our crab legs it started to rain. The girls went out and danced in the downspout, having a competition to see who could get more wet. When we left they were soaked, and had made a spectacle of themselves, but they sure had a great time.
The Shrine of St. Therese
This made for a nice little break on our drive back from the North end of the road. The grounds are well maintained and it’s an easy, flat walk. The Fireweed was surprisingly tall!! It was everywhere around Juneau. It’s interesting that it’s something I’ve never noticed before, however once we got home I spotted it alongside the road by the entrance into our subdivision. It’s not quite as rampant in Northern Alberta as it is in Alaska, and I don’t think it’s as tall.
There is a little lookout by the church that is great for spotting marine life. Right before we arrived there was a whale swimming around in the water. Of course, we didn’t manage to see the whale, but we did see this sea lion swimming around (at least, I think it’s a sea lion!)
This was the very last thing that we did in Juneau because we were waiting for the weather to cooperate! Luckily for us, our last day in town was sunny’ish, so we stopped to see the glacier on our way to the ferry. Now, we do have a pretty spectacular glacier near home in the Colombia Ice Fields, however I never pass up the opportunity to see nature at her best.
Driving down the road the glacier suddenly appears above the trees. It does a great job of increasing the anticipation!
The Mendenhall Glacier is pretty neat because it empties into a sizeable lake (unlike our glaciers in Alberta!). When the glacier calves it creates ice bergs that float around the lake.
We had just enough time to squeeze in a small hike on the Nugget Falls Trail. It’s a flat 2 miles round trip and we figured the girls could manage it. We ended up being in a bit of a hurry so they both got a piggy-back ride on the way back to the car, but they managed to walk most of the way to the falls. The trail was pretty busy, likely because it was a nice day, but we were rewarded with a fantastic view of the glacier, and a spectacular waterfall. We all got a little wet but it kept me cool on the piggy-back ride to the car!
There are two things that I would have liked to do in Juneau that we opted out of.
- The Tracy Arm Fjord, which is a full day trip from Juneau, was on my list but we chose not to take the time this trip.
- A whale watching tour. We have been whale watching in the past, and decided that since we were going to be on the ferry next we didn’t need to spend the time or money on a whale watching trip…we’d just see them from the ferry. Sadly this didn’t turn out in our favour (we saw no whales AT ALL on the ferry!), so in hindsight I wish we would’ve just gone whale watching!
Is there anything that I missed? What would you add to the list of great family activities in Juneau?
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