48 Hours in Juneau, Alaska
Cruise ship stop?
"Cruise ship stop" is probably the first thing you think of when you hear about Juneau, Alaska and that’s exactly how Danny and I discovered this place. It’s the state’s unlikely capital, an unusual town full of character and characters, and a two and a half hour direct flight from Seattle. Since moving to the Pacific Northwest in 2011, we visit every summer.
Juneau in August
During this time of year, Juneau’s population swells by roughly 6,000 people daily. Those in-the-know head straight to Tracy’s King Crab Shack. Cozy on up to a communal table next to a middle-aged mid-western couple wearing khaki shorts, fanny packs, and lanyards around their necks. Where else can you enjoy fresh Alaskan king crab legs straight out of a KFC-style bucket? Tip: Buy one of the red plastic crab-ripping devices for $2 to take home with you for your next crab feast. Other restaurants we enjoy in Juneau include Saffron for Indian food (if you’re brave, go for spice level 3), Salt (upscale Alaskan cuisine), and Little Tokyo (try the monkey brain — it’s an avocado dish).
The Red Dog Saloon is our spot. Westworld-style swinging doors and sawdust on the floor set the atmosphere, as well as live music by a grizzled country western singer. For 15 years, Brian has been playing every summer at the Red Dog and his experience and hilariously jaded attitude toward the cruise ship crowd is evident. It was on me to down one of their famous “duck fart” shots. It tasted like delicious Irish cream. T-shirts for sale in the gift shop proclaim Juneau to be “a quaint little drinking town with a fishing problem.” We recently saw someone walking down La Brea Boulevard in Los Angeles wearing this very t-shirt. So excited to meet a kindred spirit, Danny enthusiastically regaled this stranger with our tales of the good ol’ Red Dog, all of which were received with a blank stare. Oh well.
I noticed a ramshackle sign for a doll museum and I knew this was a must. Once we finally found the entrance, we discovered that, despite posted hours, the doors were locked more often that not. I suppose you can say that eventually we lucked out and found ourselves inside, but basically, we visited Aunt Claudia’s Doll Museum so that you don’t have to. Amongst a wide variety of one-of a kind dolls was a major creep factor. Unless you’re Marie Osmond, you’re better off spending your time shooting pool down at the Viking Lounge.
Located on the Gastineau Channel between the Gulf of Alaska and British Columbia, the hiking trails are plentiful. We explored Perseverance Trail, the entrance to which was a one mile hike from our room at the Baranof Hotel. If you have the guts, I do not, take the Mount Roberts tramway 1,800 feet up the summit. I’m told the hiking up there is fantastic.
A small town worth a weekend visit
It’s a small town but, look beyond the token souvenir shops and jewelry stores. Bookstores, live music, breweries, art galleries, and friendly locals make Juneau worth a weekend’s visit and more than just a cruise ship stop. A quick 48 hours and Danny and I happily returned home with an Ulu knife, bear claw salad tongs, and sourdough starter.