By Air -- Jet service is available only from Alaska Airlines (tel. 800/252-7522; www.alaskaair.com), with several daily nonstop flights from Seattle and Anchorage and from the smaller Southeast Alaska towns. Many of the region's commuter and air-taxi operators also maintain desks at the airport and have flights out of Juneau. Among the best is Wings of Alaska (tel. 907/789-0790; www.ichoosewings.com).
By Ferry -- All the main-line ferries of Southeast's Alaska Marine Highway System (tel. 800/642-0066; www.ferryalaska.com) stop at the terminal in Auke Bay (tel. 907/789-7453, or 465-3940 recording), 14 miles from downtown. The run to Haines or Skagway takes 5 hours. The passenger fare is $37 to Haines, $50 to Skagway.
Getting into Town from the Airport & Ferry Terminal -- An airport shuttle may be operating when you visit. Ask at the visitor desk in the baggage claim area.
The Cruise-Ship Dock: Where Do You Get Off? -- Cruise-ship passengers disembark in Juneau's attractive Marine Park waterfront area, where a kiosk dispenses information and tour operators sell their services. Downtown shops and attractions are close by. Among the most popular sights is one right at the dock, the statue of a small dog facing the ships as they come in. This is Patsy Ann, a bull terrier that in the 1930s always seemed to know when a steamer was arriving and faithfully stationed herself on the dock to meet the disembarking passengers. There's also a spotting scope in the park for watching mountain goats on Mount Juneau. For a quiet break, visit the beautiful library at the top of the parking garage at the south end of the dock.
An express Capital Transit city bus (tel. 907/789-6901) comes to the airport every half-hour on weekdays, at 11 and 41 minutes past the hour. The first bus is at 7:11am, the last at 6:11pm; but there is no bus at 7:41am. Fare is $1.50. Your luggage has to fit under your seat or at your feet. Ask the driver for the stop closest to your hotel. Generally, you can walk from there.
Shuttles sometimes operate from the ferry dock downtown in the summer, but the arrangements are changeable. Ask when you arrive, or call ahead to the visitor center. A cab downtown from the airport will cost you $22, from the ferry dock $33. One taxi company is Capital Cab (tel. 907/586-2772), which also offers tours for $55 an hour.
Flying to Juneau -- Juneau's mist-shrouded airport, wedged between ocean and mountain, has a special verb: to overhead. That means that when you try to fly to Juneau on a foggy day, you could end up somewhere else instead (although this now happens less frequently, thanks to new navigational technology). Planes overhead other Southeast towns, too, but more frequently in Juneau, since it is the region's travel hub, with many flights a day. The airline will put you on the next flight back to Juneau when the weather clears, but they won't pay for hotel rooms or give you a refund. Your only protection is travel insurance and a loose itinerary. This situation is such an ingrained part of Juneau's way of life that a channel on the cable TV system broadcasts the view toward the airport 24 hours a day, showing the weather over the Gastineau Channel (it's called the Channel Channel, 19 on the dial). Residents know the view so well they can tell from the silent image if they'll get out that day.
Juneau has three main parts: downtown, the Mendenhall Valley, and Douglas. Downtown Juneau is a numbered grid of streets overlying the uneven topography like a patchwork quilt over a pile of pillows. As you look at Juneau from the water, Mount Juneau is on the left and Mount Roberts on the right; Mount Roberts is a few hundred feet taller, at 3,819 feet. Franklin Street extends south of town 5 1/2 miles to good hiking trails and the hamlet of Thane. When the city outgrew its original site downtown, housing spread to the suburban Mendenhall Valley, about a dozen miles north out the Egan Expressway or the parallel two-lane Glacier Highway. The glacial valley also contains the Juneau International Airport, University of Alaska Southeast, and the Auke Bay area, where the ferry terminal is located. The road continues 40 miles to a place known as "The End of the Road." Across a bridge over the Gastineau Channel from downtown Juneau is Douglas Island. Turn left for the town of Douglas, mostly a bedroom community for Juneau, and turn right for the North Douglas Highway, which leads to the ski area and some beautiful rocky beaches.
The Visitor Information Center is in the Centennial Hall at 101 Egan Dr., near the State Museum (tel. 888/581-2201 or 907/586-2201; fax 907/586-6304; www.traveljuneau.com). Operated by the Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau, the center distributes a Juneau Guide & Travel Planner, online or on paper, that contains exhaustive listings of hotels and B&Bs, charter boats, tours, and other services. On-site you can use a touch-screen kiosk for information and reservations. The center is open in summer daily 8am to 5pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 9am to 5pm; in winter Monday through Friday from 8am to 5pm. The bureau also operates information desks at the airport in the baggage-claim area, and at the Auke Bay ferry terminal. During the summer, centers are staffed at the cruise-ship terminal and at Marine Park.
The office of the Tongass National Forest Juneau Ranger District is at 8510 Mendenhall Loop Rd., Juneau, AK 99801 (tel. 907/586-8800; fax 907/586-8808; www.fs.fed.us/r10/tongass).
An events calendar is posted on the visitors bureau website: www.traveljuneau.com/discover.
The Alaska Folk Festival (tel. 907/463-3316; akfolkfest.org) is the state's biggest annual coming together of musicians, at Centennial Hall. Musicians take over the town and can be found jamming in every bar and coffeehouse, or wherever a crowd gathers. The 37th annual festival is April 9 to April 15, 2012.
The Juneau Jazz & Classics Festival (tel. 907/463-3378; www.jazzandclassics.org), May 4 to May 19, 2012, presents concerts and workshops in many styles of music -- blues, jazz, classical, rock -- at various venues, even on a boat, and at many prices -- free to $60 a ticket. Most evening performances are around $25.
The Golden North Salmon Derby (tel. 907/789-2399; www.goldennorthsalmonderby.org), held annually since 1947, targets kings and silvers, normally the first weekend in August. Unlike some other such fishing contests around the state, this isn't just a tourist thing -- it brings out as many as 3,000 local fishermen and is even covered live on the radio.
Avoiding Cruise-Ship Crowds
On the busiest days of the summer, cruise ships bring more than 10,000 passengers and another 4,000 crew members to the docks on Juneau's Franklin Street. That's simply too many for these narrow old streets; downtown becomes a solid crush of people, and attractions are packed, spoiling the experience for everyone. The crush is largely unavoidable, with more than one ship in port every day of the summer, but normally midweek days are busiest and Fridays and Saturdays quieter, since most cruises begin on the weekend and Juneau is partway along their voyage. If you can plan your Juneau sightseeing then, you may find somewhat less crowding; also, the farther you go from the dock, the less crowding you encounter. You can find a current schedule showing how many ships will be in port each day at www.claalaska.com, the website for Cruise Line Agencies of Alaska.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.