Juneau, Alaska, is a perfect destination for a layover and recently we enjoyed a four hour layover there en route to Gustavus.
But if you’re planning on making the most of your time on a layover in Juneau there are a few key things to consider.
In this article, I’ll give you some tips on how to best go about your layover and also some ideas on some interesting things you can do.
Juneau International Airport (JNU)
Juneau International Airport (JNU) is a very small airport.
They don’t have any airport lounges and there are only a few gates.
There are a couple of restaurants inside the airport so if you don’t want to leave the airport that could be a good way to spend some time.
You could also wander through the airport checking out some of the exhibits although that will only keep you occupied for a short amount of time. Maybe 15 minutes or so.
So if you want to stay entertained on a long layover, chances are you will need to leave the airport.
Getting out of the airport
Juneau is a perfect place to venture outside of the airport on a layover.
For one, because the airport is so small it’s easy to get in and out.
The airport even has a TSA Pre-Check station so you can really fly through security especially if you’re on a layover because you probably do not have any bags to check.
If you have carry-on bags that you don’t want to bring with you you can check those with the Alaska Seaplanes but it is a little bit expensive.
They will charge you something like ~$30 per bag which can add up pretty quickly. If you’re interested in that option just head to their check-in desk.
The major hurdle with doing anything on a layover here is that it can be difficult to utilize Uber and Lyft.
That’s mostly because there are just a limited amount of drivers out there so it could take a long time to locate a driver and for them to get to you.
This won’t be a major problem if you have a long layover of five or six hours but if you are only there for three or four hours, waiting for the rideshare to pick you up from the airport and then pick you up from your destination could eat up a large chunk of your time.
Possibly around an hour of your time.
Also, consider that some places around the Juneau area don’t have great cell phone service so it can be difficult to pull up the app. Make sure you don’t get dropped off in a dead zone.
An alternative would be to schedule a taxi ride.
The taxis can take a while to get to where you are but if you schedule your taxi pick up ahead of time they should be waiting for you right outside of the airport.
If you are looking to book a taxi consider utilizing one of these services:
- Juneau Taxi: 907-586-1111
- DLUX Rides: 907-586-2121
Places to check out on a layover
The Sandbar & Grill is a small dive bar located pretty close to the airport (just over 1 mile) and it should only take you a few minutes to get there with an automobile.
You could also walk there in a little under 30 minutes if you wanted. This place has the best fish and chips in town and it’s definitely worth checking out.
Speaking of walking, there are a few establishment located right next-door to the airport like Donna’s Restaurant and Pucker Wilson’s Valley.
Another popular spot by the airport is the Glacier Gardens Rainforest Adventure. We didn’t get the chance to visit but they get a lot of great reviews.
The Mendenhall Glacier
One bucket list worthy destination to check out would be the Mendenhall Glacier.
This is a beautiful valley glacier that is one of the most accessible glaciers you will probably ever come across. It should take about 15 minutes to get there via vehicle from the airport.
You want to schedule a taxi to get you back though because rideshare services are not allowed to pick up passengers there.
A good layover itinerary would be to check out the visitor center and do the 2 mile round-trip hike to Nugget Falls.
All you need is about an hour and a half to two hours max to see all of this which is why it is such a perfect layover destination.
The Salmon Bake
The Salmon Bake could be a good layover stop and it’s only about 10 minutes away from the airport.
It’s an outdoor salmon buffet located along Salmon Creek and offers a beautiful setting complete with a waterfall. You definitely “feel like you are in Alaska” when you visit, which I think is kind of the whole selling point.
I have mixed feelings about the quality of the food there but the overall experience is a unique one and could be fun to enjoy on a layover.
The only challenge is that they don’t open very early so if your layover is in the morning that could be an issue.
It doesn’t take very long to get to Downtown Juneau from the airport (~12 minutes) so that’s definitely a doable spot to hit up. The main street is Franklin Street where you can find tons of shops, restaurants, and a lot of tourists coming off the cruise ships.
This is also where you will find a lot of attractions like the Mt Roberts Tramway which is a cableway that takes you up to the higher reaches of the rainforest and offers sweeping views of Juneau.
What’s great about the tramway is that it stays open pretty late so if you were on a late layover it’s a good choice. This is especially the case if visiting May through August considering how much daylight you have during the summertime.
If you have enough time you can check out the restaurant up there and even do some hiking.
While in Downtown Juneau you could hit up Tracy’s King Crab Shack for some delicious and huge king crab. The line here can get a little long but it does usually move pretty fast.
If you’re looking for a memorable dining destination, this spot will for sure offer you that.
There are also other food truck like destinations such as Pucker Wilson’s (burgers) and Deckhand Dave’s (fish tacos) where you can get in and out relatively quickly depending on the lines.
The Alaska State Museum is a cool museum that is not too big and you could easily get through in about an hour to an hour and a half. So it would also be a great layover attraction, especially if you want to do something indoors.
If you’re trying to do something adventurous like a whale watching tour or helicopter tour a lot of those take at least 4 to 5 hours.
So you would also need time to get there and back which means you would have to have a very long layover of close to 7 to 8 hours to make that doable.
Juneau, Alaska, is a great layover city because you can get out of the airport so quickly and there are a lot of interesting destinations that only take about 20 minutes or less to get to.
It will be best to do some planning though so you can figure out if you’re okay with paying to store your carry-on bags and so that you will have your transportation figured out since rideshare services are not very reliable here.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.