On my recent Holland America Veendam cruise, I created my own self-guided tour of Juneau. I walked off the ship, grabbed a free map at a downtown visitor kiosk, and headed for the Alaska State Capitol Building, originally the U.S. Territorial building before Alaska achieved statehood in 1959.
Few cruisers get this far up the hill in Juneau. Yet, the capitol is only a few blocks from the downtown cruise piers. While the House and Senate chambers were closed during our visit, I enjoyed roaming the halls to peruse artifacts and old photographs. I also encountered many cruise travelers eagerly snapping photos of Gov. Sarah Palin's office entrance on an upper floor.
Next, I headed for the modest Juneau-Douglas City Museum; admission is $4. The docent pointed out highlights on a spectacular, black-and-white historic town photo above the information desk. I viewed an excellent film on the city’s Gold Rush history and browsed through several small rooms filled with artifacts and historical photos, including a 50th anniversary exhibition of Alaska’s statehood. The museum’s showpiece is a native American fish ladder that’s 600 to 700 years old.
After a walk of a few more blocks, I arrived at the Alaska Governor's Mansion, built in 1912 as home for the Territorial Governor. A stately home, it boasts 10 bedrooms, six bathrooms, eight bedrooms and an impressive location above the harbor. No public entry is allowed but I snapped a few photos.
The Alaska Governor's Mansion in Juneau
Then it was on to the historic 19th century St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church. Interestingly, there were no Russians in Juneau when the church was founded in 1894 and Alaska had been under U.S. control since 1867; native Tlingit people established the church.
Finally, I circled back through Juneau’s more touristy downtown, stopping in to glimpse the lobby of the Baranof Hotel; this Westmark Hotel exudes the feel of a bygone era. Outside again, I window shopped, photographed more historic buildings, bought a $2 bottle of water, stopped at an ATM and headed back to the Veendam for lunch. Total cost for my morning of self-exploration was $6. And the day had just begun!