Juneau is the capital city and a borough of Alaska. Juneau is located in the extreme southeastern leg of the country in the Panhandle area of the United States. Covering 3,255 square miles, it is the second municipality in the country. Juneau has a population of 31,000 residents. Juneau is considered a very wet city, averaging between fifty five and ninety inches of rain per year and an average ninety inches of snow. Each year on June 21, known as the longest day of the year, Juneau experiences eighteen hours and eighteen minutes of sunshine. The sun doesn't actually set that day. It just goes low in the sky. On the flip side of that, December 21 is known as the shortest day of the year and averages only six and a half hours of sunshine.
Juneau is named for gold prospector Joe Juneau. He discovered much of present-day Juneau, courtesy of his Native American guide Chief Kowee. Juneau is a 'bowl city'. The downtown area is at sea level, but the surrounding mountainous terrain rises to a height of 4,000 feet. On top of the surrounding mountains is the Juneau Icefield. The icefield is a large body of ice from which thirty glaciers flow. Some of the larger glaciers are visible from the roads below, but the majority of them are receding due to climate changes.
The Alaskan Forrest Service operates a Visitor’s Center at the Mendenhall Glacier. Visitors can visit the glaciers alone or opt for one of the guided tours. The guided glacier tours are available via air, water, and land. Oddly enough, there’s also a rainforest located in the middle of Juneau’s glaciers. Glacier Gardens Rainforest Adventure is a tropical oasis rising out of the ice. The man-made botanical gardens offer a wide variety of common and exotic plant life as well as its trademark upside down trees.
Juneau's cultural offerings are centered around its deep appreciation for music. There are three annual music festivals in the city each year. They are Classic Music Festival, Jazz Music Festival, and the Alaska Folk Festival. The city is also home to two opera companies - the Juneau Lyric Opera and Opera To Go. The Alaskan State Museum is also located in Juneau. The museum offers exhibits on Juneau’s primitive settlers, the mining industry, glaciers, natural history, as well as an interactive children’s area.
At the Salmon Hatchery, visitors can learn about the salmon hatching and fishing processes, view the incubation process, and purchased smoked salmon that were raised on site. After buying some smoked salmon, visitors can go to the Alaskan Brewing Company for free tours of the facility as well as taste samples of the different varieties of beer brewed at the facility.
For the more adventurous traveler, Juneau offers a chance to pan for gold in the local creeks and streams that were once part of one of the world’s largest hard-rock mining operations. Optionally, the Mt. Roberts Tramway is a ski-lift type of attraction that brings visitors to the top of Juneau’s Mt. Roberts where they explore the mountainside via one of the numerous hiking trails.
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