When your cruise ship docks in Ketchikan, Alaska, you’re in for an unforgettable adventure. This picturesque port city, often referred to as the “Salmon Capital of the World,” is known for its stunning natural landscapes, rich indigenous culture, and a wide range of exciting activities for cruise ship passengers. In this guide, we’ll take you through the top things to do in Ketchikan, Alaska, allowing you to make the most of your shore excursion.
1. Discovering Creek Street: A Historic Waterfront Stroll
Your adventure in Ketchikan, Alaska, begins with a visit to the iconic Creek Street. This historic wooden boardwalk, perched on the banks of Ketchikan Creek, offers a charming blend of old-world charm and modern vitality.
- Shops and Galleries Galore: Creek Street is a bustling hub of activity, with its wooden structures housing an array of vibrant shops and art galleries. As you amble along the boardwalk, you’ll find unique boutiques offering Alaskan crafts, jewelry, clothing, and souvenirs. Take your time to explore these delightful stores, where you might discover the perfect memento to commemorate your visit.
- A Colorful Past: Creek Street has a colorful history that dates back to the Gold Rush era. During those wild and rugged days, it served as the town’s red-light district, with a lively atmosphere that was quite different from today’s serene ambiance. Immerse yourself in the stories of Ketchikan’s past as you wander the same boardwalk that once buzzed with excitement and adventure.
- Eagle-Eye Views: As you stroll along Creek Street, don’t forget to look up. Ketchikan is often referred to as the “Eagle Capital of the World,” and Creek Street provides an excellent vantage point for eagle watching. Keep your camera ready to capture the sight of majestic bald eagles soaring gracefully above you. These magnificent birds are a symbol of Alaska’s untamed beauty, and spotting them is a treat for any nature enthusiast.
Creek Street’s picturesque setting, rich history, and vibrant atmosphere make it a must-visit destination for cruise ship travelers. Whether you’re in search of unique souvenirs, intrigued by local lore, or simply captivated by the natural wonders of Alaska, Creek Street offers a delightful blend of experiences that will enrich your journey in Ketchikan.
2. Totem Bight State Historical Park: Unveiling Native American Heritage
Prepare to embark on a captivating journey into the heart of Ketchikan’s cultural legacy with a visit to the Totem Bight State Historical Park. This park is a living testament to the rich and diverse heritage of Alaska’s indigenous communities, particularly the Tlingit and Haida tribes.
- Majestic Totem Poles: Totem Bight State Historical Park boasts a remarkable collection of towering totem poles. Each totem pole is a masterpiece, intricately adorned with captivating designs and symbolic motifs that narrate the stories and legends of Southeast Alaska’s native inhabitants. As you stand in awe of these magnificent creations, you’ll gain a profound appreciation for the artistry and spiritual significance woven into every inch of these iconic totems.
- Traditional Clan Houses: Step back in time as you explore the meticulously reconstructed traditional Tlingit and Haida clan houses. These architectural marvels offer a glimpse into the communal life and customs of the clans that once thrived in these historic structures. Adorned with traditional artwork and artifacts, the clan houses provide a window into the spiritual and cultural traditions that have endured for centuries.
- Nature’s Tranquility: Beyond its cultural treasures, Totem Bight State Historical Park beckons with its natural serenity. Meander along the park’s well-maintained trails, winding through the enchanting rainforest surroundings. Inhale the rejuvenating, crisp air as you immerse yourself in the unspoiled beauty that envelops you. The park’s serene ambiance provides an idyllic backdrop for reflection and an opportunity to connect with the land that has sustained these vibrant communities for generations.
A visit to Totem Bight State Historical Park is not merely an educational experience; it’s a profound encounter with the living legacy of Alaska’s Native American peoples. As you explore the intricacies of the totem poles, delve into the clan houses, and soak in the pristine landscapes, you’ll forge a deeper connection with the cultural tapestry that defines this extraordinary region.
3. Ketchikan’s Lumberjack Show: A Timber-Topping Extravaganza
Prepare for a rip-roaring adventure as you step into the thrilling world of the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show, an iconic attraction that promises an unforgettable experience for visitors of all ages. This action-packed spectacle showcases the incredible skills of world-class lumberjack athletes in a jaw-dropping display of strength, agility, and sheer determination.
- Timber Titans: The Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show is not your average sporting event. Here, athletes are transformed into modern-day timber titans, wielding razor-sharp axes, racing up towering poles, and executing jaw-dropping logrolling feats. You’ll witness these skilled lumberjacks in a series of heart-pounding competitions that include logrolling, axe-throwing, and speed climbing. Their prowess and precision are a testament to the rich lumberjack heritage that runs deep in Alaskan culture.
- Audience Engagement: What sets this show apart is its commitment to audience engagement. Prepare to be an active participant as you cheer for your favorite lumberjack and become part of the roaring crowd. The infectious energy of the spectators adds an electrifying element to the event, making it a truly immersive experience. Whether you’re a solo traveler or visiting with family and friends, the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show guarantees an afternoon of laughter, excitement, and unforgettable memories.
- Educational Entertainment: Beyond the adrenaline-pumping action, the show offers a unique opportunity to learn about the history of Alaska’s lumberjacks and the challenges they faced in this rugged wilderness. Engaging narration provides insights into the life and times of these intrepid woodsmen, giving you a deeper appreciation for their role in shaping Alaska’s history.
The Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show is a must-see attraction that combines entertainment, education, and an authentic slice of Alaskan heritage. Whether you’re drawn by the incredible athleticism on display, the rich history of the region, or simply the promise of a good time, this lumberjack extravaganza guarantees an experience that’s as Alaskan as it gets. So grab your plaid shirt, channel your inner lumberjack spirit, and get ready for an adventure like no other in Ketchikan.
4. Misty Fjords National Monument Flightseeing: A Skyborne Odyssey
Prepare for an aerial adventure of a lifetime as you embark on a mesmerizing flightseeing tour above the Misty Fjords National Monument, one of Alaska’s most enchanting natural wonders. This captivating journey offers a bird’s-eye view of a pristine wilderness that seems almost untouched by time, allowing you to witness Mother Nature’s artistry from an entirely new perspective.
- Awe-Inspiring Scenery: As your aircraft ascends into the Alaskan skies, you’ll quickly realize that you’re in for a treat. Below you, a sprawling landscape unfolds, featuring rugged cliffs that plunge into crystal-clear fjords, dramatic waterfalls cascading from towering peaks, and lush forests that carpet the terrain. The Misty Fjords’ breathtaking scenery is a testament to the raw beauty of the Alaskan wilderness, and there’s no better way to take it all in than from the window of a flightseeing plane.
- Wildlife Encounters: The Misty Fjords are not only a haven for stunning landscapes but also for a diverse array of wildlife. Keep your camera ready as you might spot majestic bald eagles soaring gracefully through the skies, playful seals lounging on rocky outcrops, or even the occasional bear ambling along the fjord’s edge. Your pilot will share their knowledge of the region’s ecology and wildlife, ensuring that you don’t miss any of these remarkable moments.
- Educational Insights: While you revel in the awe-inspiring views, your pilot will also provide informative commentary about the geological history and cultural significance of the Misty Fjords National Monument. You’ll gain a deeper understanding of how glaciers carved these fjords over thousands of years and learn about the indigenous Tlingit people who have called this area home for generations.
- Photographer’s Paradise: Whether you’re a professional photographer or simply armed with a smartphone, the Misty Fjords flightseeing tour offers endless opportunities to capture postcard-perfect shots. The ever-changing interplay of light and shadow, the reflections in pristine waters, and the sheer scale of the landscape create a visual feast that photographers dream of.
A flightseeing tour of the Misty Fjords National Monument is not just a scenic excursion; it’s an immersion into the heart of Alaskan wilderness. It’s a chance to witness nature’s grandeur from a vantage point few are fortunate enough to experience. So, if you’re seeking an adventure that combines natural beauty, wildlife encounters, and a deep appreciation for Alaska’s majestic landscapes, this flightseeing tour is a must during your cruise stop in Ketchikan.
5. Salmon Fishing Adventure: The Ultimate Catch in Ketchikan
When you find yourself in the Salmon Capital of the World, there’s no better way to immerse yourself in the local culture and natural beauty than by embarking on a thrilling salmon fishing adventure. Whether you’re an experienced angler or a novice, Ketchikan offers an abundance of opportunities to try your hand at this iconic Alaskan pastime.
- The Salmon Capital: Ketchikan has earned its reputation as the Salmon Capital of the World for a reason. Its pristine waters are teeming with five species of salmon: king (chinook), silver (coho), pink (humpy), chum (dog), and sockeye (red). These salmon run through the region’s rivers and streams, creating a mecca for fishing enthusiasts from around the globe.
- Local Expertise: Your fishing adventure will be guided by knowledgeable and experienced locals who know the waters like the back of their hand. They’ll provide you with top-quality gear and teach you the ins and outs of salmon fishing. From choosing the right bait to perfecting your casting technique, you’ll receive expert guidance every step of the way.
- A Thrilling Pursuit: Picture yourself on a boat surrounded by breathtaking Alaskan landscapes. The anticipation builds as you cast your line into the crystal-clear waters, knowing that at any moment, you might feel the exhilarating tug of a salmon on the other end. The fight to reel in your prized catch is a heart-pounding experience you won’t soon forget.
- Savor the Freshest Salmon: What makes this adventure even more rewarding is the chance to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Whether you’re angling for king salmon, prized for its size and flavor, or coho salmon, known for its vibrant red flesh, you’ll have the opportunity to savor the freshest salmon imaginable. Many charters offer the option to have your catch prepared and cooked for you, providing a delicious and memorable meal.
- Preserving a Tradition: Salmon fishing is not just a sport in Ketchikan; it’s a way of life deeply intertwined with the region’s history and culture. By participating in this adventure, you’re not only creating cherished memories but also supporting a tradition that has sustained local communities for generations.
Whether you’re drawn to the challenge of landing the big one, eager to experience the thrill of a salmon strike, or simply want to enjoy the serene beauty of an Alaskan fishing expedition, a salmon fishing adventure in Ketchikan promises an unforgettable experience. It’s an opportunity to connect with nature, embrace local traditions, and take home stories of your epic battles with the salmon of the north.
6. Saxman Native Village: An Immersive Cultural Journey
A visit to Ketchikan wouldn’t be complete without delving into the rich indigenous culture of Alaska’s Native people, and Saxman Native Village offers an immersive and enlightening experience that does just that. This cultural treasure trove provides visitors with a glimpse into the fascinating world of the Tlingit tribe, one of Alaska’s native communities.
- Traditional Tlingit Dance Performances: The heart of Saxman Native Village beats with the rhythm of traditional Tlingit tribal dance performances. These captivating dances, accompanied by the haunting sounds of native drums and songs, transport you back in time. The intricate movements and vibrant regalia of the dancers tell stories of the Tlingit people’s history, legends, and way of life. It’s a mesmerizing and educational experience that allows you to connect with the living culture of Alaska’s Native people.
- World’s Largest Totem Pole Collection: Saxman Native Village proudly boasts the world’s largest collection of totem poles, each a magnificent work of art and storytelling. Totem poles are not just carved wooden sculptures; they are a visual language that conveys ancestral stories, clan histories, and spiritual beliefs. As you wander among these towering giants, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for the craftsmanship and symbolism behind each pole. Knowledgeable guides are on hand to share the stories and significance of these remarkable creations.
- A Glimpse into Indigenous Culture: Your visit to Saxman Native Village offers more than just dance performances and totem poles; it provides a holistic view of indigenous culture. Explore the village’s exhibits and displays to learn about the history, traditions, and contemporary life of the Tlingit people. Gain insights into their deep connection with the land, wildlife, and ancestral practices that continue to thrive today.
- Supporting Cultural Preservation: By visiting Saxman Native Village, you’re contributing to the preservation of Tlingit culture and heritage. The village serves as a living testament to the resilience and vitality of Alaska’s Native communities. The revenue generated from tourism helps sustain cultural programs, support artisans, and ensure that future generations can continue to embrace and celebrate their heritage.
Saxman Native Village isn’t just a tourist attraction; it’s a bridge between the past and present, a place where history comes alive through dance, art, and storytelling. It’s a chance to honor and respect the indigenous peoples of Alaska while gaining a deeper understanding of their enduring traditions. As you leave Saxman Native Village, you’ll carry with you not only memories of a remarkable cultural experience but also a profound appreciation for the rich tapestry of Alaska’s Native heritage.
7. Wildlife Watching: A Symphony of Nature
When you find yourself in the untamed wilderness of Ketchikan, you’re not just entering a realm of stunning landscapes but also an unparalleled opportunity for wildlife watching. This remote corner of Alaska is a haven for diverse and extraordinary fauna, and embarking on a wildlife-watching tour promises an adventure like no other.
- Encounters with Majestic Bears: One of the most sought-after wildlife sightings in Ketchikan is the magnificent brown bear. These imposing creatures can be spotted in their natural habitats, particularly during salmon runs when they gather to feast on the abundance of fish. Imagine observing these giants as they go about their daily routines, often with playful cubs in tow. Knowledgeable guides accompany you on these excursions, ensuring your safety and providing insights into the bears’ behavior and habitat.
- Whale Watching Extravaganza: Ketchikan is renowned for its outstanding whale-watching opportunities. Venture out into the pristine waters of the Inside Passage, and you might encounter humpback whales, orcas, and gray whales breaching and spouting. Witnessing these gentle giants in their aquatic realm is a sight you’ll never forget. Whether you’re an avid photographer or simply an admirer of nature’s wonders, capturing these moments on camera is a must.
- Sea Lions, Seabirds, and More: It’s not just bears and whales that steal the spotlight; Ketchikan’s wildlife cast also includes sea lions, harbor seals, bald eagles, and a plethora of seabirds. As you cruise through the labyrinthine fjords and coves, keep your binoculars ready for sightings of these incredible creatures. Your guides, experts in their field, will regale you with tales of the region’s ecological intricacies, helping you gain a deeper appreciation for the delicate balance of this pristine ecosystem.
- Preserving Natural Wonders: Ketchikan places a strong emphasis on responsible and sustainable wildlife watching. Tour operators adhere to strict guidelines to minimize disturbance to the animals and their habitats. By participating in these tours, you’re not only fulfilling your desire for awe-inspiring encounters but also contributing to the conservation efforts that protect these extraordinary species for generations to come.
Wildlife watching in Ketchikan is a symphony of nature, a harmonious blend of breathtaking landscapes and charismatic animals. It’s a chance to witness the untamed beauty of Alaska up close and personal. So, whether you’re an enthusiastic wildlife photographer, a nature enthusiast, or simply someone who appreciates the wonders of the natural world, Ketchikan’s wildlife-watching tours promise unforgettable moments in the heart of the wilderness.
8. Tongass National Forest Trails: Nature’s Playground
For nature enthusiasts and avid hikers, Ketchikan’s Tongass National Forest offers a boundless playground of breathtaking landscapes and pristine wilderness. As the largest national forest in the United States, it presents an opportunity to immerse yourself in the untamed beauty of Alaska like never before.
- A Tapestry of Trails: The network of trails in the Tongass National Forest is a tapestry waiting to be explored. From leisurely strolls to challenging hikes, there’s a path for every level of adventurer. One moment, you might find yourself wandering through ancient old-growth forests, where towering trees have stood for centuries, and the next, you could be gazing at a tranquil lake reflecting the surrounding peaks.
- Wildlife Encounters: The Tongass is teeming with diverse wildlife. Keep your senses tuned to the environment, and you might spot black bears, Sitka black-tailed deer, bald eagles, and even the elusive marten. Birdwatchers will be delighted by the variety of avian species that call this forest home. The intertwining trails provide an excellent opportunity to witness these creatures in their natural habitat.
- Solitude in Nature: If you seek solitude and a deep connection with nature, the Tongass National Forest is your sanctuary. The serene ambiance, broken only by the sounds of birdsong and rustling leaves, creates a sense of tranquility that rejuvenates the spirit. Whether you’re meditating by a crystal-clear stream or picnicking by a hidden alpine lake, this forest invites you to pause and savor the moment.
- Respecting the Wilderness: Exploring Tongass comes with a responsibility to preserve its unspoiled beauty. Leave-no-trace principles are essential; respecting the environment ensures future generations can relish its wonders. When hiking these trails, follow ethical practices such as carrying out all trash, staying on designated paths, and refraining from disturbing the wildlife.
Tongass National Forest’s trails are a gateway to an untouched realm of natural splendor. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a leisurely wanderer, this vast wilderness offers an opportunity to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of daily life and reconnect with the pristine allure of the Alaskan outdoors. As you explore these trails, you’ll find yourself immersed in the heart of nature, surrounded by ancient trees, shimmering lakes, and the song of the wild. It’s an adventure waiting to be embraced.
9. Alaskan Cuisine: A Gastronomic Expedition
No visit to Ketchikan, Alaska, is complete without embarking on a culinary expedition through the flavors of this remarkable region. Alaskan cuisine is a celebration of the sea’s bounty and the richness of its wilderness. From the pristine waters come some of the most delectable seafood dishes, creating a culinary experience unlike any other.
- The Sea’s Treasures: Alaskan cuisine takes full advantage of its proximity to the cold, nutrient-rich waters of the Pacific. Dive into a world of seafood wonders, from the iconic Alaskan king crab, celebrated for its sweet and succulent meat, to the delicate flakiness of halibut, and the rich, flavorful salmon. These dishes are not merely meals; they’re a reflection of the region’s maritime heritage.
- Freshness Beyond Compare: What sets Alaskan seafood apart is its unparalleled freshness. The seafood you enjoy at local restaurants is often caught just hours before it reaches your plate, ensuring that every bite is a testament to the purity of Alaskan waters. It’s an experience that seafood enthusiasts and gourmands alike will savor.
- A Culinary Melting Pot: Alaskan cuisine isn’t solely about seafood. It’s a diverse tapestry woven with influences from various cultures. As you dine in Ketchikan’s restaurants, you’ll find dishes that pay homage to the indigenous traditions, Russian heritage, and pioneer spirit of Alaska. The result is a menu that offers everything from reindeer sausage to hearty moose stews.
- Warmth in Every Bite: Alaskan hospitality extends to its dining establishments. The warmth and friendliness of the locals are as much a part of the dining experience as the food itself. Whether you’re relishing a seafood feast in a cozy waterfront eatery or trying traditional dishes in a rustic log cabin, you’ll feel the genuine hospitality that defines Alaskan culture.
Sampling Alaskan cuisine isn’t just a meal; it’s a journey into the heart and soul of this extraordinary region. It’s an opportunity to taste the very essence of Alaska, where the pristine wilderness meets the bountiful sea. So, when you find yourself in Ketchikan, don’t miss the chance to indulge in these culinary delights. Each dish is a story, a tradition, and a testament to the unique and vibrant culture of Alaska.
10. Shopping for Souvenirs: Bringing Ketchikan Home
After a day filled with adventures in Ketchikan, Alaska, it’s only natural to want to bring a piece of this picturesque town back home with you. Thankfully, Ketchikan offers a delightful shopping experience where you can discover unique souvenirs and keepsakes that encapsulate the essence of this extraordinary place.
- Local Artistry: Ketchikan boasts a vibrant community of artists and artisans, and their creations make for perfect souvenirs. Explore galleries and boutiques to find exquisite jewelry, intricate woodwork, and captivating Alaskan artwork. These items often reflect the natural beauty and indigenous cultures of the region, making them not just souvenirs but cherished pieces of art.
- Handcrafted Treasures: One of the joys of shopping in Ketchikan is the opportunity to acquire handcrafted goods that showcase the town’s rich craftsmanship. Look for handmade textiles, pottery, and traditional Alaskan crafts. These items are imbued with the skill and creativity of local artisans, making them meaningful mementos of your visit.
- Alaskan Keepsakes: From T-shirts adorned with playful bear designs to coffee mugs featuring breathtaking Alaskan landscapes, you’ll find a wide array of Alaskan-themed keepsakes. These are perfect for sharing your Ketchikan experience with loved ones or simply keeping a tangible memory of your journey.
- Explore, Discover, Collect: Roaming the charming streets of Ketchikan while seeking out the ideal souvenirs is an adventure in itself. You’ll encounter shops tucked away in historic buildings and market stalls filled with handmade goods. Take your time to explore, ask the friendly locals for recommendations, and you’re sure to discover hidden gems along the way.
- Memories to Last a Lifetime: Shopping for souvenirs in Ketchikan isn’t just about acquiring things; it’s about collecting memories. Each item you choose will carry with it the sights, sounds, and emotions of your visit to this remarkable town. Whether it’s a hand-carved totem pole, a delicate piece of jewelry, or a cozy Alaskan blanket, these souvenirs will forever remind you of the beauty and charm of Ketchikan.
So, before you bid farewell to this Alaskan paradise, set aside some time for a shopping excursion. Whether you’re searching for unique gifts, Alaskan artwork, or keepsakes to treasure, Ketchikan’s shops have something special waiting just for you. As you make your selections, remember that each piece is a tangible memory of your unforgettable journey to Ketchikan, Alaska.
Ketchikan, Alaska, offers a plethora of experiences that cater to every interest, making it an ideal destination for cruise ship passengers. From exploring historic streets to witnessing cultural performances and embracing the pristine wilderness, your time in Ketchikan promises to be both enriching and memorable. So, when your cruise ship docks here, be sure to make the most of your visit by enjoying these top things to do in Ketchikan, Alaska.