I snagged my first fish at the age of five. When I was six I submerged a bare foot into a steaming pile of black bear you-know-what in my backyard. At fourteen, I hiked the famous 33-mile Chilkoot trail with my best friend and our fathers; and at eighteen, I spread my wings and moved into the college dorms at the University of Alaska Southeast…a whopping 12 miles away from my parent’s house! I can’t seem to get away from this place. I was a Juneau kid, and now I’m a Juneau woman. And I like it that way.
Like many born-and-bred Juneau kids, I got an early start in the tourism industry working summers at the gift shops on the pier. I eventually moved on to working in various capacities at local tour operators, but this summer I’ve snagged the best job yet as the Tour Sales Coordinator at Alaska Zipline Adventures! In the ten years I’ve been in the industry, I’ve spoken to thousands of people who have asked thousands of questions about this unique and majestic place. The most common question has always remained “so what’s it really like to live in Juneau?” Well, I’ll tell you!
If you visit Juneau during the summer months (and I really think you should), there’s a chance the sun will be shining. If that’s the case, take a look at the locals. We might be squinting (what IS that big orange orb in the sky?) and we’ll probably all be smiling big, toothy, grateful grins. That’s because living in a rainforest in Southeast Alaska takes its toll on morale during the winter months. October-March is a journey from a dark, wet, cold autumn through a dark, snowy, frozen winter. So when the seasons change and we begin seeing longer hours of daylight, we locals don’t take a moment of it for granted. We are like children and nature is our candy shop. Time to dust off the kayaks, start biking to work, and of course go hiking anytime we have more than an hour to spare!
I’m won’t lie to you. Compared to the majority of adults in Juneau, I’m not that active. I have a gym membership to make up for all the cheesy pasta I eat during the winter, and in the summer I’ll hike a mountain or do some trail biking on my days off, but it’s not a daily thing and I generally prefer short nature walks to gigantic mountain adventures. That said, Juneauites are an active bunch! In addition to snowshoeing and cross country skiing, our tax dollars fund Eaglecrest Ski Area, which is well used by the community from the moment it opens in December until the day it closes in April (bonus fact: Alaska Zipline Adventures operates at Eaglecrest!). It’s a family friendly environment, and although I don’t ski myself, my younger brother is on the Juneau Ski Team. I’m always amazed when I go up to watch his races–the ages of the skiers at Eaglecrest range from three to ninety three (not even kidding)! But the culture in Juneau isn’t just active when it comes to snow sports. Warm summers make for the perfect environment to fish, kayak, hike, bike, canoe, run, walk, para-glide, swim, etc. You name it, the locals are probably doing it. Most of them are allergic to the sedentary lifestyle.
Nice & Laid Back
If you don’t like it when strangers smile and wave at you, you might get annoyed here in Juneau. With roughly 33,000 people, Alaska’s capital city is still small enough to have a down home mentality and culture of hospitality. Here, everyone is welcome and we tend to treat strangers like friends and neighbors. Locals are very accustomed to giving directions and advice to visitors, and most of us don’t mind taking time out of our day to help out a curious traveler. Probably because we are so darn proud of this place!
OK, now that I’ve told you all about how fantastic Juneau is, I will confess that even though it really IS fantastic, it can also be pretty average. That’s the thing people never expect to hear when they ask that loaded question, “what’s it really like to live in Juneau?” People have 9-5 jobs. They get sick, they get well. Sometimes people are rude, and most of the time they are friendly. We go to plays and spend entire weekends watching Netflix marathons in our pajamas (oh, is that just me?). The cops give out a whole lot of speeding tickets at the end of each month, and everyone knows where the speed traps are. As far as communities go, ours is pretty decent. We are no better or worse than any other place, just different. What makes us unique is our closeness to nature, and we know we’re lucky in that way. Every day after work, I walk for ten minutes up the hill near my house, and just like that I’m in the middle of the forest where I can sit and read a book in complete, pristine silence. If I want to go to the beach, I drive for 20 minutes. It’s that easy.
What’s it really like to live in Juneau? It’s nice, it’s accessible, and it’s drop dead gorgeous.