Things to Do in Ketchikan, Alaska: Ketchikan, Alaska, is a small but vibrant city that is famous for its breathtaking natural scenery, rich history, and vibrant cultural heritage. Nestled on the southeastern coast of Alaska, Ketchikan is a must-visit destination for those looking to immerse themselves in the beauty of the Alaskan wilderness. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, a history buff, or a lover of the arts, Ketchikan has something for everyone. In this article, we’ll explore the top things to do in Ketchikan, Alaska.
- Visit the Tongass National Forest
The Tongass National Forest is the largest national forest in the United States, covering an area of over 17 million acres. The forest is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including grizzly bears, black bears, bald eagles, and Sitka black-tailed deer. Visitors to the Tongass National Forest can explore its vast wilderness by hiking its trails, kayaking its rivers and lakes, and fishing for salmon and trout.
- Explore the Misty Fjords National Monument
The Misty Fjords National Monument is a natural wonder that is often described as one of the most beautiful places in Alaska. The monument is located just outside of Ketchikan and is accessible by boat or seaplane. Visitors to the Misty Fjords National Monument can marvel at its stunning waterfalls, towering cliffs, and crystal-clear lakes. The monument is also home to a variety of wildlife, including bears, wolves, and bald eagles.
- Visit the Totem Heritage Center
The Totem Heritage Center is a museum that showcases the rich cultural heritage of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian Native American tribes. The museum features a collection of over 30 original totem poles, as well as a range of Native American artifacts and crafts. Visitors to the Totem Heritage Center can learn about the history and traditions of the Native American tribes that have called Alaska home for thousands of years.
- Take a Fishing Charter
Ketchikan is renowned for its world-class fishing, and visitors can take advantage of this by booking a fishing charter. Fishing charters in Ketchikan offer visitors the opportunity to catch salmon, halibut, and a variety of other fish species. Fishing charters can be booked for half-day or full-day trips, and many charters provide all the necessary equipment and expertise.
- Visit Creek Street
Creek Street is a historic boardwalk that runs along Ketchikan Creek. The boardwalk was once a red-light district, but today it is home to a range of shops, galleries, and restaurants. Visitors to Creek Street can enjoy a leisurely stroll along the boardwalk, take in the stunning views of Ketchikan Creek, and shop for unique souvenirs and gifts.
- Take a Flightseeing Tour
Ketchikan’s natural beauty is best appreciated from the air, and visitors can take advantage of this by booking a flightseeing tour. Flightseeing tours in Ketchikan offer visitors the opportunity to see the city and its surroundings from a bird’s-eye view. Visitors can marvel at the city’s stunning coastline, dense forests, and pristine lakes.
- Explore the Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary
The Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary is a 40-acre private reserve that is home to a variety of wildlife, including black bears, bald eagles, and salmon. Visitors to the sanctuary can take a guided tour through the forest, learn about the local wildlife and ecosystem, and enjoy a close-up view of the bears and eagles.
- Visit the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center
The Southeast Alaska Discovery Center is a museum that showcases the natural history and cultural heritage of the region. The museum features a range of interactive exhibits, displays, and artifacts.
- Take a Kayaking Tour
Kayaking is a great way to explore the natural beauty of Ketchikan’s coastline and waterways. Visitors can take a guided kayaking tour through the city’s waterways and experience the stunning scenery up close. Kayaking tours are available for all skill levels and can be booked for half-day or full-day trips.
- Visit the Dolly’s House Museum
Dolly’s House Museum is a historic house that was once a brothel during the early 1900s. Today, the house is a museum that offers visitors a glimpse into Ketchikan’s colorful past. The museum features a range of artifacts, photographs, and exhibits that tell the story of the city’s early days as a mining and fishing town.
- Take a Whale Watching Tour
Ketchikan is a great place to go whale watching, and visitors can book a whale-watching tour to see these magnificent creatures up close. Humpback whales are the most common species sighted in the area, but visitors may also see orcas, gray whales, and other marine mammals. Whale-watching tours are available from April through September.
- Visit the Saxman Native Village
The Saxman Native Village is a traditional Tlingit village that showcases the art and culture of the Tlingit people. The village features a range of totem poles, a carving shed where visitors can watch master carvers at work, and a gift shop where visitors can purchase authentic Native American artwork and crafts.
- Take a Bear Viewing Tour
Ketchikan is home to a variety of wildlife, including black bears. Visitors can take a bear viewing tour to see these magnificent creatures up close in their natural habitat. Bear viewing tours are available from May through September and are led by experienced guides who are familiar with the bears’ behavior and habits.
- Visit the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center
The Southeast Alaska Discovery Center is a great place to learn about the natural history and cultural heritage of the region. The museum features a range of interactive exhibits, displays, and artifacts that showcase the area’s unique geology, ecology, and cultural history. Visitors can learn about the region’s wildlife, forests, and glaciers, as well as its Native American and Russian influences.
- Take a Zipline Tour
Ketchikan is home to several zipline tours that offer visitors a thrilling way to experience the city’s natural beauty. Zipline tours take visitors on a high-speed ride through the forest canopy, offering stunning views of the city’s coastline and surrounding wilderness. Zipline tours are available for all skill levels and can be booked for half-day or full-day trips.
Ketchikan, Alaska, is a unique and beautiful destination that offers visitors a range of outdoor activities, cultural experiences, and historical sites to explore. Whether you’re interested in hiking through the Tongass National Forest, exploring the Misty Fjords National Monument, or learning about the region’s Native American heritage, Ketchikan has something for everyone. With its stunning natural beauty, rich history, and vibrant cultural heritage, Ketchikan is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to experience the best that Alaska has to offer.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Things to Do in Ketchikan
- What is the best time to visit Ketchikan?
The best time to visit Ketchikan is during the summer months, from May through September when the weather is mild and the days are long. This is also the peak tourist season, so visitors should expect larger crowds and higher prices.
- Are there any free things to do in Ketchikan?
Yes, there are several free things to do in Ketchikan, including hiking the Rainbird Trail, visiting the Totem Heritage Center, exploring Creek Street, and watching the salmon run at the fish ladder.
- How do I book a fishing charter in Ketchikan?
There are several fishing charter companies in Ketchikan, and visitors can book a charter by contacting the company directly or through a travel agent. It’s recommended to book in advance, especially during peak season, to ensure availability.
- Is it possible to see the Northern Lights in Ketchikan?
Ketchikan is located at a relatively low latitude, so it is not a prime destination for viewing the Northern Lights. However, if conditions are right, visitors may be able to see the aurora borealis during the winter months.
- Can I take a day trip to Misty Fjords National Monument from Ketchikan?
Yes, there are several tour companies that offer day trips to Misty Fjords National Monument from Ketchikan. These tours typically include a scenic flightseeing tour, a boat tour of the fjords, and opportunities for hiking and wildlife viewing.
Ketchikan hosts several cultural events and festivals throughout the year, including the Ketchikan Blueberry Arts Festival, the Alaska Hummingbird Festival, and the Alaska Native Culture Festival. Check the local event calendar for current listings.
- Can I visit Ketchikan on a cruise?
Yes, Ketchikan is a popular stop on many Alaska cruise itineraries, and visitors can explore the city’s attractions and activities on a shore excursion. Some cruises also offer extended stays in Ketchikan, allowing for more time to explore the area.
- Is it possible to see whales from shore in Ketchikan?
While it is possible to spot whales from shore in Ketchikan, the best way to see these magnificent creatures is on a whale watching tour. These tours take visitors to prime whale watching areas and are led by experienced guides who can provide insight into the whales’ behavior and habitat.
- Can I go kayaking in Ketchikan if I have no experience?
Yes, there are several kayaking tours in Ketchikan that cater to beginners and those with little to no experience. These tours typically provide instruction and safety equipment, and take visitors to calm and sheltered waterways for a more relaxed paddling experience.
- Is it possible to see bears in Ketchikan?
Yes, black bears are commonly seen in the Ketchikan area, particularly during the summer months when they come to feed on salmon in the streams and rivers. Visitors can take a bear viewing tour to see these magnificent creatures up close in their natural habitat.