Top Things to Do in Ketchikan Alaska for an Excellent Vacation

Are you planning an epic vacation to Ketchikan Alaska? Frequently referred to as Alaska's "first city", there are plenty of fun and fascinating things to do in Ketchikan. Whether making your way to this beautiful Alaskan town on an Alaskan cruise or planning a longer stay, these amazing Ketchikan attractions will leave you wanting more!

From the commercial district located in downtown Ketchikan, Alaska to the nearby Misty Fiords National Monument, I can guarantee you are going to love all the things to do in Ketchikan. I visited on my Alaska cruise back in 2017 as was absolutely blown away by what the "salmon capital of the world" had to offer-- and that was just for one day!

So make sure to grab either my free travel planner or cruise planner, because you are going to want to jot down notes as we touch on each of the top things to do in Ketchikan!

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Weather in Ketchikan Alaska

Weather in Ketchikan, Alaska

The first thing to consider when planning your time at the top things to do in Ketchikan is the weather. Average temperatures in Ketchikan can vary greatly, leading to a temperate yearly forecast

The warmest time of the year for Ketchikan is early August, where you can expect highs around 65 degrees during the day and temperatures around 50 degrees at night. The other monthly averages during the popular Alaskan cruise months of June, July, and September welcome highs in the mid or upper-50s with lows dropping into the mid-40s.

Weather in Ketchikan Alaska is fantastic during the Spring and Summer months, with these times being the most comfortable and welcoming less rainfall. The overall climate to expect when experiencing the top things to do in Ketchikan is damp and cool. This means you shouldn't plan on laying out in the sun or enjoying any swimming activities. Rather, opt for the more adventurous or culturally-enriching things to do in Ketchikan where you can dress in layers.


Things to do in Ketchikan Alaska

After deciding when the best time is to visit based on the weather, you are probably wonder what to do in Ketchikan? This beautiful coastal town is home to a plethora of Ketchikan activities that vary in time from a couple of minutes to a full-day excursion. Further, some of these things to do in Ketchikan are completely free, while other, more-intensive Ketchikan attractions may cost you a bit.

Misty Fjords National Monument

Misty Fjords Tour

Any nature-lover will fall in love with one of the best things to do in Ketchikan-- Misty Fjords National Monument!

This stunning Alaskan landscape stretches over 3 million acres and is home to numerous killer whales, all 5 species of salmon, moose, sea lions, wolverines, and much, much more. If you decide to visit, beauty will surround you the entire time, so make sure to pack a camera!

The Misty Fiords National Monument is a phenomenal spot for bird watchers and photographers alike. With plenty of gushing waterfalls, dense rainforests, and dramatically steep sea cliffs, a tour of Misty Fjords National Monument is a must!

There are plenty of ways to get to this amazing Ketchikan attraction, whether booking a Misty Fiords Floatplane Tour or exploring the area on a fantastic Alaskan cruise. If you prefer a more personal experience, you can access Misty Fiords National Monuments via kayak for around $35. If you decide to go this route, check out the free cabins on site and make sure they don't require reservations in advance!


Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show

Ketchikan Lumberjack Show

To truly get a taste for the Alaska culture in Ketchikan, make sure to check out one of the Great Lumberjack Shows. This is a great activity for travelers of every age as local lumberjacks show off their amazing strength and skills through a humorous display of their might.

As one of the top things to do in Ketchikan, you will see the Ketchikan lumberjacks chopping, climbing, sawing, and axing trees and may even allow you to join in on the fun! This Ketchikan excursion is best paired with a delicious meal at a crab feast in Ketchikan, Alaska.

To save some money, book the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show & Crab Feast tour combo which will last around 4 hours. You will start at the Lumberjack Show where you can watch and join in on the fun. Then, you will head over to the all-you-can-eat Dungeness crab feast featuring a number of sides and desserts to refuel before you head on with the rest of your day.

Even though these lumberjack shows are one of the top things to do in Ketchikan, the tours are capped at 15 travelers, so make sure to book far in advance!


Ketchikan Totem Poles

Ketchikan Totem Poles

Another great activity or Ketchikan shore excursion is scoping out the local totem poles! Ketchikan is home to the largest collection of totem poles in the world

These colorful carved sculptures are made out of wooden poles or posts. While the Ketchikan totem poles are not religious in nature, they all tell a story. Each Ketchikan totem pole represents characters in a story illustrating historical events or local legends.

This is the perfect Ketchikan activity for you if you are looking for a cheaper shore excursion in Ketchikan. While you will definitely notice totem poles sprinkled throughout the Ketchikan cruise port, the nearby Saxman Totem Village is the place to dedicate your precious time in this city. 

The Saxman Totem Village is home to around 30 totem poles carved by the native Haida and Tlingit tribes that have remained in this village since being moved here in the 1930s.

Unguided tours of this village start at $3 per visitor, making it one of the most affordable things to do in Ketchikan Alaska.

Guard Island Lighthouse

Guard Island Lighthouse Ketchikan Alaska

If you are looking to venture out a little further, make sure to check out the Guard Island Lighthouse. Located around 12 miles north of Ketchikan Alaska, this scenic nature spot is found near the beginning of the Tongass Narrows.

This lighthouse, as one of the best things to do in Ketchikan, has been in operation since the early 1900s (1924) and was officially taken over by the United States Coast Guard in 1969. With Guard Island Lighthouse's rich history, it should not surprise you that it may have a spooky past.

Way back during the Prohibition era a double murder was uncovered in a nearby drifting vessel. This spooky fact has attracted numerous eager travelers, making the Guard Island Lighthouse one of the top things to do in Ketchikan. Further, this monument was extremely important during the famed Klondike Gold Rush as passing ships would use its light to remain safe while traversing the Inside Passage.

If you decide to visit via a boat or a Hovercraft Eco Adventure, you can expect to spot seals swimming close to one of their favorite spots in Ketchikan, Alaska.

Stroll Around Downtown Ketchikan

downtown Ketchikan Alaska

The easiest, cheapest, and most laidback way to explore Ketchikan is through strolling the streets of downtown. This is a great way to see what Ketchikan is all about-- with salmon street venders and totem poles leading the way.

As one of the top things to do in Ketchikan, you can follow the numerous walking paths around downtown. The city is home to numerous steep wooden staircases that will lead you from one end of Ketchikan to the other. The best place to start is at one of the newest addition to the city's intertwining network of paths, the Waterfront Promenade.

From here, you will enjoy fantastic views of the city as you head on over to Harbor View Park. This Ketchikan park is where you will find boardwalks and staircases highly trafficked by locals and visitors alike!


Rainbird Trail

Rainbird Trail Ketchikan Alaska

If you are looking to check out Alaska's great outdoors, there is nothing better than a scenic hike featuring overlooks of the city below. As one of the top things to do in Ketchikan, Rainbird Trail is a beautiful path that will lead you through the Tongass National Forest.

The Rainbird Trail is just 2.6 miles long and is located around 20 minutes from the cruise dock. The trail is very well kept as locals and visitors both tend to enjoy this scenic path. If you are looking to see Ketchikan Alaska through hiking on a relaxing afternoon, the Rainbird Trail is for you!

This trail is protected by the surrounding rainforest and truly allows you to explore Alaska's wonderful wilderness. While most of the trail is contained within this luscious forest, there are a couple of spots where the path opens up, offering excellent views of the harbor and city down below.

Keep your eye out for the local wildlife on your adventure through the Tongass National Forest. Eagles, bears, salmon, and more are frequently spotted along this beautiful Ketchikan hiking trail.


Try the Local Salmon

salmon Ketchikan Alaska

Something you cannot forget to do is try salmon while visiting the Salmon Capital of the World! Ketchikan is home to all five species of Pacific Salmon, including the King, Sockeye, Coho, Pink, and Chum varieties. That is exactly why trying the local salmon is one of the best things to do in Ketchikan.

When I visited back in 2017, I had the chance to try the local salmon via a free sample offering in downtown Ketchikan, Alaska. Alternatively, head over to the Alaska Fish House to taste some of the best salmon in the world!

The locals in Ketchikan rave about the Alaska Fish house, featuring some of the freshest salmon catches in the city. This restaurant is among the best restaurants in Alaska that offers guest seafood. Plus, you can enjoy your tasty meal overlooking the scenic harbor where most of the salmon was actually caught!

If you prefer to stroll the streets and try salmon downtown, I suggest sticking to the more touristy areas (by the shops and pubs), as this is where the salmon street venders will be located.


Southeast Alaska Discovery Center

Southeast Alaska Discovery Center Ketchikan Alaska

If you are looking to learn more about Ketchikan's history and culture, check out the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center. This excellent spot is a fantastic spot to bring the family to seek education on what Ketchikan truly signifies.

Here, you will find an onsite aquarium which features some salmon observation exhibits. Further, you will get the chance to walk through the nearby rainforest through a walking tour. Other areas of this spectacular discovery center include interacting with exhibits illustrating the culture and people found in Southeast Alaska.

As one of the top things to do in Ketchikan, the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center also features a theater showing films explaining Ketchikan's past. There is also a bookstore on site if you are looking for any souvenirs during your visit.

Make sure to check out the authentic Totem Poles before or after your adventure at the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center. The admission is charged between the months of May and September and is $5 for each adult and kids under the age of 15 are free.


Alaska Canopy Adventures

Alaska Canopy Adventures Ketchikan Alaska

If you are more on the adventurous side, consider booking a Ketchikan zipline tour through the incredibly scenic Tongass National Forest. As one of the best things to do in Ketchikan, Alaska, ziplining is not for the faint-hearted.

There are multiple companies offering amazing ziplining tours through the Ketchikan canopy. Many will take you over 130 feet in the air and across over 6,000 feet of dual-lined ziplining cables. For a more immersive experience, check out the Rainforest Zip, Skybridge & Rappel Adventure experience offered for adrenalin-rush seeking tourists.

From here, you will get the chance to catch once-in-a-lifetime views, from bears feeding on salmon in the nearby streams to bald eagles soaring above in the sky. If safety is a concern, don't worry! All of the Ketchikan tour companies hire certified guides, protecting the safety of guests and the conservation of the surrounding rainforest.

Some of the ziplines you will experience are over 600 feet long, offering spectacular views during your time at one of the top things to do in Ketchikan, Alaska.


Ketchikan Kayaking

Ketchikan Kayaking

If you are looking to explore every part along the coastline of beautiful Ketchikan, kayaking may be the shore excursion for you. Like I stated earlier, most kayak rental shops will offer you a kayak for the day for around $35.

The best way to see the beautiful town and surrounding islands is by sea, making kayaking the top choice to get around. There is a nice dock area located in Ketchikan, perfect for you to take off on your adventure whether by yourself, with your travel group, or through a guided tour.

If you decide to opt in for a Ketchikan Kayak Eco-Tour, you can expect to navigate the intricate waterways and islands found at nearby Clove Pass which is surrounded by the Tongass National Forest. This small group tour offers the chance to spot some of the famous Alaskan wildlife including sea lions, migratory humpback whales, eagles, starfish, and bears along the shore.

As one of the best things to do in Ketchikan, you will not regret renting a kayak or booking a Ketchikan kayak tour. Make sure to kayak to Ketchikan Creek to spot the native wildlife, explore the Tongass Narrows, and visit Pennock Island during your time in port kayaking.


Dolly's House Museum

Dolly's House Museum Ketchikan

History-buffs should definitely make there way over to the Dolly's House Museum located on Creek Street. Here, you will find the only remaining entertainment venue of its day in all of Ketchikan, Alaska. This beautiful building, which is part of the old red-light district, was historically a popular area for the Ketchikan workers to have a good time out.

Now, the Dolly's House Museum is one of the top things to do in Ketchikan, featuring a green dollhouse appearance (the far right building in the image above). The house still looks remarkably the same as it did back in the day, making it a great spot to take a step back in time during your stay in Ketchikan, Alaska.

Once you step inside the museum, you will notice the exhibits illustrating the life of the ladies of the night who both lived and worked at Dolly's House. You will see vintage photographs, videos, and other historic artifacts which illustrate what life was like for people in Ketchikan between the years of 1900 and 1950.

For $10 a person you can easily spend some time getting to know Dolly and exploring the remnants of her past until her house was officially closed in 1954.


Sea Crab Fisherman's Tour

Ketchikan Fishing Tour

If you are a big fan of the television show "The Deadliest Catch", you will absolutely love this next Ketchikan attraction. If you frequently watch this Discovery Channel show, you most likely saw the commercial fishing boat Aleutian Ballad escaping a rogue wave in the Bering Sea.

Well, this Ketchikan fishing tour will allow you to ride the Aleutian Ballad and navigate through the tranquil passageways and protected waterways found throughout the Inside Passage. Through the official Sea Crab Fisherman's Tour you will learn about the fishing process through guidance by the seasoned fishing crew. Further, you will get a chance to marvel at the fresh marine creatures caught in the barrel pots and brought on the deck.

This tour lasts around 3 hours and will pick you up right on the cruise dock if need-be! You will get the chance to touch some of the latest catches, take once-in-a-lifetime photos, and listen to the fishermen's entertaining and fascinating stories.

You will also have the chance to spot some of the other more notable natural Alaskan wildlife on your Alaskan fishing cruise like humpback whales, sea lions, and soaring eagles. As one of the top things to do in Ketchikan, there are plenty of departure times to choose from, varying between mid-morning and mid-afternoon.

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