The southernmost port of call in Alaska’s Inside Passage, Ketchikan gets several thousand cruise ship passengers a day in summer. Don’t let that scare you. Behind the rows of tourist shops you’ll find quaint architecture, Native American culture, and eagles perched on telephone poles. And the Tongass National Forest and pure Mother Nature beckon just outside of town.
What We Love
The Totem Poles: The towering monuments — in parks, museums, and on the street — showcase the artistry of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian people. There are more here than in any other city in the world.
You Can Snorkel: Yes, you’re in Alaska, but don't let that stop you. Put on a wetsuit to spot colorful starfish, sea anemone, and fields of kelp, in water that is not as cold as you think. Bonus: major bragging rights.
Best Known For
Creek Street: The colorful, historic frontier buildings perched on wooden pilings are one of the most photographed sights in Alaska. This was once the city’s red light district, but the buildings today mostly house shops and restaurants.
The Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show: If you’re going to do something touristy, it might as well be this production, which combines chopping, sawing, log rolling, climbing, and a good dose of humor. It’s a great choice for families with kids.
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Who It's Best For
All Ages: Whether you’ve brought the kids or left them at home, looking for adventure or just a stroll, there’s something in Ketchikan and its surrounds for everyone.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Rain: While there are perfectly sunny days, the average annual rainfall is more than 13 feet. If you hit a rainy day, do what the locals do and just ignore it and get on with your planned activities.
Imports: Many of the goods for sale in the numerous tourist shops were not made in Alaska. Check before buying if you really want an authentic souvenir.
Fran Golden is a Cleveland-based contributor to ShermansCruise who also writes for USA Today.