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15 Things To Do in Ketchikan, Alaska from a Cruise Ship

Ketchikan, Alaska, also known as Alaska's first city, is a vibrant port of call for many cruise passengers. Known for its rich cultural heritage, breathtaking natural landscapes, and outdoor activities, Ketchikan offers something for everyone.

Buildings along and above Creek Street in Ketchikan, Alaska

As your cruise ship docks, you will find yourself at the gateway to a town filled with history, wildlife, and unique experiences.

Whether exploring the bustling downtown area, visiting totem parks, or embarking on a sea kayaking adventure, there is no shortage of things to do in Ketchikan. Here are 15 activities to help you make the most of your time in this fascinating city.

1. Explore Downtown Ketchikan

DLT! under the Ketchikan sign

The downtown area of Ketchikan is a commercial district housing two large harbors and several cruise ship docks. It is easily walkable and filled with historically significant buildings and shops showcasing the work of artisans. Gift shops abound, offering perfect souvenirs to remember your adventure.

Seafood lovers can enjoy the local restaurants and markets, and beer aficionados can enjoy a local pub crawl. Moreover, be sure to capture a photo in front of the famous "Welcome to Ketchikan" sign at the intersection of Mission Street and Front Street.

2. Walk Along Historic Creek Street

Address: 13 Creek St, Ketchikan, AK 99901

Creek Street signage and boardwalk in Ketchikan, Alaska

A short walk from the city center, Creek Street in Ketchikan, Alaska, is a historic boardwalk on pilings along Ketchikan Creek. It is a popular destination for visitors, offering a glimpse into the city's colorful past as a former Red Light District.

Today, it is a charming area where tourists can explore Dolly’s House Museum, admire totem poles, and browse locally-owned stores and galleries showcasing native art and culture. During the summer months, thousands of salmon gather to spawn upstream, with seals and otters often seen nearby and eagles soaring above.

3. Visit Dolly’s House Museum

Address: Side of building, 24 Creek St, Ketchikan, AK 99901

Buildings along and above Creek Street in Ketchikan, Alaska. The green house on the right is Dolly's House Museum

Dolly’s House Museum on Creek Street is the only remaining brothel from the old red-light district, offering a glimpse into the city's boisterous past.

Visitors can tour Number 24 Creek Street, with its distinct green dollhouse appearance, to learn more about Dolly Arthur, her cabbage rose wallpaper, and a secret closet where she hid contraband liquor during Prohibition.

For five dollars, explore this unique museum and learn about the lives of Dolly and other women who worked in the district, a lively part of Ketchikan’s history until it was closed in 1954.

4. Hike the Married Man’s Trail

Address: Married Man's Trl Ketchikan, AK 99901

DLT! on Salmon Ladder with a creek in the back

Married Man’s Trail in Ketchikan was once an escape route for men evading police raids on Creek Street brothels. The trail winds upward through trees, offering scenic views of the town and harbor below, and ends at Cape Fox Lodge, where visitors can enjoy panoramic views of the Tongass Narrows, Deer Mountain, and Thomas Basin Marina.

Along the trail, the Salmon Ladder provides an excellent spot to watch salmon jumping up the waterfall during spawning season and is one of the best places for capturing photos of this incredible sight. Even outside of the salmon season, it remains a picturesque location for photography.

5. Visit the Totem Heritage Center

Address: 601 Deermount St, Ketchikan, AK 99901

Totem pole in the downtown area of Ketchikan

The Totem Heritage Center in Ketchikan boasts the largest collection of 19th-century totem poles, preserving the rich history and culture of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian peoples. It is a hub for discovering, learning, and practicing Native arts, fostering cultural understanding.

Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for elders, and free for children and military personnel. A museum pass for the Totem Heritage Center and the Tongass Historical Museum costs $9. Alaskan residents always enjoy free admission.

From May to September, the center is open daily from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, and from October to April, it is open Tuesday to Saturday from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm.

6. Discover the Tongass Historical Museum

Address: 629 Dock St. Ketchikan, Alaska 99901

Downtown area of Ketchikan, Alaska

The Tongass Historical Museum in Ketchikan features a permanent collection of local artifacts, Alaska Native artwork, historical photos, and items from significant industries in the area's development. The museum also offers rotating exhibits showcasing Ketchikan and Southeast Alaska, past and present. 

Although located separately, it shares the same admission prices and operating hours as the Totem Heritage Center. Both museums are accessible by foot, car, city bus, or a free downtown shuttle running on a 20-minute loop when large cruise ships are in port in the summer. Moreover, the bus fare is $2 for adults and $1 for youth.

7. Experience the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center

Address: 50 Main St, Ketchikan, AK 99901

A marina in Ketchikan, Alaska with a cruise ship in the background

The Southeast Alaska Discovery Center, located at the corner of Mill and Main, offers a comprehensive look at the history and culture of Ketchikan. Visitors are greeted by three totems representing Haida, Tlingit, and Tsimshian cultures.

Inside, interactive exhibits cover Alaska’s Rainforest, Native Traditions, Ecosystems, and Natural Resources, highlighting key industries such as mining, fishing, timber, tourism, and recreation.

Summer hours are Sunday to Friday from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm and Saturdays from 8:00 am to 12:00 pm, with a $5.00 entrance fee from May 1 to September 30.

8. Watch the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show

Address: 420 Spruce Mill Way, Ketchikan, AK 99901

Two lumberjacks log rolling at the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show

The Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show offers a unique experience, immersing audience members in a thrilling competition that highlights the logging history of southeast Alaska.

Watch world champion athletes in spiked boots and hard hats compete in 12 events, demonstrating extraordinary skill and strength with seven-pound axes, six-foot razor-sharp saws, tree climbing gaffs, and powerful chainsaws.

DLT! with the lumberjacks from the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show

This captivating display of power and agility brings the storied logging past of Ketchikan to life in an unforgettable performance.

9. Check Out Saxman Totem Park

Address: 2660 Killer Whale Ave, Saxman, AK 99901

A totem pole in Ketchikan, Alaska

Ketchikan is the totem capital of the world, and Saxman Native Village’s Totem Park is the best place to see the most standing totems in one location. The 25 totems are authentic replicas of original poles from abandoned villages as Native Alaskans moved to more populated areas.

Visitors can tour the open-air park in Saxman Village, home to a small native population, for a $5 fee or take a guided tour to learn about the cultural significance and stories behind each pole.

10. Explore Totem Bight State Historical Park

Address: 9883 N Tongass Hwy, Ketchikan, AK 99901

A totem pole in Ketchikan, Alaska

Totem Bight State Park is another great place to see totem poles in Ketchikan. This 11-acre park features restored and re-carved totems and a colorful Clan House, set against a lush rainforest and the rocky coastline of Tongass Narrows.

Local wildlife in the area includes brown bears, black bears, wolves, humpback whales, orcas, salmon, and bald eagles, making it a perfect place for cultural and natural exploration.

11. Visit the Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary

Address: 116 Wood Rd, Ketchikan, AK 99901

Bald eagle

The Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary is a 40-acre rainforest reserve located at picturesque Herring Cove, just eight road miles from Ketchikan. It features tall spruce, hemlock, and cedar trees with a moss-covered forest floor dotted with wildflowers and berries.

Visitors can enjoy a half-mile trail through the Tongass, explore the Alaska Raptor Center's aviary exhibits, watch a Native master totem pole carver, and visit a historic Alaska sawmill.

This unique Alaska experience is perfect for nature lovers, with Eagle Creek, one of the state's richest salmon spawning streams, flowing through the diverse ecosystem into an estuary and then the ocean.

12. Fish in the Salmon Capital of the World

Marina in Ketchikan, Alaska

Ketchikan, known as the Salmon Capital of the World, attracts anglers from around the globe. Book a fishing excursion for the chance to catch all five species of Pacific salmon (Chum Salmon, Sockeye Salmon, King Salmon, Silver Salmon, and Pink Salmon), as well as halibut, red snapper, lingcod, and rock cod.

Numerous lodges and resorts along Tongass Narrows cater to visiting anglers. Guides provide chartered ocean fishing trips and can fly visitors to remote locations for freshwater and saltwater fishing adventures.

13. Take a Sea Kayaking Tour or Go Ziplining

Ketchikan water and mountain view

Ketchikan is an ideal base for kayaking in the Inside Passage, with rentals available in town. Options range from a leisurely paddle around the waterfront to a weeklong adventure in Misty Fjords National Monument.

Betton Island and nearby smaller islands offer excellent day paddles, providing a unique experience to explore the scenic beauty of Southeast Alaska from the water.

Additionally, Ketchikan's lush rainforests and elevations make it perfect for zip-line tours, with one operation offering a thrilling 4,600-foot descent down the side of a mountain via eight lines and three suspension bridges.

14. Visit Misty Fjords National Monument

Seaplane in Ketchikan, Alaska

Misty Fjords National Monument, located just east of Ketchikan in the Tongass National Forest, offers a temperate rainforest wilderness with no roads, accessible only by sea or air.

Visitors can take a day cruise or a water taxi to kayak among glacial ice, exploring steep hillsides carved by glaciers and deep, narrow fjords. Wildlife, such as bears, wolves, and mountain goats, inhabit the old-growth forest of Sitka spruce, cedar, and hemlock, with rain-fed waterfalls adding to the scenery.

Moreover, for a breathtaking perspective, flightseeing tours by seaplane or helicopter provide stunning aerial views of the largest intact coastal rainforest in America.

15. Ride an Amphibious Vehicle

Water view in Ketchikan, Alaska

Set off on a delightful adventure with the Ketchikan Duck Tour, promising loads of laughter! The tour takes you past Ketchikan Creek's salmon ladder, City Park’s fish hatchery and eagle center, and charming Whale Park then delves into the history of Creek Street.

Then, the amphibious vehicle splashes into the Tongass Narrows harbor, offering close-up views of the local fishing fleet, canneries, seaplane docks, and seasonal wildlife. Your entertaining guide ensures a captivating journey on this Coast Guard-certified vehicle that doubles as a bus and a boat.

Not sure what to pack for an Alaskan cruise?

Check out my blog post, Your Alaska Cruise Packing List (PDF Checklist Inside). In this blog post, you will find a visual listing with links to purchase the items.

Do you just want the checklist emailed to you?

Preview of the Free Printable Packing List for your Alaskan Cruise created by Dale, Let's Travel! LLC

Fill out this form with your first name and email address below to receive the link for a downloadable PDF version of this listing that you can print out and treat as a checklist.

Explore the Great Outdoors!

Beautiful marina scenery in Ketchikan, Alaska

Ketchikan, one of the most popular cruise ports on an Alaska cruise, is a treasure trove of experiences waiting to be discovered! From exploring historic sites and learning about native cultures to enjoying the natural beauty of the Tongass National Forest and spotting local wildlife, there is something to captivate every visitor.

Whether you have a few hours or a full day at the Ketchikan cruise port, these 15 activities will ensure you leave with lasting memories and a deeper appreciation for this unique corner of Southeast Alaska. Make the most of your cruise stop and immerse yourself in all that Ketchikan offers!

Ketchikan, Alaska - buildings and snow capped mountains with vehicles on the road

Have you ever been to Ketchikan, Alaska? Let me know in the comments below! Share this article with the person or people you want to go on your next adventure with! Also, be sure to SUBSCRIBE below to learn about other places you should add to your "To Visit" List! Ready? Okay, vamos. Time to have fun!

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Christine Morrell
Christine Morrell
Jun 24

Bucket list trip for sure

Jun 25
Replying to

The Alaskan Cruise has by far been our favorite cruise!

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