Having performed at hundreds of colleges across the country, my comedy partner Dave and I are experienced travelers. Like a Lewis and Clark armed with penis jokes instead of rifles, we’ve explored 48 states within the continental U.S., but had yet to set foot in Alaska. So when we were at last offered a show at the University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau, naturally, we jumped at the opportunity.
However, although we’d heard amazing things about the state’s capital city, we had no clue as to how to spend a day there. Fortunately, a mutual friend introduced us to Tyson Fick of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, who offered to guide us through an afternoon of eating, drinking, and gaping in sheer awe at some of the coolest spots in the city.
Here’s an hour-by-hour breakdown of how to occupy your time when you, too, make it up north, based on the very route that Fick helped us plan.
1:00 – 1:55 p.m.
The gorgeous 13.6-mile-long Mendenhall Glacier sits amid floating icebergs and reflections of the magnificent Coast Mountains. When we first laid eyes upon this natural wonder, we could barely pick our jaws up off the floor. “Majestic” is the word Dave used (15 times, to be exact, making him sound less like a mesmerized tourist and more like Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man). Sadly, this national wonder has been retreating and shrinking for years, becoming increasingly less visible. The reasons for this are debated by some (*cough* IT’S GLOBAL WARMING *cough*), but one sure thing is that you must see this amazing sight before it’s gone forever.
2:15 – 3:00 p.m.
After an hour of oohing and ahhing at the marvelous glacier, we headed downtown for appetizers. If you can only make one quick food stop in Juneau, make it the Taqueria. Now, I know what you’re thinking. As Dave said, “I’m not eating Mexican food in Alaska.” But despite its location some 3,000 miles from the border, this small spot whips up some of the most incredible corn tortilla dishes found on the West Coast. With Alaska bringing in more than 5 billion pounds of seafood each year — that’s about 60 percent of the entire annual harvest in the U.S. — it’s no wonder that Taqueria’s Alaskan king crab tostada, Alaskan true cod “pescado” taco or house-made sockeye salmon chorizo are so deliciously fresh. 245 Marine Way, Juneau, AK 99801; 907-789-3474
3:05 – 3:40 p.m.
As everyone knows, nothing washes fish tacos down better than coffee. (We were on a tight schedule, people.) The best cup of joe in Juneau can be had at Heritage Coffee, which roasts its own tasty beans and offers its brew in a charming space with a very local vibe. Dave took his java to go so he could explore the block a bit more, but I sat and people-watched as I sipped my own, witnessing businesspeople discussing financial charts, two older women gossiping and a seemingly homeless dude paying for his beverage with pennies. For a moment, with that great cup of coffee in my hand, I felt like I was back in New York. Multiple locations in Juneau; heritagecoffee.com
3:45 – 4:45 p.m.
Sometimes comedians must make concessions in order to visit a city’s finest restaurants. For example, in order to accommodate soundcheck, occasionally we eat dinner before most nursing home residents do. Salt’s Alaskan scallops and halibut were great, but the real star of the show at this classy joint is the King Crab bisque — an original recipe from owner Tracy LaBarge, founder of the famed King Crab Shack. This delectable soup is rich, creamy and subtly spicy, with large chunks of crab in every spoonful. Best of all, you can take comfort in knowing that all of the seafood at this restaurant is ethically harvested, as sustainability was written into Alaska’s state constitution in 1959. There must have been a law written about deliciousness, too. 200 Seward St., Juneau, AK 99801; 907-780-2221; saltalaska.com
5:00 – 6:00 p.m.
The 67th independent brewery in the U.S. has been brewing top-notch smoked porters, oatmeal stouts, amber ales and IPAs for 30 years now. And despite how good its beer is, Alaskan Brewing Co. still chooses to give it away — literally! Bartenders offer free samples of any of the tasty beers on tap. While you’re there, ask about the brewery’s unique piece of equipment: a mash filter press. While most breweries in the U.S. will ship their waste grain to farmers for cows to eat, ABC can’t, because…well, good luck finding a cow in Juneau. So Alaskan’s rare device compresses and processes excess grain, which the brewery burns to power itself! Could this be the greenest brewery in the U.S.? Perhaps. Is it the awesomest in Alaska? Definitely. 5429 Shaune Dr., Juneau, AK 99801; 907-780-5866; alaskanbeer.com
**BONUS: AFTER HOURS!***
10:00 p.m. – WHENEVER
Our nonstop adventure may have technically ended shortly before showtime, but we picked up the action again immediately after the curtain closed, when we ventured over to the bar at the Alaskan Hotel for a couple of drinks. Sure, we had a blast getting rip-roaring drunk, but this old-school bar’s vintage ambience is enough to keep even a water-guzzling teetotaler happy. Before you leave Alaska, be sure to stop by this late-night spot to raise a glass to one of the most underrated towns in America. 167 S. Franklin St., Juneau, AK 99801; 800-327-9347; thealaskanhotel.com