WHAT TO DO
Check out local art on the downtown boardwalk
Creek Street isn’t actually a street at all -- it’s a boardwalk that runs through Ketchikan’s historic center to the east of Ketchikan Creek. Today, this area is full of shops, galleries, and local eateries to explore, but you should prioritize a stop at artist Ray Troll’s gallery, Soho Coho. Troll is a native of Ketchikan and creates colorful, nature-inspired scenes that you can peruse in the gallery, or purchase, if you’re in the market for some wall art. Afterward, take a quick hike down “Married Man’s Trail” -- a “secret” wooden extension of the Creek Street boardwalk that used to provide discreet access to the boardwalk when it was Ketchikan’s red light district. (We told you the town had a Wild West past). The trail will lead into the woods and eventually to Salmon Ladder, where you can see salmon trying to jump into the waterfall and continue upstream.
Explore Misty Fjords
Misty Fjords National Monument is 2.2 million acres of national wilderness, so obviously you’re not going to see it all in one day trip. The best way to take in these views, which are literally unlike anywhere else in the United States, is by seaplane or boat, which travel through Behm Canal in the heart of the monument. Along the way, you could see an abundance of native wildlife, from killer whales to porpoises, mountain goats, or bears. Besides Behm Canal, mineral springs and volcanic lava flows are also located in the monument, so be prepared for unparalleled sights.
Hang out with lumberjacks
Long before Ketchikan was a popular stop for cruise ships, forestry was one of the town’s main industries -- and lumberjacks are a storied part of that history. The Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show celebrates that by challenging lumberjacks to a dozen themed feats of strength, be that weilding a seven-pound axe or souped-up chainsaw, or climbing up trees. The shows run about an hour and happen multiple times each day, so it’s an easy event to fit in to your on-land excursion (plus, it’s just a block from the cruise ship docks.) Sporting flannel is recommended, but not mandatory, of course.
Experience native Alaskan culture
Alaska’s Native American heritage spans centuries, and Southeast Alaska (where Ketchikan is located) is home to three groups in particular: the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian. The Totem Heritage Center is one of the most picturesque spots to get a glimpse of this native culture, as it’s situated along Ketchikan Creek surrounded by a rainforest path. Inside, you’ll find one of the largest collections of original, 19th century totem poles on the planet, as well as baskets, carvings, and old photographs. There are also ongoing classes and programs where people still make these totems frequently, so you can drop in and watch them actually be created.