15 Best Things to Do in Ketchikan Alaska: Fun, Cheap & Free!

best free things to do in ketchikan alaska from a cruise ship can inspire some alaska quotes for instagram captions

Looking for the best things to do in Ketchikan Alaska? Look no further! Ketchikan, known as the “Salmon Capital of the World,” offers a unique blend of natural beauty, rich culture, and outdoor activities that are sure to delight visitors arriving by cruise ship or airplane.

In this guide, you’ll discover the must-see sights, hidden gems, and top outdoor activities that will make your trip to Ketchikan unforgettable.

Don’t have time to read the entire list of things to do in Ketchikan Alaska? The Best Value Excursion is the Alaskan Lumberjack Show and All-you-can-eat Crab Feast Combo. Want a more nature-filled adventure? Misty Fjords National Monument Floatplane Tour is the way to go!

From taking a stroll through the beautiful rainforest trails to spotting a killer whale from the waterfront and delving into the historical Creek Street, there’s something for everyone to enjoy in this charming town.

So, come along and discover the best and most exciting things to do in Ketchikan, Alaska that cater to all budgets and interests, whether you’re looking for free activities or willing to spend a little cash.

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Luxury under Budget aims at helping you get the best deals by maximizing the value of your time and money. My recommendations are based on first-hand experiences and a full analysis of costs vs. benefits. This post may contain affiliate links, which means that I may get a small commission when you make a purchase, at no extra cost to you. This helps support my blog and enables me to provide more free and helpful content. Now, let’s go get you that luxury travel while staying under the budget!

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Best Fun Things to Do in Ketchikan, Alaska from A Cruise Ship

If you are up for adventures, there are a lot of interesting excursions and fun things to do in Ketchikan. You can find many options for Ketchikan Tours, Sightseeing & Cruises, but below are my top picks because these experiences are either not available in other Alaskan coastal cities or are being offered at much more affordable prices!

1. Lumberjack Show & All-you-can-eat Crab Feast – #1 pick for excursions in Ketchikan, Alaska!

This small-group tour lasts approximately four hours and offers great value for a true taste of Alaska. You will get access to both the Alaskan Lumberjack Show and All-you-can-eat Crab Feast in Ketchikan.

Be prepared to clap your hands and stomp your feet to cheer for your favorite Alaskan lumberjacks through their competitions in speed climbing (racing up and down the pole), power saw races, speed chopping, axe throwing, boom running, and logrolling (the lumberjacks run across the floating logs on top of a pool).

After the show, you can refuel at the all-you-can-eat Dungeness crab feast. and sip a glass of Alaskan Amber beer or wine included in the price. There are alternative menu items for non-seafood eaters and vegetarians as well.

🪓Don’t wait, this activity is popular and sold out fast. Book the Alaskan Lumberjack Show and Crab Feast now!

2. Salmon and Halibut Fishing in Ketchikan, Alaska

The best part about this tour is that the captain can customize the itinerary according to your preferred choices of fish. With this personalized fishing charter from Ketchikan, you can decide to fish for Pacific halibut and four types of Alaskan salmon.

Choose between a 4-hour and a 6-hour fishing trip to fit your schedule. The price includes pick-up and drop-off at designated meeting points as well as all fishing tackles, rods, as well as other necessary fishing gear and baits.

🐟Book now and secure your spot to catch the famous Alaskan Salmon and Halibut in Ketchikan, Alaska!

3. Misty Fjords National Monument Floatplane Tour

Climb aboard a 6-passenger floatplane and get ready to get a different view of Ketchikan with this Misty Fjords National Monument Floatplane Tour. As you fly over the Tongass National Forest and Misty Fjords National Monument, your pilot will share commentary via your headset.

The Tongass National Forest is America’s largest national forest with approximately 17 million acres while Misty Fjords is the largest wilderness in the Alaska national forest. You will also get a view of the New Eddystone Rock, a remnant of early volcanic activity.

Be on the lookout for wildlife such as wolves, bears, deer, and eagles. Depending on weather conditions, the pilot will make a landing on one of the fjords or lakes.

✈️ Experience the beauty of Misty Fjords National Monument like never before, book your Floatplane Tour today and fly over the breathtaking fjords and glaciers!

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4. Traitors Cove Bear Viewing

The bear viewing observatory at Traitors Cove is open for visitors between July 20th and September 30th. If you are traveling to Ketchikan during this timeframe, it’s worth considering taking this tour for bear viewing.

The floatplane will take you along the waterways of the lush Tongass National Forest across Revillagigedo island to the Margarete Creek Bear Viewing platform. An Island Wings bear guide will accompany you through the trail and provide information about the flora and fauna along the way.

The US Forest Service restricts access to Margarete Observatory by permit so there is a limited number of people allowed on the site. As a result, you will want to book early for this tour. It lasts four hours and includes a thirty-minute flight each way and three hours at Traitors Cove, as well as pick-up and drop-off transportation.

🧸 Don’t miss out on the chance to see bears in their natural habitat, book your Traitors Cove Bear Viewing tour now and witness the majesty of Alaska’s wildlife!

5. Bering Sea Crab Fisherman’s Tour

Chances are that you have seen an Aleutian Ballad – a commercial fishing boat – on the Discovery Channel’s hit TV show ‘Deadliest Catch’. This Bering Sea Crab Fisherman’s Tour from Ketchikan is your opportunity to experience what it’s like to be a commercial fisherman in Alaska aboard the Aleutian Ballad – a 107-foot (33-meter) ocean-going vessel.

You will get to learn about the Aleutian Ballad’s history and how it became famous on season two of ‘Deadliest Catch’ when the boat was struck by a 60-foot (18-meter) swell and survived to tell the tale.

Upon arrival at the fishing grounds, you will get to see firsthand how the crew bait the fishing gear with salmon and squid. Then, watch in wonder as sea creatures are hauled up in 700-pound (320-kg) crab pots.

There are not only king crabs, but also Dungeness crab, rockfish, ratfish, wolf eel, box crab, octopus, gray cod, prawn, and more. The crew sorts through the catch in different tanks on the deck for your observation. In the end, watch the crew release the catch back into the sea and stow all the fishing equipment.

🦀 Check Prices & Availability for Bering Sea Crab Fisherman’s Tour

Ketchikan Alaska tourist activities

Best Cheap Things to Do in Ketchikan, Alaska

Whether you’re on a tight budget or simply looking for the best deals, Ketchikan has something for you. In this section, you will find the best cheap things to do in Ketchikan, Alaska and make the most of your trip without spending a fortune.

6. Ketchikan Ferry

Riding the Ketchikan Ferry is a must when traveling from the airport to downtown, not only because it’s mandatory but also because it offers breathtaking views of the Tongass Narrows. The ferry runs every hour and half-hour from the airport side, and returns from the Ketchikan side on the quarter hours, providing a convenient and scenic mode of transportation.

The first ferry of the day leaves at 6:15 am from the Ketchikan side. The last one leaves at 9:30 pm from the airport side. The ferry ride may be short, but the views are truly spectacular.

You will never know what you may run into in Ketchikan, so keep your camera ready. It could be a whale by the port, a bear by the creek, or a bald eagle by the trail. As soon as the ferry landed on the Ketchikan side, we saw a seaplane land on the water just a few meters from us and that was pretty cool.

Ketchikan ferry one-way ticket costs $6 per adult and $3 per child (children aged 5 and under can ride for free). If you are returning on the same day, make sure you keep your receipt for free same-day return.

7. Visit Dolly’s House Museum – Unique thing to do in Ketchikan

“If you can’t find your husband, he’s in here!”

It is almost impossible for you to miss Dolly’s House. Right at the beginning of Creek Street, you will find the light-green house with the big sign in bold “WHERE BOTH MEN & SALMON CAME UPSTREAM TO SPAWN”.

As you can tell by the sign, this used to be a brothel in the red-light district. It was converted to a museum but keeps much of its appearance the same way it looked in the early 20th century.

Come and learn more about Dolly as well as the stories of other women in the red light district. They were allowed to shop only on certain days so that proper ladies would not run into them. Despite that, most of them were neither proud nor ashamed of what they did for a living.

Cost: $5

dolly's house museum in ketchikan alaska

8. Grab food or beer at Cape Fox Lodge

Take a stroll down Creek Street and discover the stairs that lead up to the Cape Fox Lodge. This lodge offers a great dining experience with its restaurant that boasts large glass windows that reach the ceiling, providing a spectacular view.

The menu features a variety of seafood options but the real highlight of the visit is the breathtaking views that can be enjoyed from the restaurant. It’s a must-visit for anyone looking for great views and decent seafood.

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Cape Fox Lodge

Best Free Things to do in Ketchikan, Alaska

There are plenty of free things to do in the city. From taking a stroll along the waterfront to visiting historical sites, there’s no shortage of activities to choose from. Here are some places of interest that allow you to admire natural beauty and immerse in the local culture of Ketchikan, Alaska without spending a dime.

9. Hike Rainbird Trail – Best easy hike to do in Ketchikan

Rainbird trail is a 1.3 mile (2.1 km) well-maintained hiking trail. It is located a short distance from the airport as well as the downtown Cruise Ship Terminals and the Ferry Terminal. The elevation gain is 300 feet (91m) but the hike is fairly easy.

How to get to Rainbird Trail

After getting off the Ketchikan Ferry from the airport, you can walk or take a bus to Rainbird’s first trailhead at the University of Alaska Southeast for a 1-hour hike or to the second trailhead on Third Avenue for a 30-minute hike.

The first trailhead is at the rear of the University of Alaska Southeast Parking lot. You can get there by following Jefferson Street from Tongass Avenue past Ketchikan High School to College Avenue.

The second trailhead is on Third Avenue close to Washington Street. If you search for “Ketchikan Hiking Trails” on Google Map App, you will find the trailhead popped up with the plus codes “982J + J9 Ketchikan Alaska”. You can follow Google Map instructions to get to the large parking lot on Third Avenue with a 300-step staircase to the trail.

Top free things to do Ketchikan Alaska - Rainbird Trail -
Rainforest – Rainbird Trail

If you start at the two above trailheads, you will find a beautiful viewing platform at the end of the trail with a panoramic view of Ketchikan and the surrounding islands. Once you have reached the end of the trail, continue walking towards downtown and follow Schoenbar Road down to the waterfront.

If you arrive by a cruise ship, simply follow the sign on Water Street near the Berth 4 Dock and take the Schoenbar Road up to Third Avenue. It is a very steep hill so I would rather start from the other two trailheads and walk downhill at the end. However, if you are up for the challenge, once you have reached the end of the steep hill of Schoenbar Road, turn left onto Third Avenue and follow the trailhead.

Things you can find at Rainbird Trail

Rainbird trail offers a quick and easily accessible rainforest experience. Other than several spots with a panoramic view of Ketchikan, you will find lush areas of ferns. In addition, you may find some edible fruits such as blueberry, huckleberry, and salmonberry. We saw ravens and bald eagles flying overhead. If you visit during the spring, you may find Sitka black-tailed deers.

Top free things to do Ketchikan Alaska - Rainbird Trail -
Beautiful View of Ketchikan – close to Rainbird’s third trailhead in case you want to admire this view without hiking

10. Walk around the waterfront & downtown from cruise ship

Walking around the waterfront and downtown Ketchikan is a must-do activity for all visitors, especially those arriving by cruise ship. Not only does it offer picturesque views and the opportunity to see local wildlife such as eagles and seals, but it also provides a chance to explore the town’s lively atmosphere.

As you stroll along the waterfront, you’ll find an array of bars, shops, and restaurants to check out, including an interesting statute of two bears “doing their business” by the Artic Bar.

Additionally, the locals told us that whales can be often seen playing near the dock, so keep an eye out for them as you explore the waterfront. With the possibility of seeing whales and the beautiful waterfront views, a walk around the waterfront area deserves to be one of the best free things to do in Ketchikan, Alaska from a cruise ship.

Things to do in Downtown Ketchikan Alaska AK
Ketchikan Waterfront

11. Stroll along Creek Street – The Best of Ketchikan Highlights

The boardwalk along Ketchikan Creek is a must-see attraction when visiting the town. Filled with an array of unique shops, art galleries, cafes, and restaurants, it’s a great place to walk around. One of the highlights of the boardwalk is the salmon-viewing platform, where visitors can witness the salmon swimming upstream during the peak season in July and August.

The boardwalk also offers an opportunity to learn about the history of Ketchikan and the red-light district through the informative signs on the historic houses along the creek. It’s really an ideal spot to discover the culture, heritage and unique atmosphere of Ketchikan.

Secret things to do Ketchikan Alaska - Creek Street

12. Hike Married Man’s Trail

Take a hike on the historic Married Man’s Trail, also known as the route used by men to sneak into Ketchikan’s former red-light district up until the 1950s. The trailhead is conveniently located just a few steps away from the salmon-viewing platform, where you can look up the narrow creek.

During the peak season in July and August, visitors may have the opportunity to spot flocks of salmon swimming upstream, adding to the historical and nature experience of the trail. It’s a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture and history, while enjoying the natural beauty of the area.

Top free things to do Ketchikan Alaska - Creek Street Salmon Viewing Platform
Salmon-Viewing Platform, close to Married Man’s Trail

13. Schoenbar Trail

Explore the Schoenbar Trail, a easy hike that takes you to the heart of the Ketchikan Park District. The trail will lead you to the City Park, where you can enjoy a variety of recreational activities, the Deer Mountain Hatchery, where you can learn about the local fish and wildlife, and the Totem Heritage Center, where you can learn about the rich Native culture and history of the area. This trail is perfect for those looking for an enjoyable and educational outdoor experience.

Top free things to do Ketchikan Alaska - Rainbird Trail Rainforest

14. Totem Heritage Center – Best cultural thing to do in Ketchikan Alaska

Discover the rich history and culture of the Tlingit and Haida people at the Totem Heritage Center. This center houses 33 authentic poles from uninhabited villages near Ketchikan, giving visitors a glimpse into the past.

The center also features numerous historic images and stories, allowing you to learn about the Native cultural traditions in an interactive and engaging way. With an entrance fee of only $6 per adult, it’s an affordable and enlightening experience that shouldn’t be missed.

15. Totem Bight State Park

Explore the natural beauty and rich cultural heritage of the Natives at the Totem Bight State Park. Take a bus from the museum and after a short walk through nature, you’ll find a tribal house and 14 totems that tell the story of the Tlingit people.

We saw an orca from the mounted boardwalk, so I’d definitely recommend that you keep an eye out for whales as you explore the park. With an entrance fee of only $5 per person, it’s a great value for an experience that immerses you in the local culture and nature.

best free thing to do ketchikan alaska whale watch free
Totem Bight State Park – be on the lookout for whales!

FAQs – Things to do in Ketchikan, Alaska (AK)

Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about things to do in Ketchikan, Alaska.

Is Ketchikan worth visiting?

Yes, Ketchikan, Alaska is a popular tourist destination worth visiting for its natural beauty, outdoor activities, and rich culture. Known as the “Salmon Capital of the World,” Ketchikan offers a variety of fishing charters and guided fishing trips, as well as hiking, kayaking, and sightseeing opportunities. Creek Street is also a must-see, featuring well-preserved examples of early 20th-century commercial and residential architecture.

How do I spend a day in Ketchikan?

There are many ways to spend a day in Ketchikan without breaking the bank. You can walk around the waterfront, stroll along Creek Street and learn about the history of the old red-light district, or hike the beautiful trails near downtown. There are several museums in Ketchikan with very low entrance fees that will give you more information on the history and background of the town. If you want to try your luck with spotting whales for free in Ketchikan, take the bus to the Totem Bight State Historical Park. If you don’t see whales, at least you will see totems!

What mistake to avoid in Ketchikan?

Keep in mind that the bus driver will have no change. In order to avoid paying extra, make sure you break the bills before getting on the bus. If you plan to take at least 3 rides, get the day pass for 5 dollars per person.

What is the best month to visit Ketchikan, Alaska?

The best months to visit Ketchikan, Alaska are generally considered to be May, June, July, August and September. These months offer the best weather, longer daylight, with mild temperatures and minimal rain. During these months, visitors can enjoy the natural beauty of the area, and participate in outdoor activities such as fishing, hiking and sightseeing.

Can you walk around Ketchikan, Alaska?

Walking is a great way to enhance your travel as it allows you to fully immerse yourself in the local culture, taking in the sights and sounds of the city at your own pace – and Ketchikan is a beautiful town perfect for exploring on foot!
From the ferry or from the cruise ship’s dock, you can explore the Ketchikan Historic District, stroll along Creek Street, and take a hike on one of the many trails in the area.

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