Considered the salmon capital of the world, Ketchikan offers cruisers a variety of unique experiences in addition to fishing. Visitors can enjoy exploring rainforests, wildlife viewing, breathtaking vistas, and outdoor adventures.
In this Port Guide:
- Cruise Port Overview
- Where Do Cruise Ships Dock?
- Getting Around Ketchikan with Kids
- Best Things to Do in Ketchikan with Kids
- What to Eat in Ketchikan, Alaska
- Where to Get WiFi in Ketchikan
- More About Cruising to Alaska with Kids
Ketchikan Cruise Port Overview
During the months of May to September, Ketchikan sees an average of 20 cruise ships a week. You can check the 2017 Ketchikan cruise ship schedule here. With a population of just under 14,000 the cruise port area can get busy very quickly.
Similar to Juneau, Ketchikan’s downtown area is located across the street from the cruise ship terminal. First time visitors will notice colorful low-rise brick and wood frame buildings lining the streets and seafood processing plants along the waterfront.
Ketchikan weather ranges from rain, fog and cool mists year round. While they enjoy a mild summer climate – highs of mid 60s F (15 C) during June, July and August – it’s recommended to be prepared for wet weather. Ketchikan is one of the rainiest places in North America. They get an average of 160 inches of rain a year due to being in the Tongass National Forest and located on the water.
Primary Language Spoken: English
Currency: US Dollar
Where Do Cruise Ships Dock in Ketchikan?
Cruise ships port at one of four berths located in downtown Ketchikan. Additional ships will need to anchor in Ketchikan Creek and use tenders to get to the downtown pier.
Once downtown, tour and shuttle buses and taxis are readily available for major attractions and activities.
Behind the downtown area is historic Creek Street – an area that is recognized the antique boardwalk built above Ketchikan Creek. It is home to many restaurants, Dolly’s House Museum, Married Man’s Trail and the Salmon ladder. Visitors will immediately notice that many of the houses in this area are built on steep hills and sit on tall stilts above Ketchikan Creek.
Getting Around Ketchikan with Kids
Ketchikan is compact compared to other ports of call. The downtown area and historic Creek Street district cover a five by five block area. Getting around the area is easy and there are multiple ways to explore the city.
Walking – Downtown Ketchikan is very walkable and often the best way to get around the area around the port. Make sure to stop by the Visitor Information Center (there’s one at Berth 2 and one at Berth 3) to pick up a walking tour map and attraction brochures. The Lumberjack Show (something we highly recommend doing if you have young children in your group) is only a couple of blocks from the pier.
Taxi – Taxis can be found by the Visitor Information Center for cruisers who don’t want to spend the entire day walking.
Car – Car rentals are available but not necessary if you book a tour which includes transportation or if you’re staying near the cruise port. Driving in Ketchikan is very easy as there’s one main road that runs along the coast for 30 miles. Rental cars are available at the airport so you will have to arrange for a pickup at the port if you are going this route.
Bus – There’s a free Salmon Run Bus Shuttle which can take cruisers around the downtown area. This free bus service runs May to September from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM every day. Buses operate on a 20-minute loop and stops at all four cruise ship berths as well as other attractions in the downtown area – including the Totem Heritage Center. There’s a high chance there will be multiple ships in port as Ketchikan sees on average 20 ships a week from May to September so there may be a bit of a wait for the bus.
Another option is to hop on Ketchikan’s municipal bus – there are stops near the cruise port. Service runs daily within city limits and service to destinations north of the city runs Monday to Friday only. Fare is $1/adults and $0.50/kids and seniors (cash only). You can check the bus fares and schedule here.
What to Do with Kids in Ketchikan
Ketchikan several kid-friendly in-town attractions however the popular tours require heading out of the city. A tour like Misty Fjords is often fully-booked by cruise lines. If you’re certain you want to do a particular tour or excursion outside of the downtown area, you should book as far in advance as possible to confirm your spot.
If you don’t mind booking last minute or the day of, you can see what’s available at the Ketchikan Tour Center at Berth 2. There may not be many excursions as on your cruise ship to choose from but you might be able to score a small discount to fill empty seats on a tour.
The Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show – If you’ve ever wondered what a lumberjack does then you simply must make a visit to the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show – just three blocks from the cruise pier.
This 60 minute show is interactive, fun and humorous as the lumberjacks go through their paces while keeping the audience entertained at the same time. Disney Wonder guests can avoid the Alaska cruise crowds by buying tickets for the exclusive Disney-fied Lumberjack Show.
Take the whole family as your kids will enjoy the action as the lumberjacks compete against one other. Tickets are $38/adult, $17.50/child (3 to 12) and free for kids under 3 years of age. Advance tickets are only sold by the cruise lines. Walk-up tickets may be available but it will be difficult to get for a large group depending on how many ships are in port.
Recommended for: all ages
Misty Fjords – Nothing can prepare you for the magnificence of the natural landscape when you visit Misty Fjords. Tall snow capped mountains, sheer cliffs, blue glacial lakes and crystal clear waters will surround you as engross yourself in the beauty of nature.
Accessible either by boat or seaplane, a visit to this wonderland is a definite must. Be prepared to see whales breaching, porpoises playing and a myriad of other wildlife including bears, moose, otter, sea lions and seals.
Float plane tours around Misty Fjords is one of the most popular tours among cruisers with many of the cruise line shore excursions fully booked by the time you get to port. If you’re certain you want to do this type of tour in Ketchikan, it’s recommended to book in advance. Making reservations in advance is also good for discounts and a better selection of flight time.
Recommended for: school age kids
Totem Bight State Historical Park – If you’ve ever been curious about totem poles and what they were used for then a visit to Totem Bight Park is a must if you’re visiting Ketchikan.
This 11 acre park is packed with re-carved and restored totems as well as a colorful Clan House all set in a temperate rainforest. The Clan House will give you an insight into native culture and the totems all tell their own stories. Admission is free.
Recommended for: all ages
Ketchikan Duck Tour – For families looking to stay closer to port and have someone else do the driving around the city, a Duck Tour might fit the bill.
The ‘Duck’ is an amphibious vehicle which will take you on a 90 minute tour through both the streets of Ketchikan and along the Ketchikan Creek where you’ll see the spawning grounds and live salmon if you visit at the right time of the year.
You’ll be entertained by the Captain and his assistant who will tell you tales of the local area. It’s a fun-filled adventure tour for the whole family.
Recommended for: all ages
Southeast Alaska Discovery Center – Learn about life in Alaska with a visit to the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center right across the street from the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show.
There are numerous native culture and natural history exhibits covering the geology, ecology and economy of this area.
Here you can visit a re-created native fishing village, listen to the forest rangers tell the story of the Tongass National Forest and even help your kids to become Junior Rangers.
In the summer season you can even join a ranger for a guided walk and learn all about the city’s ties to the rainforest. Admission is $5/adults and free for kids 0 to 15 years.
Recommended for: all ages
Bering Sea Crab Fishermen’s Tour – This tour is perfect for nature lovers and fans of Most Dangerous Catch (TV show).
The 3-hour Bering Sea Crab Fishermen Tour gives families the opportunity to see eagles in their natural environment, hold and touch various sea creatures (including crabs) and learn about fishing in the Bering Sea. The boat is set-up with stadium style seating for unobstructed views. Restrooms, snacks and souvenirs are available onboard.
Recommended for: kids 5 and up
What to Eat in Ketchikan, Alaska
As with other Alaskan ports of call, restaurants focus on seafood fare and most are kid-friendly. Below are family-friendly places to grab a bite or enjoy a meal in Ketchikan.
George Inlet Crab Feast – Take a boat tour around George Inlet and learn how to catch crabs, see bald eagles in their natural habitat and learn about the Alaskan crabbing and fishing industry. You’ll then end up at George Inlet Lodge for an all you can eat crab feast. Families we spoke to that took this tour LOVED it. Not just for the food (save room for the cheesecake after the crab!) but for the wildlife encounters. Most if not all cruise lines offer this tour. Unfortunately our youngest did not meet the minimum age requirement so we weren’t able to sign up for this. Next time though, we will!
Alaska Fish House – Located steps away from the cruise port and near the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show, Alaska Fish House is a casual spot to have lunch or a mid-afternoon snack. We really enjoyed the tacos, fish and chips and chowder. The seafood was very fresh and the kids finished everything. There’s limited seating inside and extra seating outside but expect long lines if going there around noon. We opted to have a late lunch (around 1:30 PM) and the restaurant was only half full at that time.
Burger Queen – Don’t let the unassuming exterior deter you from stopping by the Burger Queen. This place is known for their burgers, fries and onion rings. It’s a small restaurant with limited seating but you can enjoy your meal across the street one of the tables along the waterfront or take it to the bar next door (The Asylum Bar) or across the street (Arctic Bar).
Alva’s Fish n Chowder – Open only for lunch and with outdoor seating only, Alva’s Fish n Chowder is the place to go for oysters, fish sandwiches, fish and chips, chowder and halibut anything. This family run spot is easy to miss because of it’s small size. It’s located across from the cruise port – right in front of the tunnel by the ships.
Where to Get WiFi in Ketchikan
The Ketchikan Visitor Center has a list of places with WiFi such as The Asylum Bar (beside Burger Queen) and The Salmon Landing Market (a shopping complex located near the south end of the cruise ship dock.
Ketchikan Public Library also offers free WiFi access however it is a 1-mile (mostly uphill) walk from the cruise port.
Read More About Alaskan Cruises with Kids
- Why Cruise to Alaska with Kids
- 7 Tips for Families on a Disney Alaska Cruise
- Vancouver, British Columbia – Cruise Port Guide
- Skagway, Alaska with Kids – Cruise Port Guide
- Juneau, Alaska with Kids – Cruise Port Guide
- Seattle, Washington with Kids – Cruise Port Guide