Homepage / Excursion Guides / Free And Cheap Things To Do In Ketchikan

Free And Cheap Things To Do In Ketchikan

September 2, 2021 / updated January 29, 2022
avatar
Cara L
Alaska Travel Specialist
5 min read

Ketchikan is the southeasternmost city in Alaska, and it’s also arguably the most beautiful city in the state. Known for being the “Salmon Capital of the World,” this city on a hill is also one of the most walkable you will find. Tourists will delight in the countless things to do in Ketchikan. This guide to Do-It-Yourself land excursions features nine places and activities to visit that will be a big help for folks looking for cheap activities in Ketchikan.

Go for a walk

Cost: Free walking in Ketchikan

The city is home to many streets made of steep wooden staircases. Start your excursion by the city’s newest boardwalk, the Waterfront Promenade.

From here you will have some of the best views of the city and be able to visit Harbor View Park. This park is comprised of boardwalks and stairs. An absolute favorite for visitors and locals alike.

Keep on walking! Ketchikan Walking Tour

Cost: Free

The Ketchikan Historic Society has created a fabulous free Ketchikan Walking Tour Map. If you fell in love with downtown during your first outing and prefer self-guided tours, this map will be a gem. The map includes 64 points of interest, all located in Downtown Ketchikan or on the West End. You can visit the Ketchikan Visitor’s Bureau along your travels to get your own copy or it can be downloaded ahead of time. Ketchikan walking tour

Read our Ketchikan Walking Guide

Visit Historic Creek Street

Cost: Free

Filled with fascinating history, Creek Street is a delightful way to check out local shops, galleries, and museums while strolling along the boardwalk that overlooks the creek. During the summer season, this creek is filled with salmon as they make their way to spawn upstream. Other wildlife such as seals and otters are often spotted here as well.

Ride the tram to the top for gorgeous panoramic views and the Cape Fox Lodge for a meal with a view.

See Ketchikan’s Totem Poles

Cost: Unguided visits at the park: $3

Totem Poles are sculptures carved into wooden poles or posts. The poles are not religious in nature, but rather represent characters in a story or events in history, such as legends or affirming a cultural belief.

Ketchikan is home to the largest collection of totem poles in the world, many of which are a close walk or taxi ride from the six cruise berths, which makes checking out these amazing sculptures a great activity if you're hoping to explore Ketchikan on your own! These hand-carved treasures are located throughout downtown and in the nearby Saxman Totem Village. At the Village, visitors will find 29 poles carved by Tlingit and Haida native tribes that have been in the village since being moved here in the 1930s.

Check out our post on Ketchikan's First Nations to learn more!

Hike Rainbird Trail

Cost: Free

This beautiful trail through the Tongass National Forest has been renovated and is ready for you to explore. The trail, a local's favorite, is just 2.6 miles long and 20 minutes from your cruise dock, making it a great way to spend a leisurely afternoon stroll. Protected by the rainforest, this trail gives you the opportunity to feel as though you are truly in the Alaskan Wilderness! But don't worry, there are still plenty of spots where the forest opens up and you can catch some great views of Ketchikan.

Be ready to spend the day enjoying what the Tongass National Forest has to offer. It is the largest of its kind in the nation. The forest surrounds the famed “Inside Passage,” and offers visitors a chance to see wildlife, such as eagles, bears, and of course, plenty of salmon in their natural habitat.

Rainbird Trail

View Ketchikan's trail maps and information.

Southeast Alaska Discovery Center

Cost: May-September Adults $5 per person; Kids under 15, Free

If you are seeking education, culture, and a great place to bring the kids, look no further than the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center. One of the most ideal DIY land excursions for resourceful and budget-savvy explorers, the aquarium has salmon observation exhibits and there is also a sure-to-please walking tour through the rainforest. Other features include interactive exhibits related to the people and culture of Southeast Alaska, a life-size smokehouse, and a hand-carved canoe.

Don’t forget to catch a film at their Discovery Center theatre and visit the bookstore before ending your visit. On your way in (or out), you will find various authentic Totem Poles and the opportunity to learn more about them. Admission is only charged May-September and the price is nominal enough for families to afford. It's one of the superb educational things to do in Ketchikan Alaska!

NY Cafe: A little bit artsy, a little bit coffee

Cost: Under $20 for lunch

Looking for a relaxed, casual break from your excursions? New York Cafe is a stellar option for grabbing a delicious bite or brew and is conveniently located right next to beautiful Creek Street. Visitors will enjoy a friendly atmosphere, fresh local fare, and delicious pastries. Many events are hosted here, including live music and craft nights!

Check out our top Ketchikan restaurants!

Guard Island Lighthouse

Cost: Free

Located about 12 miles north of Ketchikan close to the beginning of the Tongass Narrows is the Guard Island Lighthouse. The lighthouse has been working since 1924 and was taken over by the U.S. Coast Guard in 1969.

They have some spooky history for the horror buffs out there. During Prohibition, a double murder was discovered in a drifting vessel close by. Other notable facts about the monument include its importance during the Klondike Gold Rush as it kept ships safe while traveling through the Southeast Alaska Inside Passage. During your visit expect to see seals swimming close by as they favor the spot.

The grounds are now permanently closed to official shore excursions, but the site is still accessible and viewable by driving north through downtown Ketchikan. It's one of the more spooky and spine-tingling things to do here!

Dolly’s House Museum

Cost: $10 per person

In search of educational tours? This fascinating museum is the home of Dolly Arthur who, during the gold rush, worked on Creek Street offering a “red light district” distraction to miners and fishermen, along with entertainment galore.

Vintage photographs, videos, and memorabilia will show you what life was like in Ketchikan from 1900-the 1950s.

Catch this stop during your stroll through Creek Street and after you've enjoyed a bite at NY Cafe for a lovely day in Ketchikan Alaska!


Ketchikan is a wonderful town that is full of history, culture, wildlife, and stunning scenery. You can explore on your own with these activities, but if you have the ability to join a guided tour we highly recommend it to truly experience this special place!


avatar
Cara L
Alaska Travel Specialist
Cara, our resident Marketing Coordinator, shares her passion for Alaska through our blogs and social media. She travels the Inside Passage each summer to explore new tours and hidden gems.

More Tips for Visiting Ketchikan

Excursion guides and helpful resources for your Alaska adventures

You’d Better BEARlieve It image

You’d Better BEARlieve It

If you are visiting Southeast Alaska one of the first questions you might be asking yourself is, “where can I ... Show More

Our Top 9 Favorite Alaska Excursions image

Our Top 9 Favorite Alaska Excursions

Planning your Alaska excursions for the short time you have in each port can be overwhelming. With so many options, ... Show More

Alaska Tours for Seniors image

Alaska Tours for Seniors

Attention all seniors, people with limited mobility, and folks who just want a low-effort adventure for exploring Alaska, these excursions ... Show More

The 6 Best Kid-Friendly Shore Excursions and Alaska Family Tours image

The 6 Best Kid-Friendly Shore Excursions and Alaska Family Tours

If you have kids and have begun to research for an Alaska vacation, you know that it’s not always easy ... Show More

Budget-Friendly Tours image

Budget-Friendly Tours

On a budget and searching for affordable tours in Alaska? You've come to the right place! Whether you're visiting by ... Show More

Alaska Tour Packages image

Alaska Tour Packages

Visiting Southeast Alaska and don't want to miss any of the highlights? We've got you covered with these Alaska tour ... Show More

Budget-Friendly Tours in Ketchikan

These affordable tours save you money while ensuring you're not missing out!