Today the city is filled with tourists who have come to Ketchikan to fish, hike, kayak, shop, learn more about the native American culture (especially totems), or explore the Tongass National Forest or Misty Fjords National Monument.
Ketchikan is also one of the rainiest towns in the USA, receiving about 13 feet (152 inches) of rain each year. Over 200 days each year have measurable rain, so don't forget your rain gear!
Here's some of the things to see and do in and around Ketchikan.
Take a Stroll Along Creek Street
One of the old buildings is Dolly's House Museum. Dolly Arthur was Ketchikan's most famous "madam", and the interior of the house looks much like it did in the 1920's.
Creek Street is just about three blocks from the cruise ship pier, and it's an easy walk through the downtown area.
Small ships sailing from Ketchikan often include a day in the park, but its narrow fjords are inaccessible to the larger cruise ships, so visitors will either need to take a tour boat or see the Misty Fjords from a seaplane.
Learn About Totems and the Tlingit Culture
Saxman village is about 2-3 miles south of Ketchikan, and it has an impressive collection of totems and a cedar community house. Visitors can learn about the Tlingit culture through the songs, dances and stories. Totem carvers are often at work in the village, and native art is for sale in the shops.
The Totem Bight State Park about 10 miles north of Ketchikan is in a beautiful setting and was funded by the CCC of the 1930s. It has numerous totems with good interpretive signs, but no carvers onsite.
The U.S. Forest Service's Southeast Alaska Discovery Center is on Mill Street in downtown Ketchikan. It features exhibits and interactive displays about the land, people, and culture of the region.
See Eagles and Salmon at the Deer Mountain Hatchery and Eagle Center
The Center provides guided and narrated tours to visitors and locals of the Hatchery facility and operations and of the Eagle Compound. They are open during the tour season, which runs from late April to the middle of September.
Take a Walk Around Historic Ketchikan
Ketchikan has two self-guided walking tours. The first is the downtown walking tour, which takes about two hours or more, depending on how many times you stop to shop or take photos. This walking tour covers the parks, museums, churches, and historic downtown areas like Creek Street. It starts at the Visitors Center and ends just on the other side of the tunnel at the Casey Moran Harbor. The second walk starts at the Harbor View Park (near the end of the downtown walk, and continues mostly along the waterfront. This tour is a longer, and takes at least 2.5 hours, passing by historic homes and businesses.
Enjoy Outdoor Activities - Hiking, Fishing, Kayaking, or Zip-Lining
Fishing is the most popular recreational activity in Ketchikan. Salmon fishing is king in the summer months, but halibut fishing is also a great option. Several outfitters will set you up with a boat and guide.
Kayaking is a wonderful, quiet way to see Southeast Alaska, and Ketchikan has at least two companies with kayaking tours. Zip-lining has really caught on around at vacation destinations around the world, and Ketchikan has zip-line adventures in the area.
Ready to stay in Ketchikan before or after your cruise? We stayed at the New York Hotel and loved it, but there are also many other great places to stay in town. Use Kayak to find a hotel in Ketchikan.
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary cruise accommodation for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our Ethics Policy.