At one time, Alaska was referred to as a “folly.” However, the state soon became a vital investment for the U.S. when it was purchased from Russia for a mere $0.02 cents per acre in 1867. Today, what are the pros and cons of living in Anchorage, Alaska?
If you’re thinking of moving to Alaska, you may be wondering which city or town in the nation’s largest state would suit you best. In terms of culture and population, Anchorage may be a good fit for you. As the state’s most populous city, it seems that there is something for everyone.
Living in Anchorage, Alaska has many pros like no sales tax or state income tax. Also, Anchorage is close to hunting and fishing areas and has a lot of cultural activities, including art galleries. Alternatively, you can expect harsh winter weather, plus a high cost of living and homeownership, and a high crime rate.
Anchorage offers plenty of enjoyable activities and a diverse culture. Moreover, life in Anchorage has more opportunities for residents than most of the other cities in Alaska.
Housing costs in Anchorage are steeper than they are in some of the state’s other areas. However, you will enjoy a median income that is higher, better school systems, a better quality of life, and more moderate weather.
What Is Anchorage, Alaska Known For?
When people think of Anchorage, Alaska, they typically think of the fabulous trails, gorgeous views of the glaciers, and the area’s wildlife. Also, the city is the most cultural city in the state because it is home to more musicians and artists than other cities in Alaska.
In Anchorage, the city is full of public art, including life-sized murals featuring bowhead whales and other marine life native to Alaska, including a bronze art piece that goes back to Dena’ina Athabascan fish camps on the shores of Knik arm.
The city of Anchorage is also home to the largest museum in the state and is full of interesting shops and restaurants. In some cases, the shops and restaurants even double as gallery spaces to feature various artists.
What Are the Pros of Living in Anchorage Alaska?
When it comes to the pros and cons of living in Anchorage, Alaska, there are more pros than cons. Anchorage has big-city benefits but retains a small-town feel. The perks of living in Anchorage, Alaska far outweigh the pitfalls.
As one of Alaska’s oldest cities, Anchorage is home to more than 20 different languages from the area’s indigenous people. Much of Anchorage’s culture is influenced by the traditions of the First Nations people. This includes whaling, crafting, and hunting.
Anchorage is home to several artists and musicians and the city enjoys a thriving creative culture. In fact, Anchorage is home to the Alaska Native Heritage Center, a center that dance and craft performances.
The city of Anchorage has a young demographic, with the median age of adults in the city being 33 years old.
If you’re an outdoors enthusiast, there are few states better suited to your lifestyle than Alaska. For hunting in the Anchorage area, there are a lot of nearby public lands.
For fishing enthusiasts, there are countless creeks, streams, and lakes in the city of Anchorage where you can fish. You can even go fishing in downtown Anchorage on Ship Creek, where you can experience what it’s like to catch a salmon.
Cost of Living (note: this is also a con!)
It costs more to live in Alaska than in other areas of the U.S. because so many products have to be shipped in. As an example, a gallon of milk can cost $3.50 in Anchorage and even more in cities that are further out.
However, some aspects of everyday life are cheaper. For example, food is 8.7% cheaper in Anchorage than food in Fairbanks. Also, utilities are about 24% less in Anchorage.
Housing in Anchorage is more expensive than in cities like Fairbanks. The cost of a home in Anchorage is about $100,000 more than a home in Fairbanks.
Anchorage, Alaska has the distinction of being one of America’s most diverse cities. At the national level, Anchorage ranks above the national average at number 55. Anchorage is also the most diverse city in Alaska.
Better Job Market Than Other Alaska Cities
When compared to other Alaska cities, Anchorage is the clear winner in terms of the job market. Anchorage has a higher unemployment rate than some of the state’s other cities, but area residents have a larger salary and median household income than they do in other areas of the state.
The city of Anchorage has an excellent public school system and there are also several private schools in the area.
Anchorage boasts three options for post-secondary education.
- University of Alaska
- Alaska Pacific University
- Charter College
In Alaska, you will encounter far fewer rules and regulations than you would in other states. If issues like 2nd Amendment rights are important to you, you will enjoy living in Anchorage.
Alaska is also a Stand Your Ground state and employs the Castle Doctrine.
Scenery and Wildlife
It’s not unusual for Anchorage residents to look out their windows and see moose, wolves, and even bears.
For scenery, the city is surrounded by mountains on the east, north, and south.
The Anchorage area has extensive highway systems throughout the city. Moreover, Anchorage has an international airport in the city, which is a big plus for people who travel frequently for business or pleasure.
In terms of public transportation, the popular People Mover bus system transports people to much of the city, including stops at popular locations and access to downtown.
Better Weather Than Other Major Alaska Cities
Any place you live in Alaska is going to see a lot of cold weather and snow. However, in terms of extreme weather, Anchorage residents enjoy much milder winters and more pleasant summers than other major cities in the state.
In the summer, temperatures average around 60 degrees Fahrenheit, and winters get down to about 25 degrees Fahrenheit. In most years, the lowest temperatures you will experience in Anchorage will be about -10 degrees Fahrenheit.
For snowfall, you can expect a yearly average of 78 inches.
Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend
If you live in Alaska as an eligible resident, you receive a dividend check from the Alaska Department of Revenue Permanent Fund Dividend Division. This fund is constitutionally established and managed by a state agency.
The dividend fund is funded by revenues from oil and pays approximately $1,600 per resident every year (this can change every year). While this revenue alone isn’t necessarily a reason to move to Alaska, it’s nice to know it’s there because it can offset some of the expenses related to life in this state.
Alaska currently has no sales tax or state income tax. On the other hand, city property tax assessments frequently go up every year.
What Are the Cons of Living in Anchorage, Alaska?
Although there are significant perks to living in Anchorage, there are a few downsides as well. When exploring the pros and cons of living in Anchorage, Alaska, you have to take into account the downside as well as the upside. Let’s dive into some of the less desirable issues facing people who move to Anchorage, Alaska.
Home Ownership Costs
While we listed the cost of living in Anchorage, Alaska as a perk, there is also a downside when compared to other cities in Alaska. As mentioned, homeownership is more expensive in Anchorage. Mostly, this is because there is limited real estate available in the city.
In Anchorage, violent crimes are much higher than the national average. For example, murder is nearly double the national average, while assault is nearly four times the average in other states.
Furthermore, rape is five times higher in Anchorage than it is in other major U.S. cities. Property crimes, theft, and burglary are higher than the national average, while theft of motor vehicles is nearly double.
For a city of the size of Anchorage, traffic during morning and evening rush hours is fairly heavy. Also, an influx of people who are unaccustomed to driving on snow, ice, and heavy rain have created further traffic problems.
Fortunately, you can get nearly anywhere within the city in 15-30 minutes if there are no accidents.
Declining Growth in Population
In the past few years, the municipality of Anchorage has seen a slight decrease in the number of residents. Population decline can be caused by many different factors, but it bears monitoring.
When a city experiences population decline, it can have an economic impact because there is less demand for some basic services and businesses. This includes shopping, restaurants, and hotels.
Is Anchorage, Alaska Dangerous?
According to a report from Forbes, Anchorage and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough combine together to rank as the most dangerous U.S. metropolitan area. The Forbes ranking was a result of pulling together information from four categories of different types of violent crime in U.S. cities with populations of 200,000 people or more. The Forbes data was pulled from the uniform crime report from the FBI in 2010.
A ranking slide that is specific to Anchorage noted that in 2010 there were 813 violent crimes for every 100,000 residents. As of 2021, Anchorage is still considered to be the second most dangerous city in Alaska. The most recent report notes that in 2019, there were 2,388 aggravated assaults, 3,581 violent crimes, and 12,261 property crimes in Anchorage.
Is It Expensive to Live in Anchorage?
Alaska has a higher cost of living because so much of the things people need to buy have to be shipped in via barge or plane. One example is olive oil, where a large bottle at Costco can cost about $23.00.
Some frozen foods, such as pizza, are also significantly more expensive than in the continental U.S. Despite these higher prices, when it comes to a food budget, you will save more money in Anchorage than you would in some of Alaska’s other large cities.
Although homeownership in Anchorage is more expensive than in some other Alaska cities, it’s actually a bit cheaper to rent than it is in cities like Fairbanks. Equally significant is the cost of utilities. In Anchorage, you will spend 24% less on utilities than if you lived in Fairbanks, for example.
Who Are the Top Employers in Anchorage, Alaska?
Anchorage’s major economic sectors are the military, transportation, convention and tourism, local and federal government, and the oil and gas industry. Here are some of the area’s largest employers.
- Ted Stevens International Airport
- Teleco Telephone
- Providence Alaska Medical Center and Hospital System
- University of Alaska at Anchorage
- Alaska Regional Hospital
- Alyeska Pipeline Service
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
- Anchorage School District
- Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club
- NANA Management Services
- Conoco Philips
- US Emergency Transportation Services
- Trident Seafood
Moreover, the U.S. military provides a vast number of jobs in the area via these military bases and units.
- Elmendorf Air Force Base
- Fort Richardson Army Post
- Kulis Air National Guard
What Cities Are Near Anchorage, Alaska?
Some of the cities in close proximity to Anchorage are:
- Trapper Creek
- Moose Pass
- Big Lake
What Are Some Things to Do in Anchorage, Alaska?
In Anchorage, the Great Outdoors is on your doorstep, but if you’re more of a city person, your needs will be met as well.
The Chugach National Park is a mere 15 minutes outside of the city and has dozens of hiking trails. Just 30 minutes away in Girdwood and Arctic Valley, you can enjoy snow skiing. Also, the city is full of biking trails.
Every month, local art galleries open to show their arts and crafts, and the downtown museum is free every Friday from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. The city boasts several music venues, restaurants, parks, and a zoo.
The Pros and Cons of Living in Anchorage, Alaska: Final Thoughts
As you can see there are several pros and cons of living in Anchorage, Alaska. The most important thing is to learn as much as you can about this beautiful, diverse city before you make your move.