What's it like to live in Anchorage, AK?


Bailey Berg

Profile written by local expert:

Bailey Berg

Anchorage is a place where outdoor adventures and modern amenities work in tandem. Founded in 1914, the young, thriving, culturally rich city houses galleries and fine-dining restaurants in its urban nucleus, but is just minutes away from some of the last true, unspoiled wilderness in the U.S.

Though nearly half the state's population lives in the metro area, Anchorage itself has a distinctly small-town vibe. Locals joke that the whole state is the largest small town you'll ever live in. Combining Anchorage with the Matanuska-Susitna Borough to the north, the area spans just under 2,000 square miles.

Though the summers are short, they're divine. With temperatures in the 60s and weeks at a time without true darkness, residents spend much of their waking hours outside enjoying the weather and the infinite outdoor pursuits that Anchorage affords them, from hiking and biking to attending festivals and dining al fresco. But when the temperature drops, locals embrace the snow and cold with snowmachining (aka snowmobiling), hockey and skiing North America's longest continuous double black run at Alyeska Resort.

Rankings

U.S. News analyzed 125 metro areas in the United States to find the best places to live based on quality of life and the job market in each metro area, as well as the value of living there and people's desire to live there.

Anchorage, Alaska is ranked:

#42 in Best Places to Live

6.7

Overall

Scorecard

Best Places to Live

  • Desirability
    7.3
  • Value
    7.5
  • Job Market
    6.4
  • Quality of Life
    6.4
  • Net Migration
    5.1

Read how we rank places

Anchorage, AK Quick Stats

  • 398,000

    Metro Population

  • $57,770

    Average Annual Salary

  • N/A

    Avg High/Low Temps

  • 33.3

    Median Age

  • N/A

    Median Home Price

  • N/A

    AVG Annual Rainfall

  • 6.3%

    Unemployment Rate

  • $1,212

    Median Monthly Rent

  • 22.1 minutes

    Avg Commute Time

What's the cost of living in Anchorage, AK?

The cost of living in Anchorage is considerably higher than that of the Lower 48. That's because most supermarket staples have to be sent by barge, flown in or trucked through Canada, which requires a lot of fuel. Beyond the supermarket, restaurants tend to be more expensive (a lunchtime sandwich will likely set you back $12, for instance) and gas prices are higher despite the resource being harvested in the state. That being said, Anchorage doesn't collect sales tax or income tax, salaries are higher, and the state doles out a dividend to residents (after your first full calendar year) from Alaska's oil fund just for living there.

Value Index

Index Score: 7.5 /10

How we calculate this.


Anchorage offers a better value than similarly sized metro areas when you compare housing costs to median household income.

Buying or selling a home? Find top real estate agents in Anchorage, AK.

What's the weather like in Anchorage, AK?

Yes, Anchorage is cold. But perhaps not as cold as you may expect. Wreathed in the Chugach Mountains and regulated by the currents off the Pacific Ocean, Anchorage's winters are actually milder than those of noted cold-weather metro areas like Minneapolis. While there have been some winters with epic snowfalls (2011-2012 saw about 134 inches of powder), the average is 74 inches.

What's the best way to get around Anchorage, AK?

Navigating Anchorage is simple (the downtown area is laid out on a numerical and alphabetized grid system), but you'll need a vehicle to reach neighborhoods outside the city center, as well as other parts of the metro area, like Wasilla and Girdwood. 

The Anchorage People Mover public buses are pretty reliable, inexpensive and have an up-to-the-minute bus tracker app. However, buses largely only run once or twice an hour and don't reach the fringes of the city. Anchorage now has Uber and Lyft, as well as a handful of taxi companies.

Anchorage is fairly bikeable – so much so, that you'll see a really hardcore legion of fat-tire biking enthusiasts commuting to work in the gnarliest conditions. The metro area has more than 120 miles of developed trails.

Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport has nonstop flights to several major U.S. cities, including Seattle, Los Angeles, Denver and Honolulu, and also operates America's largest and busiest floatplane base. There are also smaller charter operations that can take you into more remote communities throughout Alaska, such as Kodiak and Kenai.

There's also the Alaska Railroad, though that's used more by tourists during summer months to head north to Denali National Park or Fairbanks, or south to Seward. Most of the trains don't operate in the off-season.

Commuting in Anchorage, AK

Means of Transportation
Driving
87%
Equal to national average

Bicycling
1%
Equal to national average

Walking
3%
Equal to national average

Public Transit
2%
Below national average
Average Commute Time

22.1 minutes

4.0 minutes less than national average

Average Commute Times by Zip Code

Data sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

Who lives in Anchorage, AK?

Anchorage, in the truest sense of the word, is a melting pot. Nearly 100 languages are spoken by students in the Anchorage School District. The most common after English are Spanish, Hmong, Samoan, Filipino and Yup'ik (a language spoken by some Alaska Native tribes). Some of the elementary schools in Anchorage are the most diverse in America.

One of the usual follow-up questions to "What's your name?" is "Where are you from?" because Anchorage is such a transient place. Anchorage also sees an influx of seasonal workers from the Lower 48 who spend their summer months working in restaurants and hotels when the state sees the majority of its tourists.

It's a relatively young area, as more than a quarter of the population in the Anchorage municipality is under 20 years old.

The region is not as religious as other U.S. metros, with only about a third of the population identifying with an organized faith. The majority of residents who do identify as religious are affiliated with Protestantism.

Age Distribution

Marital Status Breakdown


About the same number of single people in Anchorage as national average

Data sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

What is there to do in Anchorage, AK?

Anchorage has long been a beacon calling for adventurous souls. The mountain ranges are speckled with powder hounds, bikers, hikers and campers. At lower altitudes, there are options for fishing salmon (Ship Creek, running through downtown, is a popular spot for kings), biking the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail or exploring area glaciers.

For those less inclined to spend time in nature, Anchorage has a bevy of museums, a performing arts center, galleries, and numerous inventive eateries and craft breweries. Anchorage is also home to a professional hockey team and two amateur collegiate summer baseball teams.

Residents also enjoy myriad festivals throughout the year. The most well-known is the 10-day Fur Rendezvous festivities leading up to the start of the Iditarod dog sled race. Fur Rendezvous features snowshoe softball games, the running of the reindeer, outhouse races and the Mr. Fur Face Beard and Mustache Contest. Other noteworthy events include the Alaska State Fair, the Great Alaska Beer and Barley Wine Festival, and the Downtown Summer Solstice Festival celebrating the 22 hours of functional daylight seen on the longest day of the year.