The 14 Best Places to Live in Alaska

Alaska has some of the best scenery, culture, and natural beauty of any state in the US, but it also has some of the harshest weather and most dangerous wildlife around.

So if you’re moving to Alaska, where should you live?

This list of the 10 best places to live in Alaska should help you out with that question, as it shows off some stunning Alaskan towns and neighborhoods while pointing out the factors that make them so great.

Whether you’re looking for work in an industrial setting or want to be able to enjoy the nature all around you, you’ll find something here that suits your needs!

1. Anchorage

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Anchorage is a sprawling metropolis with all of your basic big-city amenities: museums, zoos, and professional sports teams. The cost of living here is sky high but your pay will likely be higher as well.

You won’t have much time for extra-curricular activities with long commutes and long work hours, though. If you prefer big cities but want some peace at night—Anchorage is a great place to live.

Here you can relax around lakes or rivers near downtown or venture into the woods for hiking or cross-country skiing during the winter months.

In any case, take solace knowing that if you ever do get bored with snowy winters, heading south down to sunny California or Washington State isn’t too far away.

Related: The 20 Most Expensive Cities to Live in California

2. Fairbanks

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The next largest city in Alaska (after Anchorage), Fairbanks offers a unique lifestyle for those seeking life outside of a big city.

The average temperature hovers around 34 degrees Fahrenheit during winter and is much milder from April to September.

Winters are long but seeing that Fairbanks falls under USDA hardiness zone 4b and seeing as trees grow taller than humans here, it’s easy to live comfortably here year-round.

There are plenty of tourism opportunities in addition to living here too! 29,330 people call Fairbanks home and it’s one of only two Alaskan cities with an airport with flights all over North America.

Some other facts about Fairbanks include median household income of $62,602; cost of living index of 81; homeownership rate of 75%; high school graduation rate of 97%; percentage holding bachelor’s degree or higher of 41%.

Related: The 20 Most Expensive Cities to Live in the United States

3. Wasilla

Located just outside of Anchorage and one of two state-designated cities, whether you’re a fan or not, it is also considered one of Alaska’s safest cities (and with a reported crime rate of 4 percent below that of America’s national average).

Like many small towns around Alaska (population: about 11,924), Wasilla has its share of activities. There are more than 40 parks and lakes near the town where residents can swim and boat.

For sports fans, there are three ice rinks and several golf courses within 30 minutes from Wasilla along with various local teams including minor league hockey; baseball; soccer; basketball; and softball.

4. Palmer

Palmer is a small Alaskan town on Cook Inlet. Its population of around 8,140 residents enjoys its proximity to Anchorage, as well as its deep-water port.

Many work for companies operating out of Ted Stevens International Airport nearby and for various businesses that rely on Palmer’s port. The area is popular with outdoorsy folks: lots of hiking, skiing, and rafting here—not to mention plenty of fishing opportunities!

Although it gets over 50 inches of rain each year (and sometimes quite a bit more), summers are mild.

Summers bring clear skies for fishing and hunting waterfowl in surrounding marshlands. Wintertime offers more snowfall than Anchorage but less than interior locations near Denali National Park.

Related: Why Are Houses so Expensive in Arizona?

5. Girdwood

Girdwood is a wonderful community that offers its residents fantastic views of Mount Alyeska and beautiful opportunities for active lifestyles.

Although it’s technically still within Anchorage city limits, Girdwood feels far more like a small town. There are several shops and restaurants throughout town, as well as great schools for your children.

However, when it comes time to relax after work or school you won’t want to head back into Anchorage—you can go hiking at Eklutna Lake or turn on some music while you grill with friends in one of your many waterfront condos. Girdwood truly has something for everyone!

6. Seward

Not only is Seward one of Alaska’s most beautiful towns, but it also happens to be one of its largest cities—and with more than 2,880 residents, it’s a busy place full of life and activity.

It’s also conveniently located: Situated on Resurrection Bay, just 90 miles from Anchorage (Alaska’s largest city), Seward serves as an ideal hub for exploring all that Alaska has to offer.

For such a large community (for Alaskan standards), Seward is relatively easygoing—the pace is slow and family-friendly; there are beaches and outdoorsy activities galore.

The town also boasts several delightful historical sites including The Treadwell Mine, a landmark from back when mining was king.

Overall, Seward offers everything you need for a comfortable existence and then some. Great food? Check. Beautiful scenery? Check again. This town won’t disappoint if you ask us!

7. Homer

Okay, let’s face it. Some of us are getting tired of living in big cities like Anchorage and Fairbanks. Even Juneau is just starting to feel crowded as more and more people flock here for high-paying jobs in oil and gas extraction.

Homer, located on Kachemak Bay near Kenai Peninsula National Wildlife Refuge, Homer has quickly grown from a quiet fishing village to home to thousands of seasonal residents and ex-urbanites alike.

In fact, according to U.S. Census Bureau data from 2010, only 23% of households were occupied year-round—the rest were summer homes owned by nonresidents or second homes that get used only during the warmer months.

Related: Why Is Aspen so Expensive?

8. Kenai Peninsula Borough

Located on a peninsula jutting out from mainland Alaska, the Kenai Peninsula Borough is home to three cities (Kenai, Homer, and Seward) that are popular tourist destinations.

The borough has a population of about 55,400 with an average income of $66,064. There are hundreds of miles of trails where residents can hike or bike while enjoying beautiful views.

Some areas see up to 600 inches of snowfall each year and there are plenty of fishing and boating opportunities available too. Parks include Seldovia Lagoon State Recreation Area, Seward City Park, and Carr Lake State Recreation Site.

9. North Pole

North Pole is a city of about 2,740 people located near Fairbanks. The city (and its Santa Claus House) has been featured on TV programs such as Santa Claus Is Coming To Town and The Simpsons.

Despite its location (quite far north), North Pole has an excellent climate for most of the year.

In fact, due to a phenomenon known as Alaskan Daylight Time, North Pole enjoys sunlit days from late October until early January; it’s impossible to tell that it’s not summer at times!

Crime is also low here – unless you count polar bear attacks or snowmachines chasing down reindeer. Overall, however, North Pole is safe and a great place to live.

10. Valdez

This small town was once ranked as America’s safest city. In addition to its low crime rate, it’s an affordable place with a low cost of living and high quality of life.

With a population of just shy of 4,500 people, there are more restaurants per capita than any other city in Alaska.

The average home price is $365,300 which is much lower than many other cities on our list while also representing a nice rental market for young families who don’t want to buy just yet.

Valdez boasts some beautiful views of Mt. McKinley while also being closer than most large cities (25 minutes) to glaciers and other natural wonders that draw tourists each year.

11. College

College, Alaska is ranked first as the best place to live in Alaska. With 12,734 (2020) residents, College is not the most populated region of Alaska but it has been found to have a great quality of life.

Although there are a good number of employment options nearby, many people travel to Fairbanks proper to find work. The college is perfectly situated on Route 3, which leads you virtually straight to Anchorage in the south.

Despite being in Alaska, residents have noted that College does not provide access to the Alaskan wilderness but it is still a beautiful place to live with great amenities.

12. Gateway

Gateway, located in the Borough of Matanuska-Susitna, is a great place to live in Alaska. Despite being 45 minutes drive north of the city center, Gateway has a very village-like, rural atmosphere.

The median home value in Alaska is $271,300, which is much more than the national average but in line with local real estate costs. The cost of living would be something to think about, but there is plenty of good employment available, so these two aspects kind of balance each other out.

The top ten public schools in Alaska include six from Anchorage, one from Fairbanks, and one from Juneau. However, Gateway is home to the best public school in the state, according to

13. Ester

If you’re looking for a beautiful and rural place to live in Alaska, Ester is your best bet. With a population of just 3,008, it’s the perfect place to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Despite its rural setting, there are plenty of things to do in Ester. The community takes gardening very seriously, so if you’re a green thumb, you’ll fit right in. And if you’re looking to buy a house, Ester is officially the second-best spot in Alaska to do so.

14. Ridgeway

Ridgeway is a small town in Alaska with a population of just over 1,000 people. It’s located in the Southeast Fairbanks Census Area, about 60 miles north of Juneau.

The town is situated on the banks of the Nelchina River and is surrounded by mountains. Ridgeway is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, with plenty of opportunities for hiking, camping, fishing, and more.

The town is also home to the annual Nelchina Caribou Herd Festival, which celebrates the largest caribou herd in North America.

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