Located in south-central Alaska, Anchorage sits on a peninsula at the land’s end of Cooks Inlet. This prime location gives Anchorage residents the advantage of spectacular mountain, forest, and sea views and access to endless year-round outdoor activities in breathtaking scenery. Long summer days will invite you outside where you might head downtown to Ship Creek to catch your dinner and purchase some homegrown giant veggies at the farmers’ market to go along with your fresh salmon. Dogsledding, snowshoeing, and skiing are popular winter activities.
In addition to almost 300,000 human residents, Anchorage has a winter moose population of over 1000. Moose, bears, and other wildlife meander the streets and residents’ backyards. You can see that Anchorage is an incredibly diverse place to live! Not only is it possible that a moose will cross your path as you’re heading off to a Broadway show at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts, but you can hear over 100 languages spoken within the city and surrounding communities. When you’re ready for some indoor time, you can explore cultural museums, concerts, participate in art classes, visit with friends over an artisanal brew, or shop to your heart’s content. There are many reasons to love Anchorage.
Living in Anchorage, AK: What to Know Before Moving to Anchorage
Moving to The Last Frontier is sure to be an adventure. With a population of just under 300,000, Anchorage offers big-city amenities while retaining a local small-town community feel. In Alaska’s largest city, the median age of an Anchorage resident is 33 years, but there’s a thriving retirement community too. No matter your age, there’s an adventure to be had in the far north.
Some fun facts about living in Anchorage:
- Lake Hood is the busiest and largest seaplane base in the world. Just three miles south of the city center, there are up to 800 daily takeoffs and landings in the summer.
- The strongest earthquake to ever hit North America happened near Anchorage in 1964, killing 115 people. Registering a 9.2 on the Richter scale, it destroyed land, toppled buildings, and changed the flow of Cook Inlet.
- Roughly 250 black bears and 60 grizzly bears live in greater Anchorage.
- Per capita, there are more drive-through coffee stands in Anchorage than any other city in the US.
- When it was time to vote on a city name, hundreds of tents were common abodes in the city. The name Anchorage only beat out the name Tent City by 17 votes. Had things gone in a different direction, you could be researching a move to Tent City.
Pros and Cons of Living in Anchorage
- The talent pool is limited. Often you can advance your career quickly because there aren’t as many qualified workers from which employers can choose. If you enter a trade as an apprentice, typically you’re able to complete your hours far more quickly than in the continental US simply because there’s ample work.
- Traffic is minimal. If you have to drive across town, it shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes, even in rush hour.
- The views in and around Anchorage, AK are some of the best in the world. From any given point you can typically see Cook Inlet or one of the six mountain ranges visible from town. The saying goes, “If you can’t look ahead and see a mountain, just turn around.”
- The wildlife abounds. Where else in the world can you see moose, bear, or even lynx in your back yard? Anchorage is home to plentiful and diverse wildlife. If you join one of the various Alaska Living Facebook pages, you can easily find videos of bull moose fighting in Anchorage subdivisions, bears meandering through town, and lynx hanging out on residents’ front porches.
- Outdoor adventures. Winter, summer, spring, and fall – there’s an opportunity for adventure within minutes of your home. Hiking, dogsledding, ice-skating, cross-country skiing, snow-shoeing, and flightseeing –to name a few.
- The Municipality of Anchorage is prepared for winter so you won’t be slowed down. Roads are typically cleared quickly following snowstorms, and the city maintains main roads to prevent ice buildup. Prep work is completed year-round, so crews are prepared to handle weather-related events quickly.
- The tax rates are favorable. There’s no sales tax in the city of Anchorage, nor is there a state income tax.
- The state pays you to live here. The Permanent Fund Dividend issues a stipend to each resident every October. The payout has ranged from $331.29 at its lowest to a generous $2,072 per resident in 2015.
- Anchorage is a sportsman’s paradise. Although you can’t hunt in Anchorage city limits, there are ample mountains for hunting and rivers for fishing. One of the most popular rivers, Ship Creek, runs right through the heart of downtown.
- The cost of living is high. Being surrounded by water, there’s limited room for urban sprawl. If you want to live within the city, expect to pay more for housing. Also, all other amenities, like food and clothing, have to be shipped to Alaska, so the overall purchase cost for most things is typically higher.
- Winter days are very short. If you work a 9-5 job, you’ll likely leave your home in the dark and return home in the dark.
- Crime rates are high. The crime rate in Anchorage is significantly higher than most US cities, especially violent crimes.
- Getting out of Anchorage in an emergency can be pricey and takes time. In the case of an emergency travel need outside of Alaska, getting to your destination might be cost-prohibitive. An affordable flight out of Anchorage takes time and planning.
According to a Kiplinger report, Anchorage is one of the most tax-friendly cities in the country.
- Property Tax: The average county property tax rate in Anchorage is 1.355%. With a median home price of $338,400, this would put your annual property taxes around $4,585. This rate is a bit higher than the national average of 1.211%.
- Sales Tax: Anchorage Alaska has no sales tax.
- State Income Tax: The state of Alaska also has no income tax.
In 2019, the housing market in Anchorage started an upward swing after sitting stale in 2018. With hope for the job market on the horizon, the housing market has started to rise as well. The median home value is $338,400 and is expected to rise by 0.6% in 2020.
Rentals can be difficult to find and are more expensive than the national average. Only 37% of the population in Anchorage lives in a rental. On average, a rental will require $1800+ per month. If you’re looking for the most affordable areas to buy into or rent, check out Mountain View and Government Hill.
Cost of Living
Anchorage, Alaska, is known for having a higher cost of living. Limited buildable land and the need to import everything from construction supplies to food to automobiles can take a toll on a resident’s pocketbook. With a national average index set at 100, the Anchorage cost of living is 137.1. According to bestplaces.net, the cost of every major expense (transportation, home cost, health, groceries, etc.) is well above the national average. The greatest expense is housing at 180.3/100. But you’ll probably bring home a heftier paycheck in Anchorage. The median household income is $76,000, which is well above the national average of $53,482.
Weather and Natural Disasters
Officially, Anchorage lies in the dry summer subarctic climate zone. Given the city’s location right on Cook Inlet, the marine influence moderates the climate so it isn’t as harsh as inland areas of Alaska. And Alaskans love getting out in nature any time of year.
Although winter daylight hours are short, summers more than compensate for limited winter light with nearly 20 hours of light per day for six weeks. In January, the average high is 23 degrees Fahrenheit and dips to 11 degrees F at night. July is the warmest month with an average high of 65 degrees, cooling to 52 degrees overnight.
The majority of precipitation comes in the form of snow. You can expect around 74 inches of snow per year with the majority of the flakes coming down in November and December. August and September tie for the highest average rainfall with 15 days each. The yearly rainfall is 17 inches. Given the high latitude of Anchorage, winter and summer are the longest seasons. Fall and spring are consequently short seasons. Locals call spring ‘break-up’ and never tire of spectacular autumn colors as the foliage changes.
Alaska is prone to earthquakes with more than 10,000 recorded yearly. Locals don’t feel most of the quakes, but big events happen regularly. In November 2018, a massive 7.1 quake hit Anchorage damaging roads and buildings. This event was the largest earthquake in Alaska since the 1964 magnitude-9.2 earthquake that destroyed most of the area’s infrastructure.
Economy and Job Market
After a three-year slump, the job market in Anchorage appears to be strengthening. The unemployment rate is currently 5.1, compared to the national average of 3.7%. With a joint Army and Air force base, a solid travel industry, strong state-government employment, a robust oil industry, and staple employers like the Alaska Railroad, Anchorage typically powers through recessions with minimal effects.
If you’ll be looking for work when you arrive, Anchorage offers tremendous opportunity in many sectors. The largest economic sectors include military; municipal, state and federal government; transportation; tourism; and resource extraction. Providence Health & Services ranks as the top employer, with over 4000 full-time staff. Carrs-Safeway and Fred Meyer also employ thousands in the state, including many in their Anchorage stores. Alaska Airlines, known for its excellent service and stellar safety ranking, is a favored employer. To find work in Anchorage, you can always search Craigslist or Indeed, but you might also want to check the Muni website or Workplace Alaska.
One non-traditional option is to work as a “sloper.” Jobs on the northern oilfields in Alaska are known as “slope jobs.” They can vary, but the most common schedule is two weeks on and two weeks off. Although you can live virtually anywhere as a sloper, employers will only pay for flights originating in Anchorage, so most stay close to the city. Though the job requires living away from family in a hotel, only working half of the month and a lucrative paycheck is a major draw to Alaskans. Alaska Pipeline Job Info is the best resource if you’re interested in working on the North Slope.
Traffic and Transportation
Imagine a city filled with all of the amenities you could hope for but with minimal traffic and an average commute of under 20 minutes. That’s Anchorage. However, if you live in a neighboring community like Eagle River, the Matanuska Susitna Valley, or Girdwood, your commute won’t be as simple, but you can consider doing what nearly 2% of Alaskans who are licensed pilots do – you can consider living on Lake Hood and commute to work by floatplane.
If you’d rather kick back for your commute, check out three public transportation options. Within the City of Anchorage, the People Mover transports over 12,000 riders daily. If you’re a senior or disabled, AnchorRIDES is ADA compliant. For commuters, the RideShare is an excellent carpool option.
Although Anchorage has plenty of asphalt infrastructure, once you leave the city, you’ll quickly learn the limited road system. The one single road that leads north from Anchorage is The Glenn Highway. Thousands of commuters take this single road in and out of Anchorage daily. If you’re interested in going south, The Seward Highway will take you south out of the city to the Turnagain Arm and beyond. Within Anchorage, the major roads through town are Northern Lights, 5th and 6th Avenues, and Lake Otis Parkway.
Although Downtown, Sperstad, and Downtown Spenard are easily walkable, Anchorage isn’t considered a particularly walkable city. The walk score is 32/100, the transit score is 21/100, and the bike score is 0/100, although the 11-mile long Tony Knowles Coastal Trail is a cyclist’s delight.
The Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport is the third busiest cargo airport in the world. Given its location along many great circle routes, you can book convenient direct flights all over the planet. The airport is just six miles south of downtown.
What To Do
Do you enjoy fishing, ice-skating, natural history, biking, exploring the great outdoors, shopping, dining out, or sitting by a cozy fire with a warm cup of coffee? If you enjoy one, some, or all of these activities, you’ll love living in Anchorage.
The 11-mile Tony Knowles Coastal Trail is a fun and interesting way to see Anchorage – all the way from Downtown to Kinkaid Park. With options to hike, bike, jog, rollerblade, or ski, there’s lots to see. From the trail, you may even get a peek at Mount McKinley, aka Denali, the highest mountain peak in North America. Stop at Earthquake Park to marvel at the immense changes in the earth caused by the 1964 earthquake. And be on the lookout for wildlife – it’s common to see moose, eagles, and more along the path.
If you’re interested in history, the Anchorage Museum tells a comprehensive story of Anchorage and the surrounding areas. While you’re downtown, throw on some waders and stop by Ship Creek to try your hand at salmon fishing with the locals. Mid-summer, you can pack a picnic and take a hike in the midnight sun. During the darker months, keep looking up – you won’t want to miss the amazing northern lights.
The best way to get an idea of all there is to do in Anchorage is to check out the Visit Anchorage Alaska site. You’ll be able to click on the activities and events that interest you the most and learn more about them.
Sports fanatic? Anchorage has three options for you. Hockey, hockey, or hockey. Beyond the hockey craze, The Dome offers a place for indoor sports such as track and field and soccer. But although there are no professional sports teams, Anchorage is world-famous for the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race that kicks off each March right in the heart of downtown.
Schools and Universities
Whether you’re seeking public school, charter school, or homeschool, Anchorage has a wide range of excellent choices. According to greatschools.org, numerous schools rank 10 out of 10, including Bear Valley Elementary, Eagle Academy Charter, and Steller Secondary. Stellar schools are great news for families with children. If you’re interested in cultural education, there are several immersion schools available as well.
Are you interested in higher education? The University of Alaska Anchorage offers diverse programs, including engineering, health professions, and business management. Other options are Alaska Pacific University and Charter College Anchorage. If you prefer a trade school, Anchorage offers trade schools specializing in construction, business, health care, computers, and IT.
According to bestplaces.net, the crime rate in Anchorage is relatively high. Violent crimes rate 50.9/100, more than double the national average of 22.7/100. Property crimes are high as well, ranking at 61.8/100, which is much higher than the national average of 35.4/100. Although the crime is citywide, the neighborhoods ranking highest in crime are Mountain View and Government Hill.
Be sure to allow plenty of time to set up your utility services before you move. You want to make sure you have lights and heat, especially if you move during the winter months.
- Gas Service: Enstar Natural Gas provides natural gas to Anchorage residents. To get started with Enstar, they recommend you contact their customer service.
- Electric Service: To start your electric service, you can sign up with ML&P (Municipal Light and Power) using their online web form service application.
- Water Service: To apply for residential service at Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utilities, fill out this form, and a representative will get back with you.
- Trash Pick-up/Recycling: Alaska Waste will handle all of your weekly trash needs, including recycling.
- Internet/Cable Service: GCI offers Internet and cable service to the majority of the Anchorage municipality. They also offer cell phone coverage that goes beyond the city to most villages.
Best Neighborhoods in Anchorage, AK
There are a total of 38 neighborhoods in the Anchorage Metropolitan Area. Of the 38 areas, the following six rise to the top as the best neighborhoods overall. Whether you’re looking for a low crime rate, affordable housing, or handy amenities – Anchorage has a neighborhood that fits every lifestyle.
If you want to hang with the elite and enjoy the best views Anchorage has to offer then Rabbit Creek is the place to be. Located 14 miles south of downtown, you’ll have a bit of a commute and will have to hop in your car to run errands. Though there are few amenities in Rabbit Creek, it does boast some of the best education options, impressive views, beautiful subdivisions, and less crime than most other neighborhoods.
The area’s median income is just below $150,000, and the median home price is just under $600,000. Rabbit Creek is home to about 7000 Anchorage residents, and 94% own their homes. Although it’s pricey to live in Rabbit Creek, families often do what they can to settle here so their children can attend the coveted schools. The school district boasts a graduation rate of 94% and Bear Valley Elementary is one of the top-rated elementary schools in Anchorage.
Because it’s south of the city, homes tend to have a more secluded feel. With the forest at your back door, there’s wildlife galore. Ample hiking and biking trails offer year-round exercise. It might take you a few minutes to get to the grocery store, but in only a few steps you’ll be on a trail enjoying the best Anchorage has to offer.
Residents of Hillside-East are attracted to this neighborhood for its excellent schools, affordable housing, and stunning views, making this a very popular community for all ages and lifestyles. Bordering Chugach State Park on the east and Hillside Drive to the west, the neighborhood is easy to access yet offers a great place to get out of the hustle of city life.
Heavy on rentals, only 12% of homes in Hillside-East are owner-occupied. The remaining 88% are rentals with a median rental rate of $2,230. You can expect a median home value of $158,116, and the median household income is $84,575.
Other strong selling points are the abundant wildlife, larger lots that provide privacy, and very little industry within the neighborhood. Niche.com awards Hillside-East an A- for quality of life and ranks it the 10th ‘Best Neighborhood in Anchorage to Raise a Family.’ With 54% of families with children, top-notch livability ratings, and affordability, Hillside-East is a fine choice. Chances are, you just may run into your neighbors enjoying a meal at the popular Hillside Family Restaurant.
College students and those in medical fields will appreciate the proximity of Rogers Park to the University of Alaska Anchorage and local hospitals. Covering the area from the Parks Highway west to Lake Otis, and spanning from Chester Creek Park to 36th, Rogers Park is toward the northern end of town.
With varied home styles and prices, including rentals, relocating to the Rogers Park area can be a win-win, especially if your income is under $100,000. The neighborhood population is less than 4,000, and the median home price is under $340,000. The majority of the population is made up of college students and young families. The lower housing cost and the influence of university students are factors that give the neighborhood a young vibe.
Rogers Park Elementary, which is highly rated, is the only elementary school in the neighborhood. Middle and high school students make a short commute to attend their assigned schools.
Backing up to the Chester Creek Park Trail, there’s ample opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors, even in this mid-city neighborhood. After enjoying an invigorating hike, locals head over to The Moose’s Tooth, considered the third best pizzeria in the US.
Are you looking for a neighborhood with a suburban charm vibe? South Addition lots are larger and tinged with some interesting history. Nestled between Delaney Park Strip, Cook Inlet, and Chester Creek Greenbelt, this downtown neighborhood of about 4000 residents is a prime location if you want to be right in the hub of the city. The Delaney Park Strip, now an 11-block public park, was the site of Anchorage’s first airstrip, where the first passenger flights between Anchorage and Fairbanks began in 1924.
The median income is under $90,000, and the home value is close to $420,000, making this area a little less affordable. When developers built this neighborhood, they placed homes on spacious lots to encourage farming, and the older homes maintain significant historical value.
The proximity to downtown gives ample opportunity for shopping and cultural events. Delaney Park Strip is a well-known hub of activity year-round. The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail is easily accessed from South Addition, as is the Chester Creek Greenbelt Trail. If you want super-fresh Alaska fare, wander over to the Anchorage Farmer’s Market to grab dinner or take home some fresh veggies and salmon to grill.
Although there are several options for elementary schools depending on the exact address, middle school students attend Central Junior High School, and high school kids attend West Anchorage.
Want to be in the “hub” but not downtown? Huffman O’Malley could be a great place to call home. Huffman O’Malley is in South Anchorage between O’Malley Road and East 104th, and DeArmoun Road on the south. A larger neighborhood with approximately 15,000 residents, this area is known for its low crime rate, an obvious plus for families. The average median income is $140,000, and the median home price surpasses $400,000.
Two of the local elementary schools, Huffman Elementary and O’Malley Elementary, rate 9/10 on greatschools.com. Goldenview Junior High and South High school are also well-known, with excellent reputations.
One of the most difficult challenges you’ll have in Huffman O’Malley will be choosing what to do with your spare time. With shopping, dining, the Alaska Zoo, and Hamilton Park nearby, plus all the outdoor activities outside your door, you can stay as busy as you want to be.
If living in a beautiful, well-kept community is your goal, you might want to consider Bayshore-Klatt. Much like neighborhoods you would find in Seattle, Bayshore-Klatt has high landscaping and homeownership standards. Membership in the homeowners’ association includes a clubhouse, pool, before and after school daycare, and more.
Located on the southside, Bayshore-Klatt makes it easy to get to the coastline and outdoor activities. Although there aren’t many amenities in this primarily residential neighborhood of about 15,000, residents love the quiet, low-traffic streets.
This neighborhood has plenty of coffee shops where you can meet up with friends for an espresso, and beautiful parks for families to enjoy. The median home value is just above $300,000, and the rent averages $1500. Only 22% of the residences are rentals.
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