12 Best Places to Live in Alaska, According to Living Standards Index

Jon Miksis Jon Miksis clock Updated December 24, 2023 tourism Dream Destinations
by Jem
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Alaska is not just another state; it’s like stepping into a whole new world of adventure. From its icy glaciers and wild forests to its rich native cultures, Alaska has something special for everyone. But let’s be real, it’s a massive place. So, finding the perfect spot to live can feel like searching for a needle in a haystack. That’s why I’ve put together this guide to help you zero in on the best places to live in Alaska.

I’ve had the chance to explore Alaska from top to bottom, and trust me, it’s a jaw-dropping mix of beauty and diversity. You’ve got towering mountains like Denali, peaceful bays for boating, and even bustling fishing communities. Plus, cities like Anchorage offer a taste of modern life with a rustic twist. Whether you’re an outdoor junkie, a culture buff, or someone who wants the city vibe with a touch of wilderness, Alaska has a spot that feels like it was made just for you.

So, how do you pick the right place? Well, it’s all about what you’re into. Some folks want to wake up to mountain views, others are looking for a tight-knit community, and let’s not forget, the cost of living is a big deal for most people.

Come along as we dive into Alaska’s best living spots based on what makes you tick. I’ve done my homework—researching data, checking out facts, and even chatting with locals—to create a list that has something for every taste and budget. So, book a ticket, buckle up, and let’s find your dream spot in Alaska!

The top places to live in Alaska right now

The Best Places to Live in Alaska          

Eager to explore the most scenic spots to call home in Alaska? Located up north, bordering Canada, Alaska offers a variety of options for everyone. Continue reading to uncover the top places to live in this unique state.

Searching for your ideal home in Alaska? No matter what you have in mind, Alaska has a place that fits the bill.

  • Best for urban amenities: Anchorage
  • Best for viewing the Northern Lights: Fairbanks
  • Best for suburban living: Gateway
  • Best for fishing enthusiasts: Homer
  • Best for government and public sector employment: Juneau
  • Best for cultural heritage: Ketchikan
  • Best for wildlife enthusiasts: Kodiak
  • Best for maritime history: Seward
  • Best for scenic beauty: Sitka
  • Best for small-town charm: Soldotna
  • Best for outdoor sports: Valdez
  • Best for families: Wasilla

Here are all the must-know locations to consider for your Alaskan residence:

1. Anchorage

Picture a place where skyscrapers and snow-capped mountains coexist in a harmonious skyline. Welcome to Anchorage, Alaska’s bustling metropolis that still manages to keep its frontier spirit alive. With a population nearing 300,000, it’s the state’s most populous city, offering a diverse job market in sectors like healthcare, tourism, and oil.

Outdoor adventures? Anchorage, one of the most livable cities in Alaska, has you covered. From hiking trails to skiing slopes, the city is a playground for those who love to be active. And let’s not forget the wildlife. Moose casually roam the streets, and eagles soar overhead, making every day feel like a nature documentary.

The city is also a cultural treasure trove. Museums, theaters, and festivals are aplenty, celebrating the rich history and diverse communities that call Anchorage home. Education is top-tier, with some of the best schools in the state, making it an ideal place for families.

While the cost of living leans toward the higher side, the unparalleled quality of life makes it worth it. Anchorage is not just a city; it’s a community within a wilderness, making it one of the coolest places to live in Alaska.

The vibrant metropolis of Anchorage, Alaska, manages to preserve its frontier atmosphere despite its size.
The vibrant metropolis of Anchorage, Alaska, manages to preserve its frontier atmosphere despite its size.

2. Fairbanks

Ah, the allure of the Arctic Circle. Fairbanks, often called the Golden Heart City, is where the northern lights dance and the midnight sun shines. This city is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Imagine a dog sledding through a snowy landscape or soaking in the Chena Hot Springs under a sky filled with auroras.

Food lovers won’t be disappointed either. Fairbanks, one of the best places in Alaska to live, offers a culinary scene as diverse as its landscapes. From Alaskan seafood to international delights, dining here is an adventure in itself. The city also celebrates arts and culture with galleries, theaters, and museums that showcase its rich history and vibrant community.

Education is another strong suit. Home to the University of Alaska, Fairbanks exudes a youthful, college-town vibe. Job opportunities are abundant, especially in education, healthcare, and tourism sectors. While the cost of living can be a bit on the higher side, the experiences and quality of life make it a great place to live in Alaska.

Fairbanks, sometimes referred to as the "Golden Heart City" , is one of the best places to live in Alaska.
Fairbanks, sometimes referred to as the “Golden Heart City” , is one of the best places to live in Alaska.

3. Gateway

Gateway beckons with the promise of a quieter, more rural lifestyle just a stone’s throw from Anchorage. This charming borough is perfect for those who crave a village-like atmosphere while still having access to urban amenities. With a 45-minute drive separating you from Anchorage, you’re never too far from the city buzz.

Outdoor activities are abundant here. From fishing in the Matanuska River to hiking in the nearby mountains, Gateway offers a plethora of options for nature enthusiasts. The area is also family-friendly, boasting low crime rates and solid public schools that earn a B-rating, making it a good place to live in Alaska for families.

When it comes to the job market, Gateway holds its own. Opportunities in healthcare, education, and local businesses are plentiful. The cost of living is moderate, balanced by the availability of well-paying jobs.

Gateway is the epitome of the best of both worlds: rural charm meets urban convenience, making it one of the best areas to live in Alaska.

Just minutes from Anchorage, Gateway offers with the lure of a more sedate, rural lifestyle.
Just minutes from Anchorage, Gateway offers with the lure of a more sedate, rural lifestyle.

4. Homer

Ah, the “Halibut Fishing Capital of the World.” Homer is a coastal gem that offers more than just world-class fishing. This picturesque town is a haven for artists, fishermen, and outdoor enthusiasts alike. With its stunning views of Kachemak Bay and the Kenai Mountains, Homer provides a backdrop that’s nothing short of inspirational.

The culinary scene here is a seafood lover’s dream. Fresh catches of the day are a regular feature in local restaurants, making every meal an ocean-to-table experience. Add to that the town’s thriving arts scene, with galleries and studios dotting its streets, and you’ve got a locale that’s as enriching as it is beautiful.

For families, Homer offers excellent educational opportunities, including a top-rated high school and a branch of the University of Alaska. The job market is diverse, with opportunities in tourism, fishing, and healthcare. While the cost of living can be a bit higher due to its remote location, the quality of life is unparalleled, making it one of Alaska’s best places to live.

A hidden treasure along the coast, Homer has more to offer than just excellent fishing.
A hidden treasure along the coast, Homer has more to offer than just excellent fishing.

5. Juneau

Welcome to the capital city where wilderness and politics coalesce. Juneau is unique in many ways, not least because it’s only accessible by boat or plane. This isolation adds a layer of charm to a city that’s already brimming with natural beauty. Think glaciers, rainforests, and an abundance of wildlife, all within city limits.

Foodies will find Juneau to be a culinary paradise. The city offers a range of dining experiences, from high-end eateries serving gourmet Alaskan seafood to cozy cafes with comfort food. The arts and culture scene is equally vibrant, with numerous galleries, theaters, and museums that reflect the city’s rich history and diverse community.

Education is top-notch, with public schools that consistently receive high ratings. The job market is strong, particularly in government, tourism, and fishing. While the cost of living is relatively high, the unique experiences and quality of life make it a best place to live in Alaska.

Being reachable exclusively by boat or aircraft is one of Juneau's many distinctive features.
Being reachable exclusively by boat or aircraft is one of Juneau’s many distinctive features.

6. Ketchikan

Step into a world where rainforests meet the sea. Ketchikan, often dubbed the “Salmon Capital of the World,” is a coastal town that’s a paradise for anglers and nature lovers alike. With its lush Tongass National Forest backdrop, the town offers an array of outdoor activities, from kayaking to hiking.

Culinary enthusiasts will relish the local food scene in a town that often sparks the question, where is the best place to live in Alaska? Imagine dining on freshly caught salmon while overlooking the tranquil waters of the Inside Passage. The town is also a cultural hotspot, boasting a rich Native Alaskan heritage that’s evident in its totem poles, art galleries, and museums.

When it comes to education, Ketchikan doesn’t disappoint. The schools here offer a range of programs, including those focused on Native Alaskan culture. Job opportunities are abundant in tourism, fishing, and healthcare sectors. While the cost of living is moderate, the experiences you’ll gain make it one of the best cities to live in Alaska.

Ketchikan is a seaside town that is a fishing and nature enthusiast's dream come true.
Ketchikan is a seaside town that is a fishing and nature enthusiast’s dream come true.

7. Kodiak

Discover a place where the sea meets rugged landscapes, creating a haven for both fishermen and adventurers. Kodiak, located on the island of the same name, is a blend of natural beauty and cultural richness. Known for its large brown bears, the town offers wildlife viewing experiences that are second to none.

The culinary scene here is as fresh as the ocean breeze. Seafood is the star of the show, with local eateries serving up everything from halibut to king crab. Beyond its gastronomic delights, Kodiak is steeped in history. The Alutiiq Museum and Archaeological Repository offer fascinating insights into the island’s indigenous culture.

Education is a priority in Kodiak, with schools focusing on academic excellence and cultural enrichment. The job market is robust, particularly in fishing, healthcare, and tourism. While the cost of living can be higher due to its island location, the quality of life and unique experiences make it a best Alaska town to live.

Kodiak is a combination of rich cultural diversity and scenic beauty.
Kodiak is a combination of rich cultural diversity and scenic beauty.

8. Seward

Imagine a place where mountains and ocean collide in a breathtaking tableau. Welcome to Seward, a port city that serves as the gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park. Here, you can explore glaciers by day and enjoy the small-town charm by night.

The city is a playground for outdoor enthusiasts. Kayaking, hiking, and wildlife watching are just a few activities that make Seward one of the top cities in Alaska to live. The local dining scene is a treat for the senses, offering a mix of traditional Alaskan fare and international cuisine. Seafood, of course, is a highlight, with local catches featured prominently on menus.

Education in Seward is commendable, with schools that focus on both academic and extracurricular excellence. Job opportunities are diverse, ranging from tourism and fishing to healthcare and education. While the cost of living is on the higher side, the unparalleled natural beauty and quality of life make it one of the best towns to live in Alaska.

The port city of Seward is the entry point to Kenai Fjords National Park.
The port city of Seward is the entry point to Kenai Fjords National Park.

9. Valdez

Unveil the magic of a town surrounded by mountains and waterfalls. Valdez, often referred to as “Little Switzerland,” is a picturesque locale that’s a dream for nature lovers. The town is a hub for water activities, including kayaking and fishing, thanks to its proximity to Prince William Sound.

Cuisine in Valdez is as diverse as its landscapes. From seafood shacks serving the day’s catch to upscale restaurants offering international dishes, there’s something for every palate. The cultural scene is equally vibrant, with events like the Valdez Theatre Conference attracting artists and enthusiasts from all over.

Schools in Valdez are well-regarded, offering a variety of programs that cater to different interests and strengths. The job market is primarily driven by the oil industry, but tourism and fishing also offer ample opportunities. While the cost of living is moderate, the experiences and amenities make it a best area to live in Alaska.

A lovely place that is a nature lover's dream is Valdez.
A lovely place that is a nature lover’s dream is Valdez.

10. Sitka

Step into a world where Russian heritage meets Alaskan wilderness. Sitka, located on Baranof Island, is a fusion of cultures and natural beauty. The town is famous for its totem poles, which stand as silent witnesses to its rich history.

Outdoor activities are abundant here, from hiking in the Tongass National Forest to fishing in the abundant waters. The arts and culture scene is equally compelling, with galleries and events that showcase local talent. It’s no wonder Sitka is considered the best city to live in Alaska.

Education is a strong suit in Sitka, with schools that offer a well-rounded curriculum. The job market is diverse, with opportunities in healthcare, education, and the fishing industry. While the cost of living can be a bit steep, the quality of life and unique cultural experiences make it a top city in Alaska to live.

Sitka is a blend of scenic beauty and many civilizations, truly one of the best places to live in Alaska.
Sitka is a blend of scenic beauty and many civilizations, making it truly one of the best places to live in Alaska.

11. Soldotna

Imagine a place where the river runs right through the heart of the town. Welcome to Soldotna, a haven for anglers and nature enthusiasts alike. The Kenai River, famous for its salmon runs, offers fishing opportunities that are nothing short of legendary.

The culinary scene is a delightful surprise, featuring everything from gourmet food trucks to cozy cafes. Local businesses thrive here, making it one of Alaska’s best cities to live for entrepreneurs and job seekers. The community is tight-knit, often gathering for events like the Kenai Peninsula Fair.

Education is top-notch, with schools that focus on both academic and extracurricular excellence. The healthcare system is robust, ensuring that residents have access to quality medical services. While the cost of living leans towards the moderate side, the amenities and lifestyle make it one of the best Alaska towns to live.

One of the best places to live in Alaska is Soldotna.
One of the best places to live in Alaska is Soldotna.

12. Wasilla

Step into a world where modernity meets the great outdoors. Wasilla, often dubbed the “Gateway to the Last Frontier,” is a blend of urban convenience and natural splendor. Located just 45 minutes from Anchorage, this town offers the best of both worlds.

Outdoor activities are the town’s forte, from hiking trails to fishing spots. Lake Lucille and the surrounding parks make it one of the good places to live in Alaska for nature lovers. The town also hosts the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, an event that captures the spirit of Alaska.

The local economy is booming, with a range of job opportunities in sectors like healthcare, education, and retail. It’s a good place to live in Alaska if you’re looking for career growth without sacrificing quality of life. The schools are excellent, and the community vibe is welcoming, making it ideal for families.

Wasilla is a harmonious fusion of natural beauty and urban convenience.
Wasilla is a harmonious fusion of natural beauty and urban convenience.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About the Best Places to Live in Alaska       

Keen on discovering what are the best places to live in Alaska? Here are some questions I frequently encounter about top-notch Alaska living.

What is the most affordable place to live in Alaska?

When it comes to affordability, Fairbanks often tops the list. Unlike some of the more remote locations in Alaska, Fairbanks offers a balance between cost of living and amenities. Housing costs are relatively lower compared to cities like Anchorage, and you’ll find a variety of options from apartments to single-family homes. Utilities can be a bit pricey due to the cold climate, but overall, it’s a more budget-friendly option. Fairbanks is a nice city to live in Alaska as it provides ample job opportunities, particularly in sectors like education, healthcare, and the military, which can offset living costs.

Is it expensive to live in Alaska?

When searching where to live in Alaska, the first thing people would consider is how expensive it is to live there. The cost of living in Alaska can vary widely depending on the location and lifestyle you choose. Cities like Anchorage and Juneau tend to be more expensive due to higher housing costs and the price of amenities. However, these cities also offer more job opportunities and services, which can balance out the higher living expenses. On the flip side, smaller towns and more remote locations may have lower housing costs but can be expensive in other ways. For example, groceries and fuel often come at a premium in isolated areas due to transportation costs. Overall, while Alaska can be more expensive compared to the lower 48 states, the unique experiences and natural beauty it offers can make the extra cost worthwhile for many.

Where is the Most Beautiful Place to Live in Alaska?

The term “beautiful” can be subjective, but if we’re talking about jaw-dropping landscapes and natural splendor, many would argue that Seward is one of the best places to move in Alaska. Situated at the head of Resurrection Bay on the Kenai Peninsula, Seward offers a stunning backdrop of mountains meeting the sea. It’s a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, offering everything from kayaking and fishing to hiking and glacier tours. The town itself has a charming, small-community feel, with local art galleries, quaint shops, and seafood restaurants that serve up the freshest catches. Seward’s beauty is not just skin deep; the community is tight-knit, making it a wonderful place to live for those who love both nature and a sense of belonging.

Where do most people live in Alaska?

In Alaska, the majority of the population is concentrated in a few key areas, primarily due to the state’s vast and often rugged terrain, which makes many regions sparsely populated or uninhabited. The most populous areas in Alaska are:

  1. Anchorage: By far the largest city in Alaska, Anchorage is home to over 40% of the state’s population. It serves as the economic and cultural hub of Alaska and offers more urban amenities compared to other parts of the state.
  2. Fairbanks: Located in the interior region of Alaska, Fairbanks is the second-largest city in the state. It’s known for its research university and as a gateway to the Arctic.
  3. Juneau: As the capital city of Alaska, Juneau has a significant population, although it is much smaller than Anchorage. Juneau is located in the southeastern part of the state and is accessible only by boat or plane.
  4. Wasilla and the Matanuska-Susitna Valley: This area, often referred to as Mat-Su, has seen rapid growth and is known for its outdoor recreational opportunities.
  5. Kenai Peninsula: Including cities like Kenai and Soldotna, this area is known for its fishing industry and natural beauty.
Wide-open areas, an abundance of outdoor activities, and Alaskan Native culture are well-known features of the state.
Wide-open areas, an abundance of outdoor activities, and Alaskan Native culture are well-known features of the state.

What is the Most Beautiful Area of Alaska?

When it comes to sheer, unadulterated beauty, Kenai Fjords National Park often tops the list of nice parts of Alaska. This national park is a stunning amalgamation of glacier-carved fjords, crystal-clear ocean waters, and lush forests. It’s a haven for wildlife enthusiasts, offering the chance to spot whales, seals, and a plethora of bird species. The Harding Icefield, one of the largest ice fields in the United States, serves as a frosty crown to this already majestic landscape. Whether you’re a photographer looking to capture nature’s grandeur or an adventurer seeking the thrill of kayaking amidst icebergs, Kenai Fjords National Park offers an unparalleled experience of Alaska’s natural beauty.

Is Alaska a happy place to live?

The perception of Alaska as a happy place to live can vary greatly depending on individual preferences and lifestyle choices. Here are some factors that might influence the quality of life and happiness of residents in Alaska:

  1. Natural Beauty and Outdoor Activities: Alaska is renowned for its stunning natural landscapes, including mountains, forests, and an extensive coastline. For those who love the outdoors and activities like hiking, fishing, skiing, and wildlife watching, Alaska offers an unparalleled environment.
  2. Community and Culture: Many people in Alaska enjoy a strong sense of community, especially in smaller towns and rural areas. The state’s unique cultural heritage, including its indigenous communities, adds to its appeal.
  3. Economic Opportunities: Certain sectors, such as oil, fishing, and tourism, provide robust job opportunities. However, the economy can be more limited in scope compared to other states, and the cost of living in Alaska is generally high, particularly in remote areas.
  4. Climate and Daylight Variations: Alaska’s harsh winters and extreme variations in daylight hours (very short days in winter and very long days in summer) can be challenging for some people. The climate varies significantly across different regions of the state.
  5. Isolation and Accessibility: Some parts of Alaska are quite remote and can only be accessed by plane or boat, which might contribute to a sense of isolation. This can be a positive aspect for those seeking solitude but a downside for those who prefer a more connected lifestyle.

What is the Rich Part of Alaska?

In the realm of affluence, Anchorage’s Hillside area stands out as one of Alaska’s wealthiest neighborhoods. Perched above the city, this upscale enclave offers panoramic views of both the Chugach Mountains and the Cook Inlet. The homes here are often sprawling estates, complete with all the luxurious amenities you’d expect. Hillside is not just about grand homes and scenic vistas; it’s also a community where outdoor activities are a part of daily life. From private ski chalets to easy access to hiking trails, it’s a playground for those who can afford the finer things in life. While the cost of living is significantly higher than other parts of Alaska, residents find the trade-off in quality of life to be well worth it.

When it comes to popularity, the three best Alaska cities often steal the spotlight: Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau. Anchorage, the largest city, serves as a gateway to the Last Frontier. With its mix of urban amenities and proximity to outdoor adventures, it’s a magnet for both tourists and new residents alike.

Fairbanks, known as the Golden Heart City, is famous for its stunning Northern Lights displays and its role as a hub for the Interior region of Alaska. It’s a city where you can experience the extremes of Alaskan weather, from endless summer days to long winter nights.

Juneau, the state capital, offers a unique blend of natural beauty and political activity. Surrounded by water and mountains, it’s accessible only by boat or plane. Juneau is a hotspot for cruise tourists and is also known for its close-knit community and outdoor activities like hiking, fishing, and wildlife viewing.

Each city offers a distinct slice of Alaskan life, making them popular for different reasons. Whether it’s the urban vibe of Anchorage, the natural phenomena in Fairbanks, or the isolated charm of Juneau, these cities are often the first stops for anyone looking to experience Alaska.

Final Thoughts on the Best Places to Live in Alaska                        

Alaska, a land of untamed beauty and endless adventure, offers a variety of living experiences that are as diverse as its landscapes. From the bustling city life in Anchorage to the serene natural wonders in Sitka, there’s a corner in this frontier state that will resonate with everyone. Whether you’re drawn to the artsy vibe of Homer or the fishing opportunities in Soldotna, Alaska provides a unique backdrop for any lifestyle.

While the cost of living can be a concern, places like Fairbanks offer affordability without compromising on the Alaskan experience. And let’s not forget the smaller gems like Valdez and Gateway, which offer a slice of paradise for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle.

In summary, Alaska is not just a state; it’s a state of mind. It’s a place where you can find your own version of paradise, whether it’s in a popular city or a secluded town. So pack your bags and set your sights on the Last Frontier. Your perfect Alaskan home is waiting for you.

That wraps up our comprehensive guide to the best places to live in Alaska. We hope this article has been both informative and inspiring, answering your question where to live in AK and helps you find your ideal Alaskan haven. Safe travels and happy house hunting!

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