‘Alaska’ originates from the Aleut word Alyeska, which means ‘great land or mainland.’ And Alaska is an extraordinary land, not only because it’s the largest state in America, but because of its beauty.
That beautiful, natural landscape appeals to many adventure-seekers who enjoy mountains, an open sky and fresh air. And though some people leave Alaska after a few years, many people return.
So, is Alaska worth the move?
10 Reasons People are Moving to Alaska
1. Alaska is incredibly beautiful.
You’ll find stunning landscapes in Alaska. The natural scenery is unparalleled.
Did you know that Alaska is home to seventeen national parks and sixteen national wildlife refuges? Anchorage alone is known for five: Denali, Katmai, Kenai Fjords, Lake Clark and Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.
2. Alaska doesn’t have state income tax and some places don’t have sales tax.
Alaska is one of only a few other states without income taxes. So if you live in Alaska, state or local taxes aren’t withheld from your paycheck.
And while you may not have to pay state taxes, some municipalities can set their taxation so that sales tax can range between 0% to 7.85% in Homer, Alaska; 7.85% includes the state, county and city sales tax.
3. Alaska is one of several states where you can see the aurora borealis.
There are many cities where you can see these gorgeous lights, but Fairbanks is one of the best. You can see the aurora borealis during any season in Alaska. But the best time to view this spectacular display is between August and April, when many parts of Alaska experience more prolonged periods of darkness.
The Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks even has an Aurora Forecast, which is one of the reasons many people say it’s the best place to view the lights
4. Alaska has a rich, culturally diverse heritage.
Alaska Natives likely crossed a land bridge 25,000 to 9,000 years ago. Now, Alaska has 229 nationally recognized indigenous tribes across eleven distinct cultures geographically spread across the state.
Many of these indigenous people live in the Alaskan bush, where they have distinct languages, art, cultures, histories and traditions. These traditions include whaling, subsistence fishing and hunting, bone carving and native arts and crafts.
5. You can get paid to live in Alaska.
Alaskan residents voted in 1976 to change the constitution, so they could create a fund that pulled at least 25% of Alaska’s oil money into a dedicated fund for future generations.
The Alaska Permanent Fund pays out around $1,000 to Alaskan residents annually. In 2021, they received $1,114, and in 2019, that number was $992. The Fund serves to give back to the residents of Alaska, paying out every year.
6. It’s no surprise that winter sports reign supreme.
Winter is a great time to see the northern lights, but it’s also the perfect backdrop for experiencing winter sports. Residents and visitors enjoy snowshoeing, skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, snowmobiling, and even ice climbing.
During the winter months, be sure to check out the 1,000-mile Iditarod Sled Dog Race or the longest continuously run sled dog race, the Open North American Championship. Or watch the Arctic Man Ski and Sno-Go Classic, which combines skiing and snowmobiling racing and is one of the World’s Toughest Downhill ski races.
7. Alaskans are extremely friendly.
Alaska is a vast state, made up of Native indigenous Alaskans and transplants. The general vibe in Alaska is fairly laid-back, welcoming and friendly, especially if you’re willing to offer the same respect and kindness.
Many transplants that move to Alaska do so because of new opportunities or the prospect of adventure, and they bring that spirit with them. They know what it’s like to feel like an outsider, so they are sympathetic and tolerant of new residents.
8. Alaska is not only suitable for winter sports but other outdoor activities, too.
Alaska is home to beautiful, snow-covered peaks in Denali National Park, ice fields in Kenai Fjords National Park and glacier views in Portage Pass Trail.
Besides hiking, the Alaskan wilderness is an excellent place to go camping, whitewater rafting, fishing, and kayaking. Whale watching is a breathtaking experience you can see for yourself in Seward, Juneau and along the coast.
9. The Alaska State Fair is one of the best fairs in the country.
The Alaska State Fair started in 1936 as a celebration for Mat-Su colonists. The Fair happens every year at the end of summer before the winter chill comes and is celebrated by hundreds of thousands of people.
You can enjoy carnival rides and games, live concerts, food, vendor stands, and a celebration of Alaskan and Native culture. The long summer days are conducive to rapid plant growth, so it’s not uncommon to see massive fruits and vegetables on display
10. Alaska has a diverse wildlife scene.
Alaska is home to several different species of whales, wolves, bison, mountain goats, moose, beavers, caribou, bats and birds. Alaska is also one of the only places in the world that have three different types of North American bears: black bears, brown bears (also known as grizzly bears) and polar bears.
Alaska has over 70% of the North American population of brown bears, so it’s crucial to know what to do if you come upon a bear while hiking or out in the backcountry.
Where do people live in Alaska?
Alaska is huge, with towns throughout the region that serve various people. There’s a town or city in Alaska for everyone!
Anchorage is a good fit for someone that wants to live in The Last Frontier, while still enjoying the creature comforts of a bustling city. It’s home to over 200,000 people and is the largest city in the state. Not only does it have incredible views of Chugach State Park, but it’s also home to a thriving artistic and musical community and an active nightlife. Anchorage is populated by many younger people, according to the U.S. Census.
Fairbanks is another option for outdoor enthusiasts that also enjoy a vibrant community. It’s the third-largest city after Juneau and home to the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, one of the best colleges in the state and a highly ranked school. The Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival draws thousands of people, and there’s also a thriving theater and arts community.
Juneau is Alaska’s capital city and a popular cruise ship destination. Juneau has a First Friday Art Walk, the Alaska State Museum, Marie Drake Planetarium and also offers whale watching and sea kayaking. Hiking enthusiasts will love the Mendenhall Glacier, Nugget Falls and Mount Roberts. Juneau’s temperature rarely drops below 20-degrees, and summers can get as warm as 70-degrees.
Key Alaska stats:
Annual Median Household Salary: $77,790**
Average Monthly Rent: $1,240**
Median Value of Owned Homes: $275,600**
Average Travel Time to Work: 18.9 minutes
*Population estimates, July 1, 2021
[Source: United States Census Bureau]
Best of List that Feature Alaska
Richardson Highway was ranked on CountryLiving Magazine’s #7th Most Scenic Drive in the U.S., while Seward Highway was ranked #8th.
#15 on WalletHub’s Most Diverse States List.
Several cities are ranked on U.S. News’ Best Mountain Towns to Visit in the USA, including Juneau at #9 and Homer #14.
Juneau is also ranked the #23 Best Small Town to Visit in the USA by U.S. News.
Alaska has some of the best air quality in the United States, according to World Population Review.
Conde Nast Traveler ranks Gates of the Arctic National Park as one of the Best National Parks in the U.S.
U.S. News’ list of Best Adventure Vacations in the U.S. has Juneau in the #12 spot and Anchorage in #14.
What safety concerns should I consider when moving to Alaska?
Alaska’s vast, open beauty attracts many different kinds of people that enjoy everything that Alaska has to offer. Here are some things you should know about Alaska before moving there.
Not only should you be prepared for the cold, but you should also be ready for rapidly changing weather, too.
Many people think Alaska is cold year-round. And while that’s not true, there are long stretches of cold, wintry days. It’s essential to be prepared before moving there with a warm jacket and waterproof boots.
How cold can it get? Record lows
|Fairbanks||-66°F||January 4, 1934|
|Barrow||-56°F||February 3, 1924|
|Kotzebue||-58°F||March 16, 1930|
|McGrath||-75°F||January 27, 1989|
||January 23, 1971|
*Coldest temperature on record.
Source: National Weather Service, Alaska Extremes.
How warm can it get? Record highs
|Fairbanks||99°F||July 24, 1919|
|Barrow||79°F||July 13, 1993|
|Kotzebue||85°F||June 17, 2018|
|McGrath||94°F||June 17, 2018|
||June 27, 1915|
*Hottest temperature on record.
Source: National Weather Service, Alaska Extremes, 1993–2010.
The long days and long nights can throw off your circadian rhythm.
During the winter when days are shorter, many Alaskans report experiencing difficulty sleeping, combined with sluggishness and all-day tiredness. Many people often drive to work in darkness and get home in darkness. Vitamin D deficiency is also common.
In summer when the days are much longer, people are still often sluggish and tired because they find themselves working outside until 2 am or staying up long hours because their body thinks it's supposed to stay awake.
Know how to drive in snow.
Inclement, snowy weather happens throughout a lot of Alaska, so you should not only be equipped with the proper snow gear for your vehicle but you should also know how to drive in snow. The Alaska Highway is open year-round, but many other roads throughout Alaska are not maintained year-round. Smaller towns, especially, may be difficult to drive through.
Resources for Driving in Alaska in the Winter:
The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities Alaska 511 page notes Alaska Road conditions as well as maps for road conditions.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Weather Service page lists out Alaskan counties and their active watches, warnings and advisories.
Alaska’s DOT has a Winter Road Maintenance Priority Map and Road Weather camera map.
If you need a little bit of help driving in snow, The Alaska Safe Driver Academy in Anchorage can help you learn how to navigate tricky weather conditions. Or consider The Alaska Peace Officers Association, which occasionally offers winter driving classes.
If it’s at all possible, consider waiting out a winter storm, or giving yourself enough time to reach your destination without feeling rushed.
The Land of the Midnight Sun has over 50 volcanoes that have been active since 1976.
The Ring of Fire is a horseshoe-shaped area of about 24,900 miles along the Pacific Ocean. It’s a seismically active area with many of the Earth’s active volcanoes and earthquakes. This area extends to fifteen other countries and includes Alaska, Washington and California in the United States.
What does this mean for Alaska? It means that coastal parts of Alaska are at-risk for tsunamis caused by earthquakes.
Things to consider before moving to Alaska
There are so many things that make Alaska a beautiful, unique place to live. But there are a few things that you should consider when deciding whether or not you’d like to live there.
Some parts of Alaska are off the road system.
Alaska is a large landmass with a comparatively small population. The majority of Alaska isn’t accessible by highway or vehicles, which makes it even more difficult to access parts of the state during winter. Instead, a travel system that also spans barges and ferries along the coast, a railroad system and even ATV trails in the winter. Air travel is often the most important means of transportation between many regions throughout Alaska.
82% of Alaska communities depend on aviation for year-round access.
Only 20% of Alaska is accessible by road.
Alaska only has 12 numbered highways.
There’s only one way to access Alaska from the lower 48: from the Alaska Highway.
It’s not uncommon to travel several hours between towns.
Juneau, Alaska is one of only two cities in the United States not accessible by car.
So much is exported into Alaska that fresh fruits and vegetables may be hard to come by in the winter months.
While you can certainly find them, the expectation is that it’s likely they have already been in shipping containers for hours or even days. But there is a silver lining! During the long, sunny summer months, there are often farms around the state where you can pick your own fruits and veggies or even grow them in your own garden. With some parts of Alaska having 24 hours of sunlight in the summer, fruits and vegetables can become massive.
Since Alaska is the largest state in the U.S., it has a varying climate.
Alaska is divided into five distinct regions: Far North, Interior, Southwest, Southcentral and Southeast. Each of these regions has a variety of climates and temperatures.
The Far North can only be reached via plane, often from Fairbanks. June and July have 24 hours of sunlight,
This handy Alaska Weather Planner allows you to compare cities around the U.S. with Alaskan cities to see how the temperature, rain, clouds and daylight hours.
Cell phone service can be spotty in parts of Alaska.
And while it’s true that this is the case in many states in the lower 48, Alaska’s unique position may have more isolated areas not covered by all service providers. This means you should research your chosen city before moving there and seeing what cell phone providers offer service in that area.
There are a few reasons for limited cell phone service:
As we’ve said a few times throughout this article, Alaska is big. Bigger than any other state. So it stands to reason that there will be places that aren’t equipped with cell towers.
Only a small portion of Alaska has paved roadways, and it’s not uncommon to drive for hours in-between towns.
The Alaskan wilderness is vast. Huge mountains, long valleys and other obstacles may contribute to a lack of cell service, especially in more remote areas.
The bottom line is that while most populated towns have working cell service, there are many places in-between where it is lacking or not available at all. In other words, expect your 4G to drop down to 2G or 3G or completely cut out.
A part of living in Alaska will be that you’re sometimes off the grid. If this bothers you, it might be a good idea to look into a satellite phone.
There’s a reason many Alaskans joke that the state bird is a mosquito.
Alaska has over 35 different species of mosquitoes. Most are active during dawn and dusk and from mid-June to July, and around open tundra in the Interior and Far North of Alaskan marshlands.
If you’re susceptible to SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), you may need to invest in a Bright Light Therapy light.
Light therapy can help stave off symptoms of SAD with daily or weekly sessions in front of a light therapy lamp. It’s important to discuss this with your doctor to get their professional opinion on the length of light sessions and how long you should use the lights.
Alaska’s temperature is changing more rapidly than in many other places in the United States.
Climate change is very real in Alaska. In the past 50 years, the temperature has increased at an average rate of twice that of other states. Warmer winters are creating earlier spring snowmelt and reducing glaciers and sea ice. Record-breaking temperatures affect food harvests, leading to increased erosion and flooding.
How much does it cost to move to Alaska?
Moving, in general, can be difficult but moving to Alaska offers several challenges. If there are items you can live without, many will choose to get rid of the excess before moving since any truck rental from the lower 48 will be costly.
Here are a few moving options if you’re moving to Alaska.
1. Driving there with a rented moving truck or your car will be the cheapest option, but it comes with a lot of planning and budgeting.
Consider purchasing a hitch and trailer before moving to Alaska and selling these items once you’re settled in your new home. Many things cost more in Alaska, and you may be able to offset your costs by selling them for more than you paid.
You’ll need to budget for hotels, meals and gas along the way, which could add up.
Since you’re crossing into Canada, you’ll need a passport.
If you have a record of a DUI, DWI, or any other reckless driving or past impaired driving conviction, Canada may bar you from the entrance.
As we mentioned earlier, only a small portion of Alaska is paved and many towns will be impassable in the winter. If you’re moving to a more remote part of Alaska, this option may not work for you.
2. Shipping your vehicle and flying into Alaska.
- You’ll need to consider vehicle shipping costs and a flight ticket and transportation to your new home until your car is delivered. If you go those routes, you could always ship things through USPS or purchase extra carry-on luggage.
3. Some people choose to do a hybrid of the first two by driving to Seattle or Tacoma and arranging car shipment via a steamship or barge. Then flying into Alaska from Washington.
4. Consider hotel and food costs, transportation to get to Washington, and the flight. A good thing about flying out of Seattle to Anchorage is that you can often find tickets for a couple of hundred dollars or less.
5. Hiring a moving company will likely be your most expensive option. Typically moving to the lower 48 can be around $2,000 to $6,000, but moving from another state to Alaska could cost at least $5,000 and upwards of $10,000+.
How much money do residents of Alaska get paid annually to live there?
Residents do indeed get paid to live in Alaska. The Permanent Fund Dividend pays out an annual amount to eligible Alaskan residents from investment earnings of mineral royalties to those that qualify.
The amount varies from year to year. In 2021, it was $1,114, while a few years prior to that in 2019 it was $1,606.
How much does it cost to live in Alaska?
You might wonder how much you should budget for a move to Alaska or what it’s like to live there or pay the utilities.
Alaska is one of the most expensive places to live, in large part because so much of what you buy is exported.
The average price for a home in Alaska in 2021 was $388,648. Renting varied across the state in 2021, with rental apartments in Anchorage costing about $1,087 and rental homes $1,860.
Overall Alaska costs per month:
Natural Gas: $10.93 per thousand cubic feet
Internet (50 Mbps; national average): $52.37
Cable: $217.42 (national average)
Basic streaming services (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney+): $36.96
6 Myths About Alaska and What’s True:
There is a lot of mystique surrounding Alaska, in large part due to its wildness and beauty. We’re here to set the record straight and tell you the truth behind a few of the most popular myths.
1. Is it true that Alaska is dark for six months?
No, it’s not. The winter solstice in December is the shortest day of the year. Juneau typically has about six and a half hours of daylight on this day, while Anchorage has about an hour less than that. Fairbanks, in the Interior, has a little less than four hours of daylight.
Then, in the northern Arctic part of Alaska, there’s Barrow. It’s dark from November 18 to January 23, but it also sees approximately three months of 24-hour sunlight in the summer.
2. Are there polar bears everywhere in Alaska?
Polar bears are native to Alaska, but not all across the state. They’re most common in the coldest regions, such as northern and west Alaska, avoiding the largest cities.
According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, polar bears can be found around St. Lawrence Island and St. Matthew Island in the winter and the Chukchi Sea and Arctic Ocean in winter.
3. Is Alaska an island?
Alaska is actually considered a peninsula. But Alaska does have its islands, like Kodiak Island, Prince of Walkes Island, Chichagof Island and many others.
The Beaufort Sea and the Arctic Ocean border Alaska, Canada to the east, the Gulf of Alaska and the Pacific Ocean along the south, the Bering Strait and the Bering Sea and the Chukchi Sea along the northwest border.
4. Are there only small towns in Alaska?
While Alaska certainly has its fair share of small towns, it’s also home to cities like Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau's capital city. Anchorage has the highest population in Alaska, with about 300,000 residents. And when the population swells due to tourism, cities like Juneau can increase to a population of over a million people.
But a big part of Alaska’s charm is many of its small towns, like Adak in the Aleutian Islands which has just over 200 people, or Moose Pass, which is an unincorporated community of over 300 as of 2019.
5. Does it always snow in Alaska?
Since Alaska is so large, there may be at least some parts of Alaska with snow at any given time. Anchorage gets about 80-inches of snow every year, while in the southeastern part of the state, Sitka tends to get the least amount of snow.
6. Does Alaska have only one time zone?
Alaska has two time zones: Alaska Time and Hawaii-Aleutian Time. Hawaii-Aleutian Time is observed in the Aleutian Islands and it is one house behind the rest of the state, which uses Alaska Time. Alaska Time is one hour before EST (eastern standard time), so that means when it’s 9:00 am in New York, it’s 8:00 am in Juneau and 7:00 am in the Aleutian Islands.
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Frequently Asked Questions about Moving to Alaska
Do you pay taxes in Alaska?
Alaska doesn’t have an income tax, but certain municipalities within the state can levy sales taxes.
How much is the minimum wage in Alaska?
As of 2022, if someone is working a minimum wage job in Alaska, they can earn $10.34 per hour or approximately $21,507 per year.
What are the people like in Alaska?
Alaskans are considered very friendly but independent and self-reliant. Alaska is a land of extremes, and that brings people together. A neighbor is just as likely to help you out during heavy snow as a stranger is who sees you struggling with a stuck car on the way to work. If you’ve got a spirit of adventure and the willingness to embrace the culture and people, Alaska will embrace you.
How long does it take to ship a car from Alaska to Washington?
Shipping a vehicle from Washington to Alaska, or vice versa, can take approximately a week or even up to two weeks. The length of time it takes depends on the port you’re shipping out of and the weather, obstacles, worker shortages, or other factors.