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Alaska might not be at the top of everyone’s list for a new place to live, but the state has a surprising number of benefits.

Many people enjoy the freedom and recreational opportunities this northern state offers. It’s always a good idea to take both the benefits and drawbacks into consideration before you decide whether to move, though.

Alaska map

Key Takeaways

  • Alaska is home to some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the U.S., and the state also has an abundance of wildlife.
  • Alaska’s air quality is very clean.
  • Alaska experiences cold temperatures for most of the year, and summer’s warm temperatures bring mosquitos.
  • During the winter, Alaskan nights can last for more than 20 hours.
  • Alaska residents display a strong sense of community.
  • Alaska is remote.
  • Alaska has a diverse culture.
  • The cost of living is high in Alaska, and housing options are limited.
  • Alaska has no income or sales taxes.
  • All Alaska residents receive a yearly dividends check.
  • Alaska has a resource extraction-based economy.
  • Alaska offers incredible local seafood but lacks fresh produce.

welcome to Alaska road sign

Alaska Landscapes and Wildlife

Alaska offers some of the most stunning, untouched wilderness in the country. It has more than 6,600 miles of coastline, 3,000 glaciers, and hundreds of hills, meadows, forests, rivers, lakes, and streams.

Alaska also boasts some of the most dramatic mountains in North America, including the continent’s highest peak, Mount Denali. The largest national forest, Tongass National Forest, is also located in Alaska.

About half of Alaska’s land is protected wilderness. This means you can venture almost anywhere within the state to view pristine scenery or spot a range of wildlife.

It also presents a wealth of camping, hiking, fishing, rock climbing, swimming, boating, hunting, skiing, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing opportunities.

Mother bear with cubs

Alaska has excellent air quality

Because it has such a low population, Alaska has some of the best air quality in the country. People who live in or visit Alaska often remark on how clean the air is.

25 Fun things to do in Alaska

Denali National Park and Preserve: Home to North America’s highest peak, Denali, this park offers stunning landscapes, wildlife viewing, and hiking opportunities.

Kenai Fjords National Park: Explore glaciers, fjords, and abundant marine wildlife, including whales, sea otters, and seals.

Glacier Bay National Park: Known for its tidewater glaciers, this park offers boat tours, kayaking, and wildlife viewing.

Northern Lights Viewing: Experience the Aurora Borealis, especially from Fairbanks, one of the best places in the world to see this natural light show.

Inside Passage Cruises: Sail through the scenic Inside Passage, with stops in charming towns like Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway.

Anchorage Museum: Explore Alaskan history, art, and culture through extensive exhibits and interactive displays.

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Mendenhall Glacier: Located near Juneau, this stunning glacier offers hiking trails, a visitor center, and breathtaking views.

Alaska Railroad: Take a scenic train ride from Anchorage to Fairbanks, Seward, or Denali, enjoying spectacular landscapes along the way.

Katmai National Park: Famous for its brown bear viewing, especially at Brooks Falls, where bears catch salmon during the summer.

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park: The largest national park in the U.S., offering rugged wilderness, towering peaks, and historic mining sites.

Prince William Sound: Known for its beautiful coastline, glaciers, and wildlife. Take a boat tour or kayak to explore the area.

Kodiak Island: Famous for its large Kodiak bears, this island also offers fishing, hiking, and wildlife viewing opportunities.

Homer Spit: A narrow landform extending into Kachemak Bay, offering shops, restaurants, and beautiful views of the bay and mountains.

Alaska Native Heritage Center: Located in Anchorage, this cultural center offers exhibits, performances, and interactive experiences about Alaska’s indigenous peoples.

Seward and the Alaska SeaLife Center: Visit this coastal town and explore the SeaLife Center to learn about marine life and conservation efforts.

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Talkeetna: A charming town with a rich history and gateway to Denali. Enjoy local shops, restaurants, and outdoor activities.

Hatcher Pass: A scenic area with hiking, skiing, and the historic Independence Mine State Historical Park.

Nome and the Iditarod Trail: Visit Nome to learn about the historic gold rush and watch the finish of the famous Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

Valdez: Known for its stunning scenery, outdoor activities, and as the terminus of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline.

Eagle River Nature Center: Located near Anchorage, this center offers trails, educational programs, and beautiful views of the Chugach Mountains.

Juneau Icefield: Take a helicopter tour to explore this massive icefield, including glacier landings and stunning views.

Ketchikan: Known as the “Salmon Capital of the World,” this town offers fishing, totem poles, and cultural attractions.

Sitka: Rich in Tlingit and Russian history, Sitka offers beautiful scenery, cultural sites, and wildlife viewing.

Bering Land Bridge National Preserve: Explore this remote and wild area, known for its archaeological significance and unique landscapes.

Denali Highway: Drive or bike this scenic route, offering stunning views of mountains, tundra, and wildlife.

Alaska weather

Alaska is known for its beautiful, mild summers. During the summer months, you’ll be able to walk through fields of wildflowers, and in many parts of the state, daylight time each day exceeds 20 hours.

However, Alaskan summers are relatively short, and the winters are quite long.

Even during the summer, temperatures rarely exceed 70 degrees and often hover in the low- to mid-60s. During the winter, high temperatures are generally well below freezing.

Alaska also gets a good amount of snow, and rain is frequent.

During the summer, the warm temperatures bring out bugs. There are about 20 types of mosquitos in Alaska, and residents will have to deal with these annoying pests if they want to enjoy the summer weather.

Anchorage, Alaska waterfront
Anchorage, Alaska

Long Winter Nights

Because of its northern location, Alaska sees bigger shifts in daylight hours during different times of the year.

Although summer days can be very long, winter nights can also last for more than 20 hours, and some cities only get about three and a half hours of daylight each day in the middle of winter.

The lack of daylight can cause Seasonal Affective Disorder, which can lead to depression and mood swings.

person watching northern lights

Sense of Community

Alaska doesn’t have too many large cities and is instead mostly made up of smaller towns. It’s also remote, and it can feel cut off from the rest of the country and the world.

For these reasons, Alaskan residents often band together. You’ll find a strong sense of community in Alaska, and many people find that it’s easy to get to know your neighbors or make new friends.

People living in Alaska are also comfortable relying on each other, and this can sometimes be lifesaving in the darker winter months.

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Alaska is isolated

As mentioned above, Alaska is remote, and this can lead to a feeling of isolation. Even though communities are strong, living in Alaska can sometimes feel like you’re living separately from the rest of the world.

For some people, this is a positive attribute, as it gives them a feeling of freedom and allows them to live disconnected from things that aren’t important to them.

Other people, however, may find this isolation somewhat lonely.

Ketchikan, Alaska homes on mountain side
Ketchikan, Alaska

Diverse Culture

Alaska was originally the home of several Native American peoples, and European and Russian immigrants later moved to the area.

All of these cultures contribute to Alaska’s overall culture, which also has a strong American feel. In Alaska, you’ll also find that much of the culture centers around nature and living as part of the land.

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Cost of living is high in Alaska

Alaska has the highest cost of living of any U.S. state. This is largely due to the fact that only a few things are produced or found in Alaska, and everything else must be brought in.

Gas, groceries, and utilities are all more expensive. Utilities alone can be as much as 53% higher than in the continental United States.

If you want to buy clothes or household items, you’ll also find that these are more expensive.

Housing is also incredibly expensive in Alaska. Homes are limited, and this drives up the price of rent.

If you want to purchase a home, be ready to spend much more than you would in almost any other U.S. state. The average price of a home in Alaska is about 28% higher than the national average.

cost of living sheet with calculator and pen

Limited housing options in Alaska

Because there are strict regulations protecting wilderness areas in Alaska, there are also many prohibitions when it comes to building. This makes it challenging to expand and build new homes.

Many people in Alaska end up renting rooms or sharing homes, particularly in the city areas. Sometimes, many people end up living in one home or apartment.

About half of all households in Alaska are considered overcrowded.

Taxes in Alaska

You can save a bit of money in Alaska thanks to the low tax rates. There is no state income tax, and you won’t need to spend any money on sales tax, as there isn’t one.

Dividends Check

As a state, Alaska makes a fair amount of money on natural resources such as minerals and oil. Each year, the state sends a dividend check representing a portion of this income to every permanent Alaskan resident.

The amount of the check varies from year to year, but it’s usually around $1,600.

roll of USA bills and dividends sign

Resource Extraction Economy

Alaska’s economy is based on resource extraction. Some of its biggest industries are mining, timber, and fishing.

These industries provide many jobs, which can be a benefit to anyone entering the job force in the state. However, resource extraction depends heavily on demand, and if demand for any products decreases, the jobs can decrease as well.

This can sometimes happen with little warning. A change in the market can also affect the state’s overall economy.

Local seafood is great in Alaska

Alaska offers some of the freshest, most diverse seafood in the world. Fishing is a huge industry in Alaska, and as an Alaskan resident, you’ll be able to try hundreds of types of seafood.

That seafood is all freshly caught. In addition, because it’s locally, the cost is often a bit lower. Alaskans are also quite creative in how they utilize the abundance of seafood, so you’ll be able to sample a range of delicious dishes.

bear catching a fish in stream

Alaska has a lack of produce

Alaska’s growing season is quite short, as nights are chilly throughout most of the year except for a very small window in the middle of the summer.

This means that farming is limited in Alaska, so residents have limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Most produce must be imported, which can drastically raise its price.

There is a movement to encourage more small farmers, however. During the warmer months, you might see some farmstands offering a selection of locally grown produce.

If you have your own garden, you may also be able to sell your produce or trade it with your neighbors.

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