Fairbanks, Alaska is the state’s second-largest city. It’s also the home of the University of Alaska Fairbanks and a supply hub for interior Alaska. Many use Fairbanks as a jumping off-point for exploring nearby Denali National Park & Preserve or know it as one of the best places in the world to see the aurora borealis.
But what about Fairbanks as a home? What’s it like to live in the city? What are some of the pros and cons of moving to Fairbanks?
We’ll cover all of that below in our list of the nine things you need to know before moving to Fairbanks, Alaska. With this list in hand, you’ll get a pretty good idea of whether moving to Fairbanks is right for you. (Or whether another Alaska destination, like Anchorage, might be a better fit!)
Let’s get started!
#1: Fairbanks Is an Expensive Place to Live
#6 Most Expensive State to Live In
Alaska isn’t the most expensive U.S. state. (That honor goes to Hawaii!) But Alaska is the sixth most expensive state in the nation, according to data from the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center.
Where Fairbanks is concerned, data from Payscale.com estimates the cost of living in the Golden Heart City at 27% higher than the U.S. average. That’s comparable to Anchorage at 26% higher than the national average.
As you can see from the data below, a large part of your cost of living in Fairbanks will go toward utilities. A lot of homes in Fairbanks have historically relied on oil for heat, which can make for costly utility bills. Factor in the colder winters, and you’ll start to see why utility bills tend to be higher in Fairbanks. Groceries will also set you back, with prices almost a quarter higher than the U.S. average.
Cost of Living in Fairbanks Compared to U.S. Average
- 27% – Higher Overall
- 9% – Higher Housing Cost
- 123% – Higher Utilities Cost
- 24% – Higher Grocery Cost
However, you will catch one big break in Fairbanks.
#2: Real Estate Is Cheaper in Fairbanks
As you can see from the numbers above, Payscale.com puts the cost of housing in Fairbanks only 9% higher than the national average.
As it turns out, real estate in Fairbanks is significantly cheaper than Anchorage. If you look at the Zillow data below, it’s easy to see the difference in cost.
Zillow Typical Home Value
- $423,470 – Anchorage
- $181,314 – Fairbanks
In other words, if homeownership is a dream of yours, you might find it easier to chase that dream in Fairbanks. This can be a huge perk of living in Fairbanks, especially for first-time homebuyers.
#3: The Outdoor Opportunities Are Amazing
Of course, living in Fairbanks comes with other perks. Denali National Park & Preserve is a little over two hours away, with plenty of opportunities for hiking, camping, backcountry backpacking, rafting, mountaineering, and more in the park’s stunning landscapes. Explorers of all levels and abilities can find adventures to their liking in Denali.
Closer to home, there are trails all over Fairbanks for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, and biking. At Chena River State Recreation Area, you can hike, camp, and canoe down the river. Or, head over to the Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge to spot migrating birds and other wildlife—and that’s just the start of what you’ll find in Fairbanks.
In short, the natural beauty of Fairbanks really is the star of the show. If you’re an avid appreciator of nature, you’ll find plenty to delight in.
#4: Fairbanks Offers Small Town Life with Some Conveniences
Fairbanks is a one-movie-theater town. It’s significantly smaller than Anchorage, and it might be considerably smaller than where you’re living now. In other words, if you’ve never lived in a small town, it’s important to realize that your choices will be a little more limited in Fairbanks.
That’s not to say that you won’t have any amenities in the area. Fairbanks has a Costco, a number of grocery stores and health food stores, and plenty of places to stock up on winter gear, like the Prospector and Big Ray’s.
If you’re coming from a bustling metropolis, life in Fairbanks may come as a bit of a shock to you. And if you relish the flavors of city life, Anchorage might be a better fit. However, Fairbanks can be a great place to settle down for those who appreciate its friendly, community-oriented spirit.
#5: Amazon Ships to Fairbanks Free for Prime Members
As we mentioned, the choices in Fairbanks can feel limited sometimes. For those times when the local stores just don’t have what you need, there’s always Amazon. If you’re a Prime member, you can take advantage of free Prime shipping (for most items).
Note: Your items will arrive in 3-7 business days, as opposed to the 1-2 days you’d expect in the lower 48, but free is free, right?!
As for shopping on the rest of the Internet, get used to fine print like “this item does not ship to Alaska or Hawaii” or extra shipping charges.
Of course, we encourage you to shop locally whenever possible. The Fairbanks families who operate businesses in town always appreciate your support!
#6: Incredible Summers, Cold & Dark Winters
During those glorious, long summer days when residents enjoy more than 20 hours of sunlight, Fairbanks can be an incredible place to live. Highs in the 70s make it a pleasure to squeeze the most out of every hour of daylight. (As long as you take precautions against the famously pesky mosquitoes!)
For some, the Fairbanks summers make the long, dark, and cold winters more than worth it.
After all, there are no two ways about it: Winter in Fairbanks is intense. The snow generally starts in October and sticks around until March. At a Latitude 64° N, you’ll only see a few hours of daylight in the heart of winter. Many struggle both with the temperatures, which go down all the way to -15°F (and lower) and with the emotional aspect of the winter.
Check out our guide on surviving an Alaskan winter to get a sense of what you can expect in Fairbanks. (We’ll also throw in a few tips to keep your spirits up!)
#7: Don’t Skimp on Your Winter Gear
Along the same lines, if you’re moving to Alaska for the first time, don’t underestimate the power of solid winter gear.
After a big move, it can be tempting to cut corners and try to make it through with what you’ve got. Trust us, your first winter will be significantly less miserable if you invest in:
- A good winter coat
- A set of good snow boots
- A few sets of good socks, either merino wool or Coolmax—no cotton!
As we mentioned, there are a few excellent outfitters in town, including the Prospector and Big Ray’s. Stop by once you arrive, and they’ll get you set up with what you need.
#8: You’ll Need to Winterize Your Car
One final note before we move on from discussing Fairbanks winters. You’ll need to prep your car for winter in Fairbanks, even more so than in Anchorage.
There are plenty of reputable auto shops in Fairbanks who can assist you, but to give you an idea of what you’ll likely need:
- An antifreeze change if you don’t know for sure that yours is rated for low enough temperatures (-50-60°F)
- Snow tires, even if you have four-wheel drive. Bridgestone Blizzaks are the gold standard.
Plus, the shop will install a winterization kit that includes all of the following, connected to a single electrical cord that you can plug in at home:
- A block heater for your engine
- An oil pan heater
- A transmission heater
- A battery trickle charger or battery pad heater (Yes, your battery can freeze!)
By the way, you won’t need to keep your car plugged in all night. That can get expensive fast! Depending on how cold it is, an hour or two might do it. Ask the shop that installs your kit for their recommendation.
Respect the winters in Fairbanks by being prepared, and you’ll be just fine.
#9: You Can Eat Local. Really Local.
Sure, you may not find the most innovative, cutting-edge restaurants in Fairbanks. What you will find is the amazing bounty the state has to offer. We’re talking Alaska salmon, halibut, caribou, moose, crabs—all of it as fresh as you can get it.
This is one of those “only in Alaska” things that you should definitely take advantage of when you’re living in Fairbanks. There are few places in the world where you can find fresher seafood or regional specialties. Eat your fill!
Making Your Home in Fairbanks
Now that you’ve explored our must-knows for living in Fairbanks, are you ready to take the plunge? If you’re still in research mode, check out our article on the best places to live in Alaska. We’ll give you a tour of great locations all over the state so you can find the perfect spot for you.
And, if you need some help getting your belongings to Alaska, we can help you move to Fairbanks—or anywhere else in the state. Just reach out to our team for a free quote to get started.