Did you know that nearly 40% of Alaskans call Anchorage their home? When you expand that area beyond the city of Anchorage to include the entire Matanuska-Susitna Borough, that percentage increases to 55%. In other words, more than half of Alaska’s population can be found within 25,258 square miles. That’s pretty extraordinary when you consider that the state encompasses an expansive 663,300 square miles.
Maybe it’s not news to you that the Anchorage area is a popular one in Alaska—and maybe you’re considering a move there yourself. If that’s the case, our Anchorage-based team has compiled a list of nine must-knows to help you prepare for your move and make a smooth transition to Alaska’s City of Lights and Flowers.
Let’s start with something many people think of when Alaska comes to mind: the cold.
#1: You’ll Want to Dress for the Cold, Even in Anchorage
You’ve probably heard that the winters are cold in Alaska, but just how cold (and long!) those winters are isn’t something that sets in for some people until they actually move to Anchorage. From November until March, the daily average high rarely gets above freezing, and you can expect average lows to hover from 11-17° Fahrenheit, even in Anchorage proper.
Those of us who have lived here a while have developed our own tricks, tips, and strategies for surviving the Alaskan winter. If you’re moving here for the first time, our #1 most important piece of advice is to dress for the cold. A few must-haves:
- A warm, waterproof winter coat. Many people swear by down or synthetic down.
- A sturdy pair of gloves. Mittens will keep your hands warmer, but, if you’re working outdoors, mittens might not be practical.
- Wool socks. Cotton socks will only trap moisture and make your feet colder.
- A hat that covers your ears, and possibly a balaclava or a neck gaiter if you plan on spending extended time outdoors.
- A sturdy pair of boots. Xtratuf boots are so popular, they practically hand them out at the border here. Whatever brand you choose, the key is to keep your feet both warm and dry in the winter slush.
Trust us, the right gear will make all the difference when it comes to your first winter in Alaska. That’s especially true since . . .
#2: Winter Doesn’t Mean Hiding Indoors
In certain parts of the Lower 48 (we’re not naming names!), the colder months send some Americans into a state of indoor hibernation. In Alaska, we’ve got plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy throughout the winter season. If you’ve taken our recommendations and assembled the right gear, you can comfortably enjoy skiing, fishing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, hiking, and much more throughout the year. (Plus, it’s a great way to beat the winter blues and keep your spirits up throughout the darker months!) It will also act as a great reminder of why you moved to the Frontier State in the first place. This can come in handy when you hit one of Alaska’s little inconveniences, such as our next must-know.
#3: “Free Shipping” Is a Little Less Plentiful
Alaska has a lot of aspects to love. However, when it comes to free shipping from online retailers, you’re going to find a lot less of it than you’re used to in the lower 48. You’ll find that many retailers include an additional shipping charge for packages headed for the Land of the Midnight Sun—and some retailers may refuse to ship to Alaska at all, especially when it comes to large and oversized pieces. If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can still take advantage of their free Prime shipping, but it can take 5-7 business days, not the standard 1-2.
However, you’ll also find that, with a little detective work and a flexible attitude, you can often find what you need from a retailer with a liberal shipping policy. (Check out this comprehensive list from Brad’s Deals as a starting point!)
But here’s the good news…
#4: You’ll Learn to Love Shopping Local
In Anchorage, you’ll have access to several big-box retailers, like Lowe’s, the Home Depot, and Costco. However, why not support your fellow Alaskans and shop the variety of locally-owned businesses you’ll find in the city and its surrounding areas? Between locally-roasted coffee from Kaladi Brothers, crafts from indigenous artisans at the Alaska Native Heritage Center, outdoor gear from the Hoarding Marmot, and art from one of Anchorage’s many downtown galleries (among many others!), you’ll have plenty of opportunities to find what you’re looking for in and around Anchorage—and support the community you’ve joined by shopping local.
And speaking of community…
#5: The Alaska “Can Do” Attitude Will Be Your Best Friend
Whether it’s Alaska’s isolated geography or the fact that its wide-open spaces and the relatively low population tend to attract the self-reliant, you’ll find that many Alaskans embrace a “can do” attitude. In other words, MacGyver ain’t got nothing on Alaskans. Armed with a roll of duct tape and a blue tarp, a true Alaskan can jury-rig just about anything. Given the (sometimes) limited resources you’ll find in Alaska, the more you can adopt the level of creativity and ingenuity you’ll see in your neighbors, the more you’ll get done and the happier you’ll be in the 49th state.
And speaking of happiness…
#6: Alaskans Love Their State
When asked whether their state was the best state to live in (or at least, one of the best), a whopping 77% of Alaskans answered yes! (To give you a comparison, the national average is 46%.) When asked whether they were satisfied with the area they lived in, an even larger number answered in the positive: 83%.
After 10+ years of moving people to and from the state, we can say for sure that Alaska isn’t for everyone, but those who stay really love it. We hope you’ll feel the same way once you make the move!
And here’s just one more thing to sweeten the pot…
#7: Yes, Alaskans Do Get Paid Every Year, Just for Being Alaskans
The Permanent Fund Dividend is a fact, not fiction. Each year, every permanent resident of Alaska is entitled to a payout from this fund, which was created from revenue that the state receives from its natural resources. While the payout in 2020 was $992, the 2019 payout was significantly higher in 2019 at $1,606.
Now, to be clear, you can’t just show up in Alaska and expect to get an immediate payout. To qualify for the PFD, which usually gets distributed in October, there are two main requirements:
- You must have been physically present in Alaska for the entire previous calendar year.
- You also have to certify, at the time of your application, that you intend to remain in Alaska indefinitely.
In addition to these two, There are a few additional requirements, which you can review here.
However, once you qualify, the only question left about the PFD is: How will you spend it? Will you blow it all on PFD Day, that thrilling day in October when most residents receive their payout? Or will you save it for a rainy day? (Or maybe a little of both . . . ?)
If you’re looking for a way to spend your PFD, we suggest splurging on some quality outdoor gear so you can enjoy all that the area has to offer, since . . .
#8: Pictures Don’t Do Anchorage’s Surroundings Justice
Even seasoned Alaskans often find themselves struck by the state’s natural beauty. And, although moving to Anchorage means you’ll be living in the state’s biggest city, you’ll still be surrounded by incredible sights on a near-daily basis. A magical evening alpenglow, a glimpse of the famous aurora borealis, a breathtaking view of the denser spots of the Milky Way trailing across the sky like a billowing veil—they’re all waiting for you in Anchorage (although you may need to wait for a clear, dark night for those last two!).
Then, consider the fact that there are 1,500 moose living in Anchorage, as well as 150-400 American black bears and ~60 grizzlies. That should give you an idea of just how integral nature and wildlife are to Anchorage. And no number of Instagram or Facebook photos will ever give you the same feeling as seeing it in person.
That’s why we say . . .
#9: The Best Way to Know Is to Visit
If you really want to know what Anchorage is really like, hop on a plane (or catch a ride on the Alaska Marine Highway System), and come on up for a visit. That will give you a taste of Alaska life—and tell you just about everything you need to know about moving to Anchorage.
For any lingering questions, feel free to ask one of our experts. Our Anchorage-based team would be happy to talk to you about living in the area or moving to Alaska. We’d also be happy to help you make a safe, easy, and affordable move to the Frontier State. Just reach out to us for a complimentary quote to get started.