There’s no place on Earth that’s quite like Alaska. With awe-inspiring nature at every turn, harsh yet beautiful winters, boundless opportunities to live an off-the-grid lifestyle that’s uniquely your own and vast expanses of land to explore, Alaska has a lot to offer its residents.
That being said, although we love living here, we know Alaska just isn’t for everyone. In fact, Alaska has experienced net migration losses over the last few years. In other words, more people are leaving Alaska than coming into the state. Estimates put the number at a net loss of about 20,000 residents over the last five years.
If you decide Alaska isn’t the place for you, there are plenty of other destinations that might feel more like home. (And you can always come back!) If you’re looking for a new place to hang your hat, we’ve compiled a list of the six most popular states that people head for when leaving Alaska. Maybe one will spark some inspiration for your new destination!
But, first, let’s take a quick look at the common reasons that people leave.
Why Do People Leave Alaska?
Everyone’s reasons are their own, but some of the common reasons we hear from people who are leaving the Frontier State include:
Work Opportunities Elsewhere – Many people leave the 49th state in search of job opportunities in the lower 48. Alaska’s unemployment rate hovers among the highest in the United States, and recent reports indicate potentially slow job growth in the state. Both of these factors might lead residents to seek work down south.
High Cost of Living – It isn’t cheap to live in Alaska. The state regularly ranks in the top 10 for states with the highest cost of living. Between groceries, heating oil, health insurance, medical expenses, and more, your bank account can take a hit while living in Alaska, especially if you’re struggling to find a job that pays well.
Long, Dark Winters – Some people aren’t built for Alaska winters. They’re dark, they’re cold and, most of all, they’re long. This starts to wear on some and can drive them to sunnier, warmer climates.
Expensive Travel – Whereas those who live in the lower 48 can hop in a car and explore neighboring states with relative ease, leaving Alaska can be a bit of a production—and an expensive one, at that. Those who long to roam beyond state boundaries may be inclined to find another place to live.
So now that we understand why people may leave the Land of the Midnight Sun, let’s explore where they commonly head.
Post-Alaska Destination #1: Washington State
Approximately one in nine people who leave Alaska move to Washington. Some point to Washington’s proximity to account for the state’s popularity. However, the geographic position doesn’t fully explain the state’s appeal. Some Alaskans see cultural links between the two states. Additionally, the natural beauty of Washington state can appeal to those who enjoyed the Alaskan landscape. Depending on where you decide to relocate within the state, Washington may add an extra layer of excitement and cultural options, particularly in and around the music hub in Seattle.
Top Destination: Seattle
As one of the fastest-growing cities in the country according to U.S. Census Data, Seattle offers plentiful options for entertainment and employment. Additionally, in Seattle, you’ll still have easy access to plentiful outdoor activities, like hiking in the Cascade Mountains, mountain biking, camping, snowshoeing, skiing, canoeing, and more.
Post-Alaska Destination #2: Texas
While it’s hard to think of two climates that are more different than Texas and Alaska, both states share significant oil and gas ties, which may be what makes it easy for so many Alaska residents to head for the Lone Star State. Additionally, a move to Texas offers a much cheaper cost of living, about 17.7% less overall, with housing clocking in at about 35.8% less in Texas.
Top Destinations: Fort Worth & Austin
If you’re leaving Alaska in search of work, consider Forth Worth or Austin. Fort Worth has the third-fastest-growing job market in the country, and Austin is right behind it at #6. This combination of a solid local economy, plus lower day-to-day expenses, could make for easy living in the state of Texas.
Post-Alaska Destination #3: California
Although no state even comes close to the massive square footage of the state of Alaska, California holds the respectable rank of third-largest. Within the state’s 163,695 square miles, you’ll find a wide variety of landscapes and lifestyles. You might even say there’s something for everyone in California. From laid back southern California to hip and trendy Los Angeles all the way to the majestic scenery of northern California, the sheer diversity available in California may attract people from Alaska. Add to that a more robust economy with plentiful jobs in trade, transportation, utilities and health services, and California may look like a plum location for those leaving Alaska.
Top Destination: Sacramento
California’s capital city offers about twice the population of Anchorage, with all the amenities that come with a decent-sized American city. However, with easy access to places like Lake Tahoe as well as plentiful skiing options in the winter, Sacramento offers outdoor enthusiasts a wealth of weekend options, offering Alaska residents an easier transition to life in the lower 48.
Post-Alaska Destination #4: Oregon
If you’re tired of Alaska’s winters but you still want to enjoy the mountains and all they have to offer, Oregon might be the place for you. The state offers plentiful hiking, hunting, fishing, camping, and boating opportunities with a relatively mild climate year-round—as long as you don’t mind the rain. That being said, with a few metro areas to enjoy like Portland, Springfield, and Eugene, you’ll never be far from cultural opportunities. Plus, if you develop a taste for Pinot noir, you can sample all the world-class wine that the Willamette Valley has to offer.
Top Destination: Eugene
If you’re moving from Alaska, you might find the Portland metro area a little overwhelming. Eugene might be a better place to acclimatize. The town, home to the University of Oregon, often tops the list of best small towns in America for its laid-back lifestyle and leafy green streets. Additionally, word on the street is that Eugene offers that classic Pacific Northwestern friendliness that those coming from Alaska will appreciate.
Post-Alaska Destination #5: Florida
Considering we suggested earlier that Texas was the polar opposite of Alaska, a correction might be necessary. What could be farther from Alaskan life than residing in the Sunshine State? If the Alaska winters have been wearing on you, hot and humid Florida is waiting. Additionally, becoming a Florida comes with another perk for your bank account. Florida, like Alaska, has no personal income tax, so you won’t have to get used to additional bite out of your paycheck. That being said, no other state enjoys Alaska’s Permanent Fund Dividend, so you’ll have to say goodbye to that yearly check wherever you decide to go.
Top Destination: Miami
A transition from Alaska to Miami might leave some Alaskans shell-shocked. However, Miami currently boasts the fastest-growing job market in the country. If it is job opportunities you’re looking for, Miami might fit the bill. However, Florida also offers a diversity of experiences inside its state borders, so with a little research, you may be able to find just the kind of lifestyle you’re looking for.
Post-Alaska Destination #6: Arizona
If sunshine is what you crave, the state of Arizona offers over 320 sunny days yearly. Although that can be an attractive prospect for someone who’s lived through Alaska’s dark winters, it’s likely that Arizona’s strong job market, lower cost of living, and more rural living options are what draws Alaskans to the Grand Canyon State. In fact, overall, living in Arizona costs 16.0% less than living in Alaska, with food and groceries clocking in at a whopping 20% less. Additionally, if you dread moving the clocks twice a year for Daylight Savings, know that most of the state doesn’t observe the practice, choosing instead to operate on Mountain Standard Time (MST) year-round.
Top Destination: Mesa
Wallethub recently ranked Mesa among the best big cities in the United States. With the fifth-fastest-growing job market in the country, Mesa, AZ could offer job seekers plentiful opportunities. Additionally, outdoor enthusiasts will find plenty of options for hiking, cycling, fishing, camping, and more in and around the Mesa area. Additionally, with Phoenix a mere 30 minutes away, those craving some city time and all the opportunities that come with it (Diamondbacks baseball, anyone?) can get their fill.
Feeling Like It’s Time to Leave Alaska Behind?
The rugged wilderness of Alaska is a dream come true for some people. Others struggle to make the Frontier State feel like home. If you fall into the latter camp and decide Alaska isn’t for you, here’s some great news: If you plan to stay in the U.S., you’ve got 49 other states to choose from that offer just about every kind of lifestyle imaginable. With any luck, you’ll make a soft landing in your next spot and find that feeling of “home” you’ve been looking for.
Need help with your lower 48 move? We’d be happy to give you a hand! Just reach out to one of our experts in Alaska for a complimentary quote, and we’ll help you coordinate a safe, easy, and affordable move to your next destination. (And we’ll welcome you back if you decide to return!)