In the wake of coronavirus, many people are embracing significant life changes. Some have swapped careers. Others have modified their marital status by proposing, prompting a double-digit growth in engagement ring sales, according to the Washington Post.¹  

And still others have taken the opportunity to finally move to that bucket-list location they’d long dreamed of. With remote work becoming a reality for more and more workers, moving to an idyllic destination has become as simple as, “Why not?” 

Is Alaska that dream destination for you? If so, you might be interested to know where other recent Alaska residents are headed. We sifted through all the data to uncover the latest “hot spots” in Alaska, so you can see what areas have been trending over the last 10 years. 

By the way, we’ve done enough bush moves to recognize that not everyone who’s moving to Alaska wants to live where everyone else does. Some people dream of setting up house in a place where their nearest neighbor is miles and miles away. If that’s you, then feel free to use this list to avoid Alaska’s booming areas in favor of the quiet, serene location you’re looking for. 

However, if you’re someone who craves a deeper sense of community—along with the amenities you’ll find in more populated areas—our list can be handy for narrowing down where you’d like to make your home in Alaska.  Let’s dive into the data! 

The Fastest-Growing Cities in Alaska from 2010-Now 

First things first: Let’s get clear on our terminology. The word “city” means something different in Alaska than it does in many other places.  In fact, if you only consider cities with a population of 10,000+ in 2010, there’s only one city in Alaska with positive growth from 2010-2019: Juneau.

bar graph of juneau population 2010 to 2019

The population of Juneau grew from 31,276 in 2010 to 31,974 in 2019

No other city in Alaska with a population of more than 10,000 grew during that timeframe. In fact, Anchorage’s population declined by 1.3% during that same period and Fairbanks’ by 2.0%. Looking at these numbers, you might wonder what’s behind the trend. 

Are Alaskans simply moving out of bigger cities?

Or is Alaska’s overall population declining?  

The answer is a little of both. There were less-populated areas in Alaska that saw positive growth from 2010-2019. And in terms of the state population, Alaska did grow 3.17% from 2010-2019.v However, that doesn’t nearly compare to the U.S. population which increased 6.3%.  

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Even though Alaska’s population saw a moderate increase in the last 10 years, it lagged behind U.S. trends as a whole. If you’re the kind of person who wants to move to Alaska to get away from it all, you might think this is a good thing!  

Now, let’s open our scope a little and take in Alaska trends beyond its biggest cities. 

The Fastest-Growing Cities with 2,000+ Residents 

If we want to get a broader picture of where people are moving in Alaska, we’ll need to change our criteria. After all, only Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau had a population of more than 10,000 in 2010. As any Alaskan will tell you, if you only consider those three cities, you’ll miss a lot about Alaska.  

Instead, if we look at incorporated areas with a population of 2,000+ in 2010, the following 12 reveal themselves as the fastest-growing cities: 

2010 2019 Change
1  Wasilla city  7,886  10,838  37% 
2  Palmer city  5,982  7,456  25% 
3  Homer city  5,046  5,922  17% 
4  Soldotna city  4,188  4,719  13% 
5  Kenai city  7,137  7,807  9% 
6  Bethel city  6,100  6,586  8% 
7  Nome city  3,615  3,870  7% 
8  Wrangell + borough  2,371  2,502  6% 
9  Utqiagvik city  4,244  4,467  5% 
10  Ketchikan city  8,078  8,284  3% 
11  Seward city  2,727  2,796  3% 
12  Juneau city + borough  31,387  31,974  2% 

You’ll still see Juneau on this list, holding strong at #12. However, by taking a look at Alaska’s smaller population centers, we’ve added 11 more contenders to the list.   What’s bringing people to these areas? And what’s it like to live in them? Let’s run through the top six: 

1- Wasilla: For many, Wasilla offers the best of both worlds: amenities like a Walmart, a movie theater, and grocery stores, alongside the charm and camaraderie of a small-town setting. Wasilla is also only about an hour from Anchorage, so residents still have easy access to all that the city has to offer. 

2- Palmer: Located just a few miles from Wasilla, Palmer offers similarly easy access to Anchorage within a smaller community setting. Local stores dominate Palmer’s landscape, while Wasilla is home to the larger big box stores. Because the areas share many similarities, oftentimes people house hunt in both areas and decide based on which home they like better. 

3- Homer: If gorgeous scenery, great people watching, and plentiful fishing sound appealing, Homer could be the spot for you. Homer is also known as “the end of the road” since it lies at the very end of the U.S. highway system in Alaska. Although many people in Alaska are comfortable living in a place that’s only accessible by plane or boat, if living in a place that’s accessible by car is important to you, take a look at Homer. 

4- Soldotna & 5- Kenai: If Homer feels a little too remote, you might take a look at Soldotna and Kenai. The two cities are just 11 miles apart in the heart of the Kenai peninsula, about 150 miles from Anchorage. On the Kenai, you’ll find an outdoor paradise. If you love the outdoors—and fishing in particular—you’ll find yourself right at home in Soldotna or Kenai. In addition to these two hubs, you’ll also find Kasilof, Sterling, and Nikiski in the surrounding area. Each of these hubs offers its own advantages, so make sure you explore the whole area so you can find the right fit. 

6- Bethel: And now for something completely different! You’ll find Bethel more than 400 miles from Anchorage, and it’s only accessible by boat or plane. It also held the distinction of being the area with the most cabs per capita in the U.S.,viii which is understandable given how difficult it is to get private cars to the area. If you’ve always wanted to live in a place where living off the land is a real possibility—and you’re thrilled by the idea of a community where everyone knows each other—Bethel could be the right home for you. 

Maybe one of these six areas sounds like a place you’d like to hang your hat, or perhaps you’re looking for something a little different. Either way, the question you’ll want to ask yourself is… 

What Do You Want From Your Alaska Lifestyle? 

Alaska is one of those rare places where you’ll find a wide variety of lifestyles to enjoy. You’ve got a sizeable city in Anchorage, which allows you to enjoy all of the amenities of urban life. On the other end of the spectrum, you’ve also got plenty of opportunities for making a bush move, where you can relish complete peace and serenity. And, as this list proves, you’ll find plenty of places that fall in between, with access both to the state’s unspoiled beauty as well as modern conveniences.  

In other words, your ideal Alaska lifestyle is just a few decisions away. Chances are, you’ll be able to find a perfect match in the Last Frontier.  

Need some help making the move? We’ve done relocations all over the state, including remote and bush moves. Just let us know where you’re headed, and we’ll put together a custom plan, tailored to you. Get in touch today for a complimentary quote. 

i https://www.morneaushepell.com/permafiles/93167/mental-health-index-report-united-states-november-2020.pdf; https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2020/12/17/engagements-proposals-pandemic-coronavirus; https://www.census.gov/construction/nrs/pdf/newressales.pdf

ii https://www.census.gov/library/visualizations/interactive/fastest-growing-city.html

iii https://www.census.gov/library/visualizations/interactive/fastest-growing-city.html

iv https://live.laborstats.alaska.gov/pop/index.cfm

v https://live.laborstats.alaska.gov/pop/index.cfm

vi https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US,AK/PST120219

vii Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places in Alaska: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2019 (SUB-IP-EST2019-ANNRES-02); Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division; Release Date: May 2020

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