Living in Alaska certainly has its perks, like the long summer days and beautiful scenery, but it pays for those boons with its isolation. (Image via Hilton Garden Inn)
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Living in Alaska certainly has its perks, like the long summer days and beautiful scenery, but it pays for those boons with its isolation. (Image via Hilton Garden Inn)

Alaska’s only real city is the chillest summer spot, but come winter, you may find yourself frozen in more ways than one.

I was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska, the city in Alaska that I like to call the only city in Alaska. Having spent the first 21 years of my life here, I’ve certainly experienced my fair share of both merits and demerits to living in the penultimate state added to America.

While living in Anchorage definitely means a different lifestyle than living in the more rural areas of the wilderness, here are the perks and drawbacks I’ve come to know after living my entire life in the Last Frontier state.

The Perks

1. Chill, Diverse People

Anchorage, Alaska, has the one of the most diverse populations in terms of ethnicity and culture in all the U.S., even beating out Queens, New York; Mountain View, a neighborhood in Anchorage, is the most diverse area whole state. The heterogeneity of the population is due to the large presence of Alaska Natives, which many other states lack. Still, the overall demographic is majority white, in large due to the multiple military bases that bring people from all around the world to Anchorage.

Growing up, three of my best friends were Alaska Native, all from different groups. Having friends who were of a different race from me helped me to see beyond color and realize how diverse the world actually is. If you come to visit or live in Anchorage, you’ll definitely see multiple cultures interact.

Also, people in Anchorage invented the word chill. Seriously, you’ll see wealthy people walking into a fancy restaurant wearing jeans and t-shirts. Actually, there are not that many “fancy” restaurants to begin with. Alaskans don’t really care about fashion, whether they’re rich or broke, young or old. Of course, there are exceptions; there are still cute boutiques people can shop at, but clothing isn’t really a symbol of status in Alaska like it is in other places in the U.S. The only clothing item we really care about are getting the best insulated work boots.

People walking down an Anchorage street. (Image via Recover Alaska)

When I traveled to New York and stayed in Manhattan, I went to this one fancy restaurant that I hadn’t realized was fancy, since the outside looked like a rundown diner, but once I entered and saw men in seriously fine tailored suits, I was taken aback. I felt completely underdressed and out of place. That feeling of not belonging to a certain class isn’t as prominent in Alaska — yes, there will be more wealthy people and more working-class people, but you wouldn’t necessarily notice that based on clothing.

The entirety of the state has a very laid-back feel to it, so if you love an easy-going flow, then Alaska is one of the best places for you to live. However, if you love the bustling pace of New York, you might go a little stir crazy in Anchorage.

2. The Summer Sunshine 

Come summer solstice, Anchorage gets 19.5 hours of sunlight in a day. That’s a good reason to visit. The beautiful sunshine is accompanied by moderate temperatures, generally in the sixty-degree range, making it comfortably warm to spend time hiking or riding bikes outside without dying of heat exhaustion or shivering your butt off.

If you love outdoor activities, then Alaska is the place to be. You can hike the many trails throughout the state, as well as visit glaciers by foot or boat, and go zip lining over glaciers and rivers. During the winter, if you live to snowboard or ski, then Alaska should be a no-brainer.

The Drawbacks

1. Long Nights and Cold Winters

This one should be obvious. While Alaska has diverse geographical regions that can have extremely different climates at times, Alaska is still known for their long winters and nights no matter where you go.

Anchorage is no exception. Just as Anchorage gets beautiful sunshine almost all day in the summers, in the winters, the opposite happens, and darkness and cold take over. During the winter solstice, Anchorage only gets around five hours of sunlight, meaning there are 19 hours of pitch-black sky.

As for the temperature, Anchorage is on the milder side of extreme, with degrees in the twenties during the winter months. That’s not so bad compared to other places in Alaska, which can drop below fifty degrees Fahrenheit, but it is still cold; combine that with the darkness, and Anchorage isn’t always the happiest place on earth in winter.

Seasonal affective disorder, which is a type of depression related to the changes of the seasons, can be a real problem during the winters, causing residents of Alaska to have less energy and feel sadder once snow comes. I know that my mood is always dampened when I see the days grow shorter and the inches of snow get higher.

2. The Distance from the Lower 48

Shipping can be a bitch. Residents of Alaska know that not all companies ship products up to Alaska, which can make obtaining the new clothes you ordered a pain. Not only is shipping annoying, but so is the lack of attention Alaska receives from artists and authors. Anchorage never really had a large venue for famous singers or musicians to perform at, so the city rarely hosted large acts until recently, when the Alaska Airlines Center was built.

Large acts finally have a place to perform, but artists can’t exactly drive their tour buses to Alaska without having to go through Canada, and since flying up can be more expensive, we still don’t see many artists come to the largest state in the U.S. and show off their talent. I was always sad when I saw that a famous singer posted their tour schedule date and Alaska was never included. Of course, if concerts aren’t really your thing, then this isn’t really a problem.

3. City Life Is Nil

While Anchorage is Alaska’s largest city, I call “city living” in Anchorage relative. While there are things to do, like plays, museums and local events like concerts, the city life is fairly slow compared to larger cities in the U.S. If you love to go bar hopping, you’re gonna have to walk around town quite a bit before getting to the next bar, as Anchorage is very spread out.

The most active place is the downtown area, where a large event happens in the center square on New Year’s with fireworks, and local artists perform during the summer solstice festival, where people can get a lot of free food. But other than the few events that happen each year, there isn’t really much else going on. Again, there are local plays and musicals (there’s a fine arts building downtown) and malls to go shopping and plenty of bars, but the overall city life is lackluster compared to other metropolises.

Overall, Anchorage can be the perfect place or the worst place to live, depending on who you are. But if you want to visit a state that is unlike any other in the U.S., then Alaska is waiting for you.

Writer Profile

Megan Schnese

University of Alaska, Anchorage

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