The lighter side of real estate

These Are The 10 Best Cities In Alaska

If you’re thinking about settling down in the Last Frontier State, use this ranking of the best cities in Alaska to strike municipal gold.

Natalie Grigson

Staff Writer

155 articles, 0 comments

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Here at the Movoto Real Estate Blog, we feel like we’re getting to know our country pretty well. After all, we’ve been from coast to coast and back again to find everything from the most exciting mid-sized cities and best college towns, to which city is the best for hipsters (it was Portland, by the way).

Today we’re continuing on our journey and uncovering the best places in the Last Frontier State. What did we find? Bears. Lots of bears. Oh, and a whole lot of really wonderful places to live. The best of them all were the 10 places below, starting with our winner, Sitka.

1. City and Borough of Sitka
2. Municipality of Anchorage
3. City and Borough of Juneau
4. City of Barrow
5. City of Fairbanks
6. City of Ketchikan
7. City and Borough of Wrangell
8. City of Bethel (tie)
8. City of Valdez (tie)
10. City of North Pole

As the state’s nickname suggests, Alaska is still pretty sparsely settled in some regions; but as our analysis shows, the 10 places above are not only populated, but simply booming. To find out just what makes these places so great, keep on reading. We’ll also give you a rundown of how we trekked these rugged lands to get our list.

How We Did It

We may be explorers at heart, here at Movoto, traversing the (virtual) U.S., journeying from place to place, and now, to the Last Frontier! …But we’re also pretty comfortable sitting behind our desks and letting the calculators do the work.

First of all, it’s unbiased, it’s factual, and based solely on the data; second of all, well, it is a lot warmer here in San Francisco than it is in Alaska. So, in order to come up with a Big Deal List like this one, we start by gathering up a list of places from the U.S. Census—in this case, the 26 places in Alaska with populations over 1,000. Then we look at each in terms of the following criteria:

  • Total amenities
  • Quality of life (cost of living, median home price, median rent, median household income, and student-teacher ratio)
  • Total crimes
  • Tax rates (sales tax and income tax)
  • Unemployment
  • Commute time
  • Weather (temperature and air quality)

From there, we ranked each place with a score from one to 26, with one being the best. We averaged these rankings into an overall Big Deal Score, again, with the lowest score being our winner, which in this case was Sitka.

For a complete list of our rankings, pop down to the bottom of the post. Otherwise, we’ll start with the best place in the Frontier State.


Sitka, AK

Source: Wikipedia user Andre Engels

This Baranof Island city and borough is well known as a cultural and historical center in Alaska, dating back to its beginnings under Russian rule and a different name, “New Archangel,” which, let’s be honest, is pretty fantastic.

Although its name has changed and today it’s thought of fondly for its university, the Kettleson Memorial Library, the Pioneer Home, and of course, the Baranof Island Brewing Company, it’s still just as big a deal, as our analysis shows.

Sitka came in at No. 1 for its high median home price of $309,800, a great indication of its desirability. Plus, with a crime rate of just 2,379 crimes per 100,00 people, an air quality score of just 13 (the lower the better), and an average summer temperature of 55 (pretty warm for Alaska), it’s no wonder residents are willing to pay a bit more for houses.

2. Anchorage

Anchorage, AK

Source: Wikipedia user Frank K.

Fun fact: Did you know that Anchorage is the northernmost city in the U.S. with a population over 100,000 people? Also, did you know that the scallop cakes from Sacks Cafe and Restaurant will absolutely change your life? Of course, neither of these things had anything to do with anchorage’s high ranking on our list. Just sayin’.

Where it did score well, though, was in its high number of amenities—the most out of all 26 places we looked at—and for its high overall score in quality of life. That was mostly due to its median household income of $73,004, plus median home and rent prices of $269,500 and $1,009, respectively.

Why are people willing to pay so much to live in Anchorage (scallop cakes, aside)? Perhaps it has something to do with the city’s unemployment rate of just 5.5 percent, average summer temperature of 56 degrees, or maybe, just maybe, it’s the fact that there is no sales tax here, where in some places in the state, like Homer, it’s 7.5 percent. That seems reason enough to pay a little extra for real estate, don’t you think?

3. Juneau

Juneau, AK

Source: Wikipedia user Wknight94

You know, we’ve all heard the puns and cheesy jokes about this place, but Juneau what? It’s actually pretty great. It’s home to the Alaska State Museum, the University of Alaska Southeast, Tracy’s King Crab Shack (which, if you haven’t gone yet, go immediately), and its beautiful downtown nestled at the base of a mountain. Oh, and it did well in nearly all of our criteria.

Where Juneau particularly shined, though, was in its high number of amenities and high quality of life score, due to some of the highest real estate prices in the state, plus a median household income of $75,517—20 percent higher than the rest of the state. Juneau also had one of the lowest unemployment rates in our analysis, at just 4.7 percent, topped only by our next city, Barrow.

4. Barrow

Barrow, AK

Source: Flickr user TravelingOtter

How many other places do you know of that celebrate Kivgiq, the Messenger Feast? Or Nalukata, the Blanket Toss Celebration? Or July 4, Independence Day? Okay, we’re all pretty much on board with that last one—but here in Barrow, it’s celebrated with unique games like the two-foot high kick and ear pull.

Barrow also ranked uniquely well in our analysis for the fourth highest overall quality of life score. That’s because here, the student-teacher ratio is the lowest in the state, at 12 to 1, and the median household income is the third highest at $78,250.

Of course, this being the northernmost city in the state, and one of the 10 most northern in the world, you’d be right to expect that it didn’t score so well for its weather (it scored the worst, in fact), but with the lowest unemployment rate in the state of just 4.7 percent, we think it more than makes up for a little nippy weather.

5. Fairbanks

Fairbanks, AK

Source: Wikipedia user JeffreyAllen1975

With a population of 31,535, Fairbanks is the largest city in the interior region of Alaska, and the second largest in the state after Anchorage. With that size comes much to do.

There’s the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the University’s museum, the Golden Days Parade, and, of course, some of the best French toast your mouth will ever know at The Cookie Jar. In fact, Fairbanks ranked second in the category of total number of amenities.

That’s not the only reason this city excelled. With an average summer temperature of 60 degrees (yes, six-zero), it is by far the warmest place on our lis. Also, along with Barrow and Anchorage, Fairbanks ranked No. 1 in the category of taxes.

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6. Ketchikan

Ketchikan, AK

Source: Wikipedia user Robert A. Estremo

Best known for the beautiful Misty Fiords National Monument, the Alaska Marine Highway System, and let’s be real, a halibut sandwich at Burger Queen worth moving for, Ketchikan clearly ranked pretty well in our analysis in terms of amenities. It also blew the other places away with its top score in weather, with an average summer temperature of 56 and an air quality of 13.

Warm(ish) summer temperatures and clean, clear air aren’t the only things that make living in Ketchikan feel pleasant; it also has one of the shortest average commute times, just 13 minutes.

7. Wrangell

Wrangell, AK

Source: Wikipedia user BeringStrait

Wrangell Island started out as a Tlingit community, and this fact still has a heavy influence on the city’s culture. In fact, residents are just a quick drive away from the Tlingit Chief Shakes Island and Tribal House Historic Monument and Petroglyph Beach State Historic Park.

If history isn’t your thing, though, there are plenty of other reasons to love Wrangell, including a cost of living index of just 107. Sure, that may be 7 percent higher than the U.S. average, but compared to say, Nome where it is 125, Wrangell looks like a steal.

Speaking of which, the low cost of living might just be the only type of stealing going on around here, because with a crime rate of just 1,410 crimes per 100,000, Wrangell came in at No. 1 in this criterion.

8. Bethel (tie)

Bethel, AK

Source: Flickr user U.S. Department of Agriculture

Certainly one of the most fun places on our list, Bethel is known for its annual dog sled race, the Kuskokwim 300, the Camai traditional Yupik dance festival, and the Bethel Fair each fall. But after looking at these numbers, we think Bethel might want to add “most affluent” to its list of bragging rights.

That’s because the median household income in this city was the highest in our analysis at $86,935. This, plus high median home and rent prices of $220,700 and $1,141, respectively, and a student-teacher ratio of just 13 to 1, easily put Bethel at No. 1 in terms of its overall quality of life score. If that wasn’t good enough, residents also have one of the shortest average commute times in our top 10: just 12 minutes.

8. Valdez (tie)

Valdez, AK

Source: Wikipedia user Jason Grote

Where Bethel excelled  in its quality of life score, Valdez made the top 10 for very different reasons. First of all, with just 2,299 crimes per 100,000 people, Valdez was one of the safest places on our list, plus, along with Anchorage, Barrow, and Fairbanks, came in with the best score for low taxes.

Of course, we do realize that these numbers are only a portion of this city’s charm. The other 50 percent—okay, maybe more like 60 percent—is in the absolutely stunning nature surrounding Valdez. Where else can you watch humpback and orca whales with a backdrop of towering mountains and glaciers, and then head off on one of the many trails to oggle at the summer wildflowers? Narnia doesn’t count.

10. North Pole

North Pole, AK

Source: Flickr user Amy Meredith

The final spot on our list wins approximately one million points for its awesome name. Well, no, not really; but if it were up to the author of this post, I would have thrown in at least a few, or at least a couple of cookies and milk.

North Pole, AK is every bit as charming as Santa’s hometown, with street names like Santa Claus Lane (with giant candy cane light poles, of course), the Santa Claus house, and other year-round Christmas merriment.

Perhaps it’s because there are so many worker elves, but North Pole came in with one of the lowest unemployment rates in our analysis, just 6.3 percent, plus a relatively low sales tax of 4 percent, making it the ninth best for taxes.

In fact, the only huge difference between this North Pole and that other one has got to be the weather; with an average summer temperature of 57 and air quality of 17, North Pole came in sixth in this category. Perhaps Santa could look into spending his summers here.

The Last Frontier

Like we said at the outset, we’ve spent a lot of time exploring the vast expanse of our country, learning about the different states and places, and which are best for what. Today we made it to the Last Frontier, and we must admit, learning about Alaska was, at times, like stepping into uncharted territory.

This state is just so unique—culturally, geographically, historically, and of course, weather-wise—that it’s no wonder people want to live in Alaska, and most especially in our top place, Sitka.

Best Places In Alaska

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posted on: April 25, 2014
238,358 views, 22 comments


  1. Tommy

    You have your facts mixed up lady. Sitka had a name for 10,000 years before a Russian ever set foot there. This is a Tlingit community nestled in the largest temperate rain forest in the world, which is also or territory. You really should credit the indigenous people of the land because, we are the people that really call this place home. While I concur this is the best place in Alaska, you’ve been misinformed about the background of this great land.

  2. anon

    Bethel is probably a lovely place to live if you enjoy being raped and living like you’re in the 18th century (except with four wheelers and cell phones).

    • ruth cantwell in response to anon

      Goes to prove…you can find ANYTHING YOU WANT TO BELIEVE, if you believe the intenet studes!
      BETHEL? really I lived there…will never live there again. This is all a BS ad to viewers looking for a ‘get away’ life of bliss. Bethel IS NOT the place!!

  3. Kevin

    This is so funny I thought it was an article in The Onion. Your statistics tell a fictional story. Get off your butts and come to Alaska. Oh and have fun getting to Barrow and Bethel, or sitting in some of the best weather in AK in Fairbanks !!!

  4. Michelle

    Holy moly- I thought a writer would do a bit better research than this! I’m still laughing at Ketchikan being ranked 1 in weather!!! And an 11 min commute in Wrangell? (If you walk to work – slowly) or Bethel? Bethel? Enough please.. You obviously have never been to these places- or most likely even the state. It’s such a bummer to see this stuff printed like fact. People- if you seriously want to move to Alaska … Besides anchorage or fairbanks – Think of living in a place that you wait for groceries, you can be alright with solitude – no shopping ladies,. bad weather, things that can eat you. ( that makes up for no crime) yes… One thing alaska will always have that makes up for any shortcomings- The most amazing people.

  5. chip

    This writer has never been here

  6. AK Flyer

    Bethel is a great place to live if you enjoy horizontal rain, fog, and no trees. Not to mention over worked cops and unreported atrocities beyond imagination and one of the highest suicide rates in the nation. Favorite youth past times include hanging out at the entrance to the AC store enjoying smokes and hassling all the people heading in to buy thier $14 gallon of milk. Vegetarians need not apply…..fresh produce is scarce.

    So much for research. Movoto just proved its accuracy in reporting.

  7. Jaclyn

    This is so grossly inaccurate that I am currently laughing my butt off.
    “First of all, it’s unbiased, it’s factual, and based solely on the data…” HAHAHAHAHA I am absolutely certain that Bethel has a way higher crime rate than many other places in Alaska it also sucks on weather! I am also completely taken aback that Palmer or Wasilla or any other Mat-Su Valley didn’t even make the cut.
    To whoever wrote this: you must come here to understand you can’t completely rely on your “not-so-accurate” data.

  8. Kammi Matson

    We are all laughing at your silly article.

  9. Alaskan Gal

    I was born and raised in Alaska and have lived in all 5 regions of the state. I love the valley and South East, and could agree with just about any ranking of communities with the exception of Bethel. It was a good experience to live in this community for a little more than a year, but it would never find its way to my top ten list.

  10. steve

    Total BS! just glad they didn’t mention POW, don’t want our secret getting out.

  11. Bernita Purdy

    I’ll have to agree with all those who said “You’ve never been to Alaska”. I lived in both Fairbanks and Sitka. As the first female Fish & Wildlife Protection Officer in the state, it was annoying to see that the crime rate is low ! ! !

  12. mms

    For those of you who currently live in Alaska or have in the past, do you agree Anchorage is one of the top few places to live in with a family?

  13. AudOneAK

    At mms: I have lived in Alaska since 1985. Kodiak, Kenai, Anchorage & Ninilchik, at 46 yrs old, wife, Mom of 3 (19, 14,13), all born in Soldotna (Kenai), I would NOT raise my kids in Anch. Crime has been escalating bad (gangs).

  14. beeak

    Wow total dreamer the person who said the North pole is nice!ha! Just the number 1 crime for mail stolen and mailbox damage, no jobs and oil tanted water, maybe she works for obama!!!

  15. Ria Swift

    It would have been sufficient had one or two or even three people saying the article was worthless but everybody? How about someone telling us, from the mouth of those who actually live there, where are the good places to live and why? Now, that would have been worth reading.

  16. AKlife15

    I agree with Ria Swift! I appreciate all the input and comments about the article, but for someone who is looking at possibly moving to the state of Alaska from the “lower 48” as all the rest of the US is referred to, I would like some actual information regarding good communities that isn’t based on WIKIPEDIA articles that somebody in CALIFORNIA read over and picked city names out of a hat to come up with this list, but guess what?! There is so little information online from actual people living in Alaska that it makes it seem as though no one living there actually gives a crap and any information that can be gotten has to come from less-than-reputable sources. Sure would be nice to get some articles written by people living there, instead of just snarky comments.

  17. Chell

    I was born and raised in Juneau, AK before moving down to Colorado for 5 years and ultimately moving back up to Juneau. I can’t speak for the other cities, but I know that this place isn’t a fairytale safe haven. It really all comes down to what area you live in the city and how much money you have to spend. If you want a safe comfortable rental, expect to pay at least $1800 a month for a 2 bedroom and don’t expect it to be updated in the last 20 years. The rental/housing market around here is absolute bullcrap. The shopping is poor and geared towards tourists, most people around here shop online, Amazon is a blessing. The restaurants here are so-so, not to many great places, and not much to choose from. If you want to live here, you have to be the type of person who can take a lot of gloomy weather. It can rain straight for a month, be prepared for that. Growing up, I thought the sky was normally white. I’m not saying this place is a complete loss, it’s just not for everyone. The people who have the most enjoyment usually are stay at home hermits or people who love to go out fishing, hunting, hiking all the time. Me, I am fine with just staying home on my off days. There many people here who are just openly friendly with that small town vibe, then there are people who are just miserable jerks and are rude to everyone. Most people that are here are because of work and intend to leave Juneau, then there are those who families have been here for generations like mine. No matter how crappy it seems, it will always be home to me. The crime rate has been increasing over the past decade, it’s really sad, mostly people who come up from out of state. When I was a kid, I could go walking out in the streets in the middle of the night and not have to worry, now I stress out about people stealing my mail and breaking into my apartment. Only because I am in a crappy part of town. There are nice neighborhoods for families, but be prepared to pay premium. My parents bought a house in the early 2000s for under 200k, which now goes for over 400k. Too bad they had to sell after the divorce. All I have to say about Juneau, is it is really gorgeous and has tons to offer as far as wildlife and outdoor activities go, but that is it. I would recommend moving to Washington over coming to Alaska. Also, the dividend is a joke, it’s pathetic to come up here just because you might get $2000. I stay here because I am native and get free medical, and a decent paying job, that is it. The only other information I can give you is that it’s school district is losing money because of extreme budget cuts from our crappy, heartless governor. The groceries are about the same as you pay in CA, but less fresh produce. Those people are snarky, because they do live here, get used to it.

  18. C Johnson

    Please, can someone help me ?. How is life really is in Bethel ?.I am thinking of moving soon. How can I get good accommodation ? What Can I do to save my money as I read everything is expensive?. How much does it cost to prepare personal income tax ?
    Please Advise me.

  19. Jjackson

    I was an eager beaver when I read this article til I got to the comments. It’s too bad that one cannot rely upon the author to do better research. I’ve never been to AK & after seeing these comments I don’t think I want to anymore. Maybe this website administrator will pay more attention to articles posted/writers next time.

  20. david

    i live about ninety miles south of Fairbanks. We moved here over two decades ago. There are many hardships associated with living in Alaska and they are pretty much what you would expect them to be, cold, isolated and expensive. i have lived in many places during my life and i hope to never leave Alaska. Many times still, i have the feeling of camping in a wooden tent. It pleases me to no end when a moose stops by my window to look in and see how the humans live. On the other hand, if an adult is not paying attention and walks between a mother and her calf, fatal error. Cool in a way though, as i’ve never herd of a child being killed by a moose, for the same offense. More are killed by moose than bear, fact. Never have i lived among a more weird, strange, eccentric, gracious, kind, forgiving, wonderful, Loving group of people than those who call Alaska their home. Not, those who are here for the buck, but call somewhere else home. There are many “junk piles” in Alaska; no one wants to throw anything, they may need, away. If you are the type that pays attention to your surroundings, strives to be self sufficient, but called to help others and not afraid of hardship, you will Love Alaska, because she can Love you back. Make connections before you come up. Leave your biases and prejudices there, open your mind and heart, or stay home. You may wish to bring thirty days worth of “emergency food” as 95% of Alaska’s food is imported over 3000+ mile long system that has proven to be fragile in the past. And for C Johnson, Tubo tax costs the same up here as it does down there. Unless you already have a situation, it doesn’t sound like Bethel, is for you. Just my advice, i hope it wasn’t too snarky.


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