Duck down a side street away from the cruise ship clichés of T-shirt vendors and shops selling chocolate moose-poop ice cream, and Anchorage’s true (and perfectly curated) Pacific Northwest character reveals itself.
It may be the most remote entry on our best American cities list, but that doesn’t mean Anchorage is off the beaten path. And Alaska’s fun and funky port city, which earned a #18 ranking for Place, isn’t just a stopover for an increasing number of cruise ships—it’s also a destination for nature-lovers, art buffs, beer enthusiasts and folks who like their urban experience with a dash of the rustic, capped off on a clear day by views of North America’s tallest peaks.
With a #12 ranking for Prosperity, Anchorage capitalizes on its one-of-a-kind location, and the growth of tourism, along with a continually strong healthcare sector, has helped make up for the decline of oil industry employment. Salaries still tend to be higher in Alaska, which—along with oil dividends from the Alaska Permanent Fund, paid out annually to every state resident—helps to earn Anchorage a #2 ranking for Household Income and makes up for the metro area’s higher-than-average cost of living.
Anchorage is a prime base for outdoor adventure, from skiing to salmon fishing to kayaking down scenic rivers—where, as likely as not, you could be the only human for miles (which is why the city earns a #6 ranking for Parks & Outdoors). And while the sun sets early in winter, nature offers excellent compensation with regular displays of the Northern Lights.
Locals love to talk about that time a moose walked down the street or a grizzly showed up in the back yard. But in addition to wild visitors, the city’s Neighborhoods, which earn a #4 ranking, are home to a surprisingly cosmopolitan population (Anchorage schools are the most diverse in the nation, and the city earns a #70 ranking for Foreign Born).