Alaska is the ideal place to retire for the ultimate outdoor enthusiast. The state is covered in forests, rivers, and mountains; plus, it has the most coastline than any other state in the US. Though Alaska’s not everyone’s favorite retirement destination, the state’s smaller population is often another appealing aspect for those considering retirement to the Last Frontier.
But the lower population does not mean that Alaska lacks urban areas; it just has fewer than other states. For retirees looking for a balance between city life and the great outdoors, places like Anchorage, Juneau, or Fairbanks might be the place for you since all of the cities are surrounded by amazing wilderness.
Another significant benefit to those who are interested in retiring to Alaska is its tax-friendliness. Alaska does not have a state income, sales, inheritance, or estate tax. But that’s not all; Alaska residents who claim permanent resident status are eligible to receive the Permanent Fund Dividend.
Unfortunately, the state property tax in Alaska is higher than the national average. However, many Alaskan cities offer seniors the Alaska Homestead Exemption. The Alaska Homestead Exemption gives those 65+ an exemption on their home, sometimes as much as $150,000.
In addition to their higher property taxes, Alaska has a higher than average cost of living. But, with the various tax exemptions, the Permanent Fund Dividend, and Homestead Exemption, many retirees can live a comfortable retirement in Alaska. If you’re looking for something more affordable, Washington is a surprisingly good option and is one of the most tax-friendly states to retire in. Or, for somewhere warmer, what about Kansas?
Though some may look at the cold Alaskan winters as a drawback, many see it as an opportunity to take advantage of fun winter sports like snowshoeing, dog sledding, skijoring, skiing, and ice fishing.
And don’t let its rustic nature fool you into thinking that you won’t be able to find good healthcare. Alaska has several hospitals, medical centers, and clinics, especially along the southern coast.
Where to Retire in Alaska
Percent of Senior Population: 11.7%
Overall Population: 288,000
Anchorage is the ideal place for retirees looking to enjoy the outdoors and nature without giving up the conveniences of urban life. Anchorage is the largest city in Alaska, just shy of 300,000 people, with more than 10% of those being seniors.
Though Anchorage is considered a large city, it is not your typical metropolitan area. For example, the city sits at the base of the Chugach Mountains and Cooks Inlet, giving the city a beauty all of its own. And being so close to nature, it isn’t uncommon for residents to share their streets with porcupines, moose, and bears, something you would never see on the streets of NYC.
Plus, if you want to get out of the city and enjoy nature on its own turf, there is an abundance of options to choose from, including hiking, bird watching, whale watching, fishing, kayaking, and more. And getting away into nature is usually just a short drive away.
But, don’t let the local wildlife fool you into thinking Anchorage lacks in any of the urban amenities. Within city limits, retirees have numerous options to enjoy the art and culture scene, whether at the Anchorage Museum, The Girdwood Center for Visual Arts, or the Aurora Fine Arts Gallery. And if you are looking to take in a show, the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts, Atwood Center Concert Hall, and the Anchorage Community Center have you covered.
Anchorage has many restaurants to choose from, such as casual dining at the Snow City Cafe or the Red Umbrella Reindeer to fine dining at Jen’s Restaurant or Gingers. Plus, there is a variety of global cuisines like Pangea Restaurant And Lounge, myThai Downtown Restaurant, and Queen of Sheba Ethiopian restaurant.
In addition to the many attractions Anchorage offers, it is also one of the cities that offers the Alaska Homestead Exemption for seniors 65+. The exemption covers up to $150,000 of your home’s value.
And being a larger city, Anchorage has several medical centers and clinics to choose from, plus multiple full-service hospitals.
Percent of Senior Population: 8.8%
Overall Population: 30,917
Fairbanks is the second-largest city in the Last Frontier and sits in between Anchorage and the Arctic Circle. Though inland, residents have easy access to several lakes and two main rivers, the Tanana River and the Chena. Residents and visitors alike can enjoy various water sports such as kayaking, fishing, swimming, and boating.
Fairbanks is also home to the oldest university, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, which adds vibrancy and liveliness to the city. In addition to the college, Fairbanks has many art and culture venues such as the symphony orchestra, Fairbanks Light Opera Theatre, and the Riverfront Theatre. Fairbanks also has an abundance of museums to choose from like the:
- Museum of the North
- Fairbanks Ice Museum
- Pioneer Air Museum
- Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum
- Bouchard’s International Dog Mushing and Sled Museum
And, of course, Fairbanks has its share of outdoor adventures. Fairbanks has several hiking trails within city limits, making it easy for residents to stay active without going too far. And if you prefer to travel by bike, Fairbanks offers numerous biking opportunities both off-road and throughout the city.
But if you are up for a scenic drive, the Denali National Park is just 2 hours south of Fairbanks, making it perfect for a day outing or a relaxing weekend.
Fairbanks also has a nice variety of restaurants to choose from, including seafood, global cuisine, and cafe-style dining. If you enjoy a good craft brew, the city is home to multiple breweries and several taphouses, giving you plenty of opportunities to try the local beers.
And retirees will love the variety of easy access transportation options Fairbanks has to offer, including the MACS transit bus system, Dalton Highway Express, Alaska Railroad, and the Fairbanks International Airport.
Being one of the larger cities in Alaska, Fairbanks is home to the Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, a full-service hospital, plus multiple medical centers and clinics.
Percent of Senior Population: 14.7%
Overall Population: 8,284
Ketchikan, located near the southern tip of Alaska on Revillagigedo Island, is another college town, home to the University of Alaska Southeast-Ketchikan. The city’s economy is based on tourism, commercial fishing, and government services.
Ketchikan is the ideal retirement location for those looking to settle down in Alaska, in a more moderate climate. Because of its proximity to the Tongass National Forest, the largest temperate rainforest spanning 17 million acres, Ketchikan has some of the best weather Alaska has to offer, with temperatures ranging from 30 degrees in the winter to 60 degrees in the summer.
Being on an island, Ketchikan residents have plenty of opportunities to enjoy time out on the water, whether fishing, whale watching, or boating. Plus, having an abundance of local commercial fishing boats, you will always have plenty of opportunities to get fresh seafood.
Also, as a popular tourist location, Ketchikan has fun boutiques, art galleries, and shops. And Ketchikan’s cultural community is rich in the performing arts, including dance performances, live music, and theater. But it isn’t just the summer months you can enjoy live performances; during the winter, there are monthly performances called the Monthly Grind, put on in town.
Touristy towns like Ketchikan help support a variety of shops and the tourism focus also adds to the dining choices. The city has plenty of local seafood options like chowder houses, salmon, and crab. They also have restaurants specializing in Italian, Thai, BBQ, and American cuisine.
And though Ketchikan is a smaller community, it is home to Peace Health Ketchikan Medical Center, which offers various services, including emergency, orthopedics, and general surgery.
Percent of Senior Population: 14.5%
Overall Population: 7,807
Another coastal town, Kenai, sits southwest of Anchorage on the Kenai River. Kenai has fondly been referred to as Alaska’s playground and known for its world-renowned salmon fishing.
Kenai received its nickname for being a fun, relaxed town full of fun adventures and events. Some of the more exciting experiences Kenai offers include bear watching, whitewater rafting, and kayaking along the glacier’s edge. For more relaxing but equally enjoyable outings, you can try dog sledding, wildlife cruises, and horseback riding.
Also, as a tourist hot spot, Kenai offers more traditional hobbies like golfing, fishing, and bird watching. And like all good tourist spots, Kenai has several gift shops, galleries, and specialty stores perfect for an afternoon shopping trip. Dining options are not lacking in Kenai either with steakhouses, fine dining, and casual dining.
Music lovers can enjoy outdoor music at Music in the Park every Wednesday night throughout the summer months. Plus, Kenai hosts a variety of events such as Run for the River, parades, fairs, and festivals, keeping Kenai a lively place from June through August.
Although Kenai does not have its own hospital, there are several clinics and an urgent care center. And the nearest hospital is only about 15 minutes away in nearby Soldotna.
Percent of Senior Population: 12.7%
Overall Population: 2,852
Though the smallest town on our list, Sward has a strong senior population, likely due to the many local amenities and outdoor adventures surrounding the Seward area. It is located just two hours south of Anchorage, allowing residents easy access to urban amenities.
But it’s Seward’s location along Ressurection Bay near Kenai Fjords National Park that makes this town such an attractive place to retire. Seward’s local harbor brings in an abundance of fresh seafood and allows residents and visitors easy access to whale watching and ocean fishing. Plus, Resurrection Bay is sheltered enough that kayakers can enjoy hours of fun exploring the bay and taking in the local wildlife.
And when you are looking for drier adventures, the town of Seward offers plenty of boutiques, galleries, and specialty stores. Also, the Alaska Sealife Center is located in downtown Seward along the coast. The center provides private tours and encounters with the wildlife residents. Additionally, Seward has a variety of eateries and a local brewery, the Seward Brewing Company.
Another benefit of this town is that it is a very walkable town in the warmer seasons, so those looking to ditch their car and head out on foot or bicycle can easily hit the city and leave their vehicle behind.
Retirees looking for volunteer opportunities to stay active and connected with their community will have their pick, including the Seward Library, the Sealife Center, Wildlife Conservation Center, and more.
Seward has everything any outdoorsy retiree could want, including the Providence Seward Medical Center that offers emergency services, a rehabilitation center, and a swing bed program for transitional care.
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