The city of Anchorage in Alaska at night during winter season, one of the best cities in Alaska

5 Best Cities in Alaska in 2023 (A Local’s Picks)

As one born and raised in Alaska, I’ll help guide you to the absolute best cities in Alaska!

Media often depicts this state as a wild, remote place. But many Alaskan cities are modern and full of a variety of things to do. At the same time, these destinations’ lower populations hold a strong sense of community and local charm. 

In this article, I’ll overview the most popular cities in Alaska, including several of my personal favorite attractions. 

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5 Best Cities in Alaska


Alaska’s largest city is the best place to start your Alaska adventure.

Aerial view of the Anchorage city in Alaska at sunset
Anchorage is home to over one-third of the state’s population

🏠 Population: 288,121 | 📍 Google Maps | Website | Best Time to Visit Anchorage | Best Hotels in Anchorage |👉 Browse Hotels in Anchorage on Booking

As Alaska’s largest city, Anchorage is the first stop for almost all travelers to the Last Frontier. The airport has a terminal for the Alaska Railroad, which makes it easy to access several of the best places to visit in Alaska

Local travel is also convenient from the airport, as Anchorage’s bus system stops here. If you prefer personal travel, several car rental companies operate out of the airport as well.  

For a smaller city, Anchorage has a diverse dining scene. Sample local artisan coffee at one of SteamDot coffees several locations. For a headier brew and great eats, check out 49th State Brewing Co. in downtown Anchorage. Visit the Yak and Yeti Cafe, a casual Himalayan restaurant and a personal favorite, or even consider taking a guided food tour

There are many unique things to do in Anchorage. Learn more about Alaska’s Native cultures at the Anchorage Museum and the Alaska Native Heritage Center. The 5th Avenue Theater is a great place to catch a play or concert, as is the Moose’s Tooth TheaterPub. There are also plenty of gift shops to buy unique Alaskan memorabilia for friends and family.

For a little exercise, hit the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail or one of the city’s many parks — just watch out for moose! Moose are aggressive herbivores. It’s always best to keep a respectful distance and follow the Alaska Department of Transportation’s moose-safety pointers

Keep this guidance in mind when taking day trips around Anchorage, too. One of the best is the Matanuska Glacier, which offers one of the most accessible glacier treks in Alaska. There’s also the Alyeska Resort south of Anchorage, which combines great ski slopes and spa services. 


Cold winters, hot springs, and warm locals make this city well-worth visiting.

Aerial view of Downtown Fairbanks before night time in Alaska
Summer evening aerial view of downtown Fairbanks

🏠 Population: 32,702 | 📍 Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Hotels in Fairbanks on Booking

As the northernmost of Alaska cities, Fairbanks is the best city to visit for northern lights viewing. Located in the heart of Alaska’s Interior region, this city sees frigid winters. Consider traveling here in summer, one of the best times to visit Alaska. In fact, Fairbanks has the warmest summers of any city in the state. 

This city began as a mining settlement and boomed upon the discovery of gold. Fairbanks’ gold-mining history, combined with the friendliness of the locals, gave it the nickname “the Golden Heart City.”  If you want to feel the lingering frontier spirit of Alaska, Fairbanks is one of the best places to go.

For a break from the summer heat, chill for a little while in the Aurora Ice Museum. The University of Alaska’s Museum of the North offers an endless array of natural artifacts. Exhibits cover everything from prehistory to modern times. For another step back in time, join a tour along the Chena River on an old-fashioned riverboat.

Take a dip in the Chena Hot Springs located east of Fairbanks. The resort also offers full spa services. The Chena River State Recreation Area is excellent for wildlife viewing. Other great activities in Fairbanks include dog sledding and snowmobiling tours of the surrounding area.

The Pump House offers good grub and views of the Chena River. The Jazz Bistro offers a splash of Cuban and Latin-American cuisine in the far north. As with anywhere in Alaska, there are also plenty of places to get coffee in Fairbanks.

With long summer days, several late-night events take place in broad “daylight”. On the summer solstice, the city of Fairbanks hosts the annual Midnight Sun Game baseball game. Shortly after the solstice, the Midnight Sun Festival takes place. Dozens of performances from 12 PM to 12 AM occur on three different stages. 

👉 Pro Tip: The long daylight hours in summer can make getting to sleep tricky for some people. It would be a good idea to include a sleeping mask in your packing list for an Alaskan vacation. 


Stunning glaciers and hushed forests encircle Alaska’s state capital.

View of a man admiring the Nugget Falls in Juneau
Nugget Falls near Mendenhall Glacier outside Juneau

🏠 Population: 31,973 | 📍 Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Hotels in Juneau on Booking 

If you want to experience the milder southeast, Juneau is the place to go! Alaska’s capital city boasts so many things to do, including several museums dedicated to Alaska’s frontier history. The State Capitol Building is open for visits most weekdays as well. Take the Tramway to the top of Mount Roberts for a great bird’s-eye view of the city. 

If you’re looking to get off the beaten path without roughing it too much, Juneau is a great hub for visiting smaller towns in Alaska. Though, the forests, mountains, and islands here are perfect for hiking, kayaking, and camping. The city sits along the territory of the Tongass National Forest, and local woodlands turn emerald green in the summer.

Twelve miles north of the city, Mendenhall Glacier, famed for its ice caves, inches its way towards the sea. The shifting of the glacier means that the ice caves will not always be accessible. Though, you might have better luck by taking a guided Mendenhall Glacier tour.

Further north, the Juneau Ice Field feeds several glaciers in the region. The Tracy Arm Fjord is another of the breath-taking natural wonders near Juneau. 

Departing from ports in Seattle and Canada, most cruise ships visiting southeast Alaska make a stop in Juneau. No roads connect to Juneau, so you will need to take a plane or a boat to get here. The Alaska Marine Highway System is a great money-saving alternative to cruises. 

The waters around the city are great for whale watching tours. Besides whales, other marine wildlife such as sea otters and a wide variety of seabirds call the Juneau area home.


History buffs and nature lovers will fall in love with “the Paris of the Pacific”.

View of the St. Michael’s Church from afar in Downtown Sitka
St. Michael’s Church in downtown Sitka (photo: Iryna Makukha / Shutterstock)

🏠 Population: 8,407 | 📍 Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Hotels in Sitka on Booking

Sitka offers the best glimpses into Alaska’s Russian heritage. This settlement was once the capital of Russia’s colonies in America and some buildings from this period survive to this day. The most picturesque, St. Michael’s Church, stands in downtown Sitka with its tower pointing skyward.

Also, consider a visit to the Russian Bishop’s House. Built in 1842, it served as the residence for the local prelate of the Orthodox Church. The town also commemorates the transfer of Alaska from Russia to the United States with a special gusto each October 17th. Festivities include historical re-enactments, parades, and an elegant period costume ball.

Nature lovers will enjoy a visit to the Alaska Raptor Center, a rehabilitation program for the 49th state’s bird of prey population. The Fortress of the Bear offers a similar experience, but with brown bears. 

Sitka also has several excellent hiking trails leading through the forests surrounding the town. The Sitka National Historic Park (also known as Totem Park) features a collection of totem poles. 

Harbor Mountain Brewing Company offers refreshing local brews. Restaurants throughout the town incorporate locally-sourced ingredients, especially seafood. Beak Restaurant is popular with locals and tourists alike. Sitka preserves Slavic culinary traditions at Sitka Pel’Meni, famous for the dumplings, or pelmeni, of the same name.

👉 Don’t Miss: From outdoor adventures to cultural experiences, these Sitka tours are sure to impress! 


Alaska’s southernmost city teems with totem poles and local charm.

View from the Totem Bight State Park under the blue sky in Ketchikan, Alaska
Totem poles and clan houses at Totem Bight State Park

🏠 Population: 8,037 | 📍 Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Hotels in Ketchikan on Booking

Don’t let the small size of Ketchikan fool you — there’s a lot to do and see here! Many people come here on cruise ship tours. The limited time in port doesn’t always allow enough time to see the local attractions, though. 

For example, cruise ships may offer a glimpse of the Misty Fjords National Monument. For those interested in hiking, there’s much more to see and much closer looks to be had!

Ketchikan’s charming Creek Street area stands built on pillars over Ketchikan Creek. Gift shops and restaurants abound here, and during the summer months, salmon swarm up the creek. 

Because of the abundance of these fish, Ketchikan boasts of being “The Salmon Capital of the World.” Several local fishing charter tours in this city give you the chance to put that claim to the test.

One of Ketchikan’s quirky, but undeniably fun attractions is the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show. Ketchikan also hosts its own summer events on the solstice. One such attraction is the “Only Fools Run at Midnight” race which starts at 12 AM every June 24th.

Ketchikan is one of the best places in Alaska to see totem poles—the iconic statues depicting bears and other wildlife. To learn more about totem poles and the tribes who carved them, check out the Totem Heritage Center and Totem Bight State Park.

👉 Read Next: 11 Best Places to Live in Alaska

FAQs About Alaskan Cities 

What major cities are in Alaska?

Major cities in Alaska include Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau. Sitka and Ketchikan are minor cities.

What is the prettiest city to visit in Alaska?

Many visitors regard Ketchikan as the prettiest city to visit in Alaska. Its charming Creek Street area and beautiful surroundings make it an unforgettable place.

How many home rule cities are in Alaska? 

There are twelve home rule cities in Alaska. Home rule cities are incorporated cities that are allowed certain decision-making privileges by the state’s Constitution.

How many first class cities are in Alaska?

There are nineteen first class cities in Alaska. A first class city is a city with more than 400 permanent residents. 


Whether you’re looking to visit or relocate, I hope you’ve gotten some good insights into these cities in Alaska! 

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