Whenever I’m asked where I grew up in Alaska, I always clarify: “Eagle River, outside Anchorage”. The reality is that Eagle River is part of Anchorage – and over the years I’ve come to have a great appreciation for the larger “hometown” I grew up exploring.
Anchorage is Alaska’s largest city (spoilers!) and you might be curious to learn more about the city. Whether you’re planning a trip or just looking for trivia questions to add to a family quiz night – read on. I’ve dug deep to pull together some of the most fascinating Anchorage facts and statistics out there. From geography and weather to life and pop culture, these facts about Anchorage, Alaska will make you want to visit someday.
Featured photo courtesy of Frank Flavin
Anchorage Geography Facts
The best place to start learning about Anchorage is with the geography: understanding where Anchorage is on a map and on the globe. Read on for Anchorage facts about geography that help you have a better sense for where Anchorage is – literally.
- Anchorage is 149° west – that means Anchorage is as far west as Honolulu, Hawaii!
- At 61° north, Anchorage is farther north than Oslo, Norway, Stockholm, Sweden, Helsinki, Finland, and Saint Petersburg Russia.
- Unsurprisingly, Anchorage is the northernmost city in the U.S. with a population of over 100,000. (We’ll come back to the population later…)
- Anchorage receives up to 22 hours of daylight during the summer months.
- On a clear day, you can see six different mountain ranges from Anchorage: The Alaska, Aleutian, Chugach, Kenai, Talkeetna, and Tordrillo ranges.
- You can see Denali from Anchorage on a clear day. Denali is located 130 miles north this 20,320-foot peak is the tallest mountain in North America. (Read other facts about Denali!)
- The Municipality of Anchorage stretches over 2,000 square miles. That’s larger than the entire state of Rhode Island – and nearly the size of the state of Delaware.
- Anchorage sits on a triangular peninsula surrounded by the Cook Inlet, including Turnagain Arm and Knik Arm.
- Cook Inlet is the northernmost reach of the Pacific Ocean.
- One of the highest tidal variations in the world – 32 feet – occurs in Turnagain Arm. This is large enough that during the right conditions, you can go surfing in Anchorage!
Anchorage Facts about Weather
After getting oriented on the map, many people wonder a lot about the weather in Anchorage. Here are some weather facts about Anchorage – and they might surprise you!
- Anchorage doesn’t get as cold as you might imagine. The main body of the Pacific Ocean (which begins only a few hundred miles away) moderates the area’s climate.
- Anchorage summer daytime temperatures average between 55-78°F.
- Daytime averages in Anchorage during the winter range from 5-30°F.
- The coldest temperature ever recorded in Anchorage was -38°F. That’s below zero. This record occurred in February of 1947.
- The hottest it has ever been recorded in Anchorage was 90°F, in the summer of 2019.
- Anchorage averages 75.5 inches of annual snowfall.
- During the winter of 2011-2012, Anchorage received a record of over 11 feet of snow.
- Like much of Alaska, Anchorage was once under a glacier… about 20,000 years ago!
- Today, there are 50 glaciers within a day’s drive of Anchorage.
- Anchorage is close to several active volcanoes, and there have been eruptions as recently as 2009.
Anchorage History Facts
Next up, learn about Anchorage’s history. These Anchorage facts will start with the Alaska Native people and take you up to the present day (and even beyond!).
- The original inhabitants of Anchorage were the Dena’ina, a tribe of Athabascan Indians that lived in the area for more than 1000 years.
- English explorer Captain James Cook first explored the Anchorage area in 1778.
- Settlement in the Anchorage area started in 1914. The area was chosen as the site of a railroad-construction port for the Alaska Railroad.
- Construction of the Alaska Railroad in Anchorage began in 1915. The railroad headquarters was a tent city of workers, transforming Anchorage into a frontier town.
- The first Anchorage residents called their shanty town “The White City,” although it bore little resemblance to its Chicago namesake.
- Anchorage was incorporated on November 23, 1920.
- Elmendorf Air Force Base and Fort Richardson were constructed during WWII. The two military bases combined to form Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in 2005.
- The first hospital in Anchorage was built in 1937.
- On March 27, 1964 the Good Friday Earthquake hit Anchorage. In Alaska, 115 people died as a result of that earthquake.
- The Good Friday Earthquake lasted 5 minutes and measured at 9.2 on the Richter scale. It’s the strongest earthquake ever recorded in North America.
- In 1974, Congress actually approved moving Alaska’s capital from Juneau to Anchorage. Voters declined to fund the construction of a capitol building so the move never took place.
- Anchorage was the U.S. candidate for hosting the 1992 and 1994 Winter Olympics. This is the only time the Winter Olympics has occurred just two years apart.
- Anchorage also put in a bid to host the 2026 Winter Olympics, but the bid was not successful.
Facts About Anchorage Life
Curious what life is like in Anchorage? I grew up in Eagle River, which is part of the Municipality of Anchoarge! Here are some facts about living in Anchorage.
- Anchorage is Alaska’s largest city. It is home to nearly 300,000 people, roughly 40% of the Alaska population.
- There are approximately 100 languages spoken in the Anchorage School District. After English, the primary languages are Spanish, Hmong, Samoan, Tagalog, and Yup’ik.
- Anchorage’s Mountain View is among the nation’s most diverse communities. (The second- and third-most diverse neighborhoods are also in Anchorage, with the fourth being in Queens, NY.)
- Anchorage residents are serious about cross-country (Nordic) skiing. The city has over 130 miles of ski trails.
- Anchorage is home to more than humans: bears, moose, wolves, lynx, foxes, and other species of wildlife live within Anchorage.
- Speaking of bears, there are 250 black bears and 60 grizzly bears in Anchorage.
- Moose are also a common sight in Anchorage: more than 1,500 moose live in the Anchorage area. Sometimes traffic comes to a complete stop for a moose crossing the road.
- Anchorage’s Fur Rendezvous (also called “Fur Rondy”) festival began in 1935 for the return of miners and trappers coming into town to sell mid-winter goods and resupply.
- Anchorage has another more well-known winter event: the Iditarod. On the first Saturday in March each year, the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race occurs in downtown Anchorage.
- The Iditarod runs 1,049 miles to Nome (read more about the Iditarod).
- Anchorage’s Lake Hood is the busiest seaplane base in the world, On busy summer days, more than 1,000 takeoffs and landings can happen.
- Anchorage has more espresso stands per person than anywhere in the U.S.
Anchorage Industry Facts
It’s also important to understand how the Anchorage economy works. Tourism is an important industry – but there’s even more that makes Anchorage a valuable place for business and in the U.S. economy.
- The major industries in Anchorage include government and military, petroleum, and tourism. Tourism provides 10% of jobs in Alaska.
- Until the oil boom in the 1950s, the military served as Anchorage’s primary industry.
- Anchorage is a 9.5-hour flight from almost 90% of the industrialized world, making it a major air port too.
- Over 95% of the freight that comes through Alaska arrives in Anchorage.
- 26% of international air freight tonnage that arrives in the U.S. passes through Anchorage’s Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. That makes the Anchorage Airport the world’s fifth-busiest cargo airport by tonnage.
Oher Curious Anchorage Facts
To end on a quirky note, here are a few other funky Anchorage facts I discovered during my research.
- Anchorage has featured in several movies over the years, including Into the Wild (2007), Big Miracle (2012), and The Frozen Ground (2013). Other movies and television shows have been filmed in and around Anchorage, Alaska too.
- With such a vivid history, it should be no surprise that there are some great ghost stories in Anchorage. The most popular spot for paranormal activity in Anchorage is the Wendy Williamson Auditorium at the University of Alaska Anchorage. It’s haunted by at least six different specters.
- Anchorage’s West High School also has a haunted auditorium too. I took my SAT here back in high school!
Do you know any other facts about Anchorage? Let me know in the comments if you have any questions or join me in my Alaska Travel Tips Facebook Community!
Planning to Visit Alaska this Summer?
My free Alaska eBook covers all the essential travel info you need to plan a safe, unforgettable trip in 2021.