My husband, Lee, is in the military, and we got the opportunity to live in the Last Frontier back in 2015. It was the best decision we ever made. I’m not going to lie, when we found out the news I was terrified. Alaska is so far up north. I thought Eagle River, the little town we called home, was going to be tiny. I didn’t think there were going to be grocery stores, department stores, Starbucks, or any well-known food chains. I thought we were going to have to catch everything by hand and forage all the vegetables. Then I got to thinking, holy s*** winter. What are we going to do in winter? It’s going to stay dark for six months out of the year. I’m not gonna survive. How are we going to keep warm? These were the legit questions I asked Lee, and then when we got there other military spouses thought the same thing. I wasn’t alone in freaking the f*** out.
So let me help you relax and explain the big state of Alaska.
13 things you need to know if you are moving to Alaska. You might even meet Elvis. (And I should point out that we lived close to Anchorage. The experiences may be completely different if you are going to be stationed at Eielson AFB in Fairbanks.)
The Earth Shakes
A lot. I would suggest thinking about a plan for when Alaska decides to drop-kick your nuts. And I’m not saying this could happen, I’m saying it will happen. There are earthquakes and I would argue there are more in Alaska than there are in California. I’m only telling you this because we did not know how active it was when we got there. Because we were new to the area, we probably felt one almost every day when we first got there. But I can ease your mind and tell you that you will get used to them, I promise. The only ones you will feel are the big ones, and there’s a whole shebang on epicenters and aftershocks you will learn when you get there. You don’t need to be scared, just prepared.
This one is fun because you get to watch the snow come closer and closer down the mountain. That’s when you will know winter is right around the corner. This usually happens in September. I loved this time of the year.
Fireweed Will Predict Winter
Alaska has a beautiful flower that will tell you when winter is coming. When the blooms go all the way to the top of the flower, that means winter is very soon, and you need to prepare everything for winter.
You will need winter tires for your vehicles. This means you will need two sets of tires for each vehicle. Usually, by October, it’s mandatory to have winter tires placed on your vehicles. It’s smart to switch them in September. Sometimes the first snow of the season will happen this month.
Fall is gorgeous in this part of the continent. It may be brief and short, but the start of fall is usually August. This is when you will notice termination dust, and the nights will start to get colder. Also, the sun is at the perfect angle where the days are amazing. This always reminds me of Christmas in Texas. This is the perfect time of the year to get outside and go hiking. The trails are incredible when all the trees are changing. The leaves there get this vibrant yellow that will hurt your eyes they are so bright. Autumn was, by far, the most beautiful magical time of the year when we lived there.
Eeeeek! The coffee. Alaska loves coffee. You will see little coffee stands everywhere there. And the coffee is delicious. Kaladi Brothers is amazing, and if you don’t want any Alaskan roasted coffee, you can go to Starbucks. Thankfully Starbucks is everywhere there also. There is nothing better than having a warm cup of coffee after a day of hiking in the snow and/or sledding down the local hill. There’s so much coffee.
Ah. Winter. The longest season in Alaska. I promise that after you live there for some time, you will become a pro in driving on ice and snow. The snow usually stays on the ground for months. Sometimes you will get a brief warm-up where it will hit 40, and all that snow turns to ice. Yeah, that’s fun. But I promise the driving is not that bad. You just have to go slow. Like super slow. You need to creep. You will have to get yourself some snow boots and pants. This is necessary. Sometimes the snow will come up to your knees, and if you have regular pants on you will freeze. Hyperthermia is a real thing there. A few times I almost got hyperthermia. Once I was hiking with Lee to Exit Glacier. This was in April, and the snow was still on the ground. It was the off-season for tourists. There was no one on the trails, and the snow came up to our waists. We finally came across this sweet mountain man, Ozzy. He had a dog that was pulling a sled. It was the coolest thing. While we were talking to him we heard the glacier moan and move. It was the craziest noise ever. If there are many tourists, you won’t be able to hear the movement of the glacier, but because there was no one on the trails we could hear every noise, every move the glacier did. You will not regret going in the off-season. When we got to the glacier I started to become slow, and it was hard to think clearly. We had to rest and hydrate for a minute there before we could go any farther. We also had a snack to warm up my internal body temperature. It’s very important to have the right gear while hiking in Alaska. We did not expect to walk in waist-deep snow. We were in jeans. Not very good at all. But that experience helped us to be more prepared for our little adventures. And we always had hot coffee in a thermos. Oh my gosh, you have not lived unless you have drunk hot coffee in the middle of Alaska’s backcountry. You will also need snow shovels and driveway salt. One winter, I had to shovel my driveway every morning if I wanted to go anywhere. Sometimes the snow would be 8 inches deep and shoveling was a hard job. Pain meds will be your friend. And you will get so much snow that the sides of the driveway will be over your head. Imagine throwing heavy snow over your head. It’s fabulous. I mean, you could pass this as a great workout. Also, businesses will not close if 12 inches of snow fell the night before. Nope, everything stays open, and schools are still on time. At first, it will surprise you, and then it will become normal, then you will move away from Alaska, and snow days will happen. You will be like why is everyone freaking out? This is not bad. Haha. It’s fun.
Let’s talk about the sun. You will not be able to sleep very well for about three months out of the year because the sun is high and mighty. It will not get dark during this time. I mean, it’s fabulous because you will have sunshine and if you wanted to read outside at 1 am you can. It can get hot there too. The last summer we were there the temperature reached 90 degrees. There is no such thing as air conditioning in Alaska. Thankfully our master bedroom was on the bottom floor. Ok, I’m going to say this once. Please don’t turn down a house because the master bedroom is on the bottom floor. You will thank yourselves when it’s hot in the summer. It stays so cool, and nice down there. We literally would watch shows and eat our dinner in our bedroom because it was the coolest room in the house. It was amazing! When summer comes to an end, the days get shorter and darker. And before you know it, there will only be three hours in the day with sunlight. You will need to take a Vitamin D supplement. I did, and it was so helpful. I promise it’s not as bad as you think it is. And people will leave their Christmas lights on all winter. So you will see sparkles of joy in the darkest of days. And the lights glowing in the snow are such a beautiful sight to see. It’s magical.
You will have to see the northern lights at least once while you are in Alaska. Most of the time they will appear in the middle of the night while you are sleeping, but you will need to get up and put on some extra warm clothes and lookup. There are no words to describe Lady Aurora. The first year we were there we were able to see them. It was in October, and the sky was filled with greens, pinks, and purples. The lights were dancing like they were set to music. While we were living there, I dreamt about them a lot. But all I could hear is music. They made music. It’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments. You will never be able to describe their beauty.
You will see bears. Lots of bears. In Alaska, it’s actually against the law to hang a bird feeder in your yard. (I did it anyway, but don’t do as I do.) The reason is the bears will become comfortable with coming into your yard and eat the treats. And we don’t want them to be comfortable with patrolling the neighborhood because that is when bear attacks could happen, and euthanization of the animal. And we don’t want that. I had a bear come into my backyard trying to eat the peanut butter blocks in the bird feeder, when that happened I brought the feeder inside and waited a few days so the bear won’t get comfortable with my backyard. Also, bears will be prevalent on hiking trails. You will need to keep bear spray with you for protection. While being on the trails, you will need to be loud and let them know you are in the area. You don’t want to surprise them while you are in the backcountry. That could scare them, and they will react out of protection and could attack. But most of the time they are more scared of you than you are of them. They seem like they would be great huggers, don’t do it.
Moose are everywhere in these parts. They are super dangerous, and not to be taken lightly. Every year, there are a handful of people who will get attacked by a moose. Especially if it’s a cow protecting her babies. If you see them, do not go toward them. They will attack and will kill you. Yes, they are dangerous, but they are gorgeous and it’s so exciting to see them out and about. While bears hibernate in the winter, moose will still be walking around.
Fishing is amazing here. Before moving there, I did not like anything that swam in the water. When I was growing up, the only fish I was exposed to was catfish. Yes, if you are from the south you will most likely love the taste of catfish. I did not. To me, it tasted like muddy water. So I thought every fish tasted just like that. Boy was I wrong. In Alaska, everything is freshly caught and there is an array of fish to choose from. My husband and I went fishing out of Whittier, and we caught Halibut and Rockfish. They are both delicious, but Rockfish is my absolute favorite. You will also be able to eat Alaskan King Salmon. Salmon is freakin’ amazing up there. I ended up trying almost anything I could get my hands on because the seafood up there is different. It’s unlike anywhere else in the world. Don’t forget the King Crab. Holy smokes. And what’s super neat about Alaska is you can go catch anything you want to try or simply buy it from the grocery store. If you are like me and you thought you would hate anything that lives in water, please open your mind and try some Alaskan caught fish.
The Food Scene
There are so many delicious hot spots in Anchorage. When we first got to Alaska, we had no idea the amount amazing foodie restaurants there are. I could go on and on about the places there, but for now, I will only share some of our favorite places we would eat in the area. If you love Vietnamese food as we do, you are in luck. Our favorite pho restaurant was actually in Eagle River. And we tried many phos while we were there. This place is Pho and Thai Cuisine. If you are in the area, please give it a try. Yikes, just thinking about it is making my mouth water. The BEST Chinese restaurant is also in Eagle River. Jimmy’s Sushi is the place. They have the best fried rice and the food is incredible. Fresh and super tasty. Now, let’s talk pizza. All the magazines and reviews will tell you that the best place to get pizza is Moose’s Tooth. Yes, it’s pretty darn good pizza. But, in my opinion, the place that trumps all the other places is Pizza Man. Yes, right smack in the middle of Eagle River. Also, the wait at Moose’s Tooth can be sooo long. Nobody has time for that. In Anchorage, there is a bakery called Great Harvest. You will be able to walk in there and sample all kinds of bread. We literally would wobble out of that place. Remember, these are only a few of our favorite places around Anchorage. And there are countless breweries. The beer is amazing in Alaska. Whenever you get the chance to live or visit there, explore the city and try all of the yummy cuisines Alaska has to offer.
When we moved to Alaska back in 2015, I couldn’t find anything on the internet what to expect when moving to this state. I hope these 13 things help give you peace about moving to this vast beautiful state. Alaska is a wild place and only a few people have had the opportunity to experience this adventure. Being prepared is the key to enjoying this state and the wilderness that comes with it.
If you are moving to Alaska, I hope you love it just as much as I did. It is a magical place and you will grow in ways you can never imagine.
You can find me on Pinterest and Instagram! Search for Winey Chef. Have you been to Alaska or planning on moving there? Let me know! I can’t wait to hear your stories.
You are so brave!
With so much love,