Downtown Anchorage is just like any other American city. With a population of approximately 270,000 Anchorage has all the services and problems of other small cities. The people are friendly and helpful and they're the worst drivers imaginable. It's bad enough in the summer but the dark, icy winter turns driving into a crisis activity.
The Anchorage Daily News is full of talk about the cuts proposed by Mayor Mark Begich to balance the budget. Sources of money are limited. Neither Alaska nor Anchorage has a sales tax. The cost of living is not too high, maybe 10% or 15% more than the national average. A moderate quality 3 bedroom apartment in Anchorage rents for about $1200 US per month and this afternoon I bought ground beef on sale at Safeway for $3.29/lb, but I skipped the tomatoes which were $3.99/lb. The average per capita income for Alaskans is $32,151 US, 14th highest among the 50 states (The Alaska Almanac. Nancy Gates ,ed. 2003). This last figure is misleading because many people make much more than the average while others barely get by.
Anchorage prides itself on its support of the arts. The Performing Arts Center (shown left) on 6th Ave. was completed in the mid 1980's and provides a venue for orchestral and stage productions. Nonetheless, the people here tend toward conservative values which means that business comes first in the minds of many. Workers in Anchorage make Californians look like they're on a permanent siesta. All things considered, its a pretty decent place to live, but its nothing like living in the Bush.
The trails in and around Anchorage provide easy access to the surrounding Chugach Mountains. Tourists and locals frequently drive to the top of Upper Huffman Rd. and visit the Glen Alps area which includes PowerlineTrail, Flat Top Mountain, Little O'Malley Peak, and others. Moose are common in the area and berry picking is usually very good in the fall. The city provides lights on parts of the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail for winter walks and cross-country skiing and Hilltop ski area on O'Malley Rd. provides chair lifts for downhill skiing. Eagle River (technically a part of the municipality) is 16 km to the north and is a very popular entry point for the Chugach Mountains, Eagle River, Eagle Glacier and others, and has excellent camp sites. McHugh Creek, Rainbow Creek, Beluga Point and many others front Turnagain Arm a few kilometers to the south and open onto many breathtaking vistas. Go approximately 70 km farther south on the Seward highway to Alyeska Ski Resort and Portage Glacier. There are too many possibilities to mention here, but you get the idea.