Anchorage, Alaska is a census area and municipality coterminous with the Anchorage Municipality in the U.S. State of Alaska. With 260,283 residents according to the 2000 census, Anchorage is the largest city in the state of Alaska, composing somewhat less than half of the state's population. Anchorage is an independent city, not part of any borough or census area.
Anchorage is located in South Central Alaska, at 61 degrees north latitude (about the same as Stockholm and St. Petersburg), -149 degrees longitude (about the same as Hawaii), northeast of the Alaska Peninsula, Kodiak Island, and Cook Inlet, due north of the Kenai Peninsula, northwest of Prince William Sound and Alaska Panhandle, and south of almost everything else in the state (nearly due south of Mount McKinle/Denali). The city is situated on a triangular peninsula bordered on the east by the rugged, scenic, and eminently hike-worthy Chugach Mountains, on the northwest by the Knik Arm, and on the southwest by the Turnagain Arm, both of which are arms of the Cook Inlet.
Despite having wide and treacherous mudflats rather than beaches, Anchorage is a major port, as well as a major hub of the famous Alaska Railroad. Major industries include government and military, oil, and tourism. There are two strategically important U.S. military bases bordering Anchorage on the north: Elmendorf Air Force Base and Fort Richardson. Nearly all Alaska Interior-bound tourists pass through Anchorage at some stage of their journeys in Alaska. Not surprisingly, summer is tourist season, and downtown Anchorage, as well as the highways leading north and south of town, are typically teeming with tourists then.
Average daytime summer temperatures are approximately 55-70 degrees Fahrenheit; average daytime winter temperatures are about 5-20 degrees (warmer than many places in "The Lower 48"). The weather on any given day and indeed for entire seasons can be very unpredictable. Some winters feature several feet of snow and bitterly cold temperatures, while others, just a foot or two of snow and constant, annoying thaws, which puts dangerous ice on the streets. (This has forced Anchoragites to be become rather good drivers.) Summers are typically very mild and pleasant, though it can rain quite a bit then. There isn't any beach-bathing in Anchorage, except at a few local lakes on the warmest summer days, and then those lakeside beaches can be extremely popular. Aside from the winter cold, which most Alaskans don't mind, there are two primary nuisances associated with the seasons: in the summer, mosquitos (which are much worse out in the Bush than in the city itself); in the winter, long nights and very short days. Since Anchorage is at such a high latitude, for months in mid-winter, residents go to work in the dark and return home in the dark. Those who don't study or work next to a window can go all week long without seeing the sun. Consequently, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is an acknowledged problem in Anchorage and in Alaska generally.
Anchoragites exemplify many of the qualities to be found among Alaskans generally: independence, friendliness, practical-mindedness, and a love of the outdoors. There is, even among businesspeople in Anchorage, a tendency to "dress down." This, and a sort of frontier spirit that still lives on in Alaska generally, gives Anchorage a relatively casual, relaxed atmosphere compared to some other American cities. (These cultural characteristics are only more exaggerated the farther one moves out of the city into the rest of Alaska.) The city has traditionally served as a destination for emmigrants, and there are active Asian, Eastern European, and Hispanic communities, along with various groups of indigenous Alaska natives. Anchorage has an airport called Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.
There was a massive, incredibly destructive earthquake on March 27, 1964 called the Good Friday Earthquake, and the earthquake danger has perhaps prompted a limit on the height of buildings in Anchorage; the tallest buildings are 21 stories high. The city has an attractive skyline nonetheless, particularly with the Chugach Mountains, Cook Inlet, or the oft-visible Mount McKinley (also known as Denali) as a backdrop. Though space is limited in the "Anchorage bowl," as locals call the peninsula on which the city is located, many parks, greenbelts, and other undeveloped areas can be found within the city itself, making it particularly attractive to nature lovers (to say nothing of the attractions available just a short distance outside the city). Over the past thirty years, however, many of these undeveloped areas have filled in with houses, strip malls, and other development. Nonetheless, there is an enormous amount of land under the Anchorage municipal control: some 1,955 square miles (about the size of Delaware). The vast majority of this land is located within the Chugach mountains to the east of the city, which also comprise Chugach State Park.
There is a branch of the University of Alaska in east-central Anchorage. Despite the remoteness of the location, the arts thrive in the city. The city boasts a symphony orchestra, an opera company and concert association, and numerous independent performance groups. There are even weekly sessions of Irish traditional music and other sorts of music.
There are other features of Anchorage that make it unique: the huge tidal range, second in the world; multiple, beautiful cross-country ski trails; the Fur Rendezvous festival, held each February; a relatively high percentage of airplane pilots (with several airports and landing strips in the city or nearby); a very low population density for a city its size; frequent small earthquakes; spring windstorms ("Chinook winds"); erupting volcanoes nearby (to the southwest, in the Alaska Range, there are active volcanoes such as Mount St Augustine, Iliamna volcano, and others, that have coated the city with ash); its extreme youth (it was founded in 1915 and didn't grow much until the 1940s); and much else besides. Despite all this, Anchorage is definitely an American city, replete with an enterprising business sensibility, large shopping malls, a lot of automobiles (one can't easily move about by foot and public transportation in the middle of winter), areas of town resembling suburbs (and two sizable actual suburbs, Eagle River and Chugiak), a downtown skyline, etc.
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According to the United States Census Bureau, the municipality has a total area of 5,079.2 km² (1,961.1 mi²). 4,395.8 km² (1,697.2 mi²) of it is land and 683.4 km² (263.9 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 13.46% water.
Adjacent boroughs and census areas
As of the census of 2000, there are 260,283 people, 94,822 households, and 64,099 families residing in the municipality. The population density is 59.2/km² (153.4/mi²). There are 100,368 housing units at an average density of 22.8/km² (59.1/mi²). The racial makeup of the municipality is 72.23% White, 5.84% African American, 7.28% Native American, 5.55% Asian, 0.93% Pacific Islander, 2.19% from other races, and 5.98% from two or more races. 5.69% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There are 94,822 households out of which 38.9% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.1% are married couples living together, 11.5% have a female householder with no husband present, and 32.4% are non-families. 23.4% of all households are made up of individuals and 3.8% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.67 and the average family size is 3.19.
In the municipality the population is spread out with 29.1% under the age of 18, 9.6% from 18 to 24, 33.9% from 25 to 44, 21.9% from 45 to 64, and 5.5% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 32 years. For every 100 females there are 102.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 101.6 males.
The median income for a household in the municipality is $55,546, and the median income for a family is $63,682. Males have a median income of $41,267 versus $31,747 for females. The per capita income for the municipality is $25,287. 7.3% of the population and 5.1% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 8.8% are under the age of 18 and 6.4% are 65 or older.