Best Places to Live

Fairbanks, AK

Population: 32,193
Photo by Angie Cerny/Explore Fairbanks

Why It’s a Great Place to Go to College: People have to stick together in Alaska, and that same sense of community and teamwork carries through to students at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, home of the Nanooks. It’s a small school with a little more than 8,300 students, so you’ll really get to know your classmates and your professors (the student-faculty ratio is an impressive 11 to 1). When you’re not studying, you can explore the vast Alaskan wilderness that’s literally right outside your door, check out the local contemporary art scene or participate in the dozens of annual community events here.

“You really get that college town feel in Fairbanks. Everything is spread out enough to feel a little bigger than it is, but also small enough to feel like you’re part of the community," says UAF student Lillian Marrero. "People care about your education. Most local businesses are huge supporters of the university itself. You really feel like you’re a part of something and supported by the people of Fairbanks."

Why You Should Put Down Roots Here (Even After Graduation): Fairbanks is home to 32,000 people, but it has many of the perks of a bigger city — and then some. Plus, if you love the idea of immersing yourself in nature, Fairbanks has so much to offer. The city’s top-notch infrastructure, amenities and housing options also helped it land a spot on Livability's list of 2019 Top 100 Best Places to Live.

Coolest Campus Tradition: The “40 Below Club.” When the temperature drops to 40 below (or colder), you’ll see a line of cars pulled over next to a sign at the entrance of campus that shows the time and temperature. Students pose for pictures in front of the sign in bathing suits or their underwear.

Best Place to Get Out and About: North Campus, which spans 1,100 acres and is home to more than 25 miles of trails for walking, jogging, biking and cross-country skiing. It’s also a popular spot to forage for berries or wild mushrooms. You’re likely to see a moose or two here, too.

Best Fourth Meal: Oasis Restaurant and Lounge

Place to Be on a Saturday Night: In the winter, looking up at the sky to see the incredible colors of the aurora borealis.

Beloved Brewery: HooDoo Brewing Co.

Best Bookstore (for non-textbooks): Forget-Me-Not Books

Favorite Coffee Shop Study Spot: Alaska Coffee Roasting Co., though in reality, the people of Fairbanks would rather get their coffee to go — there are at least five drive-through coffee huts within a mile of campus!

Local Dream Job: Researcher at the International Arctic Research Center, where scientists seek to understand how climate change is affecting the Arctic

What Keeps Alumni Coming Back: The gorgeous (and, at times, brutal) landscape, as well as the annual Governor’s Cup hockey series that pits the Nanooks against in-state rivals, the University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolves.

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