From the majestic Pioneer and Twin Peaks in the Chugach Range to the Talkeetna Mountains in Southcentral Alaska, Palmer is framed in breathtaking beauty. Located 42 miles northeast of Anchorage on the Glenn Highway in the Matanuska Valley, the city's unique history and heritage are unparalleled in the state.
In 1935, under President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, the Federal Emergency Relief Administration established the Matanuska Colony. From the drought-starved Midwest, 203 families traveled by train and ship to reach the fledgling colony. Their housing was in a tent city for that first Alaskan summer. Each family drew lots of individual 40-acre tracts and a farming adventure began. Back in 1935, those original Valley Colonists already knew this fertile valley could produce a rich agrarian heritage, making Palmer the only Alaskan community to develop an agricultural lifestyle.
Today, Palmer is a garden hub for the state, and the unique microclimate produces amazing giant vegetables, found on display annually at the home of the Alaska State Fair. Palmer agriculture today provides food to communities across the State of Alaska.
The pedestrian-friendly downtown is filled with shops and boutiques with books, arts and crafts, and offerings from local artists, businesses, services, and farmers. Come taste the hometown flavor of small-town Alaska. Walk, drive or just stop and enjoy the summer flowers in bloom in the historic downtown center.
In the summer, residents, and visitors play at our world-class 18-hole golf course, hike in the mountains, raft our rivers, leisurely stroll through the gardens and Visitor Center Museum, and enjoy outdoor music, food, farm and craft vendors at the Friday Fling market and fair. Palmer is the seat of the Matanuska Susitna Borough government. The borough spans 23,000 square miles, about the same size as West Virginia.
Winter recreation also abounds in Palmer. The snowy slopes at nearby Hatcher Pass and surrounding areas offer snow machining, snow-shoeing, ice skating, dogsled mushing and cross-country skiing.
Any time of year in Palmer, one can eat at truly Alaskan gourmet restaurants, and shop at many unique and surprising retail stores.
Just outside Palmer roadside attractions include the Knik Glacier, Matanuska Peak, Pioneer Peak, Hatcher Pass and to the north the Matanuska Glacier, each of which offers several outdoor adventure opportunities. Trek on a glacier, go flightseeing or take an airboat ride, fish, hike, white-water raft, ride ATVs or horses, or sight-see and photograph some of the most accessible natural beauty in Alaska.
Today, Palmer is in the midst of a significant metamorphosis. The town has experienced a population surge as thousands of people are moving to the Palmer area to enjoy the safe and pleasant quality of life. In less than 20 years, the heart of the Matanuska Valley has transformed from a peaceful rural area to a rural bedroom community, and most recently, to an increasingly self-sufficient, commercial employment center. The population growth in Palmer and the surrounding area has been significant and the City's population has increased an average of 3.3% since 2000, with 6,323 residents currently residing in the 5.2 square mile city.
Since 2010, over $100,000,000 in new construction has occurred in the City. A substantial investment from public and private sectors continues to fuel growth. The city completed a major expansion of its water and sewer utilities to the Mat-Su Regional Medical Center seven miles to the south at the juncture of the Glenn and Parks Highway. This substantial investment in the city's infrastructure helps set the foundation for future growth and expansion.
Palmer is the home of several public and private schools, an active Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Merchants group, the Alaska State Fair, a Visitors Center, the Alaska Job Corps Center, and State Superior and District courts. City facilities include an airport, library, golf course, ice arena and numerous parks and ball fields.
These changes come with a unified vision both to retain the historic character of Palmer and to emerge as a new kind of community; to hold to the best of its historic character while embracing the need to grow responsibly and change to keep the quality of small-town life.
Come discover Palmer!