Palmer is a town in Alaska with a population of 5,978. Palmer is in Matanuska-Susitna Borough. Living in Palmer offers residents a sparse suburban feel and most residents own their homes. In Palmer there are a lot of coffee shops and parks. Many families and young professionals live in Palmer. The public schools in Palmer are above average.

Real Estate

Crimes and Safety

C+ based on violent and property crime rates.


A based on ethnic and economic diversity


Born at the height of the Great Depression as part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal relief program to transplant struggling farmers from the Lower 48 to Alaska, Palmer is still known today for its agricultural roots. The town is famed for its 90-pound cabbages, seven-pound turnips, and other monster root vegetables, the result of the midnight sun that shines up to 20 hours a day during the summer.


Palmer is striking because of its blend of farming community and alpine paradise: old red barns and fields of hay are bordered by knife-edged mountain peaks. The downtown area exudes a 1930s ambience; many of the historical buildings have been preserved right down to the antique furniture and wood floors.

The Palmer Museum and Visitor Center is housed in a rustic log cabin and tells the stories of the area's Alaska Native, gold rush, and agricultural history. Next door is the Palmer Showcase Garden, which showcases flowers and the area's famous oversized vegetables in the summer. Also held at the Showcase Garden during summer is Friday Fling, a weekly open-air market with local produce, art, crafts, food, and live music.

A block away is the Colony House Museum, an original farmhouse from the 1930s that was built during the settlement of Palmer. Today its eight rooms are still furnished with artifacts from that era. Guided tours of the museum are accompanied with fascinating stories of farmers adapting to raising crops in Alaska's short growing season.

Many visitors like to drive Palmer's back roads past original colony farms. Begin by heading 9 miles northeast on the Glenn Highway and then hop on Farm Loop Road. If it’s mid- to late summer, keep an eye out for roadside vegetable stands. In June, the town celebrates its roots with Colony Days, a three-day event featuring food, games, races, a farmer’s market, booths, and the popular and entertaining Colony Day Parade.

History and agriculture aren’t the only thing the town has to offer, though. Palmer is central to several day trip possibilities and activities, including hiking in the region’s many state parks, dogsledding, fishing, horseback riding, boating, ATV tours, flightseeing, and more.


To the north, Hatcher Pass Road leads to scenic Hatcher Pass and Independence Mine State Historical Park. Hatcher Pass is a stunning recreational area filled with panoramas of the Talkeetna Mountains, hiking trails, and gold mine artifacts including the 16 remaining buildings of Independence Mine.


Located at the head of the Knik River is Knik Glacier, an impressive glacier that is 3 miles wide at its face and more than 200 feet thick. Visitors can view the glacier several ways: on an air boat, in the seat of an all-terrain vehicle (ATV), or as part of a flightseeing trip - which gives you a birds-eye view of the glacier's stunning blue pools, jagged ice formations, and expansive surrounding mountains. Some trips include a glacier landing where you can take a short walk across the glacier ice and even ride go for a dogsled ride.


Three miles from downtown is the Musk Ox Farm, home of the only domestic herd of musk ox in the world. The farm raises musk ox to produce qiviut, the incredibly warm and soft fur made from the musk ox's undercoat. Tours are offered and the gift shop sells qiviut sweaters and hats.


The Reindeer Farm at Mile 11.5 of Old Glenn Highway is located on one of the area’s original farms. At the farm visitors can pet, photograph, and feed the reindeer and view resident moose and bison.


Palmer’s most popular event is the annual Alaska State Fair, the state’s largest fair, a rollicking 12-day event around Labor Day. There’s live music including local and national bands, a carnival, hundreds of booths and food vendors, shows, and livestock and agriculture exhibits, including the giant vegetable weigh-off to see who grew the biggest pumpkins, cabbages, and more.


Matanuska River Park is operated by the city of Palmer and is located less than a half-mile from the downtown area. The Park features wooded campsites and a series of trails that winds around ponds and along the Matanuska River.


Palmer is a full-service community with accommodations, restaurants, grocery stores, shops, gas stations, and other visitor services. Lodging options in Palmer include several hotels, motels, and inns in the downtown area, plus B&Bs, guest houses, vacation rentals, and wilderness lodges and cabins in the area surrounding town. There’s also a wide variety of state and privately-owned campgrounds and RV parks. A handful of restaurants, cafes, and several breweries are located in downtown Palmer.


Palmer was established as part of a New Deal relief program during the Great Depression. The mission was to transplant 200 struggling farming families from the Midwest to Alaska where they would cultivate a new agricultural economy. In 1935, the down-on-their-luck families stepped off the Alaska Railroad in the Matanuska and Susitna Valleys, deemed suitable by the government for farming. The soil was rich by Alaska standards, but the growing season was just long enough for cool-weather grains and certain vegetables, leaving little margin for error. The farmers’ perseverance paid off, however, and today the Mat-Su Valley is Alaska’s breadbasket, producing 75 percent of the state’s total agriculture.


5 Things to Do in Palmer

From its bustling state fair to outdoorsy adventures like riverboating, fishing, and glacier exploration, there’s more to the agricultural community of Palmer than meets the eye. Here are Palmer’s top five activities to get you started.

1. Go to the Alaska State Fair

“Everything’s bigger in Alaska” doesn’t just refer to mountains, glaciers, and wildlife. Alaska’s largest event, the Alaska State Fair, takes place in Palmer in late August and early September. Concerts, performances, exhibits, thrilling rides, and world-record-setting vegetables are all part of the fun. Giant produce — like a 1,471-pound pumpkin and 94-pound cabbage — amaze spectators before becoming dinner for animals at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center and other regional sanctuaries.

The 14-day event features many quirky activities and classic state far staples. From quilting and sewing to honey and beekeeping to baked goods and local art, hundreds of exhibitors show off their crafts at the fair. With competitions like the Diaper Derby and Toddler Trot, Beer Tap, Beard Contest, and Senior Joke and Storytelling, the fair draws visitors of all ages from near and far.

2. Hop on a Freshwater Fishing Charter

The Mat-Su Valley, where Palmer is located, is home to more than 120 lakes and rivers, including the Little Susitna River. With freshwater river, lake, and stream options, anglers in Mat-Su can search for Arctic char, rainbow trout, Dolly Varden, grayling, northern pike, and silver and king salmon. Year-round charters guide visitors to the nearby fishing hot spots and hidden gems that produce coveted salmon and trout runs. Whether you’re looking for a quick day trip or weekend getaway to a remote fishing lodge, there are charter options for beginners and master anglers alike. For a chance to meet the locals and support a good cause, join in one of the many community fishing derbies throughout the year. To experience Alaska’s backcountry wilderness without the hassle, reserve a floatplane or riverboat-fishing excursion that takes you deep into the valley for some of the best fishing opportunities in Southcentral Alaska.

3. Explore Hatcher Pass

Located near Palmer, Hatcher Pass is accessible by the Glenn Highway from the east or the Parks Highway to the west via the scenic Fishhook Road. The 49-mile loop road to the pass is lined with rugged mountains, rushing streams, and scenic viewpoints. In the summer, view gold rush history at Independence Mine State Historical Park or go hiking or backpacking on the many nearby trails winding through mountains and along the Little Susitna River. Take advantage of long summer days to stroll through wildflower fields, go berry picking, and watch paragliders soar through the sky at Summit Lake State Recreation Site. In the winter, go cross country skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, or explore the backcountry on skis or snowmobiles. Travel back in time to the Alaska Gold Rush at Independence Mine State Historical Park, located at mile 18 of Hatcher Pass Road. Once the country’s largest gold-producing mine and now a state historical park, the abandoned area’s beauty provides insight into the once-booming industry. Relax at the many rustic bed and breakfasts and cabins in the area or strike it rich on a gold-panning adventure.

4. Dig into Matanuska Colony History

From the Dust Bowl to the Last Frontier, more than 200 families relocated to Palmer as part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal in 1935. Despite the harsher climate coupled with a short growing season, the settlers established the Matanuska Colony in 1935. Today, the Palmer Museum of History & Art pays tribute to their grit and determination by displaying historical artifacts and photos. Guided walking tours travel through Palmer’s original colony territory, rustic downtown, and to the Colony House Museum, a 1930s farmhouse decorated with original furnishings.

For a little refreshment, try one of the Palmer’s local breweries including Palmer Alehouse, Matanuska Brewing Company, Bleeding Heart Brewery, and Arkose Brewery. The Palmer Alehouse, which served as a trading post and the Matanuska Milk Dairy Building during its early years, now combines its rustic charm with an expansive menu featuring locally craft beers, classic cocktails, and bites.

5. Take a Knik Glacier Tour

Descending from the Chugach Mountains and feeding into glacial lakes and rivers, Knik Glacier is one of Alaska’s oldest and most active glaciers. For 600,000 years, its towering ice walls and hanging glaciers have carved the Mat-Su Valley. As the massive, 25-mile-long glacier continues sculpting the landscape, chunks of ice plunge into crystal-blue water that’s filled with floating icebergs. Adventures out to Knik Glacier start just an hour away from Anchorage by car. No road leads out to the glacier so the only way to access it are by boat or air, and by snowmachine and fat tire bike in winter. Local tour operators lead boat trips up the river or take flightseeing and helicopter tours out to the glacier. From there, adventurous visitors can embark on glacier trekking or a dog sled ride across the ice field.


Public Transportation

Anchorage – People Mover Exit Site
Bethel – Bethel Public Transit System
Fairbanks – MACS Transit
Girdwood – Glacier Valley Transit
Gulkana – Soaring Eagle Transit
Hollis – Inter-Island Ferry Authority
Juneau – Capital Transit
Ketchikan – The Bus
Kodiak – Kodiak Area Transit System
Mat-Su – Valley Transit (formerly Mat-Su Community Transit (MASCOT) and Valley Mover)
Sitka – The Ride
Soldotna – Central Area Rural Transit (CARTS)
Talkeetna – Sunshine Transit
Tok – Interior Alaska Bus LIne