We all know that Jacksonville is the largest city by land area in the contiguous United States of America – meaning the 48 states that all directly border at least one other state.
It’s one of those claims to fame that’s a little too specific to be impressive, like having been the tallest person in your high school class if you don’t count the basketball team. But nonetheless, it’s commonly cited as an interesting fact about the city.
It spurs from the 1968 consolidation of Jacksonville and Duval County, which gave the city a total land area of 747 square miles. Jax is, indeed, a large city.
But we aren’t the largest city in the entire country; we’re actually #5 on that list. That’s because of four cities in Alaska that are bigger – a lot bigger, actually.
So let’s meet those four Alaskan cities that are even bigger than the Bold City.
#4: Anchorage, Alaska
1.704.7 square miles of land (2.3 Jacksonvilles)
By far the most populated of the four cities, Anchorage has just under 300,000 residents – well under half the population of Jax.
It’s Alaska’s most populated city, holding around 40% of the entire state’s population. It boasts several museums, a yearly folk festival, and is even host to several of the country’s largest annual dog sled races.
Its airport, the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, handles the third most cargo traffic of any airport in the world. Its port is by far the busiest in Alaska.
Their summers are cool and rainy, and their winters are snowy.It’s common to see bears and moose hanging out in certain spots around the city, with the latter occasionally causing car and skiing accidents.
At 1,704 square miles of land, you could fit just under two-and-a-half Jacksonvilles in Anchorage.
#3: Wrangell, Alaska
2,541 square miles of land (3.4 Jacksonvilles)
In stark contrast to Anchorage, Wrangell ranks last among these four cities in population. Less than 2,500 people live within the massive city.
The island of Wrangell has been occupied by the Tlingit people for well over a thousand years. The city was founded in the early 1800s by Russians, who had control of Alaska at the time. The U.S. presence in the city expanded around a fort built later in the century, after the U.S. took over Alaska, and Wrangell became a profitable fishing town.
Today, natives still make up around 15% of the city’s population. It continues its success as a fishing town and even a tourist destination.
Nearly three-and-a-half Jacksonvilles would fit inside of Wrangell.
#2: Juneau, Alaska
2,702 square miles of land (3.6 Jacksonvilles)
At number two is Juneau, the capital of Alaska. The city is noteworthy for being difficult to reach on land due to all the mountains surrounding it, but those same mountains also helped the city’s growth. Mining became a major selling point for the city during the Gold Rush era.
Much like Wrangell, Juneau is a culturally significant area for native tribes like the Tlingit.
The city became state capital in the early 1900s and has remained the capital since then. It’s a major cruise destination, with tourism making up much of its economy. The city hosts an annual folk festival, jazz festival, and cultural festival, as well as a large arts scene.
You could fit 3.6 Jacksonvilles inside of Juneau. And it’s still not even number one…
#1: Sitka, Alaska
2,870 square miles of land (3.8 Jacksonvilles)
The city that truly claims the title of largest city, by land mass, in America is Sitka, Alaska.
Sitka, rather than being one whole stretch of land, is made up of multiple islands. It has a population of just under 9,000, despite its vast land. Like Wrangell, it was originally settled by the Tlingit.
When Alaska was purchased by the U.S., Sitka was originally designated as the state capital. However, by the early 1900s, Juneau was determined to be the more practical center point for the state’s government.
The city has an active port, and is only accessible by boat or plane. It boasts many historic buildings, and a walkable urban core.
You could fit an impressive 3.8 Jacksonvilles inside of Sitka. Imagine that next time you complain about the drive from the beaches to Orange Park.