A rural city situated just east of the industrial and technical powerhouse of Tacoma, Puyallup is often dismissed as a sleepy suburb. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth: the town boasts a disproportionately high number of events and attractions for a community with a population of just under 40,000. This small city is home to a thriving arts community, its own regionally renowned chamber orchestra, a large farmers market, and the only museum owned and operated by a local school district in the western United States. It has so many antique shops that they occupy an entire “antique district” on Puyallup’s sweetly old-fashioned main drag, a street that also hosts the annual Daffodil Festival Parade. The location of the city makes it an especially ideal place to live; geographically located near the base of Mount Rainier, residents of Puyallup have easy access to some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country, while simultaneously being a stone’s throw from the art and culture in nearby cities Tacoma and Seattle. If you’re looking to live in a place that offers all of the fantastic amenities of the Puget Sound without the accompanying steep living prices, Puyallup is a fantastic community and well worth considering.
Is Puyallup Calling Your Name?
Puyallup may be a small town, but it’s still smack dab in the center of the Puget Sound, and living in the area isn’t exactly cheap. That being said, rents here are much more reasonable than they are in the surrounding areas, with one-bedrooms going for a good $300 less a month than you’d pay on average 60 miles north in Seattle.
Puyallup’s convenient location coupled with its rural ambience makes finding an apartment and moving to the city remarkably easy when compared with relocation to a lot of other communities. Apartment complexes are plentiful and openings relatively easy to come by, so you’re virtually guaranteed to find just about everything you’re looking for without having to do a lot of compromising. The other benefit of the current plethora of apartment options is that if you’re planning a move to Puyallup, it won’t take a lot of advance planning. If you have enough money to cover a deposit of an average first and last months’ rent, you should be able to find an apartment quickly and easily even if you wait until you get to the area to start looking.
In some small towns you might be able to expect to find privately owned rentals held by landlords who can be negotiated out of credit checks and rental history reports, but it’s unlikely to happen in Puyallup. This is largely the case in the whole of the Puget Sound area; the vast majority of apartments are in professionally-managed complexes and will require at least decent credit and references from previous landlords. Even if you do happen to find a daylight basement to rent (if that’s your druthers), it’s safest to expect that private landlord to run the same investigations of your background and ask for the same amounts in the way of deposits. It’s simply the way things are done in the Northwest. Happily, residents of the Puget Sound area are used to frequent transplants from other parts of the country thanks to the presence of large corporate headquarters for companies like Amazon.com and Microsoft, so you won’t always be required to have proof of current income, as long as you can prove that you have enough money to pay at least a few months’ worth of the rent.
Puyallup and Its Neighborhoods
Since Puyallup is a smaller place, you aren’t going to find gigantic discrepancies between qualities of life in different neighborhoods the way you would in a bigger city, but there are still things to consider in order to make the best possible decision about where to live. For instance, for many people, one of the biggest concerns when moving to Puyallup is whether or not they’ll be one of the large number of residents who commute to nearby cities for work. If you plan on working in Seattle, for instance, it might be worthwhile to consider living in a neighborhood near the downtown business district, which houses the station for the Puget Sound’s very convenient and speedy heavy commuter train, the Sounder. It wouldn’t make a lot of sense to have to fight in-town traffic trekking to the train just to avoid the out-of-town traffic, right? But then again, living too close to the railroad tracks is bound to be noisy and, in some places, leave you with an unsightly view from that balcony you paid extra for. So, if you’re a likely commuter and want to live closer to the downtown area for that reason, just do a little extra homework before you commit to a property.
Downtown/Central Business District: Primarily older buildings and houses. The majority of apartments here will be above shops and likely closer to the railroad tracks, which run through the center of downtown Puyallup. Rents here are relatively affordable, but options will be more limited and you’ll be dealing with crowds come time for the annual fair. $$
South Hill/South Hill Graham: Built in the ‘80s and ‘90s, these neighborhoods were a result of the expansion of the South Hill Mall area and the population boom in Puget Sound at the end of the last millennium. Most of the apartments in these areas will be in the mid- to high range when it comes to rent, but the buildings will be newer and have more amenities.$$$$
Summit: Located on the west hills of Puyallup, a lot of the housing available here was built in the 1960s, but there has been a recent resurgence of development in the area. Rents and housing qualities here are likely to vary quite a bit, but a little bit of homework could score you an awesome apartment in this area. $-$$$
Waller: Similar in feel to the Summit neighborhood, Waller is composed primarily of houses rather than apartment buildings. There are, however, some apartments available, and a number of them are in great locations given Waller’s close proximity to neighboring Tacoma. $$$
Alderton: A quieter neighborhood just east of downtown for those who don’t want to live directly in the center of the city. Homes here will probably be on the older side, similar to those in the Downtown area, but the location could make it a worthwhile place to live. $$
Outlying areas (Midland/Parkland/Fredrickson): Boundaries between towns in the Pacific Northwest can get a little fuzzy, and Puyallup is no exception. These neighborhoods can claim either Tacoma or Puyallup as their homes. They all have a distinct flavor and very different job prospects and commute times to other areas, so a little homework goes a long way if you’re considering a property in one of these zones. $
Living in Puyallup
Living in Puyallup can be rewarding and comfortable for those who enjoy suburban life with access to the big city. But be sure to bring your car along. Puyallup has an extraordinarily decent public transportation system for a small town, but everything is relative: public transportation in the Puget Sound area in general is notoriously atrocious. Even the daily commuter train only runs at very restricted times of the day. If you plan on visiting surrounding towns even on a semi-regular basis, plan on either lots of three-hour bus rides or bringing that beat-up Chevy with you when you come. Don’t feel too bad about it, though: as long as that Chevy still has some horsepower to it, it’ll grant you access to the gorgeous nature and world-class hiking trails that pepper the surrounding areas, as well as the nearby Cascade Mountains and Mount Rainier National Park less than an hour away.
Puyallup is probably best known for its yearly hosting of the gargantuan Washington State Fair. Better known locally simply as the “Puyallup Fair,” the 17-day event ranks among the top ten fairs in the country on a yearly basis and regularly hosts a slough of celebrity acts, drawing more than a million people to the town every September.
Revel in the small-town feel and the genuine kindness of your new neighbors—the Puget Sound is famous for its hospitality. With a little preparation and effort on your part, Puyallup can be the perfect place to live.
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