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6 Best Places to Live in Washington State

By: Susan Finch
August 10, 2021

Washington is the gem of the Pacific Northwest with a strong economy, towering evergreens, and thriving city life. You can find your perfect place to live in Washington, whether it's the urban core or a modern apartment along the Puget Sound.

If you’re ready to move but aren’t sure where the best places to live are in Washington, we’ve done all the research for you. Check out some of the best places to live in Washington.

1. Seattle

  • Population: 753,675
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $2,037
  • Median Household Income: $92,263
  • Walk Score: 74
  • Transit Score: 60
  • Bike Score: 70

Situated between the Puget Sound and Lake Washington, Seattle is the largest city in the state of Washington and the 15th largest in the U.S. The city's primary industry was logging but quickly grew into a shipbuilding center and gateway to Alaska during its Klondike Gold Rush by the 19th century. According to Apartment List's migration report, when people move to Seattle, they come from Los Angeles, Portland, and San Francisco. When they move out, they head to Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Olympia.

The city boasts a booming job market with industries like biotech, genomics, environmental engineering, lumber, and industrial machinery manufacturing, among others. Amazon, Microsoft, Zillow, and Boeing are significant employers. Despite the high cost of living in Seattle and rising rents, the city welcomes families and college grads looking for new opportunities. College students attend Seattle University and Seattle Pacific University.

Seattle is a world-class city and boasts solid public transportation, bike paths, a walkable Downtown, and scores of attractions desirable for renters. Pike Place Market is among the oldest operating farmer's markets in the country and attracts locals looking for fresh produce, baked goods, and fish.

The Pop Culture Museum and Pacific Northwest Ballet are just part of Seattle’s cultural fabric. Throughout Seattle’s neighborhoods, you’ll find live entertainment, pubs, and fine dining. After exploring the local pubs and eateries around the Queen Anne neighborhood, the best views of the cities can be found at the Space Needle.

It’s easy to see why Seattle earns its nickname Emerald City for its year-round greenery, outdoor wonders, and sparkling waterfront. For dazzling views of the city, Kerry Park displays birds-eye-views of the sparkling city and a quiet reprieve from Seattle. Discovery Park is a former military reservation with a mix of green space and hiking trails, a lighthouse, and sounds of the waves crashing against the waves below.

2. Spokane

  • Population: 222,081
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,343
  • Median Household Income: $50,306
  • Walk Score: 49
  • Transit Score: 36
  • Bike Score: 52

Spokane, Washington flourished due to its namesake Spokane Falls. It served as a gathering place for different cultures over thousands of years thanks to fertile hunting grounds and salmon in the Spokane River. The city grew into a trading post and later a military establishment before the railroads arrived that brought the population boom.

Spokane is home to young professionals, millennials, families, and retirees looking for urban living surrounded by green space and beauty. Spokane's most productive industries include construction, mining, manufacturing, transportation, communication, real estate, healthcare, and government. The greater metro area is also home to one-quarter of the world's white pine trees.

Locals bike ride through Downtown Spokane to soak up the Pacific Northwestern city. For live music, the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox is the permanent home of the Spokane Symphony and is surrounded by the city's entertainment district. For a historical overview of the region, the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture explores the art and culture of the area and Native American history.

Over in South Hill, Manito Park botanical gardens boasts a Japanese garden, blooming flowers, and surrounding native landscape. However, Riverfront Park is the real gem in Spokane, with 100 acres of green space, rails, and special events held year-round for the community. The park also contains a protected area featuring Spokane Falls spilling into the River.

3. Tacoma

  • Population: 217,827
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,616
  • Median Household Income: $62,358
  • Walk Score: 53
  • Bike Score: 49

Tacoma, Washington, was founded in 1872, establishing a lumber mill, stores, saloons, hotels, and jail. It was given The City of Destiny for its location along the western terminus of the Northern Pacific Railroad.

The city is home to millennials and families looking for a quaint city living with quality schools. Industries and employers around Tacoma include military, healthcare, finance, insurance, aerospace, and trade and logistics. College students also settle into Tacoma to attend the University of Puget Sound, Pacific Lutheran University, and private higher-ed institutions.

There's plenty of culture, pubs, and dining to enjoy around Tacoma. The city is also celebrated for its world-renowned glass art and creative culture and is home to the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum, with impressive glass sculptures suspended and in innovative exhibits. For more culture stops, Seattle is just 34 miles away.

Point Defiance Park offers 700 acres of woodland trails, gardens, and waterfront views. It is also home to a zoo and aquarium. Situated in Point Defiance Park, Owen Beach features a walkway, canoe rentals, and stunning views. At Wright Park, a 17-acre arboretum is ideal for a leisurely stroll with a 27-acre arboretum, trail, and playgrounds.

4. Vancouver

  • Population: 184,463
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,545
  • Median Household Income: $61,714
  • Walk Score: 40
  • Transit Score: 34
  • Bike Score: 61

Vancouver is located on the north bank of the Columbus River and the Washington-Oregon border along the Columbia River. The area was once inhabited by the Chinook and Klickitat nations with timber longhouses. Meriwether Lewis also wrote favorably of Vancouver as a prime settlement along the Rocky Mountains.

Vancouver attracts newcomers for its job market, stunning landscape, and ancient forests. The city is a desirable place to live for millennials and college students looking for new opportunities. The largest industries in Vancouver include healthcare and social assistance, retail trade, and manufacturing, among others. College students attend the University of Portland, Portland State University, and Multnomah University.

The city boasts a thriving restaurant scene and provides access to fresh produce and baked goods at local farmers' markets. Local galleries and public art turn Vancouver into a vibrant backdrop for window shopping and pub hopping. Downtown offers a mix of modern and historic buildings, year-round events, and First Friday rotating art exhibits.

Attractions around Vancouver are centered around its parks and rolling green space. The Fort Vancouver National Historic Site explores the fur trade and military history of the Pacific Northwest. Visitors access the Columbia River's waterside trails and hands-on exhibits. Vancouver is also the perfect location for paddling along the River, mountain biking, and sipping wine at the wineries north of the city.

5. Bellevue

  • Population: 148,164
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $2,383
  • Median Household Income: $120,456
  • Walk Score: 40
  • Transit Score: 38
  • Bike Score: 44

The booming city of Bellevue sits across Lake Washington from Seattle. The area was first settled in 1863 but didn't become an incorporated city until 1953. Over the years, more Seattle residents settled in Bellevue, and soon major companies and development followed.

The tech industry employed scores of locals in the Bellevue area and was the birthplace of Amazon. PACCAR Inc, T-Mobile, and Value are also headquartered in the city. Other industries around Bellevue include Information Technology, Business Services, and Retail and Tourism.

Locals don't have to commute into Bellevue to find arts and culture. The Bellevue Arts Museum offers crafts and design exhibitions, and the KidsQuest Children's Museum boasts interactive exhibits. Bellevue Square was once a quaint outdoor mall turned community hub for shopping, dining, and live entertainment.

Like much of Washington state, Bellevue is a prime place to enjoy the great outdoors. The 20-acre Bellevue Downtown Park is an idyllic place to walk and take in views of the city. The Bellevue Botanical Gardens is a popular place year-round but is renowned for its annual lights display. You can also get out of the city for the day and head east of Bellevue, the Great Cascade Mountains boast outdoor rails, parks, swimming beaches, and waterfront fun.

6. Kent

  • Population: 132,319
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,788
  • Median Household Income: $72,062
  • Walk Score: 39
  • Transit Score: 35
  • Bike Score: 46

Kent, Washington, was incorporated in 1890 along the Green River and is known for its rolling hills and views of Mt. Rainier. During the Great Depression era, Kent was known as the "Lettuce Capital of the World" for its agricultural prominence. During its lettuce heyday, there was even a lettuce festival, lettuce queen, and thousands partaking in eating the "world's largest salad."

Kent is a desirable option for its proximity between Seattle and Tacoma, bringing in a culturally diverse mix of residents. It's also attractive to families for its award-winning schools, as well as millennials looking for work at nearby Boeing, Blue Origin, OMAX Corporation, and nearby tech companies in the greater Seattle metro area. College students make the 20-mile commute to Seattle or Bellevue for higher education or attend one of the local community and private colleges in Kent.

There are plenty of natural attractions around Kenty, though Seattle and Tacoma are just a stone's throw away. Locals get in touch with nature on a bike ride or stroll along South 277th Corridor Trail. The Kanaskat-Palmer State Park sits along the Green River in King County with 2-miles of river shorelines. Hiking, biking, kayaking, and rafting are also popular pastimes to spend a brisk afternoon. The nearby Saltwater State Park boasts a timber forest along the Puget Sound with 137 acres for camping and a 1,445 saltwater shoreline.

Final Thoughts - Where Should I Move to in Washington?

Washington State offers stunning greenspace, waterfront living, and big city living. Whether you want to grow your career or spend your weekends hiking, you can do both in The Evergreen Space. Ready to make a move to Washington? Sign up for Apartment List to find the best places to live in Washington.

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AUTHOR
Susan Finch is a freelance writer and content manager focusing on local experiences, travel, and anything relating to really good food and craft brews. Her work has appeared in travel guidebooks and national magazines and newspapers. Read More
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