The Best Places to Live in Washington State

Washington is wild. It is untamed. Yet, with this, comes unparalleled beauty you would be hard-pressed to experience in any other U.S. state. The only state named after a U.S. president, we define Washington as a state that has come to know exceptional growth and change, while attempting to protect the natural surroundings. Washington has many beautiful places to choose from, however we’ve done the research and found the best places to live in Washington state.

Oh, and before we go any further, we’re Bellhop—Seattle moversBellevue movers, and movers throughout the country.

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Home to five active volcanoes (Mount St. Helens, Mount Rainier, Glacier Peak, Mount Baker, and Mount Adams)… Washington State is filled with a massive titan-like peaks, a few that could explode into a fiery storm at any moment. They’re not going to, of course. Or, at least we don’t think so… considering the last major eruption in Washington took place thirty-nine years ago.

Back in 1980, Mount St. Helens erupted making history in a violent way… overnight Washington became home to the deadliest most destructive volcanic eruption in the United States, ever. It still is. On that day, the volcano spilled out 540 million tons of ash and took the lives of fifty-seven people.

Washington State can be thought of as two states, split geographically by the 6,000+ foot Cascade Mountain range running the entire state. The west side is very green and very liberal. The east side is high desert, yes, desert, and very conservative. So if you want to flock together, you have good choices.

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We need to talk about rain. And cloud cover. Because, where you choose to live, clouds may impact your moods. Seattleites like to mention the rain to anyone thinking of moving, particularly from California. That used to work, but the tech boom changed all that. The coastal towns like Quinault get nearly 200 inches annually. Seattle gets a more livable 40 or so. That’s about the same as New York. But it comes down differently with a very certain rainy season from October to April, and sometimes stretches into June. Cloud cover can be your enemy. You can honestly expect 20-30 day stretches with little direct sun. If this challenges you, then consider Spokane in the east.

Earthquakes are a more realistic threat. The region gets some periodic shakes that are noteworthy. The entire west side shares many of the same threats as California, with predictions for much larger events. Can we predict them? No. So if you choose to move here, consider laying in supplies, and choosing newer-built structures that have more rigorous codes.

Still interested? Haven’t scared you off? The dangers seem almost biblical. The good news is that there are many beautiful reasons to offset them. Like for instance mountains and water all around. Temperate weather. A booming, tech-driven economy that now dwarfs the lumber and aircraft industry they sprang from. Great restaurants, culture, entertainment, and sports teams. And a truly diverse population where you can find your flock and build a great nest.

In this article, we will be looking at four cities that make Washington what it is. Four cities we recommend you pack your bags and move to immediately. It is up to you, however, to decide which one to call home.

The 4 best places to live in Washington.

Washington is home to some splendid cities, many of which we will be touching on in this article. But, with this, Washington is home to some truly exceptional towns, too. Some might even argue the coolest towns in America.

Before diving into some of the best places to live in Washington, we wanted to share a few towns to checkout, just in case big city life is not the life for you.

Olympia, Washington sits just across the Columbia from Portland. Some 55,000 folks like living where they pay no income tax and driving to Portland where there is no sales tax.

Tri-Cities, Washington in eastern Washington is made up of three separate but nearby cities (Kennewick, Richland and Walla Walla), that sit at the confluence of the Yakima, Snake, and Columbia Rivers in the Columbia Basin of Eastern Washington. 300,00 folks enjoy a hot-weather, wine growing climate, with many working at the nearby Hanford Nuclear site.

Now, for the big dogs.

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Seattle, Washington lands first on our list of the best places to live in Washington state, because it is a city of transplants, a rainy but vibrant haven for travelers, dreamers, creatives and entrepreneurs looking for a place to call home. There is something about Seattle that grabs you by the shirt collar and pulls you in. It is enticing. It is unique, like nothing you have ever seen before. It is Seattle.

Better yet (well depending on who you ask), it is growing by leaps and bounds. Margaret O’Mara, the University of Washington History Professor told the Seattle Times that like San Francisco, Seattle is a gold-rush city… that it takes off like crazy during economic booms. The latest boom hasn’t stopped.

And, she is right. With Amazon, Starbucks, Microsoft (as well as regional outposts for Facebook, Google and Adobe) being based in Seattle, the town has achieved critical lift-off to launch hundreds of startups, helped with a world-class research-based University of Washington campus.

With that said, Seattle isn’t perfect. It is far from perfect. Besides the weather it is super expensive. Like New York City and San Francisco expensive. For an apartment, expect to pay $2,200. Yes, you, unfortunately, did read that correctly. Zillow quotes an average home price for Seattle at $840,000. In the 70’s you could by waterfront property for $100 a foot. Today expect to pay $15,000,000 for waterfront.  Eastside communities (on the other side of 25-mile long Lake Washington) include Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond and Issaquah. These have exploded and offer homes in the $800,000 to $3,00,000 range.

Commuting, too, can be a hassle. The Seattle area has historically been ranked as the 4th worst commute in the US. The county offers great Metro bus routes and is building a light-rail system to ease congestion. So, the answer may be to live close in. Seattle is re-imagining new pocket neighborhoods like Columbia City, Ballard and SODO. Each has a unique character worth exploring. And don’t worry, Seattle’s hills mean you are never far from a view of water and mountains.

So, who is Seattle for?

We would say that Seattle is for the fearless and the ambitious. Unlike some of the other cities, we’ve covered in our write-ups. Seattle isn’t the friendliest of cities to newcomers. No, it doesn’t mean you’re not going to make friends, but you will have to work to overcome the ‘chill’ greeting. 

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With that said, it really is hard to beat the opportunity present in Seattle, especially if you’re a young professional, maybe non-white, looking to make a name for yourself. Seattle is incredibly diverse. It has always had an ‘anchor’ Asian community but now it’s truly noteworthy by US comparison at 16%. Eastside Bellevue has an eye-popping 38%, drawn by highly ranked high schools and near-100% graduation rates.

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Folks in Washington like to joke that Tacoma is Seattle’s little sister. The city is little, compared to Seattle… clocking in at 219,000 residents. But, Tacoma is little in a refreshing kind of way. It’s growing, at a more modest pace and offers a more laid back culture than what can be found in Seattle.

With that said, Seattle isn’t the only place to make a name for yourself in Washington. Back in 2014, Tacoma was ranked by Forbes as being one of the top cities in the United States for young professionals.

The most obvious reason for this is that Tacoma is far more affordable than it’s “bigger sister”. At $1,650 per month for an apartment, young professionals won’t find themselves blowing every bit of their paycheck to simply get by.

Also, do yourself a favor real quick and Google ‘Tacoma, Washington’. Your jaw will drop as you look at Mount Rainier overlooking the city like a giant sleeping titan. This view, alone, is worth making the jump there.

So, who is Tacoma for?

Tacoma is for the transplant that wants to experience Washington and all of its greatness without having to fuss with the high costs (and perhaps stress) of living in a much larger city like Seattle. Not to mention, we would say that Tacoma offers an even better view of Mount Rainier than Seattle does. But, that’s just our opinion.

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We will be honest. We are a bit obsessed with Spokane, Washington. It is a city so stunning that it looks like it’s on another planet. With the Spokane river sweeping through the city, scattered lakes, basalt columns and plenty of green spaces… Spokane truly lives up to its motto… “Near nature, near perfect.” One look and you’ll quickly understand why Spokane has been ranked by US News as one of the best places to live.

Better yet, Spokane is just slightly larger than Tacoma, sitting right around 230,000 residents. So, it offers a small town feel that transplants grow to really appreciate, and without the rainy weather.

Of the four best places to live in Washington, we would say that Spokane gives residents the best access to the state’s beautiful outdoors. The city is within an hour drive of 76 lakes, a dozen or so rivers and one of Washington’s true gems… Lake Coeur d’Alene. However, if skiing is your thing, better to consider a west-side home.

Not to mention, with Spokane being home to Gonzaga University, the city has seen a pretty aggressive push in terms of startup growth with the help of StartUp Spokane.

So, who is Spokane for?

Spokane is for those looking to live in arguably one of the prettiest cities in the United States. The Spokane river knives right through Spokane and half of nearly all of the city’s downtown buildings are registered on the Historic Registry. It’s a city that feels more like a small town and in our opinion, the perfect jumping off point for folks wanting to get their toes wet in Washington.


Bellingham is an overlooked town that just may be what you are looking for. Its population is a healthy 94,000, anchored by a vibrant Western Washington University. The town sits 88 miles north of Seattle and 55 miles south of Vancouver. Getting there is easy on the I-5 freeway or via Amtrak. Skiing is nearby at Mount Baker, and you are surrounded by all the out of doors you can eat. Gallup has ranked the city as one of the happiest places in the US, and Forbes placed it high on the list for retirement. Homes are cheaper than Seattle too. Not a bad thing.

So, who is Bellingham for?

If you want a quieter lifestyle, are outdoorsy, but yearn for a nearby jolt of international sophistication, this town may be your best bet. The city has many fine dining restaurants, started by pioneering Seattle chefs. The university offers entertainment, and if you can work remote, this is a great option. It’s hip without the urban drive. This is definitely worth exploring if you can.

Final thoughts on the best places to live in Washington state.

We love states like Washington because they offer so many great cities to choose from. In fact, there were so many, that we had to kick things off by giving you a list of three towns worth checking out, too.

With that said, we imagine you’re experiencing a bit of analysis paralysis right now… with all the great places to choose from, where does one call home?

If you’re looking for a big city, you have to go with Seattle. There isn’t another option. But, if you’re open to living in a slightly smaller city, you can rule out Seattle and go with Spokane or Tacoma.

Regardless of where you decide to call home, always remember, Bellhop will help you get there… and that’s a promise.

If you decide to move in or to Washington, don’t hesitate to reach out. We coordinate local and long-distance moving services in Washington, and we would love to help!

Harrison Stevens