When many people hear the name Washington, the first thing that springs to mind is the District of Columbia. You too probably landed here in search of the best places to live in D.C.
Washington State often gets confused with the American seat of power, and it’s understandable. Turns out, the state went by the name Columbia when it was still a territory. The name change was precipitated by the need to differentiate it with the District of Columbia.
So, how desirable is the Evergreen State for anyone looking to put down roots here?
It is called evergreen for a reason. Washington is a breathtaking wonderland of perfectly landscaped beauty, and it is not that surprising to know its wilderness is rumoured to be a favourite hangout spot for Bigfoot, with over 600 Sasquatch sightings reported.
The state is home to two volcanoes, Mount St. Helens and Mt. Rainier. It has more glaciers than the other 47 contiguous states put together, with a classic Pacific Northwest terrain marked by the Cascades and a treasured coast.
Gallup ranks it as the seventh-most liberal state in America, so you can bet its outdoor-loving folk are a pretty awesome bunch.
The state, the only one to be named after a U.S. president, is the largest apple producer in the country, claiming the bragging rights as the headquarters of some of the world’s biggest and most admired employers – Amazon, Microsoft, Costco and Starbucks.
Expectedly, Washingtonians enjoy some of the highest incomes in the nation, ranking 12-highest in terms of per-capita personal income. This is also one of seven states that don’t pay state individual income tax.
And it comes with the added bonus of making significant savings on your energy bills as the electricity rates in WA are the third cheapest in America.
On the downside, Washington’s beauty and perks of living here don’t come for cheap. This is a state you may want to relocate to if you are well loaded because the overall cost of living is a bit steep, with housing prices that many will consider to be above the roof.
Then again, that is to be expected with the likes of Bill Gates to call neighbours.
Here then, are the 15 best places to live in Washington State based on crime rate, school system excellence, home affordability, and growth and prosperity.
Tech enthusiasts will recognize Redmond as the home of Microsoft, the largest employer in town. The town of 58,000 people was named by Niche.com the #1 best place to live in Washington.
It sits at a very convenient location that is just 16 miles from the state’s largest city, Seattle, and a home here will set you back $485,100 on average.
But that is nothing for the thousands of residents employed in the many tech companies around who take home $103,409 on average per household. Apart from Microsoft, other notable tech firms include Nintendo, Solstice, AT & T and Genie Industries.
Redmond is home to the most popular park in King County, the Marymoor Park, whose 640 acres of sprawling space is used for picnics, sports, festivals, concerts, biking trails and more.
The town also has a distinguished school system which has made the AP District Honor Roll several times.
Sammamish is a city in King County bordered by Lake Sammamish where 50,200 people call home.
Cost of living here is higher compared to Redmond, with median home value standing at $609,600. The town has evolved from its rural roots and into a booming suburb that is within convenient location of Seattle (25 miles).
The Sammamish Commons area guarantees acres of outdoor fun, with wetlands and hiking trails, golf courses and grounds for festivals such as Shakespeare in the Park.
As with most suburbs in King County, the public school system is outstanding, from elementary right through 12th grade.
All things considered, it is obvious why Sammamish often ranks as one of the best places to raise a family in Washington.
Pullman is a town of 31,500 residents located in Whitman County on the southeast side of Washington.
What attracts many people to scenic Pullman is its low cost of living in relation to the perks it offers: low crime rate, high number of restaurants, shops and entertainment options, good education and a plethora of outdoor activities.
You can rent a two-bedroom single-family home in Pullman for $710 (below national average), while home value in the area stands at an affordable $222,900 on average. That’s LOW for an area that has won numerous national awards and received honourable mentions for its beauty.
Pullman is home to the Washington State University where about 20,000 students are enrolled. The University of Idaho is also minutes away as Pullman is located near the Idaho border, just across from Moscow Idaho.
If you are looking for a town that is affordable and has a college vibe with dozens of parks and natural areas, Pullman is an excellent choice.
Issaquah is a suburb of Seattle that is a popular hiking destination, thanks to its rich network of mountains and lakes. It is only befitting then that it be nicknamed the “Trailhead City”.
It is home to one of the largest retailers in the United States, Costco, headquartered here. This is a city on the up, as is evident from the numerous apartment complexes sprouting in the area. However, most of the homes are single-family, with rents averaging $1,533 a month.
Despite the development, Issaquah is not about to lose its soul. The community is set on becoming a source of urban agriculture by incorporating more gardens and local produce.
As far as education goes, the town of 33,682 residents has some of the best schools in the nation. Its class of 2014, in particular, emerged a respectable seventh on the highest composite scores on the ACT.
Parts of Washington can be darn expensive, and finding places with both low home prices and crime rate can be daunting. As far as a “good affordable option” in Washington goes, we couldn’t find a better contender for that gong than the paradoxically-named Richland.
This is a town in Benton County that is home to 52,300 residents. Rents are lower than the national average ($886) with median home value sitting at $207,100.
Golfing is extremely popular in the area, with four courses that offer 63 holes of golf just within the city.
As with most areas in the Evergreen State, there are numerous parks in this city, especially along the Columbia and Yakima Rivers. Every park activity imaginable is offered in Richland – bird watching, salmon fishing, boating, water sports, golfing, biking you name it.
6. Bainbridge Island
Located in Kitsap County, Bainbridge Island is the definition of Pacific Northwest scenery. The town of 23,400 residents was once recognised by CNN as the second-best place to live in the country.
Not much has changed. The isolated suburb of Seattle continues to live up to its billing with a wealthy diversity and bustling online business community.
Bainbridge Island has an A-one public school education system and promises a range of family-friendly outdoor activities, including hiking, fishing, sailing, Little League baseball and many more.
Home values are reflective of the state’s high cost of living, averaging $548,100 (with some even breaching the $3 million-dollar mark. But on the upside, the residents do enjoy high incomes (slightly above $100,000 per household).
Bainbridge Island supports a culturally liberal agenda and is largely democratic.
Snoqualmie is a town in King County with a population of just over 12,000.
The village, whose serenity is broken by the sounds of a waterfall, has witnessed tremendous growth over the years. Between 1999 and 2012, for example, the residents here enjoyed the biggest growth in income in the state.
Snoqualmie may be small, but it has an award-winning school district that continues to grow as more and more residents are lured to its scenic surrounds.
Homes go for $444,900 on average, with residents enjoying some of the highest incomes in the state of Washington, averaging $124,264 per household.
The tight-knit community is eco-conscious, despite the fact it is close to industrial centres. A strong retail sector also ensures the spending needs of the moneyed residents are well catered for.
With a population of 85,000, Kirkland essentially is the 12th-largest city by population in the state of Washington.
You will find it in King County near Lake Washington, a popular tourist destination that offers plenty of parks (a minimum entry amenity in Washington), beaches, outdoor activities, art exhibits, unique shops, bars and restaurants with live entertainment, and more.
Kirkland is completely pedestrian and bicycle friendly. Indeed, it was the first city to enforce alternative transportation methods in city planning and ordinances.
Kirkland’s residents enjoy high incomes, averaging $92,127 per household. A good deal of these earnings stem from the city’s passion for Little League baseball, which is proudly represented by the Kirkland National Little League team.
The city has been playing host to the Little League Junior Softball World Series in Everest Park for close to two decades now, going back to 1999.
Bellevue is a French name that means “beautiful view”, and that is exactly what this city in King County is.
It is nestled between two lakes, Lake Sammamish to the east and Lake Washington to the west. There is a trail called the Lake Trail which connects the two, making it easy to explore both places and enjoy the numerous activities offered in both.
But Bellevue’s beauty is more than Lake-deep.
The city of 135,000 residents is set against the backdrop of Olympic and Cascade Mountains, and the natural scenery is one many neighbourhoods in the area revel in, providing many hiking and bicycle trails for everyone to enjoy.
However, Bellevue is more than just a natural gem. It has a thriving business scene with a long list of star companies based in the area.
T-Mobile. Expedia. Drugstore.com. CoinStar. Savers and Eddie Bauer. Valve and Bungie, the video game developers and many more. As well, Redmond isn’t too far off so the likes of Microsoft and Nintendo still have their significant presence in the city.
Couple this with A+-rated schools, numerous local fairs and festivals like the Bellevue Strawberry Festival, which celebrates the area’s rich history of strawberry farming and vibrant nightlife, and what you have is one of the best places to live in Washington.
Woodinville is another suburb of the big city, with a population of 11,400. It has come from humble beginnings, Woodinville, transforming from a small village into a developed town.
But even amidst the growth that has seen more and more schools and businesses pitch tent in the area, the town is keen to hold on to its small-town charm, and that can only be good news for anyone looking to live here.
There are strong schools in the area that are expanding to accommodate more students and the changing needs of the modern curriculum. Case in point is the Woodinville High School which has added a performing arts wing, with a technology and special education building opened in 2017.
Woodinville is the quintessential Washington town, with a wine country that boasts more than 110 wineries. Among them is the Chateau Ste. Michelle, the oldest in the state.
The area remains a popular hotspot for wine lovers, and the booming wine tourism can only spell good news for the local economy.
Median home value in Woodinville is perched at the $454,000-mark.
11. Maple Valley
If the outdoors are a special factor for you when choosing a place to live, then Washington’s Maple Valley will blow you away.
Okay, the state’s topography makes the entire lot of it an outdoor haven, but some places like Snoqualmie and Maple Valley take it a step further.
In 2013, the U.S. Department of Education recognised the city’s schools as Green Ribbon Schools. This is an honour attributed to environmental advocacy and education, as the schools here are quite keen to preserve the numerous parks bordering the city, including the famous Lake Wilderness Park.
Speaking of education, the public school district in Maple Valley is outstanding, just like every other entry in this list of 15. The area will also appeal to anyone in search of an affordable place to live in Washington, with homes going for an average $290,100.
There are plenty of ways to get involved in the community through the various organisations that support creative arts, golfing, and of course, Lake Wilderness Park.
Kenmore is a town of almost 22,000 people situated on the northeast of Lake Washington. It features a dense forest cover which is very much a treasured part of the thriving community.
Kenmore promises an array of recreational pursuits for the outdoor enthusiast, spanning from biking trails to summer concerts.
This is one of those up-and-coming suburbs of Seattle, and this is very much evident from its growing schools to the city itself.
Schools in the area perform incredibly well, and the entry of new names onto the scene – such as the North Creek High School which launches in fall 2017 – is only going to boost competition.
The city has also started planning an eco-friendly and walkable town square in the heart of downtown as it tries to retain its natural splendour amid the inevitable growth.
Single-family homes in Kenmore go for $403,900 on average.
If you are looking to secure a government job in Washington, your best bet would be to try Olympia. The state government is the largest employer in the state capital, with more than 25,000 staff to call on for the smooth running of its operations.
As with most cities, the crime rate in Olympia is wanting, but it is generally deemed a great place for not just young professionals, but families as well.
With a population of just about 50,000, the city based in Thurston County will appeal to anyone looking for an affordable place to live in the state of Washington. Median rent stands at $952 a month, while homes are valued at $242,100 on average.
What else makes Olympia an appealing proposition is the presence of parks and forest reserves that are more than enough for the small population. The city is absolutely crammed with them.
The Fish Brewing Company, the Olympia Family Theater and Centennial Station are other popular attractions in the capital, as well as the Washington Center for Performing Arts among a host of others.
14. Mercer Island
Mercer Island is another geographical representative of King County that only goes to show the overall desirability of the county for settlement.
It is home to slightly more than 124,000 residents and is generally considered one of the best places to live in Washington.
Mercer Island is the most heavily populated freshwater island in the United States, with more than 25,000 people living in an area of 6.32 square land miles. The public school system can hold its own with the very best in the country, with six schools stationed on the island alone.
There are numerous popular activities for everyone, examples of which include swimming, fishing, tennis, basketball, softball, outdoor exploration at local parks and beaches, dog parks, hiking and bicycling.
The island is immensely diverse, with many restaurants and bars of note that also offer live entertainment.
Perhaps the only downside to living in Mercer Island is the high cost of living. Four-bedroom single-family properties are upwards of seven figures, with median home value standing at $902,100.
Capping off our list of best places to live in Washington is the biggest city in the land, a city of more than 650,000 people. There are better options for this spot than this, including Medina (where Bill Gates lives), Clyde Hill and more.
But these places are not for everyone as the median home value alone is a figure most would be content having as their net worth.
Seattle is not all roses and fairies, but there is a reason its larger metropolitan was ranked sixth on the 2017 Best Places to Live in America by the U.S. News & World Report, up one spot from the previous year.
This ranked several factors that included desirability, quality of life, job-market health, migration and “value”.
Median home value in Seattle is $452,800, and the city remains desirable to both young professionals and families.
A great school district, buzzing nightlife, outdoor activities, short commute times, an iconic public market, thriving art scene, shopping and restaurants are some of the biggest draws in the big city.