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The 10 Best Places to Live in Washington in 2024


If you’re planning on moving to Washington, add these cities to your list.

Home to lush landscapes, diverse cities, and abundant recreation and employment opportunities, Washington has it all. The state is often split into two sections, divided by the Cascade Mountains: Western Washington and Eastern Washington. The Columbia River, the fourth-largest in the country, defines the state’s southern border. 

Western Washington includes the Olympic Peninsula and Puget Sound, and is where a majority of the state’s population lives. Cities like Seattle, Bellingham, Port Angeles, and Olympia are located here. The Puget Sound, San Juan islands, and Olympic Mountains define the landscape, along with numerous rivers, lakes, and national parks and forests.

East of the Cascades is Eastern Washington, which is drier and more agriculture-focused. Spokane, Wenatchee, and Walla Walla call this area home, with the Palouse hills, Lake Chelan, and Blue Mountains all popular landmarks. 

But which cities in the Evergreen State are right for you? In this Redfin article, we’ve uncovered the best places to live in Washington, ranking them on qualities such as affordability, navigability, and number of amenities. You can find more information about our methodology here or at the bottom of the article.

The space needle with the puget sound in the background

1. Seattle, WA

Population:

749,256

Average Commute Time:

27.7 minutes

Per-Capita Income:

$63,610

Median Sale Price:

$889,000

Median Rent Price: 

$1,990

Unemployment Rate:

3.0%

Seattle tops our list as the best place to live in Washington. Home to notoriously rainy weather, large universities, waterfront attractions, and a thriving tech culture, Seattle has it all. The city is built on the hills between the Puget Sound and Lake Washington. It’s also just a ferry ride from picturesque islands. 

Originally known for its small-city weirdness, Seattle stepped into the national spotlight when it hosted the World’s Fair in 1962 and built the Space Needle as its centerpiece. Then, music became its calling card, with bands like Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, Sir Mix-a-Lot, and Pink Floyd dominating the rock and music scene. Today, the Emerald City is more associated with technology (Amazon) and coffee (Starbucks), but can still find quirkiness throughout Seattle’s neighborhoods, especially in Fremont and Ballard.

One of the most appealing parts of living in Seattle is the easy access to outdoor recreation. You’re only 45 minutes away from popular hikes in the Cascade Foothills and within an hour or so of more than a dozen state parks, like Dash Point State Park. Mount Rainier, Olympic, and North Cascades National Parks are also accessible for day trips. 

Seattle has a marine climate and can see frequent rain from October to April. The city is at its best during the late spring and early fall, when temperatures are mild and rain is less likely. Summers can be gorgeous, but an increase in wildfires, smoke, and heat waves have made them harder to handle

Seattle homes for sale | Seattle houses for rent | Seattle apartments for rent

Downtown Spokane

2. Spokane, WA

Population:

230,160

Average Commute Time:

20.8 minutes

Per-Capita Income:

$30,791

Median Sale Price:

$370,000

Median Rent Price: 

$1,308

Unemployment Rate:

3.7%

Spokane, the second-largest city in Washington, is second on our list of the best places to live in Washington. Sitting at 1,843 feet above sea level, Spokane is the hub of Eastern Washington and is known for its natural beauty, basketball, and history. 

A fun fact about Spokane is that basketball is part of its DNA. The city is officially known as Hooptown USA due to the city hosting the annual Spokane Hoopfest, the largest 3on3 basketball tournament in the world. Gonzaga University also calls the city home, and usually makes deep runs into the March Madness basketball tournament. Lilac City is Spokane’s other common nickname, paying homage to the annual Spokane Lilac Festival.

Spokane has a markedly different climate than Seattle. The city is located on the Columbia Plateau between the drier Columbia Basin to the west and forested Selkirk Mountains to the east. As such, it’s fairly dry, seeing 18.5 inches of annual precipitation, but experiences the full range of the four seasons. Winters are usually cold and snowy, while summers are sunny and can be hot. The best time to be in Spokane is from June to September, although this is shifting later as summers get warmer.

Lastly, like many cities in Eastern Washington, wine and agriculture are a huge part of life. Apples are the state’s fourth-largest export, and Washington has become the second-largest wine producer in the country. Famous wineries in Spokane include Barrister Winery and Arbor Crest Wine Cellars.

Spokane homes for sale | Spokane houses for rent | Spokane apartments for rent

vancouver-wa

3. Vancouver, WA

Population:

194,512

Average Commute Time:

25.3 minutes

Per-Capita Income:

$33,713

Median Sale Price:

$509,900

Median Rent Price: 

$1,884

Unemployment Rate:

3.2%

Vancouver comes in as the third-best place to live in Washington. Commonly called The Couve, this suburban city is located along the Columbia River on the border between Washington and Oregon, just north of Portland.

Vancouver has done a lot of work to revitalize its riverfront. What used to be a stretch of old industrial buildings has become a tourist attraction full of hotels, restaurants, and a large pier. Portlanders often make fun of their northern neighbor, but Vancouver’s waterfront rivals or even outclasses Portland’s McCall Waterfront.

Vancouver’s weather is very similar to Portland and Seattle, seeing fairly frequent rain from October to April. However, temperatures tend to be a bit warmer than more northern cities. Late spring and early fall are the best times to be in Vancouver.

Historically a small industrial town, Vancouver has grown rapidly as Portland has become more expensive. This is because many seeking Portland’s lifestyle without the high costs, move to Vancouver. As a result, it’s common for residents to commute over an hour to and from work in Portland daily, and Vancouver’s housing prices now rival or exceed those in Portland.

Vancouver homes for sale | Vancouver houses for rent | Vancouver apartments for rent

bellingham waterfront in washington_getty

4. Bellingham, WA

Population:

93,896

Average Commute Time:

19 minutes

Per-Capita Income:

$32,419

Median Sale Price: 

$639,750

Median Rent Price: 

$2,127

Unemployment Rate:

2.9%

Next on our list, Bellingham is the fourth-best place to live in Washington. Just 20 miles south of the Canadian border in the far northwest of Washington, Bellingham is a charming coastal town with all the amenities you expect of a big city. And since it’s just 90 miles north Seattle, you can easily head down for a day trip by car or train with friends. 

Popular activities in Bellingham include visiting the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, enjoying local art, or exploring Fairhaven Village in the center of town. Western Washington University also calls Bellingham home, offering a college-town feel (and lots of activities) perfect for full- and part-time students. 

One of the biggest perks of Bellingham is its outdoor recreation. The city is surrounded by lush, evergreen mountains and fertile waters, offering hiking, kayaking, climbing, and endless other adventures. For mountain enthusiasts, Mount Baker and the North Cascades National Park are within two hours from downtown. Watersport lovers can head down to the Puget Sound or take a ferry to one of the many San Juan Islands. Deception Pass and Larrabee State Parks are some of the most popular spots. 

Bellingham’s climate is similar to other cities in the PNW but tends to be among the coldest. For example, Bellingham is around 2.5°F cooler annually than Seattle but receives about five fewer inches of rain. This makes summers beautiful, which is ideal given the city’s abundant outdoor recreational opportunities. 

Bellingham homes for sale | Bellingham houses for rent | Bellingham apartments for rent

Aerial view of Tacoma and Mount Rainier

5. Tacoma, WA

Population:

221,776

Average Commute Time:

30.5 minutes

Per-Capita Income:

$34,759

Median Sale Price: 

$473,500

Median Rent Price: 

$1,744

Unemployment Rate:

3.2%

Tacoma comes in at number five on our list of the best places to live in Washington. Known for its museums, parks, universities, and industry, Tacoma has something for everyone. 

Located on the shores of Puget Sound with views of Mount Rainier, Tacoma is a beautiful place to live, with well-developed waterfronts and numerous parks. Point Defiance Park, for example, is one of the country’s largest urban parks and features hiking, beaches, stunning gardens, and an acclaimed zoo and aquarium.

The city is also home to an array of landmarks and attractions. You can explore displays at the Museum of Glass, or dive into regional history at the Washington State History Museum. The Tacoma Dome also brings big-name concerts right to your doorstep, while the Ruston Way waterfront offers a perfect spot for walking or dining with views of Puget Sound. 

Tacoma has long been an attractive alternative to Seattle, particularly due to its more affordable housing and lower living costs. This economic advantage draws many to live in Tacoma while commuting to work in Seattle, offering a budget-friendly option without sacrificing access to the metropolitan area. That said, it’s important to know that traffic in and out of Seattle along Interstate 5 (I-5) can be very difficult, taking upwards of two hours both ways. 

Tacoma homes for sale | Tacoma houses for rent | Tacoma apartments for rent

edmonds-wa

6. Edmonds, WA

Population:

42,593

Average Commute Time:

31.6 minutes

Per-Capita Income:

$56,443

Median Sale Price: 

$924,975

Median Rent Price: 

$1,882

Unemployment Rate:

2.4%

If Seattle feels too big, Edmonds may be a great option. Just 30 minutes (without traffic) north of  downtown Seattle, Edmonds provides a nice mix of urban amenities and suburban, waterfront charm just a stone’s throw from the Olympic Peninsula and San Juan Islands. Its coastal and mountain views are some of its best features.

Edmonds is known for its quiet coastal living and quaint, charming, walkable downtown. Art installations abound, and amphitheaters, seasonal decorations, and green spaces are everywhere you look. Many residents of Edmonds choose to live there for its charm, space, and greenery while working in Seattle. Commuting can take an hour or more each way due to traffic, but many find the trade-off worthwhile for the benefits of living in Edmonds.  

Some of the most beloved parts of Edmonds are the Edmonds Marine Walkway, Edmonds Center For the Arts, and Yost Park. Touring the nearby wineries in Woodinville are also a popular weekend option for locals and tourists.

Edmonds homes for sale | Edmonds houses for rent | Edmonds apartments for rent 

olympia-wa

7. Olympia, WA

Population:

55,669

Average Commute Time:

21.1 minutes

Per-Capita Income:

$35,914

Median Sale Price: 

$498,000

Median Rent Price: 

$1,740

Unemployment Rate:

4.3%

Olympia is the seventh city on our list. Over 60 miles south of Seattle and just north of Tumwater, Olympia is somewhat removed from a major metropolitan area and thus is fairly quiet and secluded. It’s also relatively small, providing a small-town feel but with big-city amenities. Quaint shops like the Olympia Food Co-op and Olympia Coffee are beloved local staples, while Costco, Target, and other national brands provide an array of goods. 

As the state capital, Olympia grows and shrinks with the legislative season; on even-numbered years, sessions are 60 days, while on odd-numbered years, they are 105 days. Washington legislators only work part-time, so when they aren’t in session, they often return to their home districts and full-time jobs.

Like many cities in the region, natural beauty is everywhere you look – and people like to explore it. Tumwater Historical Park, Brewery Park at Tumwater Falls, and Watershed Park are popular options for play and relaxation. The city is home to a university as well, with the unique Evergreen State College located in the northwest of town.

Olympia homes for sale | Olympia houses for rent | Olympia apartments for rent

kirkland-wa

8. Kirkland, WA

Population:

92,151

Average Commute Time:

27.4 minutes

Per-Capita Income:

$64,268

Median Sale Price: 

$1,331,000

Median Rent Price: 

$2,733

Unemployment Rate:

3.2%

Across the 520 bridge from Seattle, Kirkland is the eighth city on our list of the best places to live in Washington. Kirkland is a quiet, upscale Seattle suburb with waterfront views of Lake Washington and plenty of amenities for people of all ages. Juanita Bay Park and Heritage Park are popular parks for waterfront relaxation and recreation, while the Kirkland Sailing Club & School and Kirkland Performance Center are great for weekend fun.

There’s a lot to do in Kirkland’s downtown area, too. Central Way is the main throughway in the heart of the city, with boutique shops, upscale restaurants, and luxury apartments along the 10 blocks that make up downtown. Hearth, Cactus, and Feast are popular options. Central Way ends at Marina Park, which is where the city’s Farmers Market is held on Wednesdays from June through September.

Being just 11 miles east of Seattle, Kirkland’s climate is nearly identical to other cities in the area.

Kirkland homes for sale | Kirkland houses for rent | Kirkland apartments for rent

renton-wa

9. Renton, WA

Population:

104,047

Average Commute Time:

31.8 minutes

Per-Capita Income:

$40,594

Median Sale Price: 

$700,000

Median Rent Price: 

$2,234

Unemployment Rate:

2.5%

Just southeast of Seattle, Renton is known for its relatively affordable living and suburban feel. Renton borders Lake Washington to the north and extends into the Cascade Foothills to the east, providing a variety of scenery and beauty. 

The Cedar River Park Trail, Virginia Mason Athletic Center, and Boeing’s Renton campus are highlights of the area. Boeing is an iconic PNW company that also has a campus in Everett, which is connected to Renton via the busy I-405.

For decades, Renton has served as an affordable option to homebuyers and renters priced out of Seattle, leading many to live in Renton and commute to Seattle. As a result, however, Renton has grown very quickly, especially  in the past 10 years, causing commute times, rent prices, and house prices to rise. With these changes, Renton has started shifting from an affordable commuter town to a fairly expensive city in its own right. House prices are still far below Seattle’s, though, and upcoming transportation improvements will make getting around easier than ever.

Renton homes for sale | Renton houses for rent | Renton apartments for rent

redmond-wa

10. Redmond, WA

Population:

76,732

Average Commute Time:

25 minutes

Per-Capita Income:

$66,031

Median Sale Price: 

$1,230,000

Median Rent Price: 

$2,456

Unemployment Rate:

2.8%

Redmond rounds out our list as the tenth best place to live in Washington. Just east of Kirkland on the northern shores of Lake Sammamish, Redmond is home to the headquarters of global technology companies such as Microsoft and Nintendo. The city and surrounding areas are primarily known for their technology, upscale suburban living, and high quality schools, with median house prices well above $1 million. 

Less than 20 miles east of downtown Seattle, Redmond is a quiet suburb full of urban amenities. Marymoor Park plays host to large outdoor concerts during the warmer months, while also providing a huge off-leash dog park and lakeside activities. Further out, U-Pick farms, hikes, and campgrounds are all within an hour drive. Remlinger Farms, Chinook Bend, and Tolt-MacDonald Park are popular options.

Redmond is also going to become much easier to access in the near future. The massive Link Light Rail extension will cross I-90 in 2025, connecting Downtown Redmond and the existing 2-Line to Seattle. The 520 trail is an option for Seattle cycling commuters.

Redmond homes for sale | Redmond houses for rent | Redmond apartments for rent

Methodology

Redfin’s Best Places to Live rankings are meant to help home searchers make an informed decision when choosing where to live. To attempt to measure the overall quality of a metro area, each ranking takes into account several key factors, including access to healthcare, open outdoor space, navigability, housing trends, employment statistics, income, and travel time to work. Only metros with a population of 20,000 or greater were considered for our Washington list. More information about our methodology can be found here.

Data valid April 2024. This article is for informational and educational purposes only.



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