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Best Places to Live in Washington State

We’ve got good news if you’re considering a move to Washington state: It’s full of great places to live! Washington has pro sports teams, plenty of job opportunities, awesome public schools and colleges, a big-time outdoors scene, and a handful of lakefront cities with gorgeous views of the water. As long as you can afford the cost of living (which can be pricey in some cities), you’ll probably have a blast living in the Evergreen State.

Chances are, though, you have an important question on your mind: “Where are the best places to live in Washington?” Let’s answer that question by looking at a list of the top eight cities that fit the bill.

Just be sure to keep this in mind: The best place for you to live in Washington (or anywhere else for that matter) will depend on your individual situation and preferences. You may be looking for somewhere to retire, start a family, or launch your career. As you go through this list, think about which places are the best fit for you.

Where Are the Best Places to Live in Washington State?

Here’s the list! In no particular order, the eight best places to live in Washington are:

Let’s break them all down.

Best Places to Live in Washington

Seattle

First up is Seattle, Washington’s biggest city by population and land size. As the home of Starbucks, Seattle’s Best Coffee and plenty of great local coffee shops, Seattle is basically the coffee capital of America. It’s also home to the headquarters of several non-coffee businesses like Amazon, Nordstrom and Expedia.

As you’d expect from a major metropolitan city, Seattle offers its residents tons of world-class entertainment options. Are you a sports fan? Seattle has an NFL team (the Seahawks), an NHL team (the Kraken), an MLB team (the Mariners) and an MLS team (the Sounders FC). Love music? Go watch A-list performers like Usher, Justin Timberlake and Olivia Rodrigo at Climate Pledge Arena. More of a performing arts enthusiast? The Paramount Theatre hosts a ton of touring Broadway shows.

Now, Seattle definitely isn’t for everyone. It’s expensive, with a cost of living that’s a whopping 45% higher than the national average.1 It has many of the problems common to big cities, like homelessness and higher crime rates. And of course, Seattle sees a ton of rain.

But if you love the hustle and bustle of living in a big city—and you have the financial resources to afford that lifestyle—the Emerald City (Seattle, not the one in Oz) could be a great fit.

Population*

749,2672

Median Household Income

$115,4093

Median Home Listing Price

$749,4954

Median Rent

$2,0005 

Unemployment Rate

4.5%6

*Data in tables collected in February 2024.

Olympia

Up next is Olympia, Washington’s capital city. If you enjoy politics, you’ll love living in Olympia. A lot of Olympia’s residents are really active in local politics and super involved with environmental and social causes.

Plus, a big chunk of the city’s population works in government jobs, many of them at the capitol building. But don’t worry—Olympia does have job opportunities outside of the political world in sectors like health care and technology. There just aren’t as many as in some of the other cities on this list.

Olympia isn’t the most expensive city in the state, but it’s also not the cheapest. Its cost of living is 15% higher than the national average.7

Population

55,1518

Median Household Income

$73,8519

Median Home Listing Price

$558,19910

Median Rent

$1,94511  

Unemployment Rate

5.4%12

 

Spokane

Looking for a destination that’s full of youthful energy? As the home of three colleges (Gonzaga University, Whitworth University and Eastern Washington University) with over 10,000 students collectively, Spokane definitely fits that bill.

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Because Spokane is a college town, it’s full of cool places to hang out and fun things to do. Want to stay inside? Go grab a bite to eat at one of Spokane’s great restaurants (like Market Street Pizza) or shop for unique vintage items at a downtown boutique. More of an outdoors lover? Spokane offers nearby opportunities for trout fishing and skiing (depending on the time of year, of course).

Spokane is also home to some fun annual events like the Lilac Bloomsday Run, a 12k run, and the Spokane International Film Festival. And with a cost of living that’s just 1.3% higher than the national average, it’s one of the more affordable cities on our list.13

Population

230,17614

Median Household Income

$62,28715

Median Home Listing Price

$498,12016

Median Rent

$1,40017  

Unemployment Rate

6%18

Redmond

Want access to all Seattle has to offer without having to actually live in that big of a city? Redmond, a suburb of Seattle, is a great alternative. Redmond is probably best known as the home of Microsoft’s world headquarters, which has over 100 buildings and looks more like a college campus than an office complex.

Redmond is a family-friendly city with great schools, safe neighborhoods and tons of fun activities for the kiddos. It’s also a great place for bikers—but not the kind driving Harleys and wearing leather jackets. Bicycles are super common in Redmond, and there are tons of bike lanes and trails throughout the city.

Add to all that the ability to travel to Seattle in around 20 minutes and you’ve definitely got an awesome place to live. Just be aware of Redmond’s housing costs—they’re not exactly cheap.

Population

76,73919

Median Household Income

$152,85120

Median Home Listing Price

$1.5 million21

Median Rent

$2,70022  

Unemployment Rate

3.5%23

Kirkland

Another great alternative to Seattle is Kirkland, a suburb of the big city that’s just 20 minutes away. In addition to better public schools and a stronger community feel compared to Seattle, Kirkland offers beautiful views of Lake Washington and plenty of opportunities for boating, hiking and picnics.

Kirkland is also the home of Costco (now you finally know where “Kirkland Signature” comes from!), and its public school system is strong. Plus, Kirkland has a cool arts scene with various events and festivals throughout the year. You can also catch some awesome shows at the lovely Kirkland Performance Center.

As for Kirkland’s cost of living, the city is definitely on the wealthy side. (Noticing a theme?) So if you want to move your family there, make sure you have a strong income and plenty of margin in your budget.

Population

92,15524

Median Household Income

$130,62025

Median Home Listing Price

$1.5 million26

Median Rent

$2,40027  

Unemployment Rate

3.5%28

 

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Spokane

Looking for a destination that’s full of youthful energy? As the home of three colleges (Gonzaga University, Whitworth University and Eastern Washington University) with over 10,000 students collectively, Spokane definitely fits that bill.

Because Spokane is a college town, it’s full of cool places to hang out and fun things to do. Want to stay inside? Go grab a bite to eat at one of Spokane’s great restaurants (like Market Street Pizza) or shop for unique vintage items at a downtown boutique. More of an outdoors lover? Spokane offers nearby opportunities for trout fishing and skiing (depending on the time of year, of course).

Spokane is also home to some fun annual events like the Lilac Bloomsday Run, a 12k run, and the Spokane International Film Festival. And with a cost of living that’s just 1.3% higher than the national average, it’s one of the more affordable cities on our list.13

Population

230,17614

Median Household Income

$62,28715

Median Home Listing Price

$498,12016

Median Rent

$1,40017  

Unemployment Rate

6%18

Redmond

Want access to all Seattle has to offer without having to actually live in that big of a city? Redmond, a suburb of Seattle, is a great alternative. Redmond is probably best known as the home of Microsoft’s world headquarters, which has over 100 buildings and looks more like a college campus than an office complex.

Redmond is a family-friendly city with great schools, safe neighborhoods and tons of fun activities for the kiddos. It’s also a great place for bikers—but not the kind driving Harleys and wearing leather jackets. Bicycles are super common in Redmond, and there are tons of bike lanes and trails throughout the city.

Add to all that the ability to travel to Seattle in around 20 minutes and you’ve definitely got an awesome place to live. Just be aware of Redmond’s housing costs—they’re not exactly cheap.

Population

76,73919

Median Household Income

$152,85120

Median Home Listing Price

$1.5 million21

Median Rent

$2,70022  

Unemployment Rate

3.5%23

Kirkland

Another great alternative to Seattle is Kirkland, a suburb of the big city that’s just 20 minutes away. In addition to better public schools and a stronger community feel compared to Seattle, Kirkland offers beautiful views of Lake Washington and plenty of opportunities for boating, hiking and picnics.

Kirkland is also the home of Costco (now you finally know where “Kirkland Signature” comes from!), and its public school system is strong. Plus, Kirkland has a cool arts scene with various events and festivals throughout the year. You can also catch some awesome shows at the lovely Kirkland Performance Center.

As for Kirkland’s cost of living, the city is definitely on the wealthy side. (Noticing a theme?) So if you want to move your family there, make sure you have a strong income and plenty of margin in your budget.

Population

92,15524

Median Household Income

$130,62025

Median Home Listing Price

$1.5 million26

Median Rent

$2,40027  

Unemployment Rate

3.5%28

Mercer Island

So here’s the deal with Mercer Island: It’s a really expensive place to live. That means, if you’re looking for somewhere to begin raising a family or start your career as a young professional, it’s probably not a great destination for you.

But if you can afford to live on Mercer Island, either because you earn a strong income or you’ve already worked hard to build wealth, chances are, you’ll love it. That’s because Mercer Island is gorgeous—like, we’re talking the type of place where you’d expect a Hallmark movie to be filmed.

Part of the Seattle metro area, Mercer Island is surrounded by Lake Washington and offers incredible views of both the water and the nearby mountains. The city also doesn’t have a ton of commercial development, which adds to its peaceful atmosphere. And you’re always just a quick ferry ride away from Seattle if you want to experience the big city.

Population

25,46429

Median Household Income

$190,98530

Median Home Listing Price

$3 million31

Median Rent

$2,75032  

Unemployment Rate

3.5%33

Walla Walla

Next up is Walla Walla, which is similar to the other smaller cities on our list. It’s got great schools, quiet neighborhoods, a strong community vibe and lots of opportunities for outdoor recreation.

The difference between Walla Walla and the other smaller cities? The cost. As you’ve probably noticed, several of the best places to live in Washington have really high housing costs, but Walla Walla is much more reasonable. With a median rent of under $1,500, it’s among the most affordable cities on our list.

But price isn’t the only thing about Walla Walla that stands out. It’s also part of Washington’s wine country, with over 100 wineries and tasting rooms. Plus, Walla Walla hosts several fun (and unique) events throughout the year, like the Walla Walla Chamber Music Festival, the Sweet Onion Festival and the Balloon Stampede.

Population

33,84234

Median Household Income

$58,17935

Median Home Listing Price

$453,25036

Median Rent

$1,47137  

Unemployment Rate

5.8%38

Vancouver

Rounding out our list is Vancouver. Located right on the edge of Washington’s southwest border, Vancouver is closer to the Oregon state line than to any other city in Washington. In fact, one of Vancouver’s biggest perks is how close it is to Portland—just a 20-minute drive. That means people living in Vancouver have easy access to Portland’s airport, sports teams and workplaces without having to be there all the time.

Portland isn’t the only thing Vancouver’s residents have easy access to—the great outdoors also awaits! Vancouver is within a 45-minute drive of pretty much every type of landscape, including the countryside, the beach, the mountains and lots of rivers and lakes.

Vancouver has been growing like crazy lately, but it’s actually a city with a lot of history. It’s full of well-preserved buildings from the Pacific Northwest’s pioneer era, including Victorian homes. Best of all, Vancouver is family friendly and budget friendly.

Population

194,50939

Median Household Income

$76,79940

Median Home Listing Price

$603,77241

Median Rent

$1,72142  

Unemployment Rate

4.7%43

Ready to Move to Washington State?

If you’re ready to pack your bags and relocate to one of these cities, make sure you can afford the housing costs before you hit the road—especially since a lot of the areas we looked at have expensive rent and home prices.

So, how do you figure out whether you can afford the housing in any of these Washington cities? It’s simple! Just make sure your rent or mortgage payment is no more than 25% of your take-home pay. If you’re planning to buy a home, that number includes private mortgage insurance (PMI), HOA fees and homeowners insurance. You can use our free Mortgage Calculator to get a look at what you can afford.

Keep that 25% rule in mind, and you’ll be well on your way to thriving in Washington state.

 

Next Steps

1. Learn more about how much it costs to move. Then crunch the numbers and see if it makes sense for you.

2. If you are ready for a move to Washington, connect with a RamseyTrusted real estate pro. The agents we recommend will serve you with excellence and make sure you wind up in a home that’s a good fit for you and your family. We trust them, and you can too.

Connect with a Pro

Frequently Asked Questions

Washington tends to be a more expensive state to live in across the board, but two of the most affordable cities are Walla Walla and Spokane.

Yes! Washington offers a wide variety of great places to live—everything from big cities full of skyscrapers to smaller towns with beautiful landscapes.

Two of the best places for families to live in Washington are Redmond and Vancouver. Redmond has great schools and is super close to Seattle, while Vancouver is much more affordable and is close to Portland.

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Ramsey Solutions

About the author

Ramsey

Ramsey Solutions has been committed to helping people regain control of their money, build wealth, grow their leadership skills, and enhance their lives through personal development since 1992. Millions of people have used our financial advice through 22 books (including 12 national bestsellers) published by Ramsey Press, as well as two syndicated radio shows and 10 podcasts, which have over 17 million weekly listeners. Learn More.

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