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Seattle: What You Need to Know Before Moving There

by Team NextBurb 8 January 2021

Moving Guides By City

You might know Seattle for its rainy climate, the fast-growing tech industry, or as the birthplace of Starbucks.

But what else is there to learn? Our guide covers everything you need to know about moving to Emerald City.

Seattle and Mt. Rainier framed against the evening sky
Seattle and Mt Rainier framed against the evening sky

Quick facts about Seattle

  • Seattle’s location on Puget Sound provides residents with opportunities to kayak, boat, and even windsurf.

    The metro area’s ferries provide commuters with quick access across the water. Seattle also has the largest houseboat population in the United States.
  • While Seattle has less rainfall annually than other cities in the United States, the city experiences consistent gray cloud cover across the sky for an average of 226 days out of the year.

    During fall, winter, and spring months, light rain drizzle means that a good raincoat is an essential part of the morning commute.
  • Seattle is considered one of the highest-educated cities in the country. Household-name companies including Amazon, Microsoft, and Zillow are some of the top employers in the area.

    Seattle’s fantastic job market has also increased competition in the housing market, driving prices higher than the national average.
  • Seattle is the birthplace of many musicians who rose to fame for jazz, folk, and rock music.

    Famous Seattle-born artists and bands include Jimi Hendrix, Ray Charles, Quincy Jones, the Foo Fighters, and Pearl Jam.

What to Know About Seattle

Population & History

Seattle was founded in 1855 by settlers from the Midwest. Before the arrival of tech giants Amazon and Microsoft, it was home to aircraft manufacturer Boeing.

Between 2010 and 2015, Seattle gained over 14,000 residents per year.

Today, the Seattle metro area includes cities Tacoma, Bellevue, Kent, Everett and Renton, and is home to nearly 4 million residents.

Weather in Seattle

Seattle’s climate is classified as the Mediterranean climate zone but is affected by ocean weather as well.

Summers are dry and warm, but rarely see temperatures rise above 95℉.

Rain occurs primarily during the winter months, when the average temperature falls to 40℉. Spring and fall are wet, rainy seasons with consistent, heavy cloud cover.

The city rarely sees snow, but surrounding mountain ranges receive regular snowfall at higher altitudes.

While the climate is gloomy, the constant precipitation and mild temperatures allow the local plant-life to remain green and thriving year-round, giving Seattle the nickname of the Emerald City.

A heavy coat of fog covers the city
A heavy coat of fog covers the city

Top Attractions in Seattle

Whether you want access to water, mountains, or fantastic local coffee and restaurants in the city, Seattle has you covered.

This city’s location on the Puget Sound and its reputation as the birthplace of good coffee and cuisine ensures endless opportunities for fun and family all year.

Places to Visit in Emerald City

  • Waterfront fun: Pike Place Market sprawls for nine acres across the central-west side of the city, right along the water.

    This legendary market is a busy home to hundreds of local vendors selling everything from sausages and fish to flowers and vintage books.

    Wander through the stalls to see fresh fish from the Pacific, listen to live bluegrass and folk bands, and experience cocktail bars and restaurants serving Seattle’s finest food and drink.
  • Seattle’s unique museums: Seattle has innovative, interactive museums for all tastes and personalities.

    Although not a traditional museum, the Seattle Underground conducts below-ground tours that explore ancient, buried streets below the city. In the early 1900s, these abandoned streets were home to ghosts, prohibition-era liquor trading, and other spooky legends.

    On a brighter note, the Museum of Pop Culture showcases artifacts from iconic sci-fi and fantasy films, a towering sculpture built of guitars. It also has studios where museum-goers can play instruments and record their own tunes.

    For a serene experience with color, visit the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum to see towering, vibrant glass sculptures right at the base of the famous Space Needle.
  • Seattle loves its sports teams. You’ll find strong loyalties throughout the city to the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks and MLB’s Mariners.

    You can also cheer on the Founders (MLS), the Seattle Reign (WLS), or head to the Alaska Airlines Arena to see WNBA’s Seattle Storm in action.
The iridescent exterior of the Museum of Pop Culture, designed by Frank Gehry
The iridescent exterior of the Museum of Pop Culture, designed by Frank Gehry

Outdoor Experiences near Seattle

Seattle is located on the eastern side of the Puget Sound, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean that creates lush, green forest and scenic waterways through northern Washington and the nearby San Juan Islands.

Hiking and camping opportunities can be found in any direction from the Seattle metro area. For a family-friendly day hike, take a 30-minute drive northeast to the Paradise Valley Conservation Area for hikes of all levels.

There are dozens of trailheads for more advanced hikers, including the 7.2-mile Maple Pass Loop in the North Cascades (with views worth the 3-hour drive) and the more leisurely 5-mile hike up Mt. Pilchuck (1.5 hours from downtown Seattle).

Winter sports enthusiasts can take a short drive and climb in elevation to nearby ski resorts.

Only 52 miles from downtown Seattle, Snoqualmie Pass is a local favorite for all levels of skiing and snowboarding. From intermediate to advanced slopes, Stevens Pass is 80 miles from Seattle and has a free tubing area for families and plenty of restaurants and cafes to unwind and enjoy a view of the slopes.

For laid-back outdoor activities closer to the city, take one of Seattle’s regularly scheduled ferries across the Puget Sound to nearby Bainbridge Island or San Juan Island.

If you’re lucky, you might even spot whales along the way!

For an on-land experience, visit one of the city’s expansive parks with the family, whether to watch windsurfers at Green Lake Park or to look out across the Cascade and Olympic Mountains from Discovery Park.

A breathtaking view of the mountains outside Seattle
A breathtaking view of the mountains outside Seattle

To Eat

Seattle is a culinary hotspot for salmon, shellfish, sushi and strange hot dogs.

Here are some of the best-known Seattle dishes and details on where to find them.

Seafood, all the time: Seattle is the place to go for a wide variety of fresh seafood.

For premium wild-caught salmon and other seasonal fish, go to upscale joint AQUA.

Pacific oysters are a must-try and are available at seafood spots across the city, whether ordered from an affordable restaurant like The 100 Pound Clam or paired with caviar and organic wine at Vinnie’s Raw Bar.

Pike Place: We’ve already mentioned Seattle’s legendary market, but its options for food are too good to pass up.

For takeout while you peruse the stalls, pick up a salmon sandwich from Market Grill. Go to Taxi Dogs across the street for the infamous Seattle dog: a hot dog in a traditional bun served with caramelized onions and, believe it or not, slathered with cream cheese.

If more sophisticated dining is what you’re looking for, make reservations for Matt’s in the Market, a stylish joint on the third floor of the market.

If you get a window-side seat, you can look down over the busy activity below, flying fish and all.

Coffee and its counterparts: Starbucks was founded in 1971 in Pike Place Market. Today, its central Seattle Reserve Roastery is almost always packed.

For local spots for lattes, cortados, and accompanying pastries, go to Herkimer Coffee, a well-loved mini-chain.

Other eclectic options include Victoria Coffee Roasters, Zoka Coffee Roaster and Tea Company.

A sign above the entrance to Pike Place Market
A sign above the entrance to Pike Place Market

Living in Seattle

Seattle’s top employers

The median household income of Seattle is $82,189.

Seattle’s job market is one of the best in the country.

It was one of the only cities to retain job growth despite the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, and its annual job growth rate of 2.6% puts it high up in the list of quickly-growing metro areas in the United States.

Seattle’s status as a hotspot for e-commerce and tech companies has earned it the nickname of Cloud City.

The Boeing company is still a top employer in the area, along with Amazon and Microsoft.

Other household names in the tech industry include Redfin, Zillow, and Zulily. Renewable energy is another large industry and includes companies such as Drift, HaloSource, and LevelTen Energy.

Working from home in Seattle

Seattle’s extensive array of activities and amenities make it a great place to consider a future home, whether you’re commuting to work or working from home.

The top internet providers in the metro area are Xfinity, CenturyLink, and Ziply Fiber, a provider based out of nearby Kirkland, WA. Xfinity and Ziply Fiber plans start at $19.99/month, while CenturyLink plans start with a higher Mbps at $49.99/month for any home office wireless needs.

For those who need a change of pace, Seattle offers excellent coworking spaces across the city. Pioneer Collective offers warm meetings and office spaces along with an in-house gym for its members.

The Cloud Room has trendy open-air workspaces and a bar for post-work drinks with friends and colleagues.

Cost of Living

Seattle’s cost of living is 72 percentage points higher than the average cost of living in the United States.

Most of this is due to housing prices, which are incredibly high due to the city’s fast growth in population.

The median home price of the Seattle metro area is close to $790,000, and the average rent is $2,554/month.

While renting is generally considered more affordable in Seattle, house prices have plateaued over the past few years, which is promising news to those who want to buy but haven’t been able to afford the high-priced Seattle market.

The cost of utilities and healthcare in Seattle fell slightly below national averages, but transportation and groceries cost more than in other parts of the country.

The state of Washington has no income tax, and property taxes are low at .98% (but with soaring house values, that small percentage can still add up to a large sum).

The sales tax in King County is 10%, with an additional rate added based on the city. Tacoma, for example, has a sales tax of 10.2%.

Seattle’s downtown and harbor
Seattle’s downtown and harbor

Transportation & Commute

Seattle provides various public transportation options, all of which can be covered by an ORCA card, which commuters can pre-load with a credit or debit card.

Link LightRail provides train service through downtown and south to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. King County Metro Transit has bus lines that run from downtown out into the suburbs, and Seattle streetcars provide connections throughout downtown Seattle.

Residents who live in the heart of the city often avoid owning a car because of steep parking fees, but those in nearby suburbs typically commute to work via I-5, I-405, or I-90.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is the largest airport serving the Pacific Northwest and provides flights to Canada, Hawaii, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

It’s considered one of the world’s busiest airports and is a central hub for Alaska and Delta Airlines.

SEA Airport is accessible in an 18-minute drive or a 27-minute train ride from downtown Seattle.

Best places to live in and around Seattle

Best neighborhoods for families with kids

  • Clyde Hill: Located only 15 minutes from downtown, suburb Clyde Hill has stellar school ratings and a close-knit community and is considered one of the best suburbs of Seattle.

    House prices are not to be underestimated with a median price of $3,021,471, but the proximity to the city is unbeatable.
  • Sammamish: With a (relatively) more affordable median home price of $1,062,980, Sammamish has equally excellent school ratings with lower-priced homes and more affordable rent prices.

    A 30-minute drive from downtown Seattle, Sammamish is home to 70% families and is a great community to raise kids.
  • Redmond: Only 25 minutes northwest of the city, Redmond offers a more urban feel than other Seattle suburbs.

    Families looking for great schools will find lower home prices in Redmond while still having access to the city and nearby parks and amenities.

    The median home price in Redmond is $933,333.

Best neighborhoods for young professionals

  • Neighborhoods in Seattle: Young professionals looking for an urban lifestyle will find it in the heart of Seattle itself!

    It goes without saying that neighborhoods like Capitol Hill and Ballard are great places if paying rent is affordable (average rent for the city falls at $2,600/month).

    Upper Queen Anne is a great neighborhood that has a central location while providing a calmer lifestyle to its residents.

    The median home price for those looking to buy in Seattle is $775,277.
  • Bellevue: Only 15 minutes from downtown, Bellevue is a fantastic suburb for those who want to get out in nature whenever they can.

    The city’s park systems allow for biking, picnicking, and even camping, and the median home price is lower than surrounding areas at $918,458.

    You can even commute to work on the Bainbridge Ferry!
  • Kirkland: For a small-town vibe with big-city access, look no further than Kirkland, WA. Kirkland is just a 22-minute drive from Seattle and boasts its own culture with local shops, bars, and restaurants.

    It’s also significantly more affordable, with a median home price of $796,012.
One of Seattle’s regularly scheduled ferries
One of Seattle’s regularly scheduled ferries

Higher Education

Seattle is a great city to consider for undergraduate and graduate programs.

The University of Washington-Seattle is a public research university with ten distinct academic schools.

The university’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences conducts research in the Puget Sound area and is considered one of the best programs of its kind in the country.

Seattle University and Seattle Pacific University are two of the city’s other academic institutions, both with religious affiliations, and are among the top-ranked colleges in the United States.

Crime in Seattle

Crime rates in Seattle are 19% higher than the national average, which is low compared to other major city metro areas.

While Seattle has more dangerous areas just like any big city, local government initiatives have cleaned and improved areas throughout Seattle neighborhoods to provide safer living for its residents.

Surrounding suburbs are largely considered great, safe places to live as well.

Are you considering Seattle as your next home?

With a thriving job market and a unique identity, Seattle is an energetic, thriving city with opportunities for young professionals, couples, and families.

While the city’s weather might have a gloomy reputation, lush nearby forests and the vibrant energy of spots like Pike Place Market and the city’s growing culinary scene make up for the rain and provide memorable experiences for Seattle residents.

Here at Nextburb, we’re committed to providing you with the facts you need to know about any area you’re considering as a future home.

Discover the best places to live in the United States to find out more about neighborhoods to live in, school ratings, crime data, and real estate options.

We’ll provide you with recommendations based on your lifestyle and budget preferences to help you discover where you want to go.

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