The Ultimate Moving Guide to Seattle, WA
Seattle is the 13th best place to live in the US, according to U.S. News. The city that opened the first Starbucks includes big metropolitan areas, mountains and large bodies of water — hosting over 720,000 residents in its borders. Fine cuisine, vibrant nightlife and proximity to nature and coastal activities make Seattle a coveted place to live.
Tech-minded individuals may be enticed to move to The Emerald City to start a job at Microsoft or Amazon, headquartered within Seattle. However, a flourishing job market offers options in many fields in the greater Seattle area. Below, we’ll take a closer look at the nitty-gritty of the greater Seattle area to help you decide if it’s a place worth relocating to. This includes understanding the cost of living in Seattle, which neighborhood you should choose, the current job market and activities to keep yourself entertained.
Cost of Living in Seattle
Seattle’s cost of living is 49 percent higher than the national average. The main contributors to the higher cost of living are housing (94 percent higher than the national average), transportation (33 percent higher than the national average), and healthcare (24 percent higher than the national average). Utility prices come in at 23 percent higher than the national average.
While it’s not as pricey as New York or San Francisco, Seattle is an expensive place to live. However, that does not mean it’s not affordable given the median average income of the area. Read on to understand the Seattle job market to determine if paying the following common expenses will be reasonable if you move to Seattle and land a job there:
- Home prices: $673,874
- Rent: $2,111/month
- Gas: $3.47/gallon
- A gallon of milk: $2.46
- A carton of eggs: $2.29
- A doctor’s visit: $137.50
- A dentist’s visit: $118.13
Neighborhoods in Seattle
The greater Seattle area consists of a dense downtown center and a large number of suburbs. The city ranks among the top 20 US cities in terms of population, with its 724,000+ inhabitants spreading across metropolitan, mountainous and coastal areas. Popular neighborhoods of Seattle include:
- Ballard: This Northwest Seattle neighborhood has a strong Scandinavian seafaring community and even includes a Nordic museum. It is home to many venues for live music, coffee shops, restaurants, bars and other entertainment hubs — such as the Majestic Bay Theaters.
- Bellevue/Eastside: Across Lake Washington lies Bellevue, with many restaurants and places to shop. Green thumbs may be impressed with the Bellevue Botanical Gardens and Strawberry Festival.
- Capitol Hill: Capitol Hill is a heavily populated area just East of Seattle’s Downtown Central Business District. A strong LGBTQ+ community and the historic gay village make for a lively nightlife scene.
- Pioneer Square: Also known as the “first neighborhood” of Seattle, this neighborhood is known for its renaissance revival architecture. Art enthusiasts may enjoy art walks throughout this neighborhood that lies in the Southwest corner of Downtown Seattle.
- West Seattle: West Seattle is a combination of several neighborhoods in the middle of the Olympic mountains and Cascade range. Take a ferry or water taxi to enjoy a variety of saltwater beach parks.
Seattle Job Market
The coronavirus pandemic took a toll on many job markets, including Seattle’s. However, its once-bustling job market seems to be bouncing back. The average annual salary in Seattle is $81,000, which is well above the national average. While Seattle has a high cost of living due to the presence of several tech giants and Fortune 500 companies in the area, the city may make up for it with its generous annual salary and lucrative job positions, such as:
- Software development engineer: $115k+
- Software engineer: $105k+
- Marketing manager: $75k
- Data analyst: $65k+
- Operations manager: $65k+
Many residents have specifically moved to Seattle to work at the following major corporations that have established their headquarters in the city:
- Amazon.com Inc: $70k - 145k+
- Microsoft Corp.: $80k - 160K+
- University of Washington: $45k - $100k+
- The Boeing Company: $60k - $150k
- Starbucks: $64k - $140k+
There are plenty of other companies in the area to work at, including Darigold, Perkins Coie, Avanade, Trident Seafoods, Pro.com and much more. It will be important to know where these businesses are stationed, however, as they may not be in Seattle proper. For instance, Microsoft’s headquarters is located in Redmond, WA (15 miles east of Seattle). Other companies may be stationed in surrounding cities such as Mill Creek, Everett, and Puyallup.
Things to Do in Seattle
Seattle likely has something enjoyable to offer to anyone. There are several mountain ranges in the vicinity of the greater Seattle area for nature lovers for hiking, camping and climbing. Those who like the water can enjoy fishing and sailing on the various bodies of water close to Seattle. There are also attractions for those who love music and the arts, and many bars and restaurants for foodies.
Mountain ranges and evergreen forests surround Seattle. This gives ample opportunity for nature hikes, guided tours and the exploration of several national parks as well as volcanos, waterfalls and beautiful mountain views. Look to do the following activities if you are an outdoors enthusiast:
- Mt. Rainier Day Trip: Nature lovers may appreciate a guided hike through the alpine meadows of this active volcano during the summer and snowshoeing the mountainous terrain during the winter.
- Mt. St. Helens National Monument for Seattle Tour: Explore the beautiful scenery of the Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. Here, you can hike the Eruption Trail, which gives views of the iconic volcano’s blast zone.
- Snoqualmie Falls and Seattle Winery Tour: Trek the beautiful scenery of the Cascade foothills to the Snoqualmie waterfalls and stop off at one of the several acclaimed wineries that are close by.
Parks and Attractions
For those who want to explore the city, there are many things you can do in the metropolis of Seattle. This includes taking a trip to one of the tallest observation towers in the U.S., an iconic farmers market, museums and more.
- Space Needle: This icon and designated landmark of Seattle is 605 feet tall and boasts a 360-degree view of the city and surrounding mountains as well as food and drinks.
- Pikes Place Market: Visit one of the oldest public farmers markets in operation today. Positioned on Elliott Bay, 10 million people dine, drink and shop annually at Pikes Place Market. You can find everything from comic book shops to fresh produce and fish to arcades among the aisles and stalls.
- Museum of Pop Culture: MoPOP was first founded as the Experience Music Project (EMP) but has since been turned into a museum for current popular culture. Its numerous exhibits include everything from art to fantasy to horror cinema. It also consists of a Sound Lab in which you can see instruments, performances, photographs and lyric sheets from rock 'n' roll legends. The building, designed by Frank O. Gehry, is 140,000 square feet and includes many activities for film and music buffs.
- Woodland Park Zoo: The Woodland Park Zoo is a nonprofit dedicated to saving animals and habitats. Visit the lions, rhinos, bears, penguins and insects while learning about their efforts to conserve and protect all animals.
- Seattle Center Monorail: The Seattle City Monorail is a great way to get around town. However, it is also a way to affordably travel to and explore many of the attractions around Seattle. Those only spending a day or two in Seattle should consider the Monorail for transportation, and it is an excellent way for those who live there to get around town quickly if they don't want to drive a car.
- Chihuly Garden and Glass: Inspired by the works of artist Dale Chihuly, this exhibit offers a glasshouse, garden, audio tour, bookstore, and art plaza and café. Those who love the arts should be sure to take the Monorail to this exhibit.
Food and Drink
Seattle has a huge variety of cuisines. You can find fresh seafood, Vietnamese food, bakeries and even a good old-fashioned hotdog within walking distance. Check out some of the following places to eat and drink in Seattle:
- The Walrus and the Carpenter: This restaurant is much more than just an oyster bar — it also offers a welcoming, cozy setting for patrons to enjoy various dishes and drinks. Oysters are their forte, but they also serve fish and shellfish, cheese plates, and sweets. Look to the drink menu for a variety of wines, cocktails and beer.
- Bakery Nouveau: Fans of baked goods should visit this restaurant for breakfast pastries, macaroons, chocolates, cookies, breads and desserts.
- Damn the Weather: People 21 and over should visit this restaurant and bar in Pioneer Square. Classified as an upscale gastropub, you can find beer, wines, cider, cocktails and food in a great atmosphere.
- Paragon Seattle: Signature cocktails, wine, beer and several upscale entrées can be found at this restaurant that has been serving people for 25 years.
- Pho Bac Súp Shop: Seattle has a large Vietnamese community, and Pho Bac is indicative of that. A variety of soup dishes, snacks, cocktails and wine can be found at these restaurants throughout the city.
Things to Know Before Moving to Seattle
It may help to consider a few more things before making a final decision to move to Seattle. Some are good, and some are bad, but all the following should be reflected upon before moving to Seattle.
- There is no state income tax: While the city of Seattle has one of the highest sales tax rates in America, Washington has no state income tax. Taxes may be tricky to calculate, so it is a good idea to understand how Washington State's Department of Revenue handles taxes.
- It’s not as rainy as you might think: On average, it rains 156 days out of the year, releasing 38 inches of annual rainfall. Seattle ranks 32nd among the nation's 50 largest cities in terms of rainfall — but ranks fifth in total number of rainy days.
- Traffic can be unpleasant: Traffic congestion in Seattle ranks among the worst in the country. However, Seattle does have an excellent public transit system with the Monorail, ridesharing opportunities with Uber and Lyft, and fosters eco-friendly, alternative transportation methods.
- Seattle is highly educated: Of the 50 largest cities in the US, Seattle has the highest percentage of adults (63 percent) with a bachelor's degree or higher.
- Homelessness issues: Seattle ranks third among US cities with the largest homeless population. Tent cities are common, but humanitarians are working to solve this issue for the town.
Outdoor and coastal activities usually require several types of gear. Rather than store all this gear in your home — taking up valuable living space — it may be a good idea to plan for storage. Finding a storage unit near you can be tricky in Seattle's densely populated metro areas – especially with features such as climate control — but you may be able to find storage units in the following cities in the greater Seattle area:
Seattle has a little of everything for city dwellers and nature enthusiasts alike — hiking, parks, museums, live music culture and more. While it may have a high cost of living, the average annual income for the city can help you live comfortably and enjoy all the attractions the city has to offer.