Moving to Seattle
A vibrant downtown region and friendly suburbs make Seattle, Washington, one of the most desirable locations in the United States. Spend some time in the city and you'll quickly appreciate its acclaimed restaurants, bustling brewpubs, and active lifestyle. The largest city in Washington state and the Pacific Northwest, Seattle has enviable facilities yet manages to retain its small-town feel. Before you make the move, learn what opportunities and adventures await you in the Emerald City.
Where Is Seattle?
Seattle is the northernmost major city in the United States, situated 100 miles south of the U.S.-Canadian border. It sits on an isthmus on America's West Coast, between Lake Washington and Puget Sound. The city is about an hour's drive northeast of Washington's capital, Olympia. The Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac) is about a 20-minute drive from downtown Seattle.
Living in Seattle
No matter what activities you like to do, you can't get bored in Seattle. Cultural arts enthusiasts can find multiple art museums and world-class opera, ballet, and music groups all calling the city home. Whether you love classical symphonies or the nostalgia of the grunge era, Seattle has the right sounds for all types of music lovers.
Sports fans won't be disappointed either. Don't be surprised if you shed your old allegiances and start rooting for the home teams. The passion of the city's Seahawks, Sounders, Huskies, and Mariners fans is infectious. The city's buzzing bars are ideal places to unwind after a big game and reminisce about all your favorite plays.
Don't worry that the cost of living in Seattle is roughly 16 percent higher than the national average. Household incomes are also much higher too. Washington is also one of seven states without personal income tax. When it comes to the dollars and cents, moving to Seattle can be a wise investment decision.
Neighborhoods in Seattle
Seattle is a city of micro-communities, and each one has a distinct personality. Residents tend to take pride in their neighborhood and the people in it, so think carefully about the one you choose for your new home. Explore some of the most popular neighborhoods in Seattle.
Perched high above the city, the Queen Anne neighborhood is built on Seattle's tallest hill. Its lofty location has made it one of the city's most desirable communities throughout history.
Locals insist it's not one neighborhood but two: Queen Anne with its preserved 19th-century homes with enviable views perched high on the summit and Lower Queen Anne with its contemporary, and more affordable, apartments, townhouses, and condos. The majestic views and historic, spacious homes high on the hill are attractive to affluent newcomers, but if your budget is more restricted you'll appreciate Lower Queen Anne's proximity to downtown Seattle. Families love both neighborhoods for their safe streets, many playgrounds, and other kid-friendly facilities.
Belltown has shaken off its low-rent reputation to become one of Seattle's trendiest neighborhoods. Bordered by Virginia and Battery streets and Western and Fifth avenues, its modern apartments and condominiums are admittedly expensive, especially if they have views of Elliott Bay. However, locals insist it's worth paying more for easy access to Belltown's cool art galleries, restaurants, and nightspots. This pedestrian-friendly neighborhood is connected by public transportation for those times when you want to venture outside the community.
Capitol Hill — bordered by Madison Street, Montlake Cut, 23rd Avenue, and Interstate 5 — may be Seattle's most diverse neighborhood. It's an eclectic microcosm where well-to-do young families, tattooed and pierced college students, aging drag queens, and artists of all types share space and a passion for their rich melting pot of a community. This area gave birth to the grunge scene, and that counterculture ethos is still strong here. No matter who you are, if you're looking for somewhere to fit in, Capitol Hill is your place.
Capitol Hill has Seattle's highest concentration of apartments, and it's a great spot for new residents who want to downsize or save money on their accommodations. If apartment living doesn't appeal, you'll also find cute cottages, sprawling mansions, and more for less than you'd pay in Belltown or Queen Anne. You'll love the parks, vintage clothes shops, music venues, and ethnic restaurants.
South Lake Union
South Lake Union, or SLU as the locals call it, runs from the southern end of Lake Union to Westlake Avenue. It's bordered on either side by Denny Way, Aurora Avenue North, and Interstate 5. Seattle Magazine recently called it “the new center of the universe,” pointing to its convenient central location and abundant public transportation options. You won't need to go anywhere if you're working in biotech. This community is home to several key biotech organizations including the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the Seattle Biomedical Research Institute, and the University of Washington School of Medicine.
SLU is a great home for sustainably minded newcomers. It offers several electric vehicle recharging stations, an electric street car, organic produce markets, restaurants cooking with locally sourced ingredients, and more LEED-certified buildings than anywhere else in Seattle.
Fremont was once recognized as its own independent city. While it's part of Seattle today, this fact is one many “Fremocentric” locals would rather ignore. It takes an open mind to embrace Fremont's artistic character. The nude Solstice Cyclists, the bronze statue of Communist leader Vladimir Lenin, and the troll living under the Aurora Bridge can be confronting. But they're all part of the fabric of this place which celebrates the “Freedom to be Peculiar.”
Fremont has a more relaxed vibe than many parts of Seattle, including Capitol Hill and the University District. Perhaps it's because Fremont is a little removed from the city, although the bike track running to the downtown area keeps Seattle accessible. Fremont's restaurants and bars are some of Seattle's best, attracting residents from across the city on the weekends. The neighborhood has a great mix of older homes and modern apartments.
Ballard is a historic fishing village that retains its historic charm. While the fishing industry isn't as vital as it once was, fisherman still trawl its waters, catching salmon and other prime seafood for local restaurants. The neighborhood's Scandinavian roots are celebrated at Syttende Mai, Norway's Independence Day, and the local Nordic Heritage Museum. The Ballard Bridge connects the community to downtown Seattle, but don't be surprised if you don't cross it often. Ballard has all the eateries, retail outlets, employment opportunities, and entertainment most residents need.
East of Interstate 5, Green Lake offers a quieter, more suburban lifestyle 10 minutes from Seattle's downtown area. It's a spacious neighborhood with large homes for families, although you will find a few apartments near the lake's northern end. No matter what you choose, your money will go much farther here than in neighborhoods closer to the city center. Don't be surprised if you drop a few pounds after moving in. Green Lake's jogging and walking tracks, bike paths, and skate park encourage active living.
Working in Seattle
Seattle's strong economy provides an abundance of employment opportunities for all types of professionals. The greater Seattle area has more than 2 million jobs and an unemployment rate of less than 4 percent, which is similar to the current national average.
Leading companies including Amazon, Starbucks, Nordstrom, Getty Images, and Sub Pop Records are headquartered in Seattle. Whether you work at one of these major corporations or a smaller business, you'll find your wages are higher than in other American locations. While top earners take home enviable pay packets, employees on the lower end of the pay scale aren't forgotten. Seattle's minimum wage is set at more than twice the national minimum. Explore some of the following key industries in Seattle.
Seattle was built on its manufacturing industry, and this sector continues to be a key source of jobs for blue-collar workers to this day. Seattle has two manufacturing industrial centers: one in Duwamish and another in Ballard. These neighborhoods are home to factories making metal, boats, foods, sporting equipment, and other products.
In 2015, the local manufacturing industry took a step forward with the launch of Seattle Made. A joint initiative spearheaded by the Seattle Good Business Network and the City of Seattle, the initiative supports and promotes the work of more than 400 manufacturers based in Seattle.
The maritime industry has been the backbone of Seattle's economy since its inception. While the local economy has diversified over the decades, maritime businesses including fishing companies, seafood processing plants, cargo handling, ship building and repair organizations, and water transportation firms still thrive. Today, Seattle's maritime sector injects nearly $38 billion into the annual economy.
Many of Seattle's maritime businesses are family owned and operated organizations that have been part of the local community for generations. Seattle Maritime Academy, part of Seattle Central College, prepares the next generation of maritime workers with courses in marine deck technology, marine engineering, and more.
California might have Silicon Valley, but don't underestimate Seattle's technology industry. This diverse sector is a vital part of the economy.
Many of the world's leading websites hail from Seattle, including:
Seattle's technology also places itself on the forefront of innovations. The city is home to biotech firms making significant advances in the areas of bioinformatics and health informatics, along with clean energy companies providing high-tech sustainability solutions. While many technology companies are involved in serious areas, the sector hasn't forgotten how to have fun. Local video companies such as PopCap, ArenaNet, and Big Fish Games generate more than one-third of the industry's national earnings.
Initiatives such as Startup Seattle, tailored courses at the University of Washington, and the proliferation of co-working spaces throughout the city help nurture new information technology companies. Seattle also became a designated TechHire community in 2016, further increasing the available training and employment opportunities in the information technology sector.
Education in Seattle
No matter their interests, students of all ages will love Seattle's schools. The city has a rich educational history. Nearly 54 percent of the local population ages 25 and older has a bachelor degree, much more than the national average of 27.4 percent. Close to 92 percent of locals graduate high school, also exceeding the national average of 84.5 percent. Seattle has a higher percentage of college and university graduates and a higher literacy level than any other major city in the country.
Seattle has a well-regarded public school system and a small number of religious and secular private schools. Some of the best schools for students from kindergarten to grade 12 include the following:
After graduation, students don't need to travel outside the city to receive a quality tertiary education. Seattle has some of the best colleges and universities in the country, including the following:
Cornish College of the Arts.
Seattle Central Community College.
Seattle Pacific University.
University of Washington.
Seattle has a reputation for rainy weather, but this label doesn't tell the whole story. Showers are admittedly frequent in this part of Washington, but precipitation tends to be light, almost pleasant drizzle rather than heavy rainfalls. All the rain makes the local parks, the tree-lined streets, and nearby Olympic Mountains and forests so beautiful and green.
Seattle usually has about 70 days when the rain clears and the sun shines brightly. May and September claim most of these sunny days, ensuring the temperature is warm enough for you to appreciate the dry conditions.
Seattle's coastal location moderates the temperature. Summer days never get too hot and winter ones are never unpleasantly cold. Midyear daily temperatures usually remain in the 70s while winter temperatures don't usually fall below 15 degrees. A little snowfall occurs each year, but accumulations are rarely heavy.
How to Get Around Seattle
Getting around Seattle is easy, whether you like driving, using public transportation, or exercising outdoors. Outside the downtown core, roads running north to south are called avenues, while those running east to west are called streets. Downtown Seattle has avenues, running northwest to southeast, and streets, running northeast to southwest. Downtown's street “pairs” also make navigating simpler. Remember, James comes after Jefferson, Columbia after Cherry, Madison after Marion, Seneca after Spring, Union after University, and Pine after Pike. "Jesus Christ Made Seattle Under Protest" is a popular mnemonic for their order. Discover some of the most popular ways to get around Seattle.
While Seattle's neighborhoods are very hilly, the downtown area is flat and easily walkable. It's also compact. Don't be afraid to leave your car behind when you're running errands or having fun in the city.
Many locals tend to use their own vehicles to get around the Greater Seattle area. As with all big cities, however, traffic can be a serious problem when people are traveling to and from work and on weekends. Prepare to have your patience tested in a few traffic jams.
Owning your own car isn't your only option. Seattle also has a number of car-sharing programs like Zipcar, car2go, and ReachNow. These programs let you use a vehicle when you need one without the ongoing maintenance and insurance costs. Consider whether a pay-as-you-go option or an annual subscription will work best for you.
Taxis and Ride Share
Taxis and ride-share services can provide an easy alternative when you want to avoid parking fees or have a few drinks in the city. Securing a cab was once difficult, even if you called the taxi company. However, the rise of ride-sharing services has made local cab operators up their game. Seattle is well-serviced by ride-sharing services, and you'll rarely wait more than a few minutes after ordering your ride.
Buses and Trolleys
King County Metro-Seattle operates buses and trolleys, known as the Metro, across the city. They're an inexpensive and reliable way to get around. Make sure you check the timetable on the King County Metro-Seattle website. While the buses and trolleys are punctual, some routes don't have regular services. Frequent stopping can also slow down the journeys. Adult fares cost $2.50 or $2.75 for downtown journeys during the morning and evening commutes. Children's fares are always $1.50. Buy tickets once you get on board, using either an ORCA card or cash.
Sound Transit operates buses in downtown Seattle and some nearby cities including Tacoma, Redmond, Bellevue, Everett, and Bothell. Fares cost $2.75 for journeys within King County and $3.75 for travel outside the county. You won't find off-peak discounts, although children, older adults, people with disabilities, and ORCA LIFT cardholders always receive discounted fares. Like the Metro, you'll purchase your ticket after boarding using cash or an ORCA card.
Sound Transit also operates the Link light rail, which runs between Sea-Tac and the University of Washington. The route makes stops through south Seattle, Tukwila, and at the Westlake Center. Adult fares cost between $2.25 and $3.25, depending on how far you go. Children, older adults, people with special needs, and ORCA LIFT cardholders receive discounts. Unlike the other public transportation services, you'll get your ticket from a machine at the station before boarding the light rail. Ticket inspectors patrol the light rail, so make sure you hold on to your ticket until you disembark.
Community Transit buses are great for exploring the downtown area and outside the city. Buses with numbers in the 400s travel between downtown Seattle and locations throughout Snohomish County including Everett, Edmonds, Silver Firs, and Mukilteo. Buses with numbers in the 800s stay closer to home, take students to and from the University of Washington. You'll generally buy your ticket once you board, using your ORCA card or cash. Children, older adults, people with special needs, and Medicare card holders receive discounts. Students can also purchase monthly passes through local colleges and universities.
Sound Transit also operates the Sounder train service between Seattle-Tacoma and Seattle-Everett. It's a commuter rail service and is usually only available during the morning and evening peak hours. However, Sound Transit sometimes operates additional special events services for major concerts and the Seahawks and Mariners sporting matches.
The Monorail is a much faster option, although it won't take you as far out of the city center. This service connects the Westlake Center Downtown with the Seattle Center Station near the Space Needle. Standard fares cost only a few dollars, but they're discounted for children, older adults, people with special needs, military personnel, and Medicare cardholders.
Seattle Streetcars are also convenient choices. The South Lake Union Streetcar operates between downtown Seattle and SLU while the First Hill Streetcar runs between the International District and Capitol Hill's Broadway area. These modern streetcars operate frequently, with services leaving several times every hour on weekdays and weekends. Kids 5 and younger ride free, while 6- to 17-year-olds enjoy a 50 percent discount on the adult fares. Use your ORCA card, cash, or a credit card to buy a ticket from the machine at the streetcar station before boarding.
King County Water Taxi
Catching a King County Water Taxi is one of the picturesque ways to get around Seattle. These passenger ferries crisscross Puget Sound, taking passengers from Pier 55 in downtown Seattle to the islands across the city. Since it's such a beautiful way to travel, you'll often see tourists catching the ferries on weekends to admire the views of downtown Seattle and the Olympic Mountains. Single fares are available, but if you regularly use the ferry for commuting to work or leisure excursions, you may find a monthly pass is cheaper.
Seattle's Food Scene
Seattle satisfies any food craving you have, whether you're looking for simple and affordable dishes to something more elaborate.
Seattle's fine dining restaurants focus more on food than pomp and ceremony. Don't feel compelled to wear heels or a tie, as vibes are casual. However, you should always make a reservation as tables at the city's best restaurants fill fast. Critics praise the creative cuisine at local establishments such as Copine, L'Oursin, Lark Restaurant, and Canlis.
When in doubt in Seattle, opt for seafood. The city's coastal location and enduring fishing industry provide restaurants with some of the most delicious sea creatures you'll ever taste. High-end seafood restaurants dotted along the water's edge like The Walrus and the Carpenter and Westward bring creativity to dishes made with mussels, crab, and halibut. Don't underestimate the pleasure of simple battered fish and chips though. Local icons such as Emerald City Fish & Chips, Ivar's Seafood Bars, and Jack's Fish Spot are renowned for this affordable classic.
Food trucks are another excellent alternative for cheap eats. You'll find Seattle's food trucks parked on urban streets serving the lunchtime rush and at major events. Gourmini's, Wiseguys Italian Street Food, and The Panini Truck are famous for their sandwiches. Carnivores love the tender meat dishes at Wood Shop BBQ. Sam Choy's Poke to the Max brings Hawaii's hottest food trend to the Seattle streets. For a hearty appetite, visit Big Dog's. These hot dog specialists claim to have the “biggest wiener around."
Best Things to Do in Seattle
Don't forget to play tourist in your new hometown. With so much to see and do, filling your downtime is easy.
See Major Tourist Attractions
Every Seattlelite should visit the city's major tourist attractions at least once. Grab a Seattle CityPASS, which lets you see six of the most popular attractions within nine days at a substantially reduced rate. Put the following sites on your to-do list:
Space Needle: Experience this true Seattle icon. While the ride to the top is expensive, it's worth it for the best views of the city.
Seattle Aquarium: Located at Pier 59, the aquarium celebrates the marine creatures of Puget Sound, Washington state, and the Pacific Northwest while reminding guests of the importance of marine conservation.
Woodland Park Zoo: This award-winning zoo features animals from around the world, with an immersive gorilla habitat, large Tropical Asia exhibit, and butterfly garden.
Pacific Science Center: The nonprofit center has interactive exhibits designed to inspire and educate guests of all ages.
Visit a Museum
Seattle has several superb museums sure to inspire and teach you more about your new home and the world around you. Experience a few of the city's best museums.
Seattle Art Museum: Showcasing art from around the globe, this museum emphasizes modern and ethnic works. The downtown museum is complemented by Capitol Hill's Seattle Asian Art Museum and the waterfront Olympic Sculpture Park.
The Wing Luke Museum: This facility is the only Asian Pacific American museum in the country.
Museum of Pop Culture: This place celebrates all facets of pop culture including cinema, video games, and the work of local musical acts Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana.
Museum of Flight: A must-visit stop for aviation buffs, this Georgetown museum features aircraft from throughout history.
Take a Tour
Taking a tour is an experience most locals overlook. However, local tours aren't only for tourists. Some of the city's best tours provide a unique perspective on your new hometown and an experience you'll never forget.
Bill Speidel's World Famous Underground Tour: This light-hearted tour takes you through Seattle's underground tunnels, revealing the remnants of the city now buried and humorous stories about the city's pioneers.
Hot Air Balloon Tours: Several tour companies take guests high above the city for a bird's-eye view of Mount Rainier and the urban landscape.
Food Tours: Companies like Savor Seattle Food Tours and Taste Seattle Food Tour provide tours that are a real treat for the taste buds. They're a great way to get to know the local food scene.
Boat Tours: Tour the local harbor or take a trip to Blake Island with Argosy Cruises, go whale watching with Western Prince Whale Watching San Juan Island, or enjoy a land and sea adventure with Ride the Ducks.
Seattle's Best Annual Events
Seattle's mild year-round temperatures mean there's always something happening, no matter the season. Explore some of the highlights of Seattle's social calendar.
Seattle SantaCon: Don your best Santa outfit for this festive-themed pub crawl.
Winterfest: Held at the Seattle Center, this event celebrates the best of the season with an ice-skating rink, ice sculpting, and cultural performances.
Seattle Pop Punk Festival: The music is loud and the atmosphere buzzes at this annual three-day event.
Northwest Folklife Festival: Expand your mind at the country's largest community-driven arts festival, held at the Seattle Center every Memorial Day weekend.
Emerald City Comic Con: Embrace your inner geek at this annual event featuring celebrity guests, cosplay, a family zone, and all types of gaming competitions.
Seattle Green Festival: Environmental leaders, academics, and eco-friendly businesses come together for this event focused on sustainable living.
Bumbershoot: Held over Labor Day weekend, it's the longest running music and arts festival in the city.
Fishermen's Fall Festival: Held at the Fishermen's Terminal, you can enjoy fresh salmon and oysters, try your hand at boat building, and tour the canal at this annual event, which raises funds for the Seattle Fishermen's Memorial Foundation.
Fremont Oktoberfest: Sample local and German beers at this wild Bavarian-themed celebration, featuring Dogtoberfest events and beer and yoga fitness sessions.
Seafair: This aquatic-themed festival held in July and early August highlights the Seafair Cup hydroplane races, displays from the high-flying Blue Angels, the Bite of Seattle food festival, and the Torchlight Parade.
Capitol Hill Block Party: The city's largest block party features performance from local indie bands and big-name acts.
Fremont Fair: One of Seattle's quirkiest celebrations, this two-day event features live music, craft stalls, and the infamous Solstice Cyclists Parade.
Final Thoughts: Moving to Seattle
Seattle is an exciting city with a wealth of opportunities for employment and fun. The rain can be relentless, but the perks of Seattle living more than make up for the gloomy weather. Allied Van Lines makes relocating to this bustling seaport easy. Call today to learn more about our comprehensive range of Seattle moving services.