Where to live in the Seattle/Tacoma area?
June 3, 2010 12:18 PM   Subscribe

My husband and I are moving from Ann Arbor, Michigan to Washington State in July, and we were hoping for some advice on where specifically to move. It feels like we have so many options that it's hard to know where to start!

We're in our late 20s, no kids, both geeky, laid-back kind of people.

The basic considerations:
- We both work remotely, so we don't have to think about commuting and so on at the moment, and we're not tied to any specific location.
- My parents live in Lakewood (Tacoma area), and we'd want to be maybe an hour to a half hour away from them.
- My family has a house on Hood Canal, by Seabeck, and I'd like to be within an hour, an hour and a half of that.
- My husband wants to be near a train station, say an hour to thirty minutes.

Things we're looking for:
- Since we'll be working from home, I'd like to be in a nice, walkable kind of place. We live on the edge of Ann Arbor right now, and things that I like here are the library system, a friendly-feeling YMCA (I like to jog and take classes there), lots of interesting grocery stores, parks and bike lanes and so on.
- Interesting things going on in the area, or access to interesting things in other areas, are a plus; I liked being able to take the bus to Seattle from Tacoma when we visited there last, for example. We've also considered living in Bremerton or somewhere else on that side, which puts us about a half hour away from both Seabeck and my family and would let us take the ferry to Seattle easily. However, I don't know anything about what Bremerton or other places in that area are like to live in -- that idea is just based on its location.

We're not going to look for an apartment until we actually get there, but we're expecting to pay $700-$1200 / mo in rent.

I really appreciate any advice anyone has for us, and if I haven't mentioned anything that might be relevant, please feel free to ask. Thank you very much!
posted by shirobara to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I'd like to put in a plug for Olympia. :) I'm on my way out the door, so I don't have time to write a whole lot, but it's a very nice town, especially if you live closer in to downtown. It's small, but gets some more interesting things because of being the state capitol & home of Evergreen State College. Great libraries, nearby train station, excellent cycling facilities. Much more affordable than places closer to Seattle. I'll try to come back to post a bit more detail, but if you have questions, MeMail me.
posted by epersonae at 12:57 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm sure you will get many helpful replies to this thread, and, welcome!
Depending on traffic, most of the Seattle metro area will put you as close as you've said you want to be to your family.
Seattle, for all of its posturing, is still a city of neighborhoods. It has a good library system, lots of parks and neighborhoods with hiking and biking, beaches, restaurants and theaters.
If you like to walk to the movies, think about the U district, Wallingford, Lower Queen Anne.
If you want parks think Greenlake (probably the choice for most new residents), Sand Point/Magnusen, Madison park or Queen Anne. For nightlife Capital Hill or downtown. West Seattle is nice if you don't commute. Ballard/Fremont area has much of what you are looking for as well.
Prices here vary a lot based on your view, proximity to water (very relative since there is water everywhere) and how hip your neighborhood is at the moment.
Public transportation is a relative weakness, but there is amtrak in the heart of downtown, close enough.
posted by OHenryPacey at 12:58 PM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

I think Seattle is your best bet. Many very walkable neighborhoods. Some established neighborhoods to look at to start are Ballard (focus in the area around Market St and 24th) which has lots of coffeeshops, restaurants, and an awesome farmer's market; Capitol Hill, which is also very dense and walkable, a bit "grittier" (as much as Seattle ever gets gritty) and urban feeling, but also so much to do; the aforementioned Green Lake, which is a bit more sedate and family-oriented; and Wallingford, which is probably the most like Ann Arbor of Seattle's neighborhoods.

Columbia City and Greenwood are two farther-flung neighborhoods you might like. Columbia City has the advantage of being on the new light rail; it has a really cute strip of stores, restaurants, etc but feels less vibrant to me, not sure why that is. Greenwood is currently my favorite Seattle neighborhood. It seems to have absolutely everything one would want in a neighborhood, but it's a bit farther from the city center.
posted by lunasol at 1:43 PM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

Oh, but if you're not interested in Seattle, you may want to look into Vashon Island. It's a beautiful island populated with hippies in Puget Sound. There's a ferry to Seattle and one to Tacoma, both are pretty short. You would want a car to live on the island, but there's a nice dense downtown area with a bunch of restaurants, shops, etc.
posted by lunasol at 1:51 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seattle is ridiculously overpriced. I'm sorry, Seattle - it's not you, it's me. I can't afford you! I lived in Seattle for 15 years before I finally got priced right out. $700-$1200 in rent isn't going to get you much in Seattle, not the last time I checked.

I think you would feel a little isolated in Bremerton or on Vashon, and the ferry can get pricey. I would start looking in Olympia, which has great walkability. Or Bellingham, if that's not too far afield.
posted by ErikaB at 3:18 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding Bellingham. It's a bit farther north than your "hour, hour and a half" measures allow, but it's hip, it's friendly, it's very walkable, and overall it just feels much more accessible than Seattle. It's large enough to have most things people want in a big city, but not as claustrophobic or hectic as truly metropolitan areas can feel. Also, it's minutes from the Canadian border, so if Bellingham doesn't have something you're looking for, Vancouver does.
posted by xedrik at 3:32 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Some of my favorite places near Seattle: Issaquah, Bremerton/Silverdale/Poulsbo, Bainbridge Island, Pt Townsend. I wouldn't live anywhere in the Olympia-Everett I 5 corridor...traffic can be pretty lousy.
posted by MsKim at 3:53 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

You can check out the recent Seattle Met article about best neighborhoods; I like Shoreline, where we live, because the prices are still somewhat affordable for housing, we're on the two main north-south passages (though Seattle-area traffic can be a nightmare), and it's in the process of big fix-up projects that will make it even more desirable in the future. Bus service is pretty good. Prostitution is declining, as are the many casinos. Sidewalks are unfortunately lacking, but we walk all around the area without feeling unsafe. Schools are renowned. Restaurant selection is so-so but getting slowly better.

If you look next door at Edmonds, there are ferries, great views, pleasant shops and a nice train service nearby. I'd live there but it's generally much more expensive (to buy; don't know about renting but there are a lot of condos around that area).
posted by TochterAusElysium at 6:27 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

I also live in Olympia (hi epersonae!) and I agree that it's awesome. It's small, but walkable and bikable and very affordable compared to Seattle. I think the library here is outstanding, but my only point of comparison is the tiny rural library where I used to live.

Travel between Olympia and Seattle can be difficult. If the traffic is really congested it can take 2 to 3 hours to drive to Seattle. If traffic is light it takes me 90 minutes or a little less. The train (the station is a 15-20 minute drive from downtown) is not very useful if you want to go to Seattle for the day because it's expensive and the schedule is a little limited (it's Amtrak, not commuter rail). Lakewood is only about 20 miles away, and you can get there on the bus in 30-45 minutes. For all the way to Seattle, you have to take 2 buses, and I think it takes about 2 hours (depending, of course, on traffic).
posted by periscope at 8:38 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Finally remembering that I said I was going to post more...periscope covers the traffic issues. I'll add that depending on where your folks live in Lakewood, busing from Oly to Lakewood can be terrible. But that's mostly about Lakewood, not Olympia.

Alternatively, I lived in Tacoma for almost 10 years, and there were some neighborhoods that I really liked. Downtown has picked up a LOT since '92 when I first moved to Tacoma, and there's lots of nice little neighborhoods. Around UPS is pleasant, as is the area between there and Division. (We lived in a townhouse on Division near 6th that I still miss sometimes.) If Olympia feels too small, and Seattle is too expensive, then Tacoma is a good choice.
posted by epersonae at 9:53 AM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks so much, everyone! I really feel like I was able to get a better idea of the area before we moved out there, and that was a big help because I wanted to get right down to finding a place to live even though I'm only slightly familiar with the area.

We decided on Tacoma near the Stadium district (I think, still figuring out the terminology). I liked the idea of Seattle, but it got pretty expensive pretty quickly, and the place where we are seems fairly quiet and the rent isn't too bad.

I'm really excited about living here, and I'm going to keep investigating some of these areas, in case we decide on trying out another area after this lease is up. Again, thank you all so much!
posted by shirobara at 8:51 AM on August 7, 2010

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