What's it like to live in Seattle, WA?


Naomi Tomky

Profile written by local expert:

Naomi Tomky

To answer the question on many people's mind: "No, it doesn't rain all the time." Seattle gets less rain annually than Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Miami and many other major metro areas. The natural beauty of Seattle – it's surrounded by both mountains and water on two sides – is one of the biggest draws for residents.

The scenery and proximity to nature, perhaps, contribute to Seattle's inherent attitude: one of calm and patience. Locals are mocked for always allowing others to merge on the freeway, but that attitude extends to everyday life, where coffee shops harbor intellectual discussions, and nightlife is more about chilling with a beer at the bar than wild nights on the dance floor.

For many, living in Seattle has as much to do with what's outside the city proper as what's inside. Less than an hour from downtown, residents escape for the day or weekend to wineries, ski resorts, hiking trails and sprawling parks. Seattleites bring that love of nature into the city proper as much as possible, enjoying Seattle's parks and tree-lined streets while staying cozy in fleece jackets (practically the local uniform).

Rankings

U.S. News analyzed 125 metro areas in the United States to find the best places to live based on quality of life and the job market in each metro area, as well as the value of living there and people's desire to live there.

Seattle, Washington is ranked:

#10 in Best Places to Live

#30 in Best Places to Retire

7.2

Overall

Scorecard

Best Places to Live

  • Desirability
    9.0
  • Value
    6.4
  • Job Market
    7.9
  • Quality of Life
    6.2
  • Net Migration
    7.6

Read how we rank places

Seattle, WA Quick Stats

  • 3,671,095

    Metro Population

  • $61,170

    Average Annual Salary

  • 60.2° / 45.0°

    Avg High/Low Temps

  • 37.1

    Median Age

  • $403,650

    Median Home Price

  • 37.5 inches

    AVG Annual Rainfall

  • 3.9%

    Unemployment Rate

  • $1,212

    Median Monthly Rent

  • 29.6 minutes

    Avg Commute Time

What's the cost of living in Seattle, WA?

Large tech companies bring in money and the young, wealthy people who earn it, driving up the housing costs and increasing the stark socio-economic divides. Although the average Seattlite earns more than the average American, Seattle is one of the most expensive places to live in the U.S., and the high cost of living has been pushing low-income residents out of the city proper to suburbs, or even other metro areas.

Value Index

Index Score: 6.4 /10

How we calculate this.


Seattle offers a comparable value to similarly sized metro areas when you compare housing costs to median household income.

Housing Costs this Year


Seattle
$403,650

USA
$222,408

Housing Costs Over Time

Data sourced from Zillow median home sale price data series. Additional data provided by the Austin Board of Realtors, Houston Association of Realtors, Intermountain MLS, Omaha Area Board of Realtors, San Antonio Board of Realtors, and the Salt Lake Board of Realtors.

Buying or selling a home? Find top real estate agents in Seattle, WA.

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What's the weather like in Seattle, WA?

People say that living is Seattle is like being married to a beautiful woman who is sick all the time. They're referring to the metro area's unique combination of breathtaking scenery and the weather that often masks it. With consistently gray skies from November to May, you can see how the area gets its reputation for gloom. What is less publicized is the reverse effect: Summer rarely sees a drop of rain. 

Seasonal Temperature (Avgs)

42.0°F


Winter

50.9°F


Spring

64.2°F


Summer

53.2°F


Fall

Seasonal Rainfall (Avgs)

5.6 in


Winter

3.7 in


Spring

1.6 in


Summer

6.6 in


Fall

Monthly High and Low Temperatures (°F)

Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center.

What's the best way to get around Seattle, WA?

Cars are the dominant form of transportation, which means that traffic can be ghastly. Because Seattle is penned in by Lake Washington on one side and Puget Sound on the other (with bridges crossing various smaller waterways), geography limits the expansion of roads. Commutes can be frustrating due to the bottleneck that a single blocking incident can cause, or a draw bridge opening, which can occur on one of Seattle's many bridges.

Most tourist points and major neighborhoods, especially closest to the downtown area, are served by the local bus system. But locals complain that the buses don't run often enough. Perhaps because of this, bike commuting is popular in Seattle, despite the area's massive hills. Commutes can be long, which means that for almost 90 percent of Seattle, walking is out of the question.

Seattle is well-linked to the rest of the world through Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, which is located 30 minutes south of the area. The airport is connected to the city proper via highway as well as by the Sound Transit light-rail system, one of the area's newest and most efficient forms of transportation. Seattle also has an intercity bus terminal serviced by Greyhound, and a train station serviced by Amtrak. 

Commuting in Seattle, WA

Means of Transportation
Driving
79%
Below national average

Bicycling
1%
Equal to national average

Walking
4%
Equal to national average

Public Transit
9%
Above national average
Average Commute Time

29.6 minutes

3.5 minutes more than national average

Average Commute Times by Zip Code

Data sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

Who lives in Seattle, WA?

Seattleites have a reputation for unfriendliness toward newcomers – something known locally as the "Seattle Freeze" that makes it difficult to meet new people in the area. But most locals will laugh at the idea of the freeze and recommend that you find people who share your interests.

Seattleites are overwhelmingly (and increasingly) young, Caucasian, single and not religious. The metro area consistently ranks as one of the least religious cities in the U.S. and, despite having the single most diverse zip code in the country (meaning the most people of different races and ethnicities in one area), Seattle is toward the bottom of diversity rankings of large cities. 

There are not as many families with kids in Seattle as there are in other places. Families who do live here tend to live farther from the city center, but can take advantage of the public schools, which are highly ranked at a national level.

The area is a supportive place for the LGBT community and was one of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana. 

Age Distribution

Marital Status Breakdown


About the same number of single people in Seattle as national average

Data sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

What is there to do in Seattle, WA?

For those who can afford it, living in Seattle is worth the cost. The restaurants are famous for fresh seafood. And while the music scene took a little longer to gain fame than the cuisine – gaining notoriety during the mid-1980s and early '90s with the emergence of bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden – it continues to churn out stars of all stripes, including Macklemore and Modest Mouse.

Sports fans will find plenty to watch between the Seahawks (football), Sounders (soccer) and Mariners (baseball), while competitors can join sports leagues around the metro area. Meanwhile, on weekends, the proximity of hiking, skiing and watersports become the big draws.

Find out more about what there is to see and do in Seattle, WA