I recently had an inquiry from my YouTube Channel wherein a family from Oregon was asking me about relocating to the Seattle, WA area. They wrote me a very nice note talking about some of their goals for the new neighborhood in which they would live. Chief among their objectives were:
- Having a nice walkable downtown area – like an urban city or street-scene – where they could go for a cup of coffee, sit at a sidewalk cafe and start to get to know their neighbors and build a sense of community.
- Walking Trails – A place to get outside and move around – in comfort, safety and have some interesting things to look at as they go.
What Are Your Priorities When It Comes To Choosing A Seattle, WA Neighborhood?
Below you will find an edited version of the email that I sent back to her. I love helping people relocating to Seattle, WA find the types of homes and neighborhoods they are looking for.
Dear Family –
Thank you so much for your email and your kind comments about my videos. I am actually helping another family relocating up from Oregon this weekend (who also found me through my videos)! I try to answer the questions I would want to know if I were moving to this area. Your new questions will give me ideas of other videos to capture!
Congratulations to your son on his new job and the big plan to move up to the Seattle area. 🙂 It is indeed wonderful to have your family congregating in the same area!
Let me speak to each of these ideas and see if we can find some common threads or some starting places to get you pointed in the right direction. Obviously, budget will come into account as well. But with so many people working remotely, now, Seattle’s urban areas have not been seeing the same appreciation and housing pressure as some of the more outlying areas.
The “hot ticket” has been getting a house on the East Side of Lake Washington – Bellevue and it’s suburbs, especially to the North – Bothell, Kirkland, Woodinville, Redmond. Homes on the East Side of Lake Washington seem to be running about 50% to 100% higher than a similar property on the West Side, where the schools have not been as strong, and there have been more issues with homelessness/drug use, especially in the downtown and “city of Seattle” locations.
Here are some questions to consider before you choose a neighborhood:
1) How far are you willing to commute (on driving days) would it be okay if you were an hour out of Seattle?
2) Do you prefer a single family house, or townhouse/condo? Some buildings have elevators, so accessibility could be addressed. And many ammenities, etc.
3) How important is a yard (do you have dogs?)
4) Are school districts a concern?
5) What age of house are you considering? We have a lot of older homes in the city… and in order to meet density preferences of the city planners, a lot of houses on large lots are being knocked down to build higher-density new construction, but usually with a vertical floor plan and small yard.
6) What would a comfortable budget for you? In most of these areas we are discussing a Single Family Home would be $600-$700K and up.
Great Neighborhoods To Consider in The Seattle, WA Area
There are LOTS of great walks here, I live in Lake Forest Park at the North end of Lake Washington and I DRIVE to most of my favorite walks. Even if you are close, sometimes getting down to the water can involve a big hill (harder coming back up at the end). You will find walking in parks, along the Lake and in Urban areas. There are even books highlighting some of the fun walks in Seattle.
a) I think Edmonds, WA will be a good place to look. Kirkland, WA is really what I first thought of when you described what you wanted, but it has been very hard to get a house because it is so popular. Might be able to get a one-bedroom condo there for $600K or so. Houses are over $1 Mil by the water and get bid up by $100K’s over what you see them listed for online.
b) There are lot of nice neighborhoods along the water on both sides. It tends to be less-nice near the freeway (rule of thumb).
c) There are lots of walkable/urban/coffee shop neighborhoods within Seattle, but they are going to have more homelessness issues and more accessible if you’re willing to live in a condo/high rise/high density housing situation (rather than a house).
d) There is bus access from almost anywhere… it just takes some time. Many bus routes are now pushing people to the light rail which has opened as far North as Northgate Mall in Seattle (110th Street North of the city), but the light rail runs pretty slow with lots of stops. Buses are running empty now due to remote work, but if they fill back up again, they may have more options, run more direct routes.
Where Can I Find A Fun “Main Street” Urban Vibe In Seattle, WA’s Suburbs?
There are a lot of GREAT places to go for walks, I think the “main street” urban area will be the biggest constraint, so, let’s talk about that.
1) KIRKLAND, WA which is on the EAST side of Lake Washington north of Bellevue. This is a very in-demand area, but has a lot to offer – with parks on the water and a cute, walkable mainstreet.
Kirkland Drive Through Town: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84pIkhKzj38
Kirkland Carrilon Point (Business Park/Hotel): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IoEZNiXowHo
Where Is Kirkland, WA:
2) EDMONDS, WA – This is on the Puget Sound (and there are flat areas along the water and above the “bowl”. 🙂 – you can park in the downtown for free for 3-4 hours, walk along the beach, visit the community center, watch the ferry, etc. If you’ve been to my Edmonds YOUTUBE video – that’s a great place to get a flavor for it.
Where is Edmonds, WA:
3) SNOHOMISH, WA – This is a small town that is booming in popularity now. It is pretty far away from Seattle, WA (1-2 hr drive), but they have a main street with antique shops and a bakery and many small businesses.
Christmas Window Displays In Snohomish: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CLRUl-k4X4o
Where Is Snohomish, WA? (Red Pin)
4) BOTHELL – Another hot ticket – hard to get into a house here due to competition with buyers, but they have a great downtown they’ve just put a lot of money into updating. Lots of new construction condos with retail on the ground floor.
DOWNTOWN BOTHELL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C4Hqnr7fLKA&t=29s
HOUSE I SOLD IN BOTHELL FOR $1.5M (To give you an idea of what you get for the money, and some more driving views): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPR0ZzZGuME&t=13s
Where Is Bothell, WA:
Main Street Neighborhoods Within The City of Seattle, WA
Now, we’ve been discussing suburban towns surrounding Seattle, but what about core urban areas located within Seattle, WA city limits? Within the city of Seattle itself, there are some good options, but like I said, the crime profile is a little higher. If you’re from Portland, it might not phase you, but it would be good to take these locations with a grain of salt. These areas will also have a more URBAN feel.
5) The University District – the AVE – University Avenue is at the core of this. The UW is on Lake Washington, just north of downtown/Capitol Hill Area – very popular with lots of restaurants: Chipotle, Thai, Starbucks, Bubble Tea, etc. Great high-end shopping center here: The University Village. There are great walking areas here – the urban streets are heavily trafficked – lots of students and people-watching.
Between the UW and Capitol Hill you will see the ARBORETUM – this is a HUGE park with water access, but mostly wooded trails and meadows to walk through. Last time I was there (during covid) they had been working on a new paved trail for bikers (and walkers) and it was a big hit. I love going here with my family on Mother’s Day bc they have the beautiful “Azalea Way” which is blooming during that time with rhody’s and azaleas.
Adjacent to the arboretum is the BROADMOOR neighborhood which is one of the city’s few posh “gated” communities. You can also look at Madrona and Madison Park which are nice (expensive) neighborhoods with some walking and views along the lake down by the water. More residential in the hills above the water.
5) Capitol Hill – This is an area with a lot of “night life” – big North-South Main-drag parallelling Seattle’s downtown and overlooking the skyscrapers. “Alternative” Movie Theater and Community College Here. Nearby to the South is “First Hill” aka “Pill Hill” adjacent to the “hospital district”.
5) The South Lake Union area itself is a great walkable downtown area. Lots to do there. Used to be densely populated by Amazon employees (where my husband works) – I think they are slowly trickling back, but many are still working remotely.
6) Wallingford/Freemont/Greenlake in North Lake Union has some walkable city blocks on the slew and this has been a popular area for tourists. My husband used to work here, and when we would meet for lunch at one of our favorite Greek Cafes, the RIDE THE DUCKS vehicles used to come by announcing the art for tourists.
There is also GREENLAKE which is a 3-mile (flat) loop trail. Paved, no stop lights. This has been one of my favorite places to go since i was a kid. Lots of people, bikers, rollerskaters, and dog walkers. Lake views. Also, many people choose to go walking in the zoo. It’s a big acreage with nice natural habitats for the animals, so they have a lot of paved trails to cover. Many jogging-stroller-moms get an annual pass (otherwise $$$) and walk here regularly with their kids.
Where is The Freemont Neighborhood in Seattle, WA?
Popular Walks In the Seattle Neighborhoods
It’s good to know that even if you live on a street in Seattle, WA where there are no sidewalks or there’s not great walking, you can still find lots of great places to walk around and enjoy the outdoors. Maybe you’ll enjoy one of these popular walking destiations. There are actually some great walking/biking paths in this area.
- Burke Gilman Trail – One of the biggest/longest is the Burke Gilman Trail which goes from the NE side of Lake Washington, south around the lake to the University of Washington. This is flat bc it was a former railroad track. Many people who commute to the UW, ride their bikes in on the trail. This red line shows the route of the trail. There are street crossings/stop lights along the way. This connects/ converts into (rename for second leg) the Samamish River Trail on the East Side. This is one of my favorite places to go biking with my kids. Lots of beaches and parks along the way, and you can reach some of the Woodinville wineries and restaurants.
2. Edmonds & Richmond Beach (West Shoreline, North of Seattle) – lovely, but short walks along the Puget Sound (coast) – See my YouTube Videos. The red line is about 1 mile long very scenic and heavily trafficked – ferry, dog park, community center, boats, beach, etc. Edmonds also has YOST park which is a large wooded park with one of the area’s few outdoor pools – run by the YMCA in the summer.
RICHMOND BEACH: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jLlUeCsDiNk&t=59s
DOUGHNUT RUN: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vR1pmdfQ8R0&t=22s
3. South Lake Union has a great walking/bike trail along the Lake. It goes past the Google bldg and Museum of History and Industry. Lots of houseboats and water views. I take out of town relatives here to see the city. Gas works park is a popular “urban respite” destination in this area. It is mostly large grassy fields with a big hill for kite flying and viewing the lake and the city. It also features the distopian remains of a gas factory/pipes that is an off-limits feature/point of interest.
Kayaking on South Lake Union: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jr6AkMdFCwo&t=1s
4. Discovery Park on the west side of Magnolia has great views of the city and there are wooded trails (no bikes, but popular with walkers and joggers) as well as a fairly steep trail down to the beach.
The Neighborhoods You May Have Considered:
1) Matthews Beach
Near Matthew’s Beach, you will see Windermere and Laurelhurst which were fancy/exclusive neighborhoods (my grandparents built a house there in 1950’s postwar when it was being developed – popular amongst people working at the UW (professors) and now considered “high end.” The mayor of Seattle lives in Windermere as does “Far Side” cartoonist Gary Larson. Popular for being on the water and close to the city. There is a huge park in this area that used to be the Naval Station. Now known as Magnuson Park. This is a nice big park for walking. There is a very popular (and large) off leash dog park which I have taken my kids to, to frolic amongst the pups (we don’t have a dog) and the dogs can actually go down to Lake Washington and play in the water.
There is a small beach access at Matthew’s Beach itself and lifeguard in the summer. It is also right on the Burke Gilman Trail. There are buses in this area. Also a high concentration of tennis players and a few tennis clubs.
2) Sheridan Beach
Sheridan Beach is a small neighborhood up the ridge is Sheridan Heights. This is bordering Lake Forest Park and the City of Seattle. It is really a suburban area. Just a bunch of nice houses… some with views of Lake Washington, but also we are near the busy Lake City Way (road with 45 mph). The hang-out place here is the Lake Forest Park shopping Center. 🙂 They have starbucks, subway, albertsons, library, chocolate shop, large bookstore and foodcourt with “hang out are” with large chess set, stage for dancing, free board games to borrow, etc. This used to be a popular meeting place (PRE COVID) for knitting and crafting groups to sit and gather. Pretty good community feel and mostly under cover which is good for the rain. 🙂 In the summer, there is an outdoor Farmer’s Market.
As discussed above, Edmonds has one of the best “Downtown” area and nice walks along the water. Steep in the bowl. You can drive to the beach and park free. Or live in a condo near the water/downtown area. I love coming here – enjoyed their small town fourth of July this year.
Need More Help Choosing The Right Seattle Neighborhood For You?
Emily Cressey is here to help you. Finding the right Seattle or Bellevue neighborhood to call home can involve a lot of intangibles that can be hard to quantify. As a Seattle native and active participant in the community, Emily would be happy to help you connect with the areas you want to live. Just think of Emily Cressey as your relocation matchmaker.