11 Pros and Cons of Living in Seattle
Seattle, Washington, is one of the nation’s fastest-growing cities, attracting people with innovative industries and startups, diverse natural landscapes, and artistic culture. As a matter of fact, Seattle was one of 14 U.S. cities that grew by more than 100,000 people in the past decade, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, with a population of roughly 762,500 people today.
Every major city offers pros and cons, but Seattle’s historical character, unique experiences, and contemporary appeal provide plenty to consider if you’re thinking of becoming a resident. Below, we’ve compiled the top 11 pros and cons of living in Seattle, including:
The pros of living in Seattle, WA
- Year-round fitness
- Arts-forward culture
- Great parks—most within a 10-minute walk
- Tax-free income
- Lively foodie culture
- Great neighborhoods
- Access to nature
- No scary weather or bugs
- Quirky culture
- Liquid love
- Job market
The cons of living in Seattle, WA
- The Seattle Freeze
- Expensive and competitive housing and rentals
- Terrible traffic
- Overcast skies
- Potential earthquakes
- High cost of living
- Not that diverse
- Rising crime rate
- The big spiders are…very big
- The big dark
- Difficult dating prospects (maybe)
Let’s get started!
Pro: Year-round outdoor fitness
If you love outdoor fitness and health, you’ll feel at home in the city all year long. Seattle is ranked as the fifth-fittest city in the U.S., with an exceptionally high score for personal health and adult residents exercising in the past month, according to the 2022 ACSM report.
Within the city, enjoy miles of urban, year-round hiking trails, multiple rock-climbing gyms, kayaking, and other water activities, among other fun things to do. Seattle also routinely ranks in the top 10 most walkable U.S. cities, and the city’s Burke-Gilman trail attracts walkers and cyclers alike.
Seattle also features great sports teams such as the Seattle Seahawks, Sounders, Mariners, Storm, Reign, and the newest addition, the Kraken hockey team.
Con: The Seattle Freeze
The “Seattle Freeze” is controversial but real. What it looks like: unsmiling eye contact avoidance, a polite veneer that doesn’t go beyond small talk, and coffee plans that always fall through. Don’t take it personally.
Theories for the freeze include Nordic forebears, the rain (more on that in a bit!), and distrust of newcomers who don’t stay long. Thaw the freeze by getting involved in clubs, hobbies, and meetups and being yourself. Just don’t smile too much.
Pro: Arts-forward culture
Seattle doesn’t just have the rep of a well-educated, well-read, European-style artsy town—it has the laurels to prove it. This city is one of the handful of U.S. cities recognized by UNESCO as a “creative city of literature” because it hosts the most bookstores in the country and top rankings as America’s Most Well-Read City.
In addition, the city offers significant art museums (including a Chihuly glass museum and a sprawling outdoor sculpture museum downtown—very Seattle), lively galleries near Pioneer Square, music and theater performances throughout neighborhoods, and quirky public art throughout communities. It’s no surprise, as Seattle was one of the first U.S. cities to adopt a percent-for-art ordinance in 1973 and was the birthplace of grunge.
Con: Expensive and competitive housing and rentals
Many, many people want to locate in and around the Emerald City. Unfortunately, Seattle’s land-expansion opportunities are limited due to being bound by water on one side and mountains on the other. Rent can be very high in and around tech hubs like downtown Seattle and Bellevue.
Also, renters can struggle to meet income requirements for the best high-rise condos and apartments. So, take your time to scout out the neighborhood for you—with the right approach, you’ll find a laid-back walk-to-work setup surrounded by beauty, even if you can’t swing living in the heart of downtown.
Pro: Great parks—most within a 10-minute walk!
The Emerald City spends more per capita ($325) than most cities on parks and recreation, and it shows. Almost every city resident lives within 10 minutes of walking distance to a park, so you’ll get access to greener living no matter which neighborhood you end up living in. You can even use public transportation to a one-of-a-kind beach with spectacular views like Ballard’s Golden Gardens or Lake Washington’s Matthews Beach.
Con: Terrible traffic
Seattle’s traffic can really slow life down. All those people on primary roads of I-5 and I-90 add up, making Seattle the eighth-worst city in the U.S. for traffic, with drivers wasting an estimated 52 hours per year, according to GPS manufacturer TomTom. The good news? New public transit infrastructure is being built all the time, including an extensive light rail system.
Pro: Tax-free income
That’s right! If hired as a Seattle, WA, employee, your income is free from Washington state taxes. While Uncle Sam will still expect his share of federal taxes, not paying Washington state taxes leaves you with more to spend on dinners out, your apartment rental, or saving to buy a house.
Con: Overcast skies
Despite its rainy reputation, the city gets far less precipitation than other U.S. cities. However, it is one of the cloudiest cities in the U.S., with fewer sunny days. All-day sun can be scarce from about October through early June in the Evergreen State—although rain contributes to all the fir-rich forests. Look at the bright side: You can still enjoy the outdoors on overcast days, and the moody atmosphere encourages cozy coffee shops, artistic endeavors, startup ventures, and other indoor activities.
Pro: Lively foodie culture
Seattle just ranked as one of the top foodie destinations in the nation, with high marks for diversity, accessibility, and quality. This metric included per-capita counts for metropolitan restaurants, with a bustling food scene to rival any major international city. Within minutes of landing at Sea-Tac airport, you’ll have options ranging from five-star restaurants to food trucks and encompassing Korean bulgogi, French bistro fare, award-winning Japanese sushi, Russian pierogies, upscale Chinese dishes, and more.
Con: Potential earthquakes
While Seattle doesn’t deal with hurricanes, there is one rare but dangerous concern any resident should be aware of. The Pacific Northwest experiences a “megathrust” earthquake every 500 years or so on average, and a fault line runs through Seattle. There’s no need to panic, but it’s wise to create an earthquake and survival kit while you’re living there, just in case.
Pro: Great neighborhoods
First-time visitors from other states often hit the big, recognizable attractions, including Seattle Center, the Space Needle, and Pike Place Market. But Seattle’s charm resides in its unique neighborhoods with very different characteristics, whether Capitol Hill’s LGBTQ+ culture and apartments, Upper Queen Anne’s stately single-family homes, Belltown’s clubs and high-rise condos, Pioneer Place’s artsy studios, or Alki and West Seattle’s small-town, laid-back appeal. Spend time researching the Seattle area’s real estate options before settling on where you’ll rent your new apartment, condo, or house.
Con: High cost of living
Despite the lack of income taxes, it’s not cheap to live in Seattle. You may find yourself paying more due to fairly high sales and property taxes and food costs. Some expenses are due to competition for resources, but this cost of living hike also due to well-meaning attempts to create more equity across the board, such as an $18.69 in-city minimum wage as of January 2023.
Pro: Access to nature
You can make your way to spectacular Pacific Northwest natural destinations—all within about three hours or less. Drive to Mt. Rainier National Park to visit one of the nation’s active volcanoes amid an old-growth forest, take a ferry to one of the picturesque islands, or head to the Washington Coast for waves and taffy.
Traveling over the Cascade Mountains takes Seattle-based residents to an otherworldly landscape. Motor to The Gorge in an RV for a concert in a desert ecosystem shaped by floods and lava. With camp spots, RV access, dog-friendly hotels, and boutique inns waiting for you, it’s a natural wonder.
Con: Not that diverse
Rounded, the population breaks into 65% white, with people of color making up just one-third of the population (primarily 15% Asian, 9% Black, 7% Hispanic or Latino, and 6% two or more races). The city and surrounding region also tend to be politically homogeneous, with 75% of those who live in King County voting Democratic.
Religiously, Seattleites are around 52% Christian, 37% unaffiliated or “nothing in particular”—and 2% or fewer of Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindu faiths. However, the city’s reputation for tolerance is well-deserved, and this Washington city boasts the third-highest LGBTQ+ population in the nation.
Pro: No scary weather or bugs
Hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts, and other tempests plague other parts of the U.S., but the mild maritime climate in Puget Sound means you won’t battle surprise weather events. The cool, wet climate of Western Washington discourages visitors endemic in other regions, like enormous cockroaches, biting flies, poisonous spiders, and other flying nuisances, even in summer. The worst you’ll need to watch out for are somewhat-lazy mosquitoes at dusk and dark in summer near water. Just put on some repellent, and they’re NBD. It’s the little things that matter—a lot.
Con: Rising crime rate
Like many larger cities, Seattle hasn’t escaped the recent crime waves, with crime increasing every year since 2019. However, most are property crimes, with 5,585 property crimes per 100,000 people. So, don’t feel too concerned, but locals know never to leave valuable items (or any items, really) visible through their car windows.
Pro: Quirky culture
This Seattle-based nerd community didn’t start with Microsoft or Wizards of the Coast, but it’s an epicenter of quirky culture nonetheless. Inventors and geeks enjoy cosplay conventions, game shops (serving beer, of course), and PAX West, a celebration of gaming and gaming culture.
There’s plenty of offbeat culture in neighborhoods to love, too, including a giant troll residing under an arterial bridge and a 12-foot bronze statue of Lenin decorated for the holidays. Whatever your style, it’s not too odd for Seattle.
Con: The big spiders are…very big
No, we don’t have scorpions or black widows. However, you may sometimes see a kitten-sized scurrying shadow out of the corner of your eye. Particularly in the basement. At night. Washington’s Giant House Spiders are the fastest arachnids in the world and are about the size of a saucer. The good news? They’re considered non-aggressive and beneficial because they’ll munch on the other bugs in your home. But they do seem to scare newcomers.
Pro: Liquid love
Puget Sound loves coffee and beer (and most liquors and wines, for that matter). With more than 850 coffee shops and the birthplace of Starbucks, Seattle’s coffee culture provides the liquid energy locals need to thrive and makes it one of the top caffeinated cities in the U.S.
After work hours, locals pour into one of the Seattle-Tacoma area’s 174 brewpubs—the most of any U.S. city—as big fans of craft microbreweries. But don’t miss the wine bars and the city’s speakeasy-style cocktail bars for evening libations.
Tips From a Landing Member
“When it comes to specialty coffee, Seattle is years ahead of the rest of the country. Specialty coffee drink menus rivaled the best cocktail bars I’ve been to, experimenting with flavor combinations I had never previously considered.”
— Becca Grishow, “How I Spent Six Weeks Living in Seattle“
Con: The big dark
While newcomers have often heard of Seattle’s grey and rainy skies, only a few know about our dark skies. For roughly five months, the sun sets before 6 p.m., and rises late, too. On the year’s shortest day in December, the sun rises at 7:54 a.m. and sets at 4:20 p.m.
So, it’s no wonder seasonal affective disorder can afflict those who live in Seattle. Savvy Seattleites know to prep for darkness with a SAD-busting lightbox, and exercise outdoors during daylight hours. And, we know to look forward to summer—on the year’s longest day, the sun rises at 5:11 a.m. and sets at 9:10 p.m.
Pro: The job market
Those with tech jobs will find plentiful high-paying opportunities with Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook. But the overall economy is also growing fast, with an additional 115,000 jobs by 2035.
With an ultra-low 3% unemployment rate below the U.S. average and an average hourly wage of $28, jobs are plentiful and well-paid. If you want to start your own business, note that some call out Seattle as the best city for startups due to high VC investment and an existing base of the self-employed.
Con: Difficult dating prospects (maybe)
At least one podcast has called Seattle the “worst city for singles,” while another study says it’s one of the best—at least on paper—with plenty of dating opportunities and chances for fun and recreation for those living in this Washington city.
One possible explanation is that there’s an imbalance between males and females in Seattle, with women making up 49.4% of the Seattle population. This is a full percentage lower than the U.S. average, at 50.5% This may allow straight women to be a bit pickier about Friday night’s date—but men might need to up their game.
Thinking about moving to Seattle, WA?
Whether you’ve decided to make Seattle your new home or just want to try the city out to see if it’s for you, consider renting with Landing, which offers fully furnished apartments in Seattle with flexible leases that make it easy to move on your terms. Learn more about becoming a Landing member today!