Study: Best Cities to Live in Washington

Washington has more to offer than just breathtaking views. The state is home to several major cities, including Seattle and Tacoma, as well as a number of smaller towns that are ideal for families, recent grads, working professionals and seniors who are looking for a place to enjoy their golden years. Read on to find the 10 best cities to live in Washington.

Washington is nicknamed "The Evergreen State" for good reason. In the east, there are the valleys and mountains of the Columbia Plateau, which is part of the largest lava plateau in the world. In central Washington, the most notable feature is the Cascade Mountains, where you'll find snow-covered peaks, including Mount Rainier. To the west lie the estuaries and inlets of the Puget Sound and further on, the rugged Pacific coastline.

If you're moving to Washington for the first time or you're relocating to another part of the state, deciding where to settle down may be a difficult choice. Fortunately, the CreditDonkey team has done the work for you by compiling a list of the best cities to live in Washington.

10 Best Cities to Live in Washington

Study Methodology

When determining how to rank each city, we considered these five factors:

  1. Crime Rate
  2. Commute Time
  3. Income
  4. Education
  5. Restaurants Per Capita

Safety is one of the most important criteria to consider when planning a move. For each city in our study, we determined what the odds are of being the victim of a violent crime.

The drive to work can be a time for quiet reflection, but it can quickly become a nightmare if you're stuck in slow-moving traffic. To help cut down on headaches, we considered the average commute time for the ten cities included in our rankings.

If you're relocating to or in Washington to look for a new job, it helps to know where the highest-paying careers are. For our rankings, we considered the median household income as well as the level of educational attainment based on some college attendance.

When you're new to a particular area, finding a place that offers great food and excellent service can be like looking for a needle in a haystack. Our study also looked at the number of restaurants per capita to find those cities that offered the most variety.

10. Spokane Valley

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 465
  • Commute Time: 19.3 minutes
  • Income: $48,690
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 30.2%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 465 inhabitants

With a population of slightly more than 90,000, Spokane Valley is the second largest city in our rankings and the tenth largest city in the state. A suburb of Spokane, Spokane Valley is less than a 15-minute drive from the metro area. Just over a third of residents have attended some college, and the median household income is just shy of $50,000 annually. There are close to 200 bars and restaurants, including Smacky's on Broadway, home of Spokane's best sandwiches.

Did You Know: Spokane Valley was named the "Top City for Women Bicyclists" by the League of American Bicyclists in 2013.

9. Richland

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 611
  • Commute Time: 19.3 minutes
  • Income: $68,744
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 23.8%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 509 inhabitants

Richland is located just off the western bank of the Columbia River, approximately halfway between Walla Walla and Yakima. Originally a small farming community, agriculture continues to be a driving force for the local economy, and ConAgra /Lamb-Weston is one of the area's largest employers. Violent crime rates are well below average and the median household income approaches $69,000.

Did You Know: Actress Sharon Tate, who attended nearby Columbia High School, was named Miss Richland in 1959.

8. Edmonds

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 712
  • Commute Time: 27.1 minutes
  • Income: $73,072
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 25.6%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 374 inhabitants

Approximately a 25-minute drive north of Seattle, Edmonds is one of the more affluent cities on our list, with residents earning a median income of just over $73,000. Violent crime is infrequent, and more than a quarter of residents attended some college. The city overlooks Puget Sound and the waterfront district is a major attraction, for both residents and visitors alike. The local dining scene features everything from upscale eateries to old-fashioned Mom & Pop outfits, so you're sure to find something for any craving.

Did You Know: The Edmonds Marsh is one of the few saltwater estuaries in the Puget Sound area, and birdwatchers can view up to 200 different species throughout the year.

7. Bellevue

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 783
  • Commute Time: 21.8 minutes
  • Income: $88,073
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 15.7%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 358 inhabitants

The largest city on our list, Bellevue sits a short distance from Seattle, just across Lake Washington. What began as a small coal mining town is now one of the most important commercial centers in the state, largely due to its close proximity to the headquarters of several major corporations, including Boeing. The median income is among the highest of any city in our rankings at $88,073, and violent crime is a rare occurrence. Residents enjoy an average commute of less than 22 minutes and you'll find more than 350 restaurants to satisfy your hunger.

Did You Know: In 2012, Money magazine ranked Bellevue fourth on its list of the "Best Places to Live."

6. Kirkland

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 546
  • Commute Time: 22.6 minutes
  • Income: $86,656
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 19.8%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 282 inhabitants

Less than a 20-minute drive north of Bellevue, Kirkland is a top choice if you're looking for waterfront views and plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy. The city is home to a number of families with young children, but there's also a healthy senior population. Close to 20% of the residents attended some college, and the median income is one of the highest on our list, at nearly $87,000.

Did You Know: Kirkland borders the Woodinville Wine Country, home to more than 90 wineries and tasting rooms.

5. Lacey

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 566
  • Commute Time: 24.2 minutes
  • Income: $58,963
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 29.7%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 430 inhabitants

Less than six miles from Olympia, Lacey is an up-and-coming suburb of the state capital. Close to the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge and the Puget Sound, Lacey is a nature-lover's dream if you're looking to enjoy the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. Violent crime rates are low and the average commute takes less than 25 minutes. Nearly a third of the residents attended some college, which is reflected by above average incomes.

Did You Know: From Lacey, it's a relatively short drive to Mt. Rainier, the tallest mountain in Washington State.

4. Bothell

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 983
  • Commute Time: 26.7 minutes
  • Income: $72,157
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 24%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 340 inhabitants

Another suburb of Seattle, Bothell is less than a 30-minute drive from the metro area. The city boasts a thriving economy, which is primarily centered around the biotech industry. Some of the area's major employers include EKOS Corporation, Halo Source, and Philips Medical Systems. The violent crime rate is among the lowest of any of the cities in our rankings, and residents earn a median of more than $72,000 annually. With more than 100 restaurants to choose from, Bothell is also close to the wineries and tasting rooms of Woodinville.

Did You Know: One of the most popular attractions is the nearby San Juan Islands, where you can catch a glimpse of orcas whales, sea otters, bald eagles and other local wildlife.

3. Issaquah

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 1,741
  • Commute Time: 28.3 minutes
  • Income: $87,074
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 19.6%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 297 inhabitants

Issaquah is located approximately 12 miles southeast of Bellevue, close to Tiger Mountain State Forest and Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park. In terms of the crime rate, you won't find a safer city than Issaquah, and residents enjoy a significantly higher median income at just over $87,000. Of the city's more than 100 restaurants, one of the most famous is the Triple XXX Rootbeer Drive-In, which serves up burgers, shakes and fries with a 1950s vibe.

Did You Know: Issaquah is home to the Salmon Days Festival, an award-winning event that celebrates the return of spawning salmon to the area's creeks and lakes.

2. Oak Harbor

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 591
  • Commute Time: 17.6 minutes
  • Income: $48,809
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 31%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 318 inhabitants

Oak Harbor, the smallest city on our list population-wise, also happens to be the largest incorporated town on Whidbey Island. The area's growth is largely attributed to the opening of the Naval Air Station at Whidbey, the island's largest employer. Approximately a quarter of Oak Harbor's population consists of families, thanks to its below average crime rate and highly rated schools. The average commute is the shortest of any city in our study at 17.6 minutes, and median incomes are near $49,000.

Did You Know: Oak Harbor is home to the Blue Fox Drive-In, one of only five drive-in theaters remaining in Washington State.

1. Redmond

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 1,549
  • Commute Time: 20.7 minutes
  • Income: $96,088
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 17.2%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 229 inhabitants

Redmond got its start as a logging town but today, this city of nearly 57,000 is best known as a center for global technology. Several high-profile corporations are headquartered here, most notably Microsoft, the city's largest employer. Violent crime in Redmond is practically unheard of, and residents earn some of the highest median incomes in the state at just over $96,000. Redmond is a haven for professionals, but there's also a healthy population of married couples and young families. The average commute is a little over 20 minutes and there are close to 250 restaurants, featuring the best of international and American cuisine.

Did You Know: The annual Derby Days festival, which dates back to 1939, is Redmond's largest public celebration.

The communities we've studied are as diverse as Washington's geography, but they share a common thread in terms of being desirable places to live. Our rankings are designed to highlight what makes each city a great place to call home, for new and current residents alike.

Data Sources:

  • U.S. Census Bureau, Population Estimates
  • FBI, Uniform Crime Reports
  • U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey
  • U.S. Census Bureau, Economic Census

Rebecca Lake is a journalist at CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison and reviews website. Write to Rebecca Lake at Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for our latest posts.

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