Moving to Washington – Your Relocation Guide

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Washington State at a Glance 

With moody Pacific beaches, volcanic mountain peaks and some of the best food, music and urban scenes on the planet, the state of Washington is one of the coolest places to call home. It’s also one of the hottest — the state has grown by over a million people in the last 12 years, many moving for promising new tech careers and others just wanting to soak up the laid-back, enlightened vibe that the Evergreen State exudes.  

Washington State is home to three national parks, which cover vast and varied terrain, from rainforests that vibrate with life under every leaf to mountain slopes deep in freshly fallen powder, with alpine lakes and white-water rapids in between. And at the edge of it all, lies the daunting, coastal empire of the Pacific.  

This nature-rich state is also home to some of the most successful businesses in the world: Amazon, Starbucks, Microsoft and Boeing are all local brands in Washington. This makes for some of the nation’s highest average household incomes and the most astronomical housing prices in the country.  

To power these industries, the Evergreen State has committed to going green: by 2045, the state has pledged that all its energy will be derived from renewable, non-carbon-based sources. The state already generates 73% of its energy from renewables, and it even supplies 10 other states with power.  

Whether you’re just looking for a chiller lifestyle or you’re hoping to be a part of the green revolution, this Pacific Northwest beauty may be the perfect home for you. 

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Living in Washington State

Expect Rainy, Gloomy Weather

While some people move to Washington for the alluring, perpetual drear (so foggy! so mysterious!), not everyone in Washington State is forced to embrace the Wuthering Heights gloom. Sometimes the sun comes out, even in Seattle. In fact, despite this Pacific Northwestern’s state’s rainy rep, Seattle isn’t even in the top 20 rainiest cities in the country—it ranks in 44th place, behind Miami, Houston and New York. The Emerald City just has more rainy days per year than most cities: 152, on average. Things usually perk up in the summer, which is the state’s dry season.  

Washington’s weather can be broadly divided west and east, the wetter western half containing the Olympic, Wenatchee and Cascade Mountains, and the eastern half containing more arid and low-lying areas. Annual rainfall in Moses Lake, for instance can be as low as 5 inches a year, while the highest peaks in the Olympic Mountains can see 200 inches of precipitation, some of which arrives in frozen form. The greater Seattle-Tacoma-Olympia area ranges from 37 and 60 inches of rain a year, which is substantially more than most Americans are accustomed, but hardly enough to necessitate sleeping in your wellies.  

Within these distinct halves there are several distinct climatic and geographic regions, some created by the “shadows” of the mountains, which block moisture east of the peaks, while others are shaped by different ancient geologic forces, like the high desert conditions of Washington’s wine country, which also has rich, volcanic soil. There are also actual volcanoes in Washington State — some extinct, like Goat Rocks, and some just waiting to erupt, like Mount Baker, Mount Rainier, and Mount Saint Helens.  

In addition to being drier, the eastern regions tend to be warmer in the summer, with daytime temps in the 80s and 90s, and winter temperatures easily falling below freezing, sometimes as low as 0°F. Western Washington state, on the other hand will rarely break 80°F on a summer day, and winter days will usually hover in the 40s, sometimes dropping into the 20s on a very cold night.  

All in all, the weather is no drama queen in Washington state: don’t expect many impressive storms, either the snowy or thunderous variety, and tornados and widespread flooding are also rare. The 2022-23 is the exception, here, when the entire West, inundated with atmospheric rivers and meters of snow, seemed to be having its own backwards day at climate school.  

High Cost of Living

Washington State may have a higher cost of living than in much of the country, but it is still lower than its West Coast neighbors. Housing and healthcare are the two most expensive factors, both of which exceed the national average by at least 20 points, according to MERIC. In 2022, the statewide median home price was $567,000 — higher than Oregon but still lower than California — but home values overall were on a downward trend.  

Utilities are where Washingtonians save big. Thanks to the state’s hydroelectric power, utilities cost significantly less in Washington than in other high-cost-of-living states. A perhaps surprising element of all this green energy is how little green it costs residents: The state has the third-lowest electricity cost (per kWh) in the U.S. Residential energy rates in Washington are nearly 20% less than the U.S average, industrial rates are 38% less, and commercial rates are 17% below the national average. Hydroelectric power is Washington’s dominant renewable source — thanks to its system of dams — but wind, tidal, biomass and other sources could be potential supplementary sources to phase out the natural gas supply from Canada.  

Another perk of living in the Evergreen State? Washington has no state income tax on individual or corporate income, though it does levy capital gains taxes of 7% on individuals and also imposes a gross receipts tax (also known as a B&O tax) on corporations. The average combined sales tax rate is 8.86%. 

Income-wise, Washingtonians have fared better than their national counterparts virtually every year since 1980. Thanks, in part, to stock options and high salaries in the software industry, the average household income in the state was $71,889 in 2021 — the seventh highest in the country.  

Strong Job Economy

With its powerhouse corporations like Amazon, Boeing, Microsoft, Costco, Starbucks, Expedia and UPS, Washington State is a global economic force. Nearly half the state’s population (3.5M) participates in the civil labor force, and the unemployment rate — while a point above the U.S. average — has held steady at roughly 4.5% since October of 2022. Washington was dubbed the best state economy by WalletHub in 2022, CNBC named it one of America’s top states for business in 2022, and Forbes has twice named it a best state for business and careers.  

The state’s economic portfolio is diverse, containing nine primary sectors — aerospace, agriculture & food manufacturing, clean technology, creative & design, forest products, information & communication technology, life sciences & global health, and maritime and military & defense. Washington’s industry leaders work closely with the state government to encourage growth, the development of new businesses and promote public-private partnerships. Wondering where your career fits in? Check out the Washington Employment Security Department’s employment projections to discover what the job opportunities in Washington look like for your field. 

One of the major support systems for Washington’s booming businesses are its schools: Washington has six public universities, including the University of Washington in Seattle and Washington State University in Pullman, along with more than 20 private universities across the state. 92% of Washington residents have graduated from high school and 37% have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher. In the greater Seattle region, these rates skyrocket. This highly educated population provides a large pool of highly skilled workers for all the state’s exciting businesses.  

Most Populous Cities in Washington

Metro Seattle 

More than ever, it seems, the state of Washington is the place to be. With a booming population to match its bustling economy, the Evergreen State grew by 0.5% from 2021 to 2022, and it’s grown by over 15% in the last 12 years, bringing its number of residents up to nearly 7.8 million

No region is more popular than the Seattle-Bellevue-Tacoma region, where roughly half of the state’s residents reside. The area has grown by 33% since we entered the new millennium, thanks to the prosperity of the tech industries that new era ushered in.  

Seattle’s population has swelled by 130,000 residents in the last 12 years. Newcomers are drawn to the unbeatable combination of landscape and cityscape — an urban enclave encircled by snowy peaks and chilly waters. But they also come here for the jobs. Seattle’s median household income is $105,391 — $30,000 higher than the U.S. average — and the diverse, well-paying career options in the area are hard to compete with.  

Seattle is the home base of some of the globe’s biggest household names, from Amazon to Starbucks to Microsoft. Can you even imagine a workday that doesn’t involve opening a Word document? (Sorry, Pages.) Fashion retailers like REI and Nordstrom’s are also based here, as is aviation giant Boeing. But these industries aren’t the only drivers in Washington’s economy. More than 70,000 of Seattle’s residents work in creative fields like design, film and music — many for smaller independent firms and for themselves. These individuals generate a whopping 18% of the state’s GDP — more than four times the national average. Green technology is another prominent field in the Emerald City. Seattle just seems to spark ingenuity…must be something in the coffee.  

As the home of the University of Washington, Seattle University and other colleges, Seattle is a highly educated city. A total of 95.5% of city residents have graduated from high school and 66% have gone on to earn a bachelor’s degree or higher, giving local businesses their pick from a talented pool of potential employees.  

Housing is where Seattle really sets itself apart, though: Rent averages $1,800/month and the median home value tops $767,000. If pricing alone is not enough of a distinction, Seattle’s neighborhoods certainly set themselves apart. There are diverse, international hamlets like Columbia City and Rainier Beach, where you’ll find great local bakeries and cafes and the beautiful Kubota Garden. In Pioneer Square — Seattle’s oldest neighborhood — if the brick and cobblestones don’t have you swooning, the restaurant and gallery scene will. You can take in the entire Seattle scene from the city’s first skyscraper, Smith Tower, which opened in 1914. Maybe don’t mention that other iconic observatory during your visit to this one…Smith Tower is still a little touchy about the whole Space Needle thing.  

Those residing in Seattle’s suburbs have a lot of bragging rights when it comes to public transportation. Commuters in Seattle have access to a light rail system, a streetcar network, buses, a bike/scooter share, commuter trails and even the World’s Fair-era monorail, if you want to take your commute back to the future.   

If you thought Seattle’s home prices were eye-popping, brace yourself for Bellevue’s. The average home in this city of 150,000 will set you back nearly $1,000,000, while rent averages a mind-boggling $2,220 a month. The city between Lake Sammamish and Lake Washington has grown by 26,000 people since 2010, for many of the same reasons that have drawn residents to Seattle — the lifestyle. Manicured neighborhoods, great job prospects — especially in information technology, business services, retail and tourism — and unbeatable amenities: what more could you ask for?  

Bellevue is a city of immigrants — nearly 40% of the population is foreign-born — and the Chinese and Taiwanese community has always especially prominent. Without these residents, the transcontinental railroad would never have been built. The Native American is also significant in the city and the state as a whole. The Suquamish, Duwamish and Snoqualmie tribes called this area home long before European settlers arrived, and there are several important institutions in the county to visit if you’re moving to Bellevue or Seattle, including the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center. With easy access to all of Seattle’s cultural treasures, the Bellevue area is awash in cultural attractions all its own, from the Bellevue Arts Museum to the KidsQuest Children’s Museum, as well. Bellevue also hosts lively celebrations throughout the year, including the four-day music festival Wintergrass, the Seafair Festival on Lake Washington and the Bellevue Arts Fair.  

Of the three major cities in the region, Tacoma is the most affordable and diverse of them all. With architecture that echoes its industrial past, and the incredible backdrop of Mount Rainier, this city on the Sound is artsier and edgier than its northern counterparts — it has even been designated as an official Etsy Maker City. Tacoma’s vibrant museum district downtown has treasures like Tacoma Art Museum and the Museum of Glass (home of the Chihuly Garden). There are plenty of kid-friendly attractions, too — the Tacoma Children’s Museum is always a crowd-pleaser, and there’s a terrific zoo and aquarium in Port Defiance. Just north of the city, treat yourself to a magical afternoon at the Pacific Bonsai Museum, where botanical miniatures will keep you in a state of perpetual marvel.    

Tacoma’s major industries are first and foremost the military—the Joint Base Lewis-McChord employs 54,000 Tacomans alone—followed by health care and the State of Washington. Now home to almost 220,000 people, the city has grown modestly since 2010, gaining roughly 20,000 new residents. Housing in the “grit city” is eminently more affordable that Seattle or Bellevue: Rent is still a staggering $1,343 per month on average, but the median home value is $347,100. The median household income of $70,000 is also significantly lower than its neighbors, but above the U.S. average.  


But there’s so much more to Washington state beyond the tri-city area. In the northeast corner of the state, you’ll find Spokane, a city of 229,000 near the Idaho border. Lush forests circumscribe the city, while the Spokane River brings nature directly into downtown, crowned by the rushing Spokane Falls. A gorgeous urban park has been built around this centerpiece, and hiking trails and gondola rides please visitors and residents alike. It’s also easy to access the natural wonders outside the city bounds, like the Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge to the north and the Nine Mile Recreation Area to the south.  

Both the way of life and the cost of living in Spokane are down to earth, especially compared to those on the other side of the Cascades. Rent averages $956 per month and the median home value is $236,300. Household incomes are also significantly lower, with the median coming in just below $57,000, and the poverty rate is significantly higher, at 15.6%.  

The city has grown at the same rate as Tacoma, gaining just over 20,000 in the past 12 years to bring the total population of the city up to 229,071. The interior Northwest region relies heavily on Spokane’s industries — from healthcare and education to professional services, entertainment and trade. The 30 million acres white pine forests are one of the region’s most valuable natural assets. 


Moving south to the other bi-state region, Vancouver, Washington, (not to be confused with its Canadian cousin), is the state’s fourth-largest metropolis. As a sister city to Portland, Vancouver does somewhat stand in her shadow — far more residents commute from homes in Vancouver to work in Portland than vice versa, and roughly 65,000 Vancouver residents did so in 2019. It’s perhaps not surprising, then, that unemployment in the city is high: 6.2%. The city’s primary industries includes education, healthcare, financial services and gaming/hospitality, but construction seems to be having a real moment: this sector has grown by 9% each year since 2011.  

Vancouver’s 192,169 residents enjoy a far lower cost of living than their counterparts in Portland. Rent in Vancouver averages $1,396 per month, the median home value is $343,900, and the average household income is $67,462. The city’s downtown district is filled with public art, along with cool restaurants and taprooms, and anchored by the elegant Waterfront Park. The Columbia River Gorge — one of only 10 National Scenic Areas in the country — is right outside your door, so dust off those paddleboards and kayaks…and watch out for the kiteboarders, who will lose you in their wake. The wonders of Mount Saint Helens are just an hour’s drive away, where you can ski and snowmobile in the wintertime and hike, climb and even spelunk in the warmer months. 

Unique Experiences in Washington State

The Great Outdoors

With all the museums, concerts, and festivals from Seattle to Spokane, you’d certainly never run out of things to do in any of Washington’s cities.  

You’ll find transportive art installations, like the University of Washington’s James Turrell Skyspace, and soaring collections at the Museum of Flight.  

History buffs will find it hard to pick their favorite spot, from the Yakima Valley Museum to the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture to the Manhattan Project National Historic Park, where plutonium was secretly produced for atomic bombs during WWII.  

Those looking for a little maritime wonder should set their sails toward The Center for Wooden Boats, where you can also rent boats, take family sailing lessons and even apprentice to be boatwright and.  

Pro sports fiends have Seahawks, Mariners, and Sounders FC games to keep them occupied, as well as a sport that hasn’t quite caught on in most corners of America: ultimate frisbee. The Seattle Cascades the Seattle Tempest will make quick converts out of you…or, at least your dogs. 10 out of 10 Labradors beg to see another game.    

But the outdoor lifestyle is what draws so many new residents to the state — and it’s also what keeps people from moving away. The most popular areas are, not surprisingly the state’s three national parks, but there are dozens of state parks, wildlife refuges and wilderness areas that are begging to be explored. 

Mount Rainier’s iconic, 14,410-foot peak looms large in the state of Washington, not just because of the sleeping giant’s snowy majesty but because it is still an active volcano. Although the mountain does experience regular minor earthquakes—which can indicate that the volcano is becoming active—you should feel relatively confident that the mountain is unlikely to erupt on you when you visit Mount Rainier National Park. Unless you’re saying things like, “I dunno, Glacier was better,” and then it might sweep you away in a lahar. It hates being compared to Glacier. That’s because Mount Rainier is the most glaciated peak in the continental U.S. Thousands of intrepid mountaineers attempt the icy climb to the summit each year, and many are successful. The less intrepid can enjoy hundreds of miles of wildflower-laden trails for hiking and biking. 

North Cascades National Park may be only three hours north of Seattle, but you’ll feel worlds away. Because this park is populated with picturesque lakes, one of the most popular activities is boat-in camping, which you can do at Ross, Diablo and Chelan Lake. With the milky green glacial waters beneath you and the towering peaks above, you will feel transported to a time untroubled by the 24-hour news cycle and social media feeds. Riiiiight after you snap those selfies. Fishing and white water rafting on the park’s rivers are also popular activities, but if you’re here to hike, there are all levels and types of trails to tackle. For a satisfying but not grueling trek, try the 2.1-mile trail to Pyramid Lake, a nice spot for a picnic. If you’re looking for a sun-up-to-sundown grueler, Monogram Lake should fit the bill. At the end of the steep, 5-mile, one-way journey — along which you may see a black bear or two — is a lake so manicured and pristine it could be a hand-mirror…for a mountain-sized mitt. Wherever you go, watch out for stinging nettles.  

If you’d like to explore the beach one day and the glacier the next, head to Olympic National Park. This coastal beauty outside Seattle has glittering rain forests, expansive ocean vistas and geologic curiosities that are almost indescribable. At the beaches of Kalaloch, visitors will note that the sandstone rock formations seem to be growing sideways, a feature caused by underwater landslides millennia ago. Another unusual feature of Olympic’s beaches are its tidepools, which are teeming with sea stars, anemones, urchins and barnacles — check them out at Mora’s Hole in the Wall during low tide. Olympic’s rainforests are breathtaking, canopied retreats. Hoh is usually the most crowded, so consider exploring the lakes in Quinault or the chilly river in Queets.  

For more detailed information about these parks and others in the region, check out our Regional Guide to the West Coast. 

If you’re moving to Washington, you’ll want to pack a parka, skis, snowshoes and your love of snow, because the best time to experience Washington’s mountains is in winter. For downhill skiing and snowboarding, families love the Mount Baker Ski Area, which gets an average of 55 feet of snow a year, but the Loup Loup Ski Bowl is where you can really embrace a northern lifestyle. First, it must be noted that there are great snow tubing lanes at Loup Loup, because your children will ask. (P.S. they are incredibly fun and totally appropriate for adults, especially if you’ve already had one ACL repaired.) Loup Loup also offers luge sledding, which is like regular sledding but old-timier — it’s performed on wooden sleds on nicely groomed trails that can get frightfully speedy, especially through the turns. We guess that’s what the helmets are for. Slopestyle superstars will love Loup Loup’s terrain park — their annual competition decides the best in boarding.   

Local Eats 

Known as the nation’s fruit basket, Washington state grows over 300 crops, and supplies much of the nation’s apples, sweet cherries, blueberries, and pears. This is one reason Seattle’s nine-acre Pike Place Market — so central to its identity — is also famous the world over. You’ll find wonderful smaller markets all over the state, too, from the Puyallup Market south of Seattle to the Wenatchee Farmer’s Market in central Washington to the Spokane Farmer’s Market in the northeast. 

But the bounty of Washington State is unbound by land — some of the freshest fare from this coastal state comes straight from the sea. Oysters from Willapa Bay are one of the local delicacies, and in addition to wild catch, oyster nurseries have been established in waters up and down the coastline to ensure a sustainable harvest. If you want to cook your own at home, you can order them from outfits like Shoalwater Seafood in Tokeland, which collaborates with the local Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe. Or check out one of the many fish shacks along the shoreline, like Saltwater in Langley, where the oyster po’ boys, Dungeness crab cakes and fish and chips — made with true cod — will have made your move to Washington very worth your while. 

Washington is also just a general foodie haven, so no matter what is tempting your tastebuds — Lebanese, Thai, Cajun — you’ll find satisfaction for every palate. If you’re looking for plant-based plates, the Wayward Vegan in Seattle’s Roosevelt neighborhood offers carnivorous favorites, sans carne. For special occasions, try the pris fixe menu at Copine, with the crispy-skin king salmon or the chou-fleur trois façon, where the cauliflower is fried, pickled and pureed and served with crispy panisse. Barkala is a Filipinix-Hawaiian café with a small menu of beautiful plates and tempting specials, like Pipikaula, crispy Columbia River salmon and spicy Ahi poke — all fresh, fun and delicious.  

As the nation’s leading producer of hops, Washington is one of the country’s capitals of suds. Breweries and taphouses abound — there are over 850 by some estimates. From longstanding establishments that grew out of the 90s Grunge scene in Seattle, like Elysian, to newer arrivals like Fremont, and Skookum you will never want for a wit beer, nitro stout or sour ale.  

Another 90s craze that launched a West Coast wonder was wine — Merlot was the particular varietal that caused a fever of fermentation in Washington’s Columbia Valley. Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Riesling also grow well in this unique microclimate, but don’t take our word for it. Taste them for yourselves in one of the many wineries in the state, like Cave B in Quincy or Columbia Crest in Paterson. 

After all this indulgence, you’ll probably want a little pick-me-up. Thankfully, no state is more caffeinated than the Evergreen one. The birthplace of Starbucks is a veritable bastion of single-source, small-batch coffee roasters, and everyone you know will have their favorite. Zoka Coffee is one of the older establishments in Seattle and now has four cafes in the area — the Kirkland location, just behind the marina, is especially nice. But with its clandestine alley entryway, it’s hard to top Café Allegro — the oldest espresso bar in town — that’s been brewing great coffee and even better ideas for 47 years. Thank a Gen Xer you know for haunts like these.  

How to Move to Washington State 

Now that you know the pros and cons of living in Washington and feel ready to make the move, you can start looking for a national, reputable moving company. Mayflower and our trusted movers are here to guide you Every Step of the Way® of your move.  

Get a quote from Mayflower on moving to Washington. 

Whether you’re making a long-distance move or you’re relocating within the state, Mayflower’s team of long-distance movers can help you move to Washington from anywhere in the nation. Our experienced movers can help simplify your relocation to Washington. The Mayflower Move Portal will keep all the details about your move at the ready. 

Moving cross country? Mayflower offers long-distance moving services to move you to Washington from anywhere in the country, with custom full-service moving packages and a personal moving coordinator. 

Moving within the state of Washington? Our Washington movers perform local moves in the state of Washington independently under their own brands and business names.  

Planning a DIY move to Washington? Even if you’re moving by yourself, Mayflower’s essential moving tips, checklists, and DIY resources are available to you during your “finding home” journey in Washington. 

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