Off to Washington, huh? Well, before you go, we got you a little something. We’ve gone and whittled through mountains of history, facts, stats and travel brochures to create this ultimate guide to life in Washington, just for you. And in the end, you’ll be ready to start rolling from day one in the Pacific Northwest. Just make sure you're covered with an affordable home insurance policy.
Washington in a Nutshell
A bit of a late arrival to the party, Washington became the 42nd state in 1889. It quickly earned itself the nickname The Evergreen State because of its lush evergreen forests, filled with everything from ferns to firs.
But Washington isn’t all pine needles and fresh air. It’s also home to some incredible symbols of modern culture as well. Washington’s biggest city, Seattle, is home to the caffeine-slingin' giant, Starbucks. It's also the birthplace of the grunge music scene, with bands like Nirvana, Mother Love Bone, Mudhoney, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden. It's even home to one of the richest men in the world, Bill Gates.
Whether it’s the grunge or the flora, something in Washington is making people flock here. It’s actually the eighth-fastest growing state in the country, and the thirteenth-most populous, with 7,530,552 residents. Heck, 124,809 moved here in 2017 alone. Maybe it’s the job scene? Let’s find out next, shall we?
Job Market in Washington
Washington’s unemployment rate was 4.8% in 2018, but there are still plenty of job opportunities here. And even more of a plus, the minimum wage is currently $11.50/hour, quite a bit above the federal minimum. So, that's pretty cool.
As far as what’s hot right now, the current fastest-growing careers include: web developer, chiropractor, massage therapist, physical therapist, optician, pest control technician and grounds maintenance supervisor. But if you’re really looking to maintain your current extravagant lifestyle, the highest-paid gigs around Washington are: surgeon, psychiatrist, pediatrician, CEO and airline pilot.
So clearly Washington has a good variety of jobs available, and plenty of opportunities to rake in the big bucks, if that’s what you’re after. But when locals aren’t bustin’ their buns working, where do they wind down and lay their heads at night? Let's check out the housing market.
Whether you’re dreaming of a giant house right next to ol’ Billy Gates, an apartment in downtown Seattle, or just a van down by the Columbia River, you'll find it here. But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s talk about a few details of the current housing market around Washington. It’ll help you know where your budget fits best and where to start.
When it comes to homes, Zillow says that the current median value is $370,700, after increasing a whopping 7.5% over the year before. Homes are currently listed on the market for an average of $391,500, and selling for around $341,100. But If you're more of a month-to-monther, you can rent a house for about $2,100/month.
And if apartment life is more in your wheelhouse, you’ll find the majority are a bit on the higher side, but there’s a big range depending on where exactly you wan to live. A one-bedroom in Seattle averages about $1,906/month. It's slightly lower in the state’s capital of Olympia, Tacoma and Vancouver, where you can expect to pay between $1,132/month and $1,251/month on average. But if you really want to add some nice wiggle room to your budget, try Spokane, where you'll only pay around $920/month.
In the good news category, there’s a lot of new development going on throughout Washington. So if it’s a brand-new place you’re looking for, you’re in luck. The majority of the new construction is happening on the western side of the state, from Bellingham down to Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia and Vancouver. You'll also find plenty of building underway in central Washington, in/around Quincy.
Now that we’ve covered both the job and housing scenes in Washington, it’s time to tackle what you really want to know: What are Washingtonians like? Are they nice?
Local Culture in WA
Now, to understand the local culture, first you need to understand the weather in Washington—it can be a bit blah at times. Estately even dubbed Washington as having the "dreariest weather in the country." One resident summed up their home state as a "perpetual gray cloud of fog, rain and meh feelings." In fact, Mount Rainier sees 189 days and about 118 total inches of rain every year. But at least the rain here is more of a constant drizzle than a crazy downpour.
So you can imagine that lack of steady sunlight, warmth and vitamin D can really have an effect on a person. To combat the gloom that comes with the weather here, Washingtonians dive into a few favorites—live music, beer and coffee. The craft beer and coffee scenes are huge around here, especially in the Seattle metro area.
The vibe of the locals can pretty much be summed up in the chords of any famous grunge song—angsty. Which is exactly how grunge began, as an outlet for moody musicians. We checked in with actual Washingtonians, and the consensus was that locals in this state are a bit quiet and what might seem "anti-social" and "unfriendly," but hey, they’re probably all just waiting for a warm blanket and a ray of sunshine or two.
When the sun actually does poke its bright face out from behind the clouds, once the locals stop gasping, they're likely to take advantage of some of the outdoor fun Washington has to offer. People here love biking, hiking, sailing, kayaking, fishing and whale watching, to name a few. They also like to go out in the woods to hunt for Bigfoot. Seriously, that's a thing in Washington...we can't make this stuff up. But hey, you've gotta switch it up from a constant indoor caffeine binge once in a while.
Washington's population isn't all made up of melancholy flannel-wearin' coffee guzzlers, though. Nerds also have a healthy representation under those gray clouds. One of the most Googled searches in the state is "Dungeons and Dragons," and locals are known to hit up a geeky convention or two.
Evergreen State Trivia
You'd better watch yourself in Washington, because it's home to five active volcanoes. It's also home to more than 1,000 dams, including the nation's largest, Grand Coulee. The state has the most glaciers of any in the country, and the highest percentage of people holding college degrees, or higher. What it doesn't have, is any personal income tax. Cha-ching!
The Seattle Seahawks are the only NFL team in the Pacific Northwest, so there are some pretty die-hard fans around here. Washingtonians are also fans of their state's many breweries—the second-most in the nation—with more hops produced here than anywhere else. Washington is also responsible for about 58% of the country's supply of apples. So all that rain isn’t so bad, after all.
Aside from just apples and beer, Washington is the birthplace of many famous and talented peeps, including Bing Crosby, Ray Charles and Mr. Footloose himself, THE Kenny Loggins. So it's not limited to just grunge artists hailing from those foggy evergreen forests. The state's also home to the HQ of electronic commerce giant, Amazon. Obviously, this place is kind of a big deal.
Can’t-Miss Washington Fun + Activities
Whatever kinda trouble you like to get into, you’ll find your match here in Washington. So allow us to get you going in the right direction with a few absolute must-sees for your list.
Here are just a few of the state's coolest attractions:
- Hall of Moss: Located in Forks (better known as "the town from Twilight") is a wonderland of moss-covered trees. As you walk along this hiking trail in Olympic National Park in the Hoh Rain Forest, you'll ooohh and ahhh over all the Sitka spruces and bigleaf maples that are covered in emerald-green leaves and moss. The forest sees 14 feet of rainfall each year and is one of the best remaining examples of a temperate rainforest in the country.
- Fremont Troll: This 18-foot cement troll lurks beneath a Seattle overpass, clutching a VW Bug encased in concrete (which has a California plate, interestingly). Sculpted by local artists in the '90s, the troll was part of an art project/competition to improve messy freeway underpasses. They succeeded - tourists love to climb on the troll and snap a pic with it.
- Museum of Pop Culture: Seattle combined an interesting blend of popular music and sci-fi under one roof in a museum that came to be known as "MoPoP." It's located right next to the Space Needle, so you can't really miss it. First opened in 2000, the museum explores and celebrates basically all things nerdy, including fantasy, horror, fashion, sports, video games and, of course, sci-fi and music. Special emphasis is placed on hometown legend Jimi Hendrix, a favorite of the owners. A visit here allows you to "explore and support creative works that shaped/inspired our lives," according to the website.
- Hobbit House: You'll find this gem nestled behind a plant nursery in Port Orchard. The house, inspired by The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings epics, was built in 2015 right into the side of a hill, and is covered with flowers and stones. Inside you'll find a working fireplace, and a round door and window, true to Hobbit form.
- Ladder Creek Falls: Have you always dreamed of seeing a breathtaking waterfall paired with a rockin' LED color light show? Us too. Well, North Cascades National Park is the place where that dream comes true. Started in the 1920s, the colors of the rainbow lights and accompanying music have been drawing more and more visitors to the falls and surrounding gardens for decades. You won't know if you're on a nature walk or at a concert. What could be cooler?
Pros and Cons of Washington Life
Now we could go on about Washington, but wouldn't you rather hear some pluses and minuses of living here from real Washingtonians? Here are a few things we found.
Pros (as voted by real-life Washingtonians):
- Smart Seattleites: Seattle has been named America's "Most Well-Read City," according to a report by Amazon. That, in addition to the highest percentage of college grads, makes for a seriously smart batch of locals.
- Arts scene: It goes without saying that a boatload of talent grew from Washington's gray, drizzly skies and took the country by storm. But even though the grunge scene is gone, the state still continues to celebrate art of all kinds. Local concerts, museums and art festivals are all the rage around here.
- Stuff to do: Being bored in Washington just isn’t a thing. There are tons of museums, parks and conventions to keep anyone and everyone entertained to the max here. And if you ever want to see something new, it's just a short drive down to Portland, Oregon, where you'll find plenty more to do. And they've got gray/rainy weather there, too!
- Sweet seafood: Locals love their state's seafood. From the Pacific's oysters, clams, mussels and salmon to something called geoduck (which is apparently just a fancy kind of clam), your mouth will never stop watering. The locals say the place to get the good stuff is Taylor's Shellfish Farms in Melrose Market.
Cons (also from the mouths of real Washingtonians):
- SAD: Not to be a total downer, but quite a few Washingtonians suffer from a condition known as seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. The consistent gray skies overhead can really take its toll on people and treatment and prevention is key. Vitamin D, B12, light therapy and warm, sunny vacations are a must to recharge your batteries.
- Traffic/getting around: All those waterways in Washington require lots of bridges in order for locals to get around. And that tends to jam up the roads quite a bit around here, say the locals. The complicated road system and its many overpasses, combined with all the people in/around the Seattle metro area, creates lots of traffic and delays—perhaps another reason for the sometimes grouchy vibe around here.
- Higher cost of living: The cost of living in Washington is a bit, well, pricey. The overall index scored a 121 (with the national average being 100) on bestplaces.net. The housing category itself scored a whopping 157, though. But like we said, minimum wage, and all wages do take into consideration the cost of living, and are substantially higher than many other states to reflect that.
Look, facts are stats are cool and all, but wouldn’t you love a bit of weird to wash it all down? We found a few outdated laws in Washington that are worth sharing and shaking your head at.
- You can't buy meat on Sundays. No matter how fierce your craving for a burger or big juicy steak, not today. Of course, you can always buy it on Saturday and eat it on Sunday.
- You can't paint polka dots on the American flag. Well, apparently Washington's art scene is a bit stricter than we realized.
- You can't harass Bigfoot. This is probably more for your safety than anything.
- You can't display a hypnotized person in a storefront window in Everett. Wait, what?
Next Stop: Washington
Well, there it is, your insider guide to “WA life.” Now we’re not gonna act like we covered it all, but we hope to have given you a good understanding of what to expect and where to aim.
Next it’s on you to get those bags packed up and make the move. And if lush and beautiful forests, coffee shops, breweries, super-smart people and a constant drizzle are your thing, you’ll do just fine. Good luck, and make sure you're covered with an affordable home insurance policy.
NOTE: if you decide Washington isn't right for you, we've covered the other states, too, to help you find the perfect place for you. If the Pacific Northwest isn't your jam, have you thought about Georgia?