State Of The Suburbs
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State Of The Suburbs
Greener pastures, just a ferry ride away
Washington, DC
At Thrillist, we love big cities, but we also recognize the appeal of smaller towns with the same mix of great food, nightlife, and culture – plus a lower cost of living. That’s why we’ve partnered with the National Association of Realtors® on a content series highlighting the best suburbs of nine major cities, perfect for young urbanites who may be looking to buy a home. And when it’s time to start house hunting, check out HouseLogic.com, from NAR, for buying and selling advice to help you navigate loan options, bidding wars, and everything else it takes to close the deal. Dream home, here you come.
Remember those idyllic shots of Seattle in Say Anything? How about the impressive, but completely fictional city skyline from Frasier Crane’s apartment or the charming Wallingford home from Harry and the Hendersons? These classics all offer a wonderfully cinematic portrayal of our rainy port city, but it’s hard to have such illusions all the way here in 2018, when Seattle is a booming metropolis that continues to grow at an exponential rate.

While there are a multitude of perks to living in the big city, there comes a time when the siren call of a less soul-crushing commute to work -- not to mention dodging burgeoning rents -- hearkens. This is especially true if you’re looking to own; the influx of big tech has median home prices in Seattle hanging in the cool 800K range (which is projected to inch dangerously close to $1 million by year’s end), all but slashing most millennials’ chances of buying in town.  

So, ready to kiss your 500 square-foot rental goodbye for bigger pastures? Here are five options all within an hour of Seattle where you’ll get the most bang for your buck without compromising all your favorite parts of city living.
Vashon Island
An off-the-grid Pacific Northwest wonderland
Who doesn’t need an excuse to partake in the most revered Pacific Northwest pastime -- riding the ferry? Just a brisk 20-minute boat ride from Seattle’s Fauntleroy Terminal, Vashon Island is a lush retreat from rush hour traffic that will appeal to outdoorsy types who crave a quintessentially PNW lifestyle that’s a bit more off the grid.

While the water taxi makes island life accessible to those who have to log hours in the city for work, the food scene is worth sticking around for. From a restaurant with a Top Chef pedigree to some of the best locally-sourced food you’ll find in the state (cheese simply does not get better than the selection that comes from Kurtwood Farms), there’s lots to fall in love with in these parts. Even our beloved Anthony Bourdain gave his stamp of approval to Vashon Island on a recent Parts Unknown episode in Seattle, taking respite from the city at a decked-out clambake with the folks of ChefSteps.

Vashon Island has a relatively small population (around 10,000), but that doesn’t mean it can’t have one of the better school districts in the area. Chautauqua Elementary, McMurray Middle School, and Vashon Island High are all well-ranked public schools -- an added perk for those looking to start a family and set down roots. (And note, future kids: you’d be hard-pressed to find a more idyllic setting in which to grow up.) Homes on the island are a bit more spread out, which means plenty of yard space, perfect for the avid (or aspiring) gardener. Plus, between the quirky, Northwest-inspired prints at Hinge Gallery to the legendary bicycle tree, it quickly becomes apparent that there’s a lot more to this whimsical paradise than meets the eye.
Water views with an energetic vibe
Bothell is located around 30 minutes north of Seattle and is perched on the north end of Lake Washington. Not only is the area resplendent with stunning views of the water, but it’s studded with charming breweries and bistros galore (try Russell’s, a chic steakhouse in a converted barn). If you’re into wine, the proximity to Woodinville, the wine mecca of the greater Seattle area, is clutch.

Close to many east-side hubs like Redmond and Bellevue, Bothell offers an energetic vibe and is home to excellent book stores; markets (it doesn’t get more farm-to-table than stocking up on fresh veggies and fruit from the Sunday farmers market at Town Center at Lake Forest Park); and outdoor spaces like North Creek Park and the scenic Burke-Gilman Trail at The Park at Bothell Landing, both perfect for dog walking, running, playing with kids, and more. “Bothell is a really exciting city,” says Terry Miller, a Seattle area real estate agent and Realtor® -- a member of the National Association of Realtors®. “Prices are growing, but millennials can still get a little bit of land here.”

The Landing offers a downtown-y feel with stylish townhouses and establishments like McMenamins Anderson School, a converted junior high that now enjoys a second life as a whimsical combination restaurant/hotel/tiki lounge/movie theater, that are helping to revitalize the city and attracting a younger, hipper crowd. Sound Transit is planning new routes nearby (projected to open in 2024), which sweetens the deal (and is sure to increase property value).
Pedestrian, and frequent-flyer, friendly
As recently as a decade ago, Seattleites might have turned up their noses at Burien, but there’s no denying the city has changed a lot in the past few years… a shift that is in no small part due to folks getting pushed out of the more central Seattle neighborhoods like Capitol Hill. Though real estate in Burien, about a 20-minute drive from downtown without traffic, is gradually increasing in price, there are still opportunities in town for the prospective millennial buyer. “Burien has more cache than ever,” says Miller, who points to its super walkable nature and proximity to the waterfront, as well as breathtaking views of Mount Rainier and the Puget Sound.

With a population of 50,000, Burien is brimming with bustling, pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods like Town Square Park, an area studded with retail stores, hip restaurants, dive bars, a public park, and a library. For a more rustic vibe, there’s a tiny pocket of a town appropriately named Olde Burien. More than a dozen new restaurants have opened downtown in recent years; there are also two chocolatiers and an Oilerie location selling fancy Italian olive oils and balsamic vinegars. The area of Ambaum Boulevard and 152nd to 153rd Streets is packed with international groceries as well as several taquerias and an Ethiopian restaurant.

Travel often (or inspired to after tasting Burien’s ethnic food scene)? Great! Your proximity to Sea-Tac Airport, less than a 10-minute drive west, is sure to make life easier for your next trip.
Scenic hikes & a growing arts scene
Further north, about 30 miles from Seattle, is Everett, a mid-sized city (its population clocks in around 110,000) that boasts both an urban feel and a small seaside-town vibe. Its proximity to some of the most breathtaking hikes in the state -- the Lowell Riverfront Trail offers unequaled views of the sound without leaving city limits -- and Mount Baker opens up a world of verdant options for how to spend the weekend. And it’s a fantastic option for the young urbanite not looking to compromise a city lifestyle for an affordable place to live.

Events like Fisherman’s Village Music Festival are reinvigorating the city’s arts scene; the now five-year-old festival takes place every spring and draws bands from around the Pacific Northwest as well as more than 5,000 attendees from the greater Seattle area and beyond. Ryan Crowther, co-founder of the Everett Music Initiative and Fisherman’s Village, is a prime example of Everett’s allure. “After commuting from Seattle to Everett every morning for four years and allowing post-work happy hours to keep me in Everett in the evenings, I really just fell for Everett in a big way,” Crowther says. He points to the community, like friendly store owners that let you finish the last of your food and drink after they close, plus views of the mountains in all four seasons, that make Everett a place you’re happy to call home.

From a pretty legit pizza game (shout out to Brooklyn Bros. Pizzeria and Major League Pizza) to an impressively diverse array of world food (Caribbean, Salvadoran, Hawaiian), great coffee, and more, Everett is definitely a city on the come up -- so come on up.
Seattle’s sister city grows up
Seattle’s sister city 34 miles to the south is a bustling port town chock full of craft bars, renowned restaurants, and quirky shops -- urban living at a significantly lower price point. Whether it’s a dive-y barcade you’re looking for, a hidden cocktail bar, legendary donuts (literally), a killer macchiato or some A+ pizza, you’ll find it all within city limits.

Also good news for one-time urbanites, Tacoma is a highly walkable city with insular neighborhoods that have plenty going on. The Stadium District, located next to downtown Tacoma, is a popular choice, according to Miller, who says that, “compared to Seattle, you get a lot more house there.” Adding to Stadium’s appeal is the charming Classical Revival and Victorian-style homes featuring stunning views of Commencement Bay and the Puget Sound, along with proximity to all kinds of nightlife, Point Defiance Park, restaurants, and more.

Tacoma boasts no shortage of things to do on any given day; popular Seattle spots like Rhein Haus bier hall and Red Star Taco Bar have recently opened outposts, and Hilltop, the city’s cultural hub, has welcomed a healthy dose of new businesses in the past few years. Dana Verellen, co-owner of local favorite Zodiac Supper Club in the Hilltop neighborhood, opened the steak and cocktails concept with her husband in 2015 after moving to Tacoma from her native San Diego. And they’re not the only ones; Verellen says, “We see people in Zodiac almost every day that are currently relocating, or have recently relocated to Tacoma.”
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