Best Places to Live in Pacific Northwest
The Pacific Northwest is a popular choice for those seeking a home because of its scenery and high quality of life. This region, which includes lush Oregon and Washington, rugged Idaho, and picturesque British Columbia, caters to many lifestyles and community preferences.
Each area within this diverse and scenic region boasts its unique charm, combining natural splendor, rich cultural experiences, and a high standard of living. In 2023, the Pacific Northwest remains a magnet for its blend of dynamic urban centers, peaceful towns, and various lifestyle options.
In this guide, tell you the top 18 best places to live in the Pacific Northwest, evaluating them on factors such as educational opportunities, cost of living, amenities, and overall quality of life. From rank 18 to number one, our comprehensive list shows the 18 best places to live in Pacific Northwest in 2023.
18. Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, an outdoor paradise, is number 18. The city surrounds Coeur d’Alene Lake, a vast, beautiful recreational lake. Locals enjoy boating, fishing, and swimming in the clear waters.
The city’s extensive hiking and biking trails, including the North Idaho Centennial Trail, showcase its commitment to outdoor living. For families, the city offers excellent educational opportunities, with schools like Coeur d’Alene High School known for their academic programs.
National events like the Ironman Triathlon draw to Coeur d’Alene. Also, the local shops, cozy cafes, and diverse restaurants make up the charm of downtown.
Coeur d’Alene, despite its many attractions, is remote and has a developing housing market. However, for those seeking a balance of tranquil natural beauty and a tight-knit community, Coeur d’Alene represents an ideal choice.
17. Bellingham, Washington
Bellingham is a coastal city that thrives with its vibrant cultural scene. This charming city between Bellingham Bay and the North Cascades offers a unique blend of natural appeal and cultural richness.
Bellingham has a vibrant arts and culture scene. Art galleries, theaters, and music venues dot the city. The Bellingham Festival of Music and Downtown Bellingham Art Walk showcase the town’s creativity and community.
The great outdoors is never far away in Bellingham. Locals enjoy easy access to numerous parks and trails, such as Larrabee State Park and the scenic Interurban Trail. These spots are perfect for hiking, biking, and enjoying the area’s stunning natural vistas.
Other highlights include Bellingham’s many local-ingredient restaurants. Also, family-friendly amenities like Bellingham High School and community events make it a great place to raise kids.
Bellingham’s cultural vibrancy and strong community make it a desirable destination for balanced living. However, its distance from Seattle and a competitive but developing housing market make it less developed than urban areas.
16. Bend, Oregon
Bend, Oregon, known for its outdoor sports and mountainous scenery, ranks 16th. This charming city in the high desert, at the base of the beautiful Cascade Mountains, is a nature lover’s and adventurer’s dream.
The city’s outdoor activity reputation is well-deserved. Bend has many hiking, mountain biking, and fishing opportunities. Mt. Bachelor attracts skiers and snowboarders in winter. In summer, city residents and visitors kayak and fly fish in the Deschutes River.
Bend is also known for its vibrant community life. The Bend Film Festival and Bend Brewfest show residents’ love of arts, culture, and locally brewed beers. The Old Mill District, a former lumber mill, now has shops, restaurants, and entertainment, showcasing Bend’s history and modern lifestyle.
Educational institutions in Bend, like Summit High School, are highly regarded, adding to the city’s appeal for families. The presence of the Oregon State University-Cascades campus brings a collegiate atmosphere to the city, fostering educational and cultural opportunities.
Bend is a desirable Pacific Northwest city due to its natural beauty, outdoor adventure, and strong community. However, its popularity has raised housing costs and created a competitive real estate market.
15. Kirkland, Washington
The 15th-ranked Kirkland, Washington, on the eastern shores of Lake Washington, combines suburban comfort and urban accessibility. This city’s proximity to Seattle, combined with its own distinct character, makes it a desirable location for those who want the best of both worlds.
The marina, parks, and walking trails on Kirkland’s waterfront makes it charming. Marina Park, in particular, is a popular gathering spot, offering stunning views of the lake and Seattle skyline. Also, the Cross Kirkland Corridor, a former railway line turned into a peaceful walking and biking trail, enhances the city’s outdoor scene.
Education in Kirkland is another strong point, with Lake Washington School District being highly rated. Lake Washington High School and International Community School are exceptional schools in the district with diverse programs.
Culturally, Kirkland is vibrant and lively. Shows and events at the Kirkland Performance Center enhance the city’s artistic atmosphere. With its small shops, art galleries, and many dining options, the city’s downtown area shows that people enjoy the finer things in life.
Kirkland’s quality education, cultural richness, and proximity to Seattle make it an attractive Pacific Northwest place to live. For those who value lakefront living with easy access to city life, Kirkland is an ideal choice.
Though appealing, Kirkland has a high cost of living, especially housing. Popularity and growth have raised property prices, making it unaffordable for some. Additionally, although it offers a peaceful suburban lifestyle, it may lack the urban amenities and job opportunities of Seattle.
14. Eugene, Oregon
Eugene, Oregon, is known for its arts and education scene due to the University of Oregon. This city attracts families, students, and professionals with its academic rigor and rich cultural tapestry.
Besides being a top university, the University of Oregon is a city landmark. Its diverse student body and programs enrich Eugene’s intellectual and cultural life. The campus is notable for its architecture and green spaces, including Hendricks Park, known for its rhododendron gardens.
The arts are celebrated in Eugene’s galleries, theaters, and music venues. Ballets and concerts are held at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts. The Eugene Saturday Market, which features local artists, performers, and food, enhances the city’s art scene.
Eugene has many parks and outdoor activities despite its small size. Jogging, biking, and disc golf are available at Alton Baker Park, the city’s largest developed park. Kayaking and fishing on the Willamette River are also really fun things to do in the area.
Eugene’s combination of educational excellence, a thriving arts scene, and abundant natural beauty make it a standout place to live. So, for those seeking a community rich in culture and education, Eugene is an excellent choice.
However, Eugene may fall short in terms of economic opportunities compared to larger Pacific Northwest cities. Moreover, while the presence of the university adds dynamism, it can also bring challenges typical of college towns, such as increased traffic and a transient population.
13. Boise, Idaho
This city is known for its bustling downtown business, art, and entertainment district. Local boutiques, eclectic restaurants, and cultural institutions like the Boise Art Museum enrich its atmosphere.
Boise is known for its green spaces, especially the Boise River Greenbelt. This extensive trail system along the Boise River is ideal for biking, jogging, or strolling and offers stunning views and a peaceful escape from the city.
Boise State University anchors education and innovation in Boise. Besides academic excellence, the university promotes community events and initiatives. Families also appreciate the city’s commitment to quality education, particularly at Timberline High School.
Annual events like the Treefort Music Fest add to Boise’s appeal, drawing visitors and locals alike with its vibrant showcase of music and art. Professionals and families also like the city’s growing housing market and job opportunities.
Boise is a great place to live in the Pacific Northwest because of its active lifestyle, strong community, and dynamic urban scene. However, growing living costs and urban development pressures come with the city’s popularity.
12. Salem, Oregon
Salem, Oregon, the state capital with a rich history and thriving economy, ranks 12th. As Oregon’s political center, Salem is both historic and modern. The Oregon State Capitol itself is a focal point, not just for its political importance but also as an architectural marvel.
Salem’s economy is diverse and growing, with sectors like technology, agriculture, and education driving its development. This economic diversity attracts professionals from various fields, making it a dynamic place to live and work.
For history enthusiasts, Salem is a treasure trove. The Deepwood Museum & Gardens and the Willamette Heritage Center provide glimpses into the state’s past, while numerous historical buildings dot the cityscape, adding charm and character.
The city is also known for its commitment to education, with schools like South Salem High School providing excellent educational opportunities. The presence of Willamette University also adds to the academic atmosphere, offering higher education and cultural events.
Salem attracts families and nature lovers with its many parks, like Bush’s Pasture Park. The city’s annual events, such as the Oregon State Fair, bring the community together, showcasing Salem’s lively spirit.
Salem’s combination of historical charm, economic growth, and a strong sense of community makes it an appealing choice for those seeking a balance of tradition and progress. However, Salem also faces housing affordability and urban sprawl issues like many growing cities.
11. Kelowna, British Columbia
Kelowna, British Columbia’s wine country, ranks 11th. With its large vineyards and beautiful scenery, is perfect for luxury seekers. Wineries like Mission Hill Family Estate offer world-class tastings with stunning views.
Natural beauty surrounds Kelowna. Okanagan Lake’s clear waters are ideal for boating, swimming, and fishing. Outdoor enthusiasts love the hills and valleys’ hiking and biking trails.
In education, students from around the world attend Okanagan College and the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus in Kelowna. These educational centers make the city lively and young.
Food and wine lovers attend the Kelowna Wine and Food Festival, which showcases the region’s cuisine. With its unique shops, art galleries, and restaurants, downtown Kelowna combines urban sophistication and rural charm.
Waterfront Park and Knox Mountain Park let residents enjoy the city’s beautiful nature. These green spaces are perfect for family outings and leisurely strolls, making Kelowna livable and family-friendly.
But, like the previously mentioned places above, its popularity as a tourist destination and thriving real estate market also raise the cost of living.
10. Spokane, Washington
Outdoor activities are a significant draw in Spokane. Residents enjoy hiking, biking, and skiing in the mountains and walking on the Centennial Trail. The Spokane River itself offers kayaking and fishing, making the city a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts.
Spokane’s community life is equally impressive. The city hosts the Lilac Festival and Hoopfest, the world’s largest 3-on-3 basketball tournament. These events and the Spokane International Film Festival show the city’s love of arts, culture, and community.
Spokane education is prioritized, with Lewis and Clark High School scoring well. The presence of Gonzaga University and Eastern Washington University also gives the city energy and education.
Spokane’s outdoor activities and community make it one of the best places to live in Pacific Nowrthwest. But it also faces challenges with rising housing costs and urban development, making the real estate market increasingly competitive.
9. Tacoma, Washington
Tacoma, Washington, placed at 9th, offers a unique blend of industrial heritage and natural splendor. Situated on the Puget Sound and overshadowed by the majestic Mount Rainier, Tacoma is a city where nature and urban life intersect seamlessly.
While its industrial roots remain, Tacoma has become a cultural and artistic hub. The Museum of Glass, celebrating Tacoma’s glass art, is one of several museums in the city. Local breweries and restaurants also complement the city’s growing arts scene, reflecting its changing culture.
Tacoma is appealing because of its outdoors. Point Defiance Park, one of the largest urban parks in the country, has hiking trails and waterfront views. In education, Stadium High School and the University of Puget Sound make it a strong educational city that attracts families.
Tacoma’s vibrant arts scene and scenic outdoor spaces highlight its combination of industrial heritage and natural beauty. However, traffic congestion and industrial pollution from the city’s past affect its livability.
8. Victoria, British Columbia
Victoria, British Columbia, on southern Vancouver Island, ranks 8th. With its picturesque inner harbor, historic architecture, and lush gardens, Victoria is both charming and modern.
Outdoor enthusiasts revel in the city’s natural settings, with abundant hiking trails and cycling paths. The scenic beauty of Beacon Hill Park and the world-renowned Butchart Gardens offer tranquil retreats and stunning floral displays.
The city’s cultural landscape is rich and diverse. The Royal BC Museum provides a deep dive into the region’s history, while the lively arts scene is showcased through events like the Victoria International Jazz Festival and the annual Fringe Theater Festival.
Excellent education draws international students to Victoria University. Also, the city’s schools, including Oak Bay High School, excel academically and show dedication to nurturing students.
Tourism, tech, and education drive Victoria’s economy. However, the high cost of living and the competitive housing market can challenge newcomers. Despite that, Victoria remains a popular Pacific Northwest destination for those seeking history and modernity.
7. Vancouver, Washington
Vancouver, situated in Southern Washington, is a city where history meets modernity, offering residents a diverse and dynamic living experience.
Vancouver is known for its diverse landscapes, from the Columbia River waterfront to Fort Vancouver National Historic Site’s greenery. These areas offer hiking, biking, and boating for nature lovers.
Numerous festivals and events enrich the city’s cultural and social life. Both locals and tourists attend the Vancouver Wine and Jazz Festival. Gallery and theater spaces are also growing in the city.
Vancouver is also known for its excellent schools, like Skyview High School. Washington State University in Vancouver enhances Vancouver’s educational and research capabilities, too.
Vancouver’s economy is booming, with technology, healthcare, and manufacturing providing many jobs. However, its proximity to Portland and rising housing demand have raised living costs. Even so, it remains a top choice for those seeking a balanced urban-suburban lifestyle.
6. Ashland, Oregon
Ranked 6th, Ashland, Oregon, is renowned for its artistic flair and natural splendor. Located in the Rogue Valley and surrounded by mountains, Ashland is a Pacific Northwest gem with rich culture and outdoor adventure.
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival, a global theater festival, is Ashland’s cultural center. Beyond the festival, galleries, live music venues, and independent film screenings enrich the city’s culture.
Ashland’s proximity to the Cascades and Siskiyou Mountains offers many outdoor activities. Lithia Park, a 93-acre landscaped area, is popular for hiking, biking, and exploring the trails. It hosts community events and is a nature lover’s paradise.
Southern Oregon University boosts Ashland’s intellectual atmosphere. The city’s public schools, such as Ashland High School, are also well-regarded, making it a favorable location for families.
Residents seeking a unique Pacific Northwest lifestyle continue to choose Ashland’s cultural richness and natural beauty. Tourists, educators, and artists drive the city’s economy. Since Ashland is popular and has limited housing, its cost of living is also higher than in other Oregon cities.
5. Bellevue, Washington
Bellevue, Washington, ranks 5th on the list of the best places to live in Pacific Northwest. Skyscrapers, lush parks, and waterfront views make Bellevue a vibrant city across Lake Washington from Seattle, offering a mix of urban and outdoor life.
The Bellevue Collection, the Bellevue Arts Museum, and a variety of restaurants make downtown Bellevue a bustling commercial and cultural hub. There are also many tech companies and startups in Bellevue, creating a dynamic and innovative atmosphere.
Bellevue’s outdoor appeal is equally impressive. Parks like Bellevue Botanical Garden and Meydenbauer Bay Park offer residents and visitors plenty of outdoor fun. Nature trails and parks like Mercer Slough Nature Park offer a peaceful escape from city life.
Bellevue public schools, like Bellevue High School, rank high statewide. Also, the Bellevue Jazz & Blues Festival and Arts Fair showcase the city’s varied and creative culture.
Bellevue’s blend of urban sophistication and natural splendor continues to draw those seeking a balanced lifestyle. However, due to the city’s rapid growth, affordable housing is scarce, and education is competitive and under pressure.
4. Vancouver, British Columbia
Vancouver, British Columbia, at the Coast Mountains and Pacific Ocean, is the 4th best place to live in the Pacific Northwest. The city combines urban sophistication and outdoor adventure with stunning natural beauty.
Stanley Park and other Vancouver parks offer endless hiking, biking, and exploring. The city’s waterfront beaches and marinas attract water sports enthusiasts. Famous ski and snowboard resorts like Whistler Blackcomb are a short drive away.
Culturally diverse Vancouver has many cuisines, arts, and festivals. The Vancouver International Film Festival and Celebration of Light fireworks display showcase the city’s vibrant culture.
Research and innovation-renowned University of British Columbia is here. It has several top public schools, including Kitsilano Secondary School.
People who are looking for a vibrant, multicultural urban experience in the midst of stunning natural surroundings flock to Vancouver. However, residents may also struggle with Vancouver’s high housing and living costs.
3. Portland, Oregon
Landscapes like Forest Park and Washington Park provide an urban oasis in Portland.
This city is known for its vibrant arts and culture scene. From the historic Portland Art Museum to the avant-garde Portland Center Stage performances, creativity abounds. With venues like the Crystal Ballroom, the city’s music scene features indie and major acts.
Portland’s bike-friendly streets and extensive public transportation show its sustainability. With farm-to-table restaurants, food cart pods, and famous coffee shops, the city is a foodie’s paradise. This makes Portland the best place to live in the Pacific Northwest for those that want to live in the state of Oregon.
Top schools like Lincoln High School and Portland State University help educate the community. Portland celebrates community and celebration with annual events like the Rose Festival and Oregon Brewers Festival.
For those seeking a vibrant, progressive city with a close connection to nature, Portland represents an ideal balance. However, despite its many attractions, Portland also faces challenges like a competitive housing market and urban growth management.
2. Seattle, Washington
Seattle’s dynamic mix of innovative technology, rich culture, and stunning natural surroundings ranks second on our list. This busy city offers an unmatched urban experience, with Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains as backdrops.
Seattle’s tech giants and startup scene make it a global innovation hub. With world-class museums like the Seattle Art Museum and the Museum of Pop Culture, this economic vitality is balanced with a deep appreciation for the arts.
The city’s lush Discovery Park and Washington Park Arboretum draw visitors. Boating on Lake Union and hiking in nearby mountains are popular outdoor activities.
Seattle’s schools, including the University of Washington and Garfield High School, are excellent. Local seafood and coffee are also highlights of the city’s cuisine. Cultural events like the Seattle International Film Festival and Bumbershoot showcase the city’s artistic flair.
For those seeking a thriving urban environment with access to nature and a strong sense of community, Seattle is a top choice. Despite its many attractions, traffic congestion here is problematic, particularly during peak hours.
1. Bainbridge Island, Washington – Best Place to Live in Pacific Northwest
Bainbridge Island, Washington, with its peaceful, community-focused lifestyle and easy access to Seattle, is the best Pacific Northwest place to live. The city’s unique blend of small-town charm and urban amenities makes it desirable.
Beautiful views, lush landscapes, and outdoor activities make Bainbridge Island a paradise. Residents love parks and trails, including the Bloedel Reserve, with its gardens and natural woodlands. Many conservation efforts show the island’s dedication to nature.
Regular events on Bainbridge Island create a close-knit community. High-rated schools like Bainbridge High School attract families seeking quality education in a peaceful environment. An eclectic mix of small businesses and artisans fuels the island’s strong economy.
A short ferry ride to Seattle lets residents enjoy the peace of the island and the energy of a big city. This incredible blend of natural beauty, community spirit, and urban accessibility makes Bainbridge Island the Pacific Northwest’s top location for quality of life.
Therefore, for those who value a harmonious blend of nature, community, and accessibility, Bainbridge Island stands out as the pinnacle of Pacific Northwest living. However, its reliance on ferry services for mainland access can be inconvenient for daily commuting.
Still, its unparalleled beauty, peaceful neighborhoods, and high-quality life make it a coveted destination for many seeking the best in the region.
In conclusion, while this list offers a diverse array of choices, it’s important to remember that the perfect place to call home is ultimately subjective. For city life, small-town charm, or something in between, the Pacific Northwest has it all. Each location has its own natural beauty, cultural richness, and community spirit, but the choice depends on personal preferences.