Here are some pros and cons of areas to live in the Puget Sound, compiled by Coasties who currently live here. There are so many choices it can be daunting at first to decide what’s right for your family. Do you live further away, get a bigger house for less money, but have a long commute? Or do you pay more for less space but have a quick ride to and from base? There’s no wrong answer to this question, but hopefully this summary will assist you in making the decision.
Welcome to Seattle!
AREAS TO LIVE
Magnolia Neighborhood: We don’t live at Ft. Lawton, but we do live in the same neighborhood (Magnolia) and ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT. We are so close to the base (hubby rides his bike to work every day) and the city and pretty much everything, yet the neighborhood has the feel of the suburbs (lots of space, trees, etc.). Discovery Park is fantastic and we walk there at least once a week. We’d stay here forever if we could! It’s not the cheapest neighborhood, but since I work from home, we wanted a big house with an office for me in a neighborhood close enough for my husband to ride his bike. We rarely use our cars! Our daughter goes to an in-home daycare up the street and from what I’ve heard the elementary school in the neighborhood is really good. I don’t know much about the other schools since our daughter is only 14 months. Magnolia is very safe and I really can’t complain about anything regarding the neighborhood. Our friends who live up north sometimes complain about how far we are from the highway (I-5) since you have to cut through the city to get to it, but since neither one of us has to commute on the highway, it really doesn’t bother us at all!
West Seattle: We chose West Seattle because we have no children in school (no idea on the schools in this area, sorry!) and because my husband didn’t want to commute. We live in a 2 bedroom triplex with attached garage for $1100/mo. I think this is a little high for the area, but we chose a place that was recently renovated. 3 bedrooms+ in this area are expensive and hard to find. West Seattle has a few rough areas further south, but the northern part is really clean and safe. Alki beach on the northern edge is probably unaffordable for almost everyone, unless you are single/married couple who doesn’t mind a 1 bedroom or studio. It’s very easy to get to base, about 10 minutes in the morning/afternoon. While we’re really close to downtown, we usually go to Tukwila (Southcenter) to shop/eat because the parking is a lot easier with a baby and it’s only about 20 minutes away. West Seattle has grocery stores and Target, Barnes and Noble, Bed Bath & Beyond — but Southcenter is really the closest mall. For movies we usually go to Southcenter as well. The West Seattle Bridge is currently under construction and during rush hour or busy weekends, it can add 15 mins to your commute out of the city but you won’t use it when heading to base. There are tons of parks, people always walking around, tons of dog walkers (I’ve never lived in a place where SO MANY PEOPLE have dogs!). Up in the West Seattle junction there are tons of cute little local restaurants, shops and services. West Seattle seems a bit cramped at times, but we just came from a very rural unit, and I’m from the Midwest. City life was an adjustment for us, but I love the charm of this part of town and have grown to love our neighbors and Coasties who live close.
Mercer Island: We absolutely love living here. It’s a beautiful area with a quaint small-town feel, despite being 5 miles from downtown Seattle. We rent a 2/1 apartment within the E3 BAH 2012 rate. It’s about a ten-minute commute to the base. I highly recommend this area to families or those married without kids who really love going into the city on a regular basis. There is easy public transportation to the base and if you drive there is rarely traffic on I-90. The island is located in Lake Washington and there are parks with places to fish/picnic along the lake. It’s a great place for dog owners as we have a dog park with water access a mile from our complex. For runners, there are trails all around and a running path that follows the floating bridge into the city (about 9 miles round trip) or westbound into Bellevue (about 4 miles round trip.) Bellevue is 5 miles to the northeast and has a huge mall with free parking and great stores. We are also far enough away from a military medical facility that I got to choose a doctor less than a mile from my address. The airport is about 25 mins south. This area is very safe and although I’m alone most of the time, I never feel uncomfortable. Our favorite part about MI, aside from the stunning views, is that we can go enjoy ourselves in the city and come home to peace and quiet. It’s the best of both worlds. The only downside is that there are no big box stores or chain restaurants on the island. But Bellevue and Seattle are both so close it hasn’t affected us.
Bellevue – We have lived in Bellevue for the past four years and we love it. Both of us work in downtown Seattle (husband stationed at D13), and the commute is 20-30 minutes on I-90. Since the 520 “Good to Go” toll started, traffic has been a little less predictable, but not impossible. The cost of living is a bit more expensive than going further out in any direction but with both of us working in the city, I cannot imagine living any further away. We have a big backyard, a comfortable house and an excellent school district. Essentially, it’s the best of rural and the best of urban. Public transportation is excellent and accessible; we do plenty of running and biking; it’s a safe community and our dog has his pick of dog parks between Robinswood (Bellevue), Marymoor (Redmond), and Luther Burbank Park (Mercer Island.)
Marysville/Arlington Area - Of course many of the things listed in the Everett and Lynnwood areas would apply here. This is a 45-50 minute commute w/o traffic. We live 30 more minutes east of I-5 only because we already lived here before joining the CG. If you utilize the bus or sounder train from Everett it’s doable. Being stationed on a cutter also means that he is only really commuting half the time. I recommend this area for those who want a more rural environment and inexpensive housing costs – it’s of course cheaper the further north you go. One of the big draws to this area is the Naval Station Everett Smokey Point Annex. There is a medium size Navy Exchange and Commissary, Mini-Mart with Gas Station as well as a Navy Lodge. Marysville is continuing to grow with the addition of Cabelas Outdoor Store to the Seattle Premier Outlet Mall, Home Depot and WalMart along the I-5 corridor. All of these businesses are part of the Tulalip Resort and Casino complex located on the Tulalip Reservation.
Mill Creek/Everett Area – Commute is about 25-30 minutes but can be longer with traffic. The cost of living is less than Seattle. Rental homes for a 3 bedroom/2 bath range from 1500-1800 per month depending on the amenities. Utilities range but keep in mind due to the mild summers most homes do not have air conditioning, which keeps utility costs lower, especially during the summer (our house uses both gas and electric). In Everett there is the Children’s Museum, Naval Base Everett (so if you are with Tricare then you will use the base), Willis Tucker Park (spray park for kids, dog park), Boeing (I recommend taking a tour – and not just because I work here), plenty of restaurants, shopping (Everett Mall), and other activities. Mukilteo is a cute town close by with a ferry over to Whidbey Island and a beach-like area. The schools are considered good and Mill Creek Elementary is listed in the top 50 schools for Washington. Mill Creek has a cute town center with a walking trail down to McCollum Park (with a pool, forest area, play area, walking track, and BMX track). The closest commissary is in Smokey Point, which is a commute, but worth it in my opinion! You also have the choice of having home delivery of milk, bread, cheese, eggs, and other produce from places like Smith Brothers and Klesick Family Farms.
Lynnwood/Edmonds Area: Lynnwood is about 20-25 min. commute on I-5 to the CG Base. Lynnwood is also close to 405. Where I-5 and 405 connect. Home rentals range from 1500-1900 (or higher for homes) Depends on what you are looking for. The school district that serves this area is Edmonds School District which serves -Edmonds, Lynnwood, Mount Lake Terrace and Brier. Also the Northshore School District Borders Lynnwood as well by Bothell. Lynnwood has a new Recreation center with pool and Fall 2012 will also have a pre-school. They offer many classes from crafts to exercise. Alderwood Mall has many stores in the area and in Spring 2012 Whole Foods will open up. There is a Trader Joes as well. You can find many restaurants along Alderwood Mall Pkwy and 196th (524) We have used two Dance studios in Lynnwood and the current one we like is Camilles Dance Edge (classes start at $53 for an hour class) they offer competition classes as well. Alderwood Little League and Ice Skating Ring in the area as well.
Kent: Pros: Suburban, easier streets to drive/navigate, less traffic on a daily basis. Cons: 30-minutes is a typical commute to base. There are some bad areas so you really have to visit the house/apt before signing to live there. Get more house for your money! We have a golf course, the Kent Station, a hiking trail, and two parks within 5 miles or so from us. Quiet area, I love the busy city but it is nice to be able to relax (especially with children/dogs). School districts go either way, some are great! This place has been a perfect fit for our family! Also, it’s next to Saltwater Park and the ice rink where hockey is held!
Puyallup: Love living here so far. Commute is about an hour. Hubby takes the train into work. He enjoys relaxing during that time and happy to not be in traffic. Housing is more affordable here with fun activities nearby. We are very close to Mt. Rainier, Tacoma has a cute zoo and wonderful park, lots of museums, free activities for families. Any shopping you need is not far away. A lot of coastie families live nearby and are a great support for each other. We live close enough to Joint Base Lewis/McChord where they have a medical community (Madigan) we can use as well as the Commissary/Exchange. In Puyallup there is an EXCELLENT clinic tied to Madigan. I have had excellent care so far from the clinic. There are a lot of libraries nearby with great activities.
Auburn: We actually live in Lakeland Hills, but have an Auburn address (I’ve heard that might be changing though.) We’re about 10 minutes from downtown Auburn. We really like the area. We chose this area for safety and close proximity to my job. Hubby takes the train into work from the Auburn station. Normally he bikes to the train station (about 4.5 miles) in Auburn then rides into downtown. Typically takes him about an hour total from our doorstep to base. There is also plently of parking at the Auburn station. Our neighbors have said good things about the schools in this area of Auburn, not sure if this holds true for all schools in Auburn though. We have the “Supermall” which has a number of stores good for everyday shopping. We’re about 15-20 minutes from Federal Way (craft stores, best buy, etc). There’s a number of bike trails in the area and the bus system also stops throughout Auburn. I have USFHP for health care and am seen at the Federal Way Clinic for primary care. I found a great dentist in Bonney Lake, about 20 minutes from here, though I’m sure there are a plenty closer. I believe primary care though TriCare is at Joint Base Lewis/McChord.
McChord AFB: Yes! You can live on McChord AFB. Housing is assigned according to rank. There are new renovated units and brand new units that were just finished being built about 6 months ago. Your “rent’ is based on Tacoma BAH however you will receive your Seattle BAH. There is a difference so I suggest looking it up. The zip code is 98439. I like living on McChord because we have most things here on base ranging from the commissary, exchange, medical, movie theater, bowling, banks, etc… The main hospital is Madigan, which is located on Ft. Lewis. The commute, if driving, ranges from about 45 minutest to an hour. There is a train station in Tacoma, if you choose to take the train. The train is supposed to come down to Lakewood in 2013, which is right outside the McChord main gate. There are many farms, fishing areas, out-door recreation areas, children’s museums, casinos, and other activities in the area. We love going to Olympia and Lacey for the farms, beach access, and Cabella’s. I take my 2 year old to swimming lessons twice a week at the local YMCA, which is 10 minutes away. They also offer many other classes for children and adults. If you can handle the commute, then McChord is worth looking into for housing.
Renton: We’ve only been in Renton a couple of months and love it. It’s hit or miss for the housing areas. We have a great neighborhood, very quiet. LOTS of shopping and we have Ikea!! Did I mention we have IKEA!! We both work in downtown Seattle. I don’t like the bus route for our area so we drive to Issaquah TS and take the bus from there. Its about 15 minutes from our place to the TS and then about a 20 minute bus ride. The commute is not bad if we drive, approximately 25 minutes to downtown Seattle.
WESTERN KINGDOM (OVER THE WATER):
Bremerton Area- I’ve lived here for the whole 4-year billet. Bremerton is a great area to live if you like the slower living/small town feeling. We are an hour ferry ride from downtown Seattle, or an hour drive. So it’s pretty equal all around. My husband gets up at 3:30-4:00 to take the 4:50 ferry. We have a Naval Base Bremerton right around the corner from us and Naval Hospital Bremerton (Tricare Prime, PCM will be there) just up the road. We have a mall about 15 minutes away from us and its pretty decent, we have Wal-Mart, Fred Meyer, target is near the mall, and if you make about a 25-30 minute commute there is a Super Wal-Mart. The weather is all right, just make sure to pack your rain boots. Rent is way cheaper. When we were looking around at 2 bedrooms they averaged anywhere between $700-$1200 a month. I haven’t seen anything really over $1600 and that’s for 4 bedrooms unless you are looking at places with a lot of land.
Silverdale (Bangor Base Housing)- I live in Base housing and LOOOVE it. Silverdale is a small, quiet, beautiful little town with EVERYTHING you need… including the only real mall in Kitsap County. Living on base has a ton of perks as well. Nex, Commissary, Gym, Food, Bowling, Movies, parks, and gas all within walking distance! Very safe and secure and each neighborhood has a bunch of playgrounds for kids! Close to Poulsbo, Bremerton, Bainbridge, Seabeck, and the ferries! Also, only about 10-15 minutes from Naval Hospital Bremerton. The housing on base is really nice. The kitchens are big and everyone gets a garage with storage. I have a yard for my dog and a large laundry room. Ask anything and I’ll help as best I can!
Poulsbo: We have rented a home here for 2 years and LOVE the slower paced way of life. We have everything VERY close to us…15 min to Bremerton Ferry, 12 min to Costco, 15 to Bangor’s commissary. Shopping is a perk…lots of choices. Schools are good…all of Washington struggles with lack of $$ for education. Churches are close by too. The Ferry to work is a very relaxing trip…it is only a mile walk/bike ride to the base from the terminal in Seattle. My husband loves the down time to nap or just read. We love it here…feel very safe!