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Best Places to Live in the Pacific Northwest

Have you always wanted to live in the Pacific Northwest? While cities like Seattle and Portland may be the most popular choices for moving to PNW, there are tons of cities throughout Washington, Oregon, and Idaho that offer some of the best natural beauty in the U.S., low costs of living, plenty of things to do, and ample career opportunities. Check out what makes these eight Pacific Northwest cities so great!

  • Bellingham, WA
  • Bend, OR
  • Boise, ID
  • Hillsboro, OR
  • Idaho Falls, ID
  • Richland, WA
  • Salem, OR
  • Tacoma, WA

Bellingham, WA

Boats in the Squalicum Harbor in Bellingham, WA. Photo by Instagram user @cbbainbellingham
Photo via @cbbainbellingham
  • Population: 84,462
  • Home Price: $306,300 median purchase price; $925 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 27% of U.S. cities
  • Unemployment Rate: 5.1%

If you’re a fan of winter sports, prime camping spots, and tasty craft brews, Bellingham might be the place for you! This northern Washington city sits at the base of Mount Baker and is just over an hour away from Vancouver, BC, which makes weekend trips to Canada quick and easy. Bellingham’s affordability, cool summer temperatures, and long list of amenities make it a great place to live in the Pacific Northwest!

Things to Do in Bellingham

Tour Whatcom Museum to learn more about the art, history, and ethnography of the Pacific Northwest. Go camping in the summer and snowmobiling in the winter at Larrabee State Park. Get your shopping fix at Fairhaven Historic District and check out local stores like CreativiTea, Paper Dreams, or Seasons Fashions. Taste slow-crafted liquors like bourbon, gin, and whiskey at Chuckanut Bay Distillery. Choose from a long list of craft beers like the Waypoint Pilsner, Cedar Dust IPA, or Lemonade Sail Pale at Boundary Bay Brewery & Bistro. Eat Monte Cristo Crepes and drink a Toasted Coconut Old Fashioned at Mount Bakery Cafe. Dine on Fried Green Olives, Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken, and other inspired eats featured on the changing menu at Saltine Bellingham. And don’t forget to satisfy your sweet tooth with the rotating ice cream flavors at Mallard Ice Cream.

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Bend, OR

Aerial View of Bend, OR with Mountains in the Background. Photo by Instagram user @visitbend
Photo via @visitbend
  • Population: 84,416
  • Home Price: $295,300 median purchase price; $1,024 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 48% of U.S. cities
  • Unemployment Rate: 3.7%

Part of what makes Bend such an ideal place to live in the Pacific Northwest is that it’s one of Oregon’s sunniest cities—so you can wave goodbye to rainy days! Bend’s great weather makes it a hub for outdoor enthusiasts who like to spend time with hiking trails, water activities, and winter sports. But if you prefer the indoors, Bend also has the most microbreweries per capita in the nation, so you won’t run out of things to do!

Things to Do in Bend

Ski the sixth largest ski area in the U.S. at Mount Bachelor or hike the Tumalo Mountain Trail—both of which are just about 25 minutes from Bend. Walk the dog or go for a morning jog along the local Deschutes River Trail. Learn about the North American High Desert at High Desert Museum. Head to the Sun Mountain Fun Center for a day of go-karting, bowling, mini golfing, and more. Shop at stores like White House Black Market, Lululemon, and Banana Republic at Old Mill District. Order Monte Cristo and Croque-Monsieur sandwiches at The Sparrow Bakery. Take a tour of Deschutes Brewery and try the Lil’ Squeezy Juicy Ale, Da Shootz Pilsner, or one of their seasonal brews. Or order Mushroom Pizza, Duck Confit, and a wine flight at 900 Wall.

Boise, ID

View of the Idaho State Capitol Building in Boise, ID. Photo by Instagram user @skypix.els
Photo via @skypix.els
  • Population: 218,677
  • Home Price: $191,000 median purchase price; $834 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 40% of U.S. cities
  • Unemployment Rate: 4.1%

Want to move to a big city with a small town feel? Boise is an excellent place to live in the Pacific Northwest! Idaho’s capital city offers great year-round weather, a growing arts and culture scene, fun events supporting the local Boise State Broncos, and incredible outdoor activities. Boise is also recognized as one of the best places to raise a family and one of the most affordable cities in America!

Things to Do in Boise

Discover marine life, birds, and reptiles at Aquarium of Boise or see over 200 species of animals at Zoo Boise. View the rotating art exhibitions at Boise Art Museum. Get outside to Bogus Basin Mountain and go horseback riding, hiking, or ride a mountain coaster. Shop for fresh produce and other items from hundreds of local vendors at Capital City Public Market. Visit the wine tasting room at Telaya Wine Co. Order craft beers like the Black Betty Dark Ale or CucumBear Kölsch at Bittercreek Alehouse. Choose from a large list of sandwiches like the Ham, Yam, & Jam, Toasted Flutternutter, Salami & Artichoke, and more at Lemon Tree Co. Or customize your french fries and pair then with a side of Blueberry Ketchup at Boise Fry Company.

Hillsboro, OR

Photo of Flowers Ready to Bloom on a Hillside in Hillsboro, OR. Photo by Instagram user @pnw.adventures.82
Photo via @pnw.adventures.82
  • Population: 100,462
  • Home Price: $255,700 median purchase price; $1,176 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 43% than U.S. cities
  • Unemployment Rate: 4.4%

If you’re moving to the Pacific Northwest and want to be near the hub of a large city while still embracing a quieter lifestyle, check out Hillsboro! Residents here can enjoy affordable living just 25 minutes away from the heart of Portland. Plus, Hillsboro is in the middle of the Silicon Forest, so there are plenty of employment opportunities close by with major companies like Intel, Nike, and Kaiser Permanente.

Things to Do in Hillsboro

Visit the Nature Center and go hiking at Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve. Enjoy a picnic, walk along the trails, or go bird watching at Orenco Woods Nature Park. Discover different rocks, gems, and minerals at Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks & Minerals. Get out to the ballpark with the family and watch the Hillsboro Hops (MiLB) throughout the summer over at Ron Tonkin Field. Shop stores like H&M, Loft, REI, and many more at The Streets of Tanasbourne. Go on a tour of Helvetia Vineyards & Winery and try a variety of their local wines. Order the West Coast Hash with an Iced Latte at Longbottom Coffeehouse. Try Asian-fusion burger bento boxes like the Angry Bird or Nacho Libre at Mr. Bento Burger. Or head to Copper River Restaurant & Bar for Scratch Made Meatloaf, Steak Tacos, Santa Fe Salmon Salad, and other American eats.

Idaho Falls, ID

Image of the Idaho Falls in Idaho Falls, ID. Photo by Instagram user @alexparlar
Photo via @alexparlar
  • Population: 58,933
  • Home Price: $143,400 median purchase price; $706 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 39% of U.S. cities
  • Unemployment Rate: 3.3%

While Idaho Falls may be a smaller city in the Pacific Northwest, there are so many things that make it one of the best! For starters, this eastern Idaho town sits in the Rocky Mountains and is close to notable national parks like Yellowstone and Grand Teton. There are also well-respected medical centers in the area, such as Mountain View Hospital and Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center, both of which provide employment opportunities for healthcare workers in the area. And most importantly, Idaho Falls’ cost of living is 7% lower than the Idaho average and 13% lower than the national average!

Things to Do in Idaho Falls

See Asian and African exhibits and feed some animals up close at Idaho Falls Zoo. Walk through the relaxing gardens at the Idaho Falls Japanese Pavilion. Learn about the environmental and cultural history of Idaho at the Museum of Idaho. Appreciate local art at The Art Museum of Eastern Idaho. Get an authentic old school diner experience at Dixie’s Diner complete with all-day breakfast, classic burgers, and milkshakes. Eat at The Bee’s Knees Pub & Catering Co., where you can try Panko Asparagus Fries, Steak Diablo, and finish your meal with a Bacon Sundae for dessert. Enjoy lighter fare like the Hawaiian Salad or California Wrap at Arugula Deli. Or sip on a craft brew from the rotating menu while looking out over the Snake River at Tap-n-Fill Tap Room.

Richland, WA

Aerial View of Downtown Richland, WA. Photo by Instagram user @addie.beee
Photo via @addie.beee
  • Population: 53,227
  • Home Price: $213,000 median purchase price; $904 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 43% of U.S. cities
  • Unemployment Rate: 3.7%

Richland is a part of Washington State’s Tri-Cities, which includes Kennewick and Pasco. This part of southern Washington is an excellent place to live because it’s in the PNW sunbelt, which experiences less rainfall and fairly mild winters. And with the Columbia River flowing right through the town, there are tons of outdoor activities right in your backyard that you can take advantage of when the weather’s nice!

Things to Do in Richland

Hike one of the many trails at Badger Mountain. Attend a star party and learn about space at LIGO Hanford Observatory. Discover more about Richland’s history and geology at REACH Museum. Take in views of the Columbia River at Riverview Natural Preserve and explore some of the trails. Find your new favorite brew like the Mindbender IPA or Upside Down Pale at White Bluffs Brewing. Try potato donuts, muffins, and other potato flour pastries at The Spudnut Shop. Or head to LU LU Craft Bar + Kitchen for the Fried Chicken & Waffle Sandwich, Ahi Tuna Burger, and daily mystery cocktail called “Bartender’s Whim.”

Salem, OR

Aerial View of Downtown Salem, OR with Mountain in the Background. Photo by Instagram user @cityofsalemoregon
Photo via @cityofsalemoregon
  • Population: 161,975
  • Home Price: $188,900 median purchase price; $819 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 16% of U.S. cities
  • Unemployment Rate: 5.6%

You’ll love life in the Pacific Northwest when you move to Salem! The capital of Oregon is a great place for those seeking affordable living, family-friendly neighborhoods, outdoor adventures, and higher education with Willamette University—the oldest university in the West. Salem is also only about an hour outside of Portland and from the Pacific Coast, which means work commutes and trips to the beach are available!

Things to Do in Salem

Walk through the wooded areas or have a picnic in the meadow at Bush’s Pasture Park. Take a tour of the Oregon State Capitol to learn about Oregon’s state government. Visit Gilbert House Children’s Museum and interact with the different educational exhibits. Hop aboard the Willamette Queen riverboat for a waterside brunch where you can sample an assortment of quiches, pastries, and other classic breakfast items. Drink Cold Brew Coffee, Dirty Chai Lattes, and other espresso drinks at IKE Box. Eat Korean favorites like Dol Sot Bibim Bap and Korean Ra Men at Happy Bibimbap House. Or head to Xicha Brewing Company for Latin-inspired beers like the Playa Pilsner or Guava Golden Ale.

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Tacoma, WA

Aerial Shot of Downtown Tacoma, WA. Photo by Instagram user @j2g.creative
Photo via @j2g.creative
  • Population: 205,602
  • Home Price: $212,400 median purchase price; $980 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 3% of U.S. cities
  • Unemployment Rate: 5%

Looking for stunning mountain views paired with a big city? Consider moving to Tacoma! With Mount Rainier and Puget Sound nearby, as well as mild winters and amazing natural beauty, this Washington city is ideal for those seeking outdoor adventures. Tacoma is also part of the larger Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metro, which means residents can commute back and forth between Seattle—or even just visit the city for some weekend fun!

Things to Do in Tacoma

Make your way to Point Defiance Park, where you can visit the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, hang out on the public Owen Beach, or explore Fort Nisqually. View stunning glass art creations at the Museum of Glass. See classic automobiles and performance cars at America’s Car Museum. Watch the Tacoma City Ballet and Symphony Tacoma perform at Rialto Theater. Root for the Tacoma Rainiers (MiLB) at Cheney Stadium in the summer. Plan a camping trip or go hiking and rock climbing at Mount Rainer National Park. Dig into Lobster Bisque, Aglio Prawns, and other seafood bites on the waterfront at the Lobster Shop. Have a complete farm-to-table meal of Braised Elk, Gnocchi Mac-n-Cheese, or Seared Duck Breast at The Table. Or order a Grown-Ups Chocolate Milk or Shakarato at Anthem Coffee.

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City statistics from AreaVibes

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Thinking about moving to the Pacific Northwest? These eight PNW cities offer an affordable cost of living, plenty of amenities, and great outdoor recreation! via @extraspace