When people think of Washington state, they often think of rain, and outdoor recreation. But some residents say Washington’s reputation for being wet is overblown. The precipitation in Seattle isn’t so much rain as mist, and there are many opportunities for boating, bird watching, biking, and hiking. The eastern part of the state is actually dry grasslands. The climate of the Evergreen State is generally temperate. The winters are mild and the summer temperatures rarely exceed 80 degrees. Much of the outdoor entertainment is free and there are a range of activities, including fishing, sea kayaking, sailing, and whale-watching.
These benefits come at a cost, though. There’s no state income tax but the cost of living is 20% higher than the national average and the average sales tax at 7.7% is higher than average. Seattle is often regarded as a prime retirement destination but the median home price is over twice the national average.
Here are some areas that offer these amenities at a more affordable price.
Located just to the south of Seattle, this coastal city of 200,000 has many parks, museums, and cultural attractions. Prevention magazine ranked it as the 19th most walkable city in the U.S., and Tacoma-Pierce County was ranked one of the most livable in the country by Mostlivable.org.
The city offers many ways to enjoy the outdoors, starting with over 50 parks and open spaces. Point Defiance Park is one of the largest city parks in the country at 700 acres and contains a zoo and aquarium and many historic structures. Along the waterfront are several public parks connected by a trail used for walking, running, and biking, restaurants, and public beaches.
Cultural attractions include the Museum of Glass, whose steel cone is iconic of Tacoma and the state of Washington. There is also America’s Car Museum, the Tacoma Art Museum, Washington State History Museum, and the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts, home to the Tacoma Opera, Tacoma Symphony Orchestra, and Tacoma City Ballet among others. Annual events include the Daffodil Parade held each spring, Shakespeare in the Parking Lot, and the Tacoma Film Festival.
Edmonds is located in the northwest part of the state not far from Seattle. The city’s location near Puget Sound offers extensive views of the water on one side and the Olympic Mountains on the other. The city has four beaches and waterfront parks, and a walkable downtown area. Parks include a salt marsh and the Edmonds Underwater Park, a scuba diving site.
Those interested in music and art will appreciate the Edmonds Center for the Arts, a live performance venue opened in 2006. The Driftwood Players are a privately funded drama group that gives 4-5 performances each season. The annual Edmonds Arts Festival is a three-day art exhibition that is noted for painting and drawing. The Edmonds Jazz Connection, held on Memorial Day weekend, has performances by school jazz bands during the day and professional musicians in the evening.
Issaquah is a small town of 35,000 located 17 miles east of Seattle. For a small town, Issaquah offers an impressive array of entertainment options and amenities. The Village Theatre presents live plays on its downtown stage. Salmon Days is a two-day festival each October that celebrates the city’s history and culture and features arts and crafts demonstrations, sporting events and competitions, and children’s activities. The festival also celebrates the return of salmon to their birthwaters, and visitors are encouraged to view the salmon at the nearby hatchery.
Other attractions include the Cougar Mountain Zoo, which features endangered species from around the world. Gilman Village is a collection of 40-plus specialty stores and restaurants that comprise one of Puget Sound’s most popular shopping venues. The neighboring highlands are called the Issaquah Alps and feature hiking trails and outdoor activities in the nearby mountains.
With 170,000 people, Vancouver is the fourth-largest city in Washington, located in the southwestern part of the state. It offers a unique combination of colorful history, recreational activities, local shops and restaurants, wineries, and affordable attractions.
The city dates back to the early Nineteenth Century and there are many historic buildings in and around downtown. The Kiggins Theatre is located in the Downtown Vancouver Art District was built in 1936 and is now an independent film and community event venue. The annual Fourth of July fireworks display held on Fort Vancouver National Historic Site draws up to 60,000 visitors and includes food and live music and entertainment during the day. The Vancouver Wine and Jazz Festival held each August is considered the largest jazz festival in the Pacific Northwest. Another music genre is provided by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra which gives regular concerts and a chamber music series.
In the eastern end of Washington, Spokane has a dry-summer climate with hot and arid summers and cool winters. There are a variety of neighborhoods, 18 of which are National Register Historical Districts, with architectures ranging from Victorian to contemporary.
The city has over 87 parks that include 4,100 acres and six aquatic centers. Riverfront Park has views of the Spokane Falls and hosts some of Spokane’s large events. The park also includes a century-old carousel, a European Renaissance-style garden and a Japanese garden. Riverside State Park near downtown offers hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding.
The area has many trails for running, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. The city has several art districts. The First Friday Artwalk features works and performances by local artists. The Davenport Arts District has many art galleries and performing arts venues. The Knitting Factory is located in the district and hosts many popular touring musicians and performers.
Museums in the city include the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture and the Mobius Science Center. Annual events include the Lilac Festival, held in May, which honors the military and showcases the lilacs that grow in the local region and led to Spokane’s nickname of the Lilac City. Another popular event is Pig Out in the Park, a six-day festival featuring a variety of foods and free live music.
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