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Retiring in Seattle: Getting Back to Nature in the Pacific Northwest

The Space Needle and downtown Seattle with Mount Rainier in the distance.

The Space Needle and downtown Seattle with Mount Rainier in the distance.

Seattle certainly isn’t your typical retirement destination. That is, not if when you hear “retirement,” you think of seniors sunning themselves on Florida beaches or playing golf in the Arizona desert. In contrast, the Seattle area is the stereotypical land of mist and drizzle.

So, why retire in Seattle? For most retirees, it comes down to one word: Nature.

Pros of Retiring in Seattle

Lake Crescent at Olympic National Park near Seattle, Washington.

Lake Crescent at Olympic National Park near Seattle, Washington.

The Great Outdoors are Truly Great

The Pacific Northwest is known for its majestic natural beauty. From mountains to rainforests, there’s a little of everything, and it’s all spectacular to look at from a car, atop a bike, or on foot. In typical Seattle fashion, you’ll even find hiking groups organized at Seattle-area senior centers.

Within the Seattle metro area, you have a beautiful view of Mount Rainier as well as the Pacific Ocean coastline. Venture a little outside the city and you’ll find the Hoh Rain Forest, part of Olympic National Park. Then there are dozens of rural islands (each with their own personality and natural beauty) and the Cascade Mountain Range. Don’t forget that, with the National Parks Senior Pass, you get lifetime access to parks in Washington State like Olympic, Mount Rainier, and North Cascades.

And we haven’t even mentioned the wildlife yet. Around the Seattle and Renton area, you can spot everything from elk to orca whales in their natural habitats. If you want to see animals really up close once you retire, you also can volunteer at the Seattle Aquarium or the Woodland Park Zoo.

Culture and Sports Abound

The Seattle Center Monorail runs through the Museum of Pop Culture.

The Seattle Center Monorail runs through the Museum of Pop Culture.

You’ll never get bored living in retirement in Seattle. Whether you prefer a night at the opera or an afternoon ball game, there is something for everyone.

Like many major cities, Seattle is a prime stop for touring artists. There also is a plethora of nationally respected theater, dance, and music groups. Even aging rockers and baby boomers will find a home here at places like the Museum of Pop Culture, which, among other exhibits, celebrates Seattle musicians Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana.

For sports fans, Seattle boasts the Seahawks (football), Sounders (soccer), Mariners (baseball), and Storm (women’s basketball).

The Coffee, the Wine, the Food!

Neon coffee and Public Market signs at Pike Place Market, Seattle

Coffee, anyone? Get it at Pike Place Market and all over Seattle.

Everyone knows Seattle’s love affair with coffee; Starbucks was born here, after all. But the Pacific Northwest is also one of the best places in the nation to find craft beer. Numerous wineries, some nationally recognized, also dot Washington State.

Furthermore, because the Seattle area is so ethnically diverse, restaurants, food trucks, and street carts serve up countless varieties of international and American cuisine. And don’t forget the seafood! You could spend your retirement fly fishing for trout and sampling salmon.

Taxes are Favorable for Retirees

Kiplinger rates Washington State as tax-friendly for retirees. That’s mainly because Washington does not have a broad-based personal income tax. Also, retirement income and Social Security benefits are not taxed. The state also has several property tax relief programs for seniors. Just be warned that combined state and local sales tax rates are high.

Cons of Retiring in Seattle

Yes, It’s Wet. But, Ahh, Summers!

Seattle actually isn’t the rainiest city in the U.S., but with about 38 inches of annual precipitation, it has its fair share of cloudy days (about 225 a year, to be exact). Similar to Portland, Oregon, the rain in Seattle falls in a steady drizzle during the fall and winter. June through September, you’ll finally start to see less rain and more sunshine.

Despite the lack of sun, however, temperatures in Seattle usually are comparatively moderate. Average high temperatures in July and August are a pleasant 75 degrees. The lowest average lows are 36 degrees in December and January. In Seattle, you certainly won’t experience the frigid cold and snow you would in the Inland Northwest, for example.

Cost of Living is High

Seattle has become one of the most expensive U.S. cities to live in. Now rivaling those of New York City and San Francisco, rent and home prices have skyrocketed over the past several years along with Seattle’s tech boom. The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in the area runs around $2,100 a month. You will, however, find that the cost of living drops in retirement-friendly suburbs like Auburn and Renton.

Should You Consider Tacoma, Instead?

Views of Tacoma, Washington, including the Washington State History Museum and the Chihuly Bridge of Glass.

Views of Tacoma, including the Washington State History Museum and the Chihuly Bridge of Glass.

Note that many of the attributes of Seattle, especially access to the outdoors, also apply to Tacoma, Washington, which is just 35 miles south of Seattle. According to NerdWallet, the cost of living in Tacoma is 28% lower than in Seattle. The median rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Tacoma is about $1,000 – half the cost of rent in Seattle! Tacoma also is noted for its Museum of Glass and collections of work by glass artist and Tacoma native Dale Chihuly.

Are you ready to move? Find retirement communities in Seattle on You might also consider retirement communities in Renton or retirement communities in the Tacoma area.

What do you think? Do you live in the Seattle area? Have you retired there? Share your insights in the comments below.

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