What to Know about Seattle’s Suburbs

Pithy summaries of communities in the Puget Sound region, including every city in King County.

By Seattle Met Staff Published in the Spring 2021 issue of Seattle Met

Fine, Bellevue, we'll call you an "edge city."


Despite rapid growth, Auburn maintains a distinctly small-town feel with its local business–lined streets and lively arts centers. Crystal Mountain and Snoqualmie are both within reach. 

Bainbridge Island 

Known for its saltwater commute, custom chicken coops, and family friendly aura (read: lack of nightlife), Bainbridge is where the ripped-jeans farmer meets the new-to-town techie (sometimes, they’re the same person). 


This “edge city” has long since shed its suburban roots. With tech tenants moving in by the quarter and light rail set to arrive in 2023, the towers across Lake Washington mark a realm increasingly distinct from Seattle. 


Warning: You might have to host. With recreational options aplenty, a solid dining scene, and wineries just next door, a home here is a home base for weekend revelry. 


Though the naval base and shipyard loom large in the harbor, Kitsap’s booming city has become even better known for affordable homes. Fast ferries now tote commuters who prefer swift rides. 

Burien/White Center 

Their gentrification is underway, but White Center and Burien remain thoroughly themselves—a little blue-collar, a lot of good food. Ferries to Vashon and Southworth beckon nearby. 

These are your neighbors if you moo-ve to Carnation.


The area formerly known as Tolt was renamed for a local dairy brand in 1917 (a petition reversed the decision in 1928, but Carnation was reinstated for good in 1951)Farms ring a compact downtown near the convergence of the Snoqualmie and Tolt rivers. 


Strip malls, farmland, and McMansions live in relative harmony. With roots in lumber, this relatively new city is, quite literally, developing its identity as it approaches 25 years since incorporation. 

Des Moines 

One of King County’s least expensive cities provides all the kitsch of a seaside town—an arcade, at least one building shaped like a lighthouse—with nary a tinge of tourist. 


A small settlement of spacious farmhouses and townhomes well into rural King County along the Snoqualmie River. Hillside properties offer pastoral panoramas. 

YOU MISSED US! Close calls.

TacomaYou’re toobig.   

Port Orchardand PoulsboYou’re too in love with commuting. 

PuyallupYou’re too Tacoma.


Roaming these residential communities south of Seattle can sometimes involve crossing counties—Pierce and King. Both cities have welcomed plenty of newcomers over the past decade, though Edgewood’s population growth has been far more pronounced. 


Time to retire the “Deadmonds” jokes. Long known for small-town vibes and water views, Edmonds is now legit cool thanks to a revitalized downtown, art museum, and relatively new international district. 


By the time you reach Enumclaw, you’re halfway to Mount Rainier, with all the beauty that entails. All the culture shift, too:  Trump supporters abound. 


The largest city in Snohomish County brings a corresponding mix—affordability and crime, industry and a walkable downtown, waterfront parks and distinct north and south ends…even an airport. 

Golden hour vibes at Dash Point State Park in Federal Way.

Federal Way 

A Link extension will eventually shuttle commuters to and from a city that’s closer to Tacoma. Shopping centers, Korean restaurants, Dash Point State Park, and Washington’s largest roller coaster cover weekend entertainment. 


A city ringed by bona fide mini mountains, with an easy I-90 portal to the rest of the region. Issaquah Highlands, a denser planned community up on the Sammamish Plateau, is a town unto itself. 


The city often consigned to Bothell’s shadow deserves way more credit for its outdoor access, including a Lake Washington waterfront big enough for a regional seaplane harbor. 


The sixth largest—and perhaps most diverse—city in the state mixes industrial oomph, suburban sprawl, a small downtown, and Kent Station, an outdoor mall with a commuter train. 

Cut down on your screen time at Kirkland’s Marina Park.

Image: Jane Sherman


Google and Tableau have offices in the new Kirkland Urban development. Now this long-established suburb’s bragging rights include a Shake Shack to go with that enviable network of waterfront parks. 

Lake Forest Park 

An affluent sliver where “north of Seattle” starts to turn into the Eastside, with a real estate fever dream of a name. But its reality delivers—a slightly secluded mix of nonlinear streets along Lake Washington’s north shore. 


First came the strip malls, then a multicultural wave of mom-and-pop restaurants to fill those aging retail clusters. They complement a convention center, a community college, and shopping behemoth Alderwood. 

Maple Valley/Black Diamond 

Perched between rural and suburban, these adjacent towns sport lakes and trees and cow pastures amid shopping centers and sprawling single-family developments. 

Medina/Clyde Hill 

In Bellevue’s shadow, residents power walk between Audis and manses overlooking Lake Washington. Some still hope to catch a glimpse of billionaire neighbors Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos one of these days. 

Mercer Island: a millionaire (and billionaire) magnet.

Mercer Island 

The area’s original bougie suburb: incredible schools, incredible proximity to Seattle, and a price range to match. Though the diversity present on either side of Lake Washington is slow to expand here. 

Mill Creek 

A cultural mix of condos and cul-de-sacs, with a high median income and a town center development with admirable food options. It’s closer to Everett than to Seattle or Bellevue, but traffic’s gnarly either way. 

Mountlake Terrace 

Home prices here have lagged behind those of neighboring towns, but development around the future light rail station portends big changes. Residents can stop telling people they live in Lake Forest Park or Lynnwood. 

Mukilteo Lighthouse beckons just one of the many forms of transit in the area.


Long a bedroom community, its relative distance from Seattle and the Eastside matters less for remote workers (and a relatively friendly price per square foot matters more). A new ferry terminal upgrades travel to Whidbey. 


Bellevue, Issaquah, and Renton surround this former coal mining center that can tout easy access to Cougar Mountain trails and vistas. Seattle skyline views from a local golf club are also Insta-friendly. 

Pretty Puget Sound views in Normandy Park.

Normandy Park 

Sandwiched between the airport and the Sound, this little city is far less diverse (87 percent white) than many of its neighbors south of Seattle. A direct route to Vashon would make it a more coveted roost. 

North Bend 

The mountain-front town wouldn’t call itself a suburb, but the former home of Twin Peaks is the last commutable outpost on I-90. Bring hiking boots and a pair of skis. 


Two of King County’s smallest cities (part of Pacific is in Pierce) sit next to Route 167. You can find affordable, but often smaller, homes in either place; some of the biggest properties in this neck of the woods belong to industry 


Welcome to Microsoft! We think you and your family will be very happy here in the Pacific Northwest. Please enjoy our fine schools, extensive trails, and surprisingly charming downtown. 


At Lake Washington’s south end, vibes converge. Apartments sprout by a shopping center amid tangles of single-family homes, industrial lots, and waterfront parks. 


Who lives in the city with the highest median household income in the country? Tech execs who prefer the outdoors to a restaurant scene, and way more married (aka two- 
income) households than single folk. 


Air industry is king in a city named for the international airport, with working-class neighborhoods surrounding the acres of tarmac. Beware: Planes can make for noisy neighbors in this part of King County. 


People who forget Shoreline is an actual city (it was incorporated only in 1995) miss out on a worldly community college, great schools, and distinct neighborhoods of single-family homes. 

Vibrant, historical downtown Snohomish.


Some consider it a pit stop on the way to the Cascade foothills. For others, it’s idyllic small-town existence—complete with postcard-ready historic downtown—within Seattle’s suburbs. Does antiquing count as culture? 


A famous waterfall anchors a mill town that has morphed into a sleepy burg for commuters bent on nature access. Don’t mind the tourists. 


Retail rules: Despite a significantly lower than average median income, Tukwila makes twice as much in sales per person as the county at large. The intersection of interstates 5 and 405 offers easy entry (or escape). 


A semi-rural getaway. A creatives’ colony. A suburb just a ferry ride away from Seattle (or Tacoma). Why choose? Waterfront compounds coexist with low-key wooded acreage on this island. 

Cowboy hats aren't the only wearables you'll find in Woodinville.

Image: Carol Hook


A bubble of rural bliss for people who still like the city (especially if they consider “city” to mean Bellevue). Small farms, great winemakers, and homes on big lots. Your neighbors ride horses, but also wear Apple watches.

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