Are you moving to the Pacific Northwest and trying to decide whether to move to Tacoma, Portland, or Seattle? In this article we will break down information about all three and talk about the benefits and challenges of each city. At the end we will throw in a few “bonus” PNW cities you might not have considered! We’ve talked with hundreds of people moving to Tacoma over the years, but sometimes people aren’t sure WHICH city they should move to. We love sharing resources for people choose the best city to move to for them.
Should I move to Tacoma, Portland, or Seattle?
How big are Tacoma, Seattle, and Portland?
Seattle is the largest city of the three, and the largest city in the Pacific Northwest. Seattle has a population of about 750,000, but the greater Seattle area which includes cities like Bellevue and Kirkland is 3.5 million. It’s big, and still growing. Portland has population of 600,000, but the greater Portland area is closer to 2 million. The city of Tacoma has about 225,000 people, with almost a million people in Pierce County.
- Seattle: 779,000 people Source: Seattle Times
- Portland: 635,000 people Source: (US Census)
- Tacoma: 225,000 people Source: (US Census)
How much do homes cost in Tacoma, Seattle, and Portland?
Seattle is by far the most expensive city in the region. With large employers like Amazon, Microsoft, Boeing, and more attracting high income talent from across the country. While home prices have risen all over the Pacific Northwest in recent years, they are highest in Seattle and across the lake in Bellevue.
Home Prices Summary (as of December 2023)
- Seattle: $800,000
- Portland: $500,000
- Tacoma: $450,000
How is the public transportation in Tacoma, Seattle, and Portland?
Tacoma, Seattle, and Portland all have excellent public transportation for American cities of their size. Folks in the Pacific Northwest generally value greener modes of transportation, and even those who don’t loath sitting in commute traffic. Funding for various infrastructure improvements have been steady over the decades. Recent federal funding to do an official study for the long dreamed of high speed rail from Vancouver BC to Portland, Oregon has given locals hope that high speed rail could. be on the horizon for our region.
In the meantime all these cities and more are served by Amtrak trains. Amtrak recently increased their service between Seattle and Portland to 12 trains per day. The train ride between the two cities takes about three to four hours depending on which train you take. It’s a scenic ride and the trains have patchy internet access throughout.
Portland: Out of the three cities Portland has the strongest public transportation- leading the way in the country for light rail, street cars, cycling paths, and more. Light rail connects the city to its suburbs in all directions. A pair of streetcars go from downtown connecting to the eastside across the river. You can learn more about Portland’s Public Transport here.
Seattle: While Seattle cannot compete with some of the larger east coast cities subway systems, over the past decades they’ve been working hard to catch up. Seattle haas added street cars and light rail and has a bus and train. network that goes to smaller surrounding cities.
Tacoma: Tacoma has had it’s Amtrak and Bus Stations at the Tacoma Dome connecting its downtown for 20 years. Recently the Tacoma Link Light Rail expanded to go through downtown up the hill to the Stadium District, past Tacoma General Hospital, and into the Hilltop Neighborhood. Long term plans are to have Seattle’s link light rail (which stops at Seattle Tacoma International Airport) continue to the Tacoma Dome Station. This will be a game changer when its finally completed!
How can I research neighborhoods in Tacoma, Portland, and Seattle?
These are my favorite neighborhood guides to Tacoma, Seattle, and Portland. The internet is flooded with spam relocation pages written by AI and Search Engine Optimizers- it can be SO FRUSTRATING trying to find useful and ACCURATE information about moving to the Pacific Northwest. I hope these guides make your research a little bit easier!
The neighborhood guide here at MovetoTacoma.com has dozens of neighborhoods in Tacoma and across Pierce County. Each neighborhood guide features photos, videos, podcasts, median home price, what the neighbors are saying about the neighborhood and more!
We’ve been using surveys of neighbors across Tacoma and Pierce County to create and update the guide since 2018.
Seattle Real Estate Agents Kim Colaprete and Chavi Hohm have created one of the most comprehensive and FUN guides to Seattle Neighborhoods. In addition to photos and videos of the larger neighborhoods in Seattle, they’ve created guides to smaller microneighborhoods. The detail and depth of information in this guide are incredible!
Portland real estate agent Lauren Goche created this guide to Portland Neighborhoods. The Portland Neighborhood Guide showcases neighborhoods across the 6 quadrants of Portland, Oregon. Lauren brings her no nonsense style and deep expertise as a lifelong Oregonian to her guides.
What are some other cool Pacific Northwest Cities I should check out?
Tacoma, Seattle, and Portland are some of the largest cities in the Pacific Northwest, but there are so many more cities to explore. These are a few of MovetoTacoma.com creator Marguerite Martin’s favorite northwest cities and why:
Astoria – Astoria is more than Goonies and Kindergarten Cop! This dusty diamond of a city on Oregon’s Coast is located about 2 hours from Portland International Airport at the mouth of the Columbia River on the Pacific Ocean. It’s historic, rugged, and a little bit magical. Literally, some of the most potent magic mushrooms in the country grow wild in the seagrass there. Learn more about the history of Astoria’s founding, rise, and fall in Peter Stark’s book, “Astoria: Astor and Jefferson’s Lost Pacific Empire: A Tale of Ambition and Survival on the Early American Frontier.”
Vancouver, Wa – That’s right, there’s a BIG Vancouver north of Washington State in Canada. But there’s also a smaller Vancouver located on the Washington/Oregon Border. Vancouver boasts a reasonable cost of living, a beautifully redeveloped waterfront, and easy access to the city of Portland without the income tax. You can learn more about neighborhoods and homeprices on the Vancouver WA Neighborhood Guide here.
Bellevue: Located across Lake Washington from the city of Seattle, Bellevue is a glossy, pricey, suburban influenced city. The city is newer and less historic than Seattle but is very conveniently located for people commuting to Downtown Seattle or out to Redmond at Microsoft. Bellevue probably has the best shopping in the entire region, especially if you like high end brands.
There are so many other amazing cities in the Pacific Northwest, from Spokane to Yakima to Centralia the choices are so varied. We’ve primarily focussed on the I-5 Corridor here (we can’t be experts on everything) but hopefully this is a launchpad for your research as you select where you’d like to live in the Pacific Northwest!
Wondering how Marguerite and Move to Tacoma can help you as you explore neighborhoods?
Our clickable neighborhood map of Tacoma’s neighborhoods is our pride and joy. Click through to find images and videos of each neighborhood. The Neighborhood guides on the map also include median home price information, blog posts about the neighborhoods, podcast episodes about the neighborhoods, and candid quotes from local neighbors.
The best way to learn about Tacoma is to hear from the people who live here. On the Move to Tacoma Podcast Marguerite interviews Tacomans who’ve been here generations and Tacomans who just got here. From business and technology leaders to politicians and activists and everyone in between. The Move to Tacoma Podcast will give you insight into why people move here and how they find meaning and happiness in Tacoma.
On the Move to Tacoma Blog we have been writing about things to do in Tacoma, where to eat in Tacoma, hot button community topics, neighborhoods and more since 2015. There are hundreds of posts to help you find what you love in the City of Destiny. From posts about where to eat and drink to interviews with locals- the blog is a great place to keep up one what’s happening in Tacoma and Pierce County.
Marguerite Martin is a different kind of Tacoma real estate agent. Reach out to find out answers to questions you have about neighborhoods in Tacoma and Pierce County. When the time is right to start looking, Marguerite can connect you with a local real estate agent who specializes in the neighborhoods you love most. You can see reviews from past clients who’ve worked with Marguerite on Yelp and on Google.