Whether it’s for school, work, or to plant roots in a new city, moving to Spokane, Washington, may be one of the best decisions you’ll make. Spokane is the second-largest city in Washington, and you’re sure to enjoy the area’s big-city amenities while embracing its small-town feel. Amazing food, wonderful schools, buzzing nightlife, and a booming arts and culture scene are just a few of the characteristics that make this a perfect place to live.
If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, you’ll quickly fall in love with Spokane. Beautiful lakes and rivers, dense forests, and gorgeous mountains with prime ski resorts are all within a short drive, making it easy to enjoy the outdoors year-round. Throughout the city, you can enjoy beautiful parks, biking, and hiking trails. While nature is a huge part of the city’s attractiveness, the designated historic downtown and family-friendly, close-knit neighborhoods are also a significant draw. Those who have previously moved to the area enjoy the slower pace compared to other metropolitan cities. Hospitality, prosperity, education, and unique, exciting experiences await you in Spokane!
Living in Spokane, WA: What to Know Before Moving to Spokane
The US Census Bureau estimates the population of Spokane as of July 2018 to be 219,190. The affordable cost of living, quality school systems, and vibrant arts and culture scene are just a few of the characteristics that entice new residents. Out of 125 cities, US News and World Report ranks Spokane as the 65th best place to live in the country.
Pros and Cons of Living in Spokane
Listing the pros and cons of a new area can help determine if you are making the right move. These are a few of the most common for Spokane:
- The abundance of amenities: Areavibes.com gives Spokane an A+ rating for amenities. Restaurants, parks, libraries, shops, and other things to do are in the city. Residents can conveniently walk or take a short drive to whatever they need.
- Community involvement: Residents are actively involved in their neighborhoods with regular open house meetings as well as other civic engagement activities. Programs like Volunteer Spokane allow people to volunteer and make a difference in their community.
- University District: Adjoining downtown is the University District, an area offering multiple opportunities for education, research, revitalization, and prosperity. This community boasts two medical schools and five universities.
- Superb Skiing: Whether you’re a professional skier or a rookie ready to start a new adventure, Spokane skiing conditions are superb. The season normally runs from late November into March, and there are five resorts within a two-hour drive from the city!
- Cold, snowy winters: If cold temperatures and large amounts of snowfall make you unhappy, you may need to reconsider Spokane. Weather conditions can vary year to year, but according to bestplaces.net, the city averages 44 inches of snow annually, much higher than the US average of 28 inches.
- Unemployment rate: According to departmentofnumbers.com, the unemployment rate for Spokane in September 2019 was 5.9%. This rate is substantially higher than the national average of 3.5%.
- High crime rate: Neighborhoodscout.com ranks the city as only 1% safer than other US cities. The probability of being a victim of a crime is 1 in 160 for Spokane versus 1 in 328 in the state of Washington.
- Poor air quality: While significant steps are being made to improve air quality, Spokane is one of the worst cities so far for 2019. The poor levels are largely the result of the lingering effects of the wildfires in 2018.
- Property Tax: Spokane County has a property tax rate of 1.186%, while the state of Washington has a rate of 1.031%. These closely compare to the national rate of 1.080%.
- Sales Tax: The sales tax for Spokane is a combined tax rate of 8.9%. This rate is the formulation of a state sales tax of 6.5% plus a Spokane sales tax of 2.4%.
- State Income Tax: While the state of Washington has one of the highest sales tax rates in the United States, it does not have a personal income tax.
The housing market is extremely hot right now for sellers. Home values saw impressive growth of 11.7% over the last year, with a predicted growth of 7.5% in the next year. As of September 2019, Zillow.com lists the median home value is $221,600, and the median rental price is $1,300. Renters only occupy 40% of the Spokane population, and a low 2% of apartments or homes are available to rent. According to niche.com, the suburbs with the lowest cost of living include Millwood, Deer Park, and Medical Lake.
Cost of Living
Bestplaces.net calculates an average cost of living index rating for the US of 100; any rating lower than 100 means the expense is lower than average, and a higher number means it is more expensive. The overall cost of living for Spokane is 97.1, quite a bit lower than the index for Washington State of 131.1. Expenses that tend to be more costly in Spokane include housing and transportation, both with index values over 100. Less expensive costs are health and utilities, which come in at 82 and 78.2, respectively.
The median household income is $42,814. The Family Budget Calculator estimates a family of four needs at least $5,975 a month, or $71,704 a year, to live comfortably in Spokane. Many households will need two incomes to meet this standard of living.
Weather and Natural Disasters
Residents of Spokane get to enjoy the four seasons throughout the year. Hot, relatively dry summers lead into crisp, autumn days, full of beautiful foliage changing colors. Winters are cold and snowy while the spring encompasses cool nights but warm, sunny days.
The two hottest months of the year are July and August, with highs in the 80s and lows in the mid-50s. The two coldest months are December and January, with highs only reaching into the 30s and lows dropping into the low 20s. The area sees an average rainfall of 16.52 inches, most of which falls between May and June. Winters are snowy and average 44 inches annually, most falling in December.
While Spokane is safe from a majority of the most extreme natural disaster threats, residents can experience wildfires, snowstorms, floods, and the occasional low magnitude earthquake. The community can stay prepared and up-to-date on the latest risks and alerts by visiting the Greater Spokane Emergency Management website.
Economy and Job Market
The job market has seen an overall decrease of 0.6% over the last year. Spokane has an unemployment rate of 5.9%, higher than the national average of 3.5%. Growth is expected to be 33.4% over the next ten years, on par with the overall US growth of 33.5%. According to advantagespokane.com, the top industries in the area include logistics, manufacturing, agribusiness, aerospace, and IT/engineering. The area is seeing an expansion in the financial and technology sectors.
Clearwater Paper, URM Stores, Pyrotek, and Rosauers Supermarkets are just a few of the major employers in Spokane. Individuals who are looking for employment can reach out to various recruiters, search online job boards, utilize networking, and ensure they have a polished, professional resume.
Traffic and Transportation
Public transportation options are somewhat limited in Spokane. However, the STA or Spokane Transit Authority does run 38 bus routes throughout the city and surrounding areas. Amtrak also has a station in Spokane, and taxi services are available. City designers planned Spokane’s thoroughfares in a grid; those running east-west are labeled avenues while those running north-south are designated streets. Major avenues include Francis, Mission, 29th, and Sprague. Significant streets include Monroe, Maple-Ash, Hamilton, and Division.
If you are commuting in Spokane, you’ll appreciate the city’s light traffic conditions, and even rush-hour won’t be an issue for you. The average commute time is a little less than 22 minutes. Walkscore.com gives Spokane a walk score rating of 48, a transit score of 36, and a bike score of 48. There are a few bike lanes available for commuting, but numerous bike trails are available for recreation.
What to Do
Spokane, also known as the Lilac City, is an outdoor lover’s dream. A multitude of activities awaits if you’d rather be outside than inside. Fishing, skiing, snowboarding, hiking, biking, and boating are just a few of the activities residents can enjoy. While mother nature provides the most opportunities, the city also boasts a large offering of museums, art galleries, shops, restaurants, and other entertainment venues. There’s something for everyone.
Downtown is the home to Riverfront Park, an ideal spot composed of over 100 acres along the Spokane River. Here, you’ll find a skate park, various rides and attractions, and a beautiful waterfall that offers a scenic backdrop for the many live events held in the park. The state of Washington is also home to several national parks, including The Olympic National Forest, a densely wooded region surrounding the Olympic Mountain Range about six hours west of Spokane.
You can find numerous unique venues and destinations all around town. The Magic Lantern Theatre is a one-of-a-kind movie experience, offering intimate theater rooms and films that don’t necessarily hit mainstream cinemas. The Spokane Comedy Club is a great place to have a few laughs, while the fun-filled Lilac Lanes and Casino, the largest bowling center in the area, features a restaurant, lounge, and casino.
Museums & Historical Attractions
Multiple museums call this community home, from the Mobius Children’s Museum to the Honor Point Military Museum. The historic Davenport Hotel is also a popular tourist attraction downtown. Music lovers will enjoy listening to the Spokane Symphony in the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox.
Spokane doesn’t have any major league sports teams, but it does have two teams that locals love to root for year-round. During the fall and winter months, fans look forward to attending home games for the Spokane Chiefs, a junior ice hockey team that competes in the Western League. During spring and summer, you can find many Spokanians cheering on the Spokane Indians, a minor league affiliate of the Texas Rangers that plays in the Northwest League.
Schools and Universities
Four school districts serve the city, the largest of which is the Spokane Public School District. This district serves approximately 31,000 students in 64 schools. The three other districts in the Spokane metro area are Mead, Cheney, and West Valley. Overall, Spokane highly ranks when it comes to public education. In fact, one of the most highly rated elementary schools in the state, Hutton Elementary, boasts a rating of 9/10 on GreatSchools.org. Other notable schools include Wilson Elementary, also rated 9/10 and Spokane Valley High School, rated 8/10.
There are nine four-year universities located within a 100-mile radius of Spokane. Gonzaga University, a private Catholic university, is located in Spokane. Those looking for a different type of secondary education can take advantage of the 13 community colleges found within 200 miles. Spokane Community College is closest, 2.6 miles from downtown.
Unfortunately, Spokane has an extremely high property crime rate of 95.3% (yes, you read that correctly!) This rate is substantially higher than the US average of 35.4%. The violent crime rating is a bit more in line with the national average; the city’s rate is 28.6% versus the US at 22.7%. The entire area suffers from elevated incidences of criminal behavior, but maps do show the area of Country Homes has some of the most disconcerting numbers.
The following is a list of primary utility providers in the area and the links to begin service for each.
- Gas Service: Avista serves eastern Washington, northern Idaho, and parts of eastern and southern Oregon.
- Electric Service: Avista is also the primary electric service provider for residents in Spokane.
- Water Service: The City of Spokane Water Department provides clean, safe water to over 200,000 residents.
- Trash Pick-up/Recycling Service: The City of Spokane’s Solid Waste Collection offers a full range of curbside and collection services, including trash and recyclables.
- Internet/Cable Service: There are several options available for internet and cable providers, depending on the cost, location, and speed needed. Some of these include CenturyLink, Xfinity, and Viasat.
Best Neighborhoods in Spokane, WA
Here are some of the top neighborhoods to call home in the Lilac City:
Outlined by South Grand Boulevard, East 29th Avenue, and East Southeast Boulevard, the suburb of Rockwood sits about a mile and a half from downtown Spokane. It’s one of the oldest neighborhoods in Spokane and has a significant number of homes listed on the Spokane Register of Historic Places. Impressive homes with unique architecture sit on well-kept lots, with some perched on a portion of the winding hillside.
Residents here can thoroughly enjoy the outdoors by visiting the local parks such as Olmstead Triangle Park and taking walks through the neighborhood. While the number of entertainment venues is limited, the area boasts a vast assortment of healthy living experiences. Yoga classes, meditation, karate, and Barre classes are easily accessible. There’re also several restaurant options in the community, including Bangkok Thai, Fiesta Mexicana, and Lindaman’s Gourmet-To-Go.
- Population: 4,304
- Median Home Value: $409,300
- Median Rental Value: $901
- Schools: Served by Spokane Public School District, Hutton Elementary, Grant Elementary, Lewis & Clark High School
Lincoln Heights is located on the eastern side of Spokane, bounded by Southeast Boulevard and 37th Avenue, about five miles from downtown. It’s a middle-class neighborhood that consists mostly of single-family homes. The community continues to grow as new businesses arrive, and developers construct additional residential buildings.
As in most areas of Spokane, ponds, biking, and walking trails are readily available for recreation in Lincoln Park and Thornton Murphy Park. After the sun sets, this suburb comes to life. A wine bar and The Pub Off Regal Lounge offer music, drinks, and socializing at night. Among the retail options that residents can visit are a hardware store, 2nd Look Books, and a cannabis dispensary known as Satori South.
- Population: 14,131
- Median Home Value: $238,600
- Median Rental Value: $871
- Schools: Served by Spokane Public School District, Hamblen Elementary, Chase Middle School, and Ferris High School
North Indian Trail
North Indian Trail is in the northwest corner of Spokane, and from some homes, residents can overlook the Spokane River Gorge. This community is about a 20-minute drive from downtown and exudes a friendly, neighborly vibe, along with a safe and family-friendly atmosphere. High ranking schools are another plus for residents of this area.
You can experience typical shopping trips by visiting the local drug stores, grocery stores, and a distinctively different shopping complex known as the Azteca-Mex. A few chain fast food spots, such as Subway and McDonald’s, are available when you’re in a hurry. Homes are moderately priced, but prices increase as you move closer to the Spokane River.
- Population: 7,003
- Median Home Value: $237,380
- Median Rental Value: $720
- Schools: Served by Mead School District, Prairie View Elementary, Northwood Middle, and North Central High School
Perry Street, 29th Avenue, and 57th Avenue create Comstock’s boundaries. Located on Spokane’s south hill, roughly three miles from downtown, this neighborhood is relatively close to State Highway 195, which is convenient if you’ll be commuting or using public transit. The area tends to be made up of single-family homes and residents typically have higher incomes, so there are very few rental options available.
Comstock Park is full of fun, helpful, and entertaining characteristics. Residents can play on the tennis courts, go for an afternoon swim, and even enjoy being a kid again on the swings. The community park offers massive green spaces and hosts a summer symphony series. High Drive Bluff Park is another local outdoor destination where you can run, walk, bike, or hike.
- Population: 6,679
- Median Home Value: $280,600
- Median Rental Value: $986
- Schools: Served by Spokane Public School District, Wilson Elementary, Sacajawea Middle, as well as Southside Christian School, a private school
Borders for Manito-Cannon Hill include Lincoln Street and Arthur Street. This neighborhood is significant in size and a great place to raise children. Homes range in design from Victorian to mid-century, with the newest constructions embracing a more modern style.
Located about two miles from downtown, Manito-Cannon Hill is recognized as the arts and culture hub of Spokane and provides several locations for performances and theater events. The Finch Arboretum is home to the Spokane Symphony Orchestra, whose performances are a must-see. Gaiser Conservatory Botanical Gardens is an outdoor destination that showcases the breathtaking beauty of the area. A handful of shops and restaurants are also conveniently located for members of the community. The Scoop is a local parlor that serves up yogurt, ice cream, coffee, and tea.
- Population: 4,778
- Median Home Value: $363,200
- Median Rental Value: $781
- Schools: Served by Spokane Public School District, Hutton Elementary, Wilson Elementary, Lewis & Clark High School
This suburb is close to downtown, which makes for an easy commute to work and play. It lies between 3rd and 4th Avenues and is outlined to the north by I-90. Historic, beautiful homes fill this community with lovely architecture. The neighborhood’s location allows residents to make the short trip to the buzzing activities found in the heart of Spokane. Sports bars, cocktail bars, and a slew of restaurants keep foodies coming back for more. Places like Bennidito’s Pizza, The Compass Breakfast, and Allie’s Vegan Pizzeria and Café are just a sampling of the unique dining places that you can experience.
Sacred Heart Medical Center is on the far north end of this neighborhood. The Center is the hub for the Spokane medical district and encompasses all sorts of medical professionals, offices, and establishments that focus on the health and well-being of those in need.
- Population: 8,076
- Median Home Value: $265,100
- Median Rental Value: $675
- Schools: Served by Spokane Public School District, Roosevelt Elementary, Wilson Elementary, Sacajawea Middle
Moran Prairie sits on the southeast edge of Spokane, bordered by 37th Avenue and Perry Street, about six miles from downtown. The neighborhood has well-kept lawns, welcoming neighbors, and is considered safe, dog-friendly, and a great location for families.
The Moran Prairie Library is an extremely popular hot spot among those living in the area. Not only does it function as a normal library, but it also plays host to several events that range from informative and educational to cultural and artistic. Local shopping options, as well as non-traditional restaurants, include Izumi Sushi & Asian Bistro, Palouse Bar & Grille, and MOD Pizza
- Population: 8,559
- Median Home Price: $314,200
- Median Rental Price: $906
- Schools: Spokane Public School District, Moran Prairie Elementary, Mullan Road Elementary, Ferris High
One of the more populated neighborhoods, North Hill, is centrally located within Spokane. It borders Francis Avenue, Ash Street, Cora and Courtland Avenues, and Division Street. Almost 5,000 homes make up this vibrant community. In the northern area, homes are more contemporary, while the southern area consists of older homes from the early 1900s and Craftsman styles. There are also some apartments available to renters in North Hill.
There are tons of things to do for residents of North Hill. Franklin Park is more than just a playground and picnic area. It hosts horseshoe tournaments, soccer games, even a dog show. The Garland area houses the Garland Theater as well as The Blue Door Theater for performing arts. The area also puts on an annual street fair each summer. Lots of retail shops are available and fall into categories such as jewelry, bridal, sewing, vitamins and supplements, even toys. Foodies will experience unique cuisine by visiting The Wall Street Diner, Casa De Oro, and Maple Street Bistro. The Milk Bottle Restaurant serves food and ice cream, from inside a building shaped just like its name!
- Population: 12,470
- Median Home Price: $180,700
- Median Rental Price: $826
- Schools: Served by Spokane Public School District, Willard Elementary, Ridgeview Elementary, Glover Middle, North Central High
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