Seattle Neighborhoods: What Does Your ZIP Code Say About You?

Here we present a snapshot of Seattle, as told through the lens of the postal code
Best neighborhoods in seattle seattle magazine zip codes neighborhoods seattle
Queen Anne’s 98119 nabe is front-row seating for the Space Needle and downtown

In this era of email, ZIP codes may seem passé, gone the way of scented stationery, a postal relic destined for irrelevance (Amazon Sunday delivery notwithstanding). But in neighborhood-loving Seattle, a survey of ZIP codes tells an illuminating story of togetherness. In some city ZIPs, like-minded neighborhoods abut each other like peas in a pod; in others, it’s more like whirled peas, with distinctly disparate nabes blended together more or less peacefully. And so, we wonder, in this data-driven world, are your digits your destiny? Here’s the story of Seattle-area neighborhoods, as told through the lens of the five-digit ZIP. Find your tribe.

Want to see the many faces of Seattle's neighborhoods? View our slide show of all the pictures from our photo shoot here.

View Masters

With killer views of Elliott Bay and downtown, BELLTOWN’s high-rise living is beloved by urban-minded grown-ups and upscale empty nesters alike. In one of Seattle’s least family-friendly ZIPs (more than 80 percent of households are kid-free), this walkable neighborhood is well stocked with chic shops (Object, Sell Your Sole, Kuhlman) and destination restaurants (Tavolàta, Black Bottle). Nearly every night of the week, Belltown teems with barhoppers (craft cocktails at Rob Roy; speakeasy vibe at Bathtub Gin) well into the wee hours. At street level, city living can get gritty—much has been made of Belltown’s struggles with crime and the hood is home to several homeless facilities and service providers—but proximity to Pike Place Market and Seattle’s bustling core makes Belltown’s soaring skyscape a city lover’s mecca. Motto: Non apta filli (“Not suitable for children”). Hobbies: Riding elevators; developing apps.

Culture Vultures

DOWNTOWN’s cultural center is home to the Seattle Art Museum, Benaroya Hall, The Triple Door and epic childlessness (this ZIP boasts the lowest percent of households with youngsters of any in the metro region). Its denizens hole up in sleek towers where the eye-popping views battle with pricey artworks for attention. Hobbies: Pairing chunky jewelry with statement glasses; shunning the Big Wheel and fish throwers.


Major change is afoot in the ’104, which cuts a wide swath from Broadway to the bay, across PIONEER SQUARE, where a foodie renaissance is under way. Now home to uncommon retailers (such as E. Smith Mercantile), hip restaurants (Bar Sajor and The London Plane), and art galleries old and new (Greg Kucera, Roq La Rue), the Square is about to see a population boom of sorts; the 1.5 million-square-foot, mixed-use Stadium Place development, currently under construction, will bring 740 new residences—and killer transit—to this once neglected nabe. Sharing the ZIP, the CHINATOWN–INTERNATIONAL DISTRICT is the heart of Seattle’s Asian-American community, with unassuming and affordable condos—some with Sound views—pedestrian-friendly streets and buildings steeped in Seattle’s past. Out-of-ZIPpers come to sample authentic dim sum, udon, Szechuan and much more, wander the Wing (Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience) and shop for unusual finds (Kobo, MoMo and Kinokuniya Bookstore). Hobby: Prowling the noodle aisles at Uwajimaya.
(Photo by Phil Price: Art abounds in the metro core—from the Olympic Sculpture Park in 98121 (inset) to the Seattle Art Museum in 98101 to the countless galleries in Pioneer Square (98104))

From Bedroom to Biotech

There’s a lot happening in this ZIP, which tumbles down toward Lake Union from Queen Anne Ave. N. It spans EAST QUEEN ANNE, where lovely single-family view homes slowly give way to the townhouses of LOWER QUEEN ANNE, including both the nabe’s bustling shopping avenue on the top of the hill, and the beating heart of Seattle’s well-established arts scene below (e.g., Seattle Shakespeare Company, Seattle Rep, Seattle Opera, Pacific Northwest Ballet, The Vera Project, SIFF, EMP Museum and soon, KEXP), to SOUTH LAKE UNION’s tech and biotech hub. All this action around Amazon’s multi-building headquarters, shiny condos and apartments, and the Gates Foundation’s $500 million campus means that 98109 is increasingly home to hordes of lanyard-adorned up-and-comers attracting a slew of new restaurants and food trucks, Dwellicious decor shops, and thousands of new jobs—but it’s also driving up housing costs and, at times, causing truly dreadful traffic. Theme song: “Changes” by David Bowie. Hobby: Mercer Mess strategizing.

Royalty Check

Named for the stately homes that once dotted its flanks, WEST QUEEN ANNE (including the eastern edge of INTERBAY, an industrial/maritime/affordable mash-up that shares 98119), now hosts an eclectic mix: Singles and DINKs flock to swank townhomes and condos, reveling in close in convenience to Lower Queen Anne amenities, while the well-heeled abide in elegant historic mansions higher up. In between, urban-minded go-getters with kids pack the rows of charming old houses that line the narrow side streets. With century-old trees and sweeping Sound views, 98119 has some of the prettiest vistas (and steepest streets) in Seattle. This ZIP has a small, off-the-beaten path business district, where a few gems are hidden, including Meadow, Rhinestone Rosie and Macrina. Hobby: Snapping photos at Kerry Park. Motto: “We close when it snows.”

Separate But Gleeful

Situated on a sprawling peninsula, this ZIP is long on view homes with big lawns and wide streets, but short on city life and culture. MAGNOLIA is ideal for wealthy, well-educated Seattleites who don’t want to actually live in Seattle, a sort of in-city suburb that’s family friendly, quiet and free of traffic. And expensive: Home prices here are some of the highest in the city, especially those with manicured topiary gardens perched on the towering bluffs with breathtaking views of Puget Sound.
Visitors come to explore Discovery Park, our city’s largest, with miles of walking trails and stellar bird-watching. Locals can get most basic needs met without ever crossing the moat; a small central business core includes many of the essentials and a few delightful nonessentials, such as Tanglewood Supreme bistro and The Brik Boutique. Motto: “No man is an island...but we try to be.” Hobby: Ornamental shrub shaping.

Friends with Money

This ZIP’s plummy nabes flank one of Seattle’s most glorious urban green spaces, the Washington Park Arboretum, with its vast gardens, wetlands and walking trails. To the south lie the tony historic homes of NORTH CAPITOL HILL, as well as the commercial strip of MADISON VALLEY, which cleaves to its French reputation—with several (although fewer than before) French eateries, an annual Bastille Day celebration and Frenchy’s Day Spa—while making room for popular Italian newcomer Bar Cantinetta. Mad Valley’s walkable streets of high-end shops (River Song, Maison Luxe, Vian Hunter, Jarbo, Fury) and cafés, tucked between Lake Washington and the Arboretum, are fodder for out-of-ZIP day trippers who wander around nibbling baguettes, and locals who bomb in for a mani and a cuppa.


If Mad Valley is Seattle’s mini Paris, nearby MADISON PARK is its mini Medina, with some of the highest property values on this side of the lake and staggering views of Mount Rainier and Lake Washington. Here, you’ll find ultra-wealthy, ultra-educated locals ensconced in exclusive enclaves, lobbing tennis balls and launching yachts (and lunching at Madison Kitchen and dining at The Independent Pizzeria). Hobbies: Organizing charity fundraisers; scheduling au pairs. Car of choice: Mercedes SUV (driven by au pair). (Photo by Jonathan Vanderweit: Soccer players of all ages enjoy the tricked out playfields at the entrance to the Arboretum in 98112)

Hive on the Hill

This ultra-urban ZIP is a study of opposites, encompassing two very distinct Seattle neighborhoods (and parts of the Central District and First Hill). Lively, come-as-you-are CAPITOL HILL is home to hipster singles and artsy trendsetters, one of Seattle’s hottest foodie neighborhoods and a hub for Seattle’s LGBT community (it plays host to Seattle’s gay Pride Parade). This is Seattle at its edgiest; an incubator of ideas (Northwest Film Forum, the Bullitt Center, Seattle University); home to choice retail (Totokaelo, Elliott Bay Book Company); a place where superstar chefs try new things (Terra Plata, Bar Cotto) and craft cocktails flow (Tavern Law, Sun Liquor)—and parking is practically nonexistent. Residents here are young, idealistic and childless. Theme song: “Same Love” by Macklemore. Hobby: People watching (some of the best in Seattle).

Down (and back up) the slope in MADRONA, there’s a different scene: Well-tended homes and yards wriggle with kids and dogs, and a handful of welcoming local shops (Driftwood Consignment, Hammer + Awl, Hitchcock Madrona, Juniper) and restaurants (Ethan Stowell’s brand-new Red Cow) satisfy well-heeled locals. Urban sophisticates line the deck at Bottlehouse and stroller-pushing parents pack kid-centric parks. Hobbies: Collecting Lululemon dog-walking gear. Car of choice: Lexus hybrid. (Photo by Jonathan Vanderweit: 98122 denizens enjoy the chill vibe at Madrona’s  Bottlehouse)

World Party

Spanning some of Seattle’s most ethnically mixed neighborhoods (plus a corner of the International District), this ZIP also features housing ranging from affordable to astronomical. From waterside manses to tiny, tucked-away cottages, almost every home here is within shouting distance of a public park. (There are 36 here; by far the most of any ZIP.) At the ZIP’s second highest point is beloved BEACON HILL, where a light rail station breathes new life into one of Seattle’s oldest nabes. Here, 1900s bungalows perch high, with broad views; modest homes line quiet streets; and less flush urbanites revel in affordable home ownership. Beacon Hill’s diverse, close-knit community stays fiercely loyal to local businesses, including Bar del Corso, Baja Bistro and Travelers Thali House.

Nearby MOUNT BAKER—named for its view—features tree-lined streets, classic Craftsman-style homes, lake access and an enviable cup-of-sugar neighborliness. Home values vary wildly on these quiet streets (well, quiet except during Seafair, when the ’hood plays host to the hydro races); and in true 98144 tradition, the families living here are varied and diverse.
Million-dollar lakefront homes and boat-side steak delivery (Daniel’s Leschi, just over the line in 98122) are only part of the story in LESCHI: Condos abound by the shore, and uphill, a plethora of modest homes—bungalows, bricks, ramblers—perch along winding uphill roads, providing at least partial lake views. Theme song: “Different People” by No Doubt. Motto: Vires in varietate (“Strength in diversity”).

Problem Solvers

In the RAINIER VALLEY, neighborhoods vary wildly—from stark to magnificent (SEWARD PARK, hello)—as you move from east to west on Rainier Avenue toward the shores of Lake Washington. Tucked between the luxe view hilltop locales and waterfront mansions are hard-hit communities, rife with foreclosed, tiny homes surrounded with chain-link fences. This ZIP sees more than its share of crime and some of the highest unemployment in the city (7.6 percent), but it’s also blessed with genuine diversity—economic and ethnic—and vibrant, determined communities. Many businesses here cater to people from all over the world: African, kosher, halal and Asian groceries; plentiful ethnic restaurants; churches with large Latino populations; and gospel church services at the Rainier Community Center. The 98118 also boasts several gorgeous waterfront parks and easy access to light rail. The historic district, COLUMBIA CITY, has small-town charm—and some seriously good food (Geraldine’s Counter, La Medusa) and, next year, a major new PCC. Hobbies: Catching local little-knowns on stage at The Royal Room; global noshing. Car of choice: Feet. Theme song: “Around the World” by Daft Punk.

League of Nations

RAINIER BEACH, in Seattle’s southeasternmost ZIP, boasts exceptional diversity (a whopping 69 percent of the population is non-white), active communities in working-class neighborhoods, one of Seattle’s largest urban streams (Taylor Creek) and relatively affordable (less than $1 million) waterfront homes.

Rockabilly Ball

One of Seattle’s oldest neighborhoods, GEORGETOWN is quietly becoming one of its hippest—although “quiet” isn’t always the term that springs to mind, thanks to its proximity to Boeing Field. Still, the occasional roar of jets overhead (and the resulting “Georgetown Pause,” as strollers shade their eyes and look skyward) syncs with the area’s industrial-chic vibe, with rail yards and century-old brick factories converted into apartments, breweries (Georgetown Brewing Company) and the best strip of “bar” bars in Seattle (9lb Hammer, Brass Tacks, Jules Maes Saloon and Smarty Pants). Abutting the trendy enclave are neighborhoods of old but affordable homes; just south, in tiny, scrappy SOUTH PARK, lives a very diverse population with fierce community pride, and great trek-worthy dining spots Loretta’s Northwesterner and Muy Macho Taqueria. Car of choice: Vintage motorbike. Hobbies: Barhopping; prowling the Georgetown Trailer Park Mall.

The Cool Parents

Still quite a mecca for starter families, BALLARD’s bustling southern ZIP—rife with parks and good schools and the Ballard locks—has seen a housing hike that’s pricing some out, slowly driving the population to a more upscale status. That’s good news for the stylish shops and popular restaurants that flourish along Ballard Avenue and beyond. If you don’t live in this ZIP, you’ve probably spent time here; it’s become an insanely popular dinner and nightlife destination (with a can’t-miss Sunday farmers’ market, to boot). With a Capitol Hill–like “come as you are” vibe—sans the rock ’n’ roll ’tude—the streets of this ZIP teem with flush, fleece-adorned locals pushing Maclaren strollers and foodie trendsters taking in the plentiful, primo dining options (The Walrus and the Carpenter, Stoneburner). Complete with choice boutiques (Horseshoe, Ketch, Velouria), coffee shops (Bauhaus) and bars, the nabe is home to Seattle’s newest brewery district (Reuben’s Brews, NW Peaks, Hilliard’s and Maritime Pacific Brewing Company). Hobby: Circling for parking. (Photo by Joe Mabel: People-watch among the fruit and flowers at the Ballard Farmers Market in 98107)

Fringe Living

Head just north of those chic streets, north of 65th, and you’ll find the less sexy but self-assured heart of residential BALLARD, with its abundant older homes, Scandinavian pride, Golden Gardens beach access and midcentury modern enclave Olympic Manor. More staid and family oriented than its sib ZIP, and ranging from swank water-view homes to a relaxed mix of homes with families and professionals, the Whittier Heights eastern pocket of 98117 does boast an oft-lauded row of restaurants (Delancey, Essex, Fat Hen, Honoré). Motto: “Hip, hipster hurrah!”

Creative Class

So much of what’s best—and, well, bizarre—about Seattle is contained within the bounds of this ZIP. Still flying its freak flag—albeit not quite as fervently—is Seattle’s own little Haight-Ashbury, FREMONT. Once the “center of the universe” for boho culture, Fremont is becoming a bit more hip than hippie, thanks in part to a growing corporate presence (Getty Images, Adobe and Google) and a nightlife scene (see: The Fremont Collective). Still, as long as there’s the annual Solstice Parade—and as sure as trolls eat Volkswagens—Fremonsters will claim their official motto: De libertas quirkas (“Freedom to be peculiar”).
Cross Stone Way and you’re in WALLINGFORD, land of lived-in Craftsmen and sought-after schools, the preferred stomps of University of Washington professors who like the affordable proximity, thinky movie houses and excellent ethnic fare. Farther north, stately, spendy, recently restored homes fan out in spokes from lovely GREEN LAKE, the social hub of this eponymous neighborhood, where residents power-walk the 2.8-mile paved walk/bike path, or loll on the grass watching visitors battle to the death over parking. Hobbies: Arguing over which ’hood you actually live in; spotting public nudity (sometimes on bikes). Car of choice: Ancient Subaru. Most common garage-sale item: Used bicycles (be sure to replace the seat!); hemp anything.

The Straddlers
PHINNEY RIDGE and GREENWOOD straddle 98117 and 98103—with Green Lake pulling to the east, and Ballard pulling to the west, but they come together in a vibrant neighborly mash-up along the ridge over good coffee and ice cream (Bluebird, Herkimer, Vita), the checkout counter at the refurbished Ken’s Market, events and volunteering at 826 (writing and tutoring center behind the Space Travel Supply Store), and regular neighborhood-wide garage sales, art walks and trick-or-treat events.

Key Carriers

Covering lots of land—and five local neighborhoods, from the grand, gated HIGHLANDS to view-worthy, covenanted BLUE RIDGE—these pockets of exclusivity are home to some of Seattle’s oldest residents (average age: 47.5 years old).

Just Folks

Affordable homes, plenteous amenities and quiet neighborhoods— SHORELINE/NORTHGATE/HALLER LAKE/BITTER LAKE—characterize this unassuming ZIP, bisected by gritty Aurora Avenue.

Educated Class

From starving students in rental dives to families in sweet first homes to billionaire bond traders in view villas, this ZIP runs the full sweep of economic diversity. By far the youngest-skewed ZIP code in Seattle (the average age is just 23, thanks to the nearby University of Washington), it’s not surprising that it’s also one of the most childless and most educated; every third person you meet has a graduate degree. Also smart: The new light rail extension that will link Husky Stadium to downtown Seattle in 2016. (Photo by Alexandar Crook: University Village makes 98105 a shopper’s paradise)
Despite the slick new dorms—nicer than the housing that students can expect after graduation—flooding the south end of University Avenue, the UNIVERSITY DISTRICT still has a distinctly rough-edged street life and plenty of decent cheap eats that form a penumbra around undergrads everywhere. For brand-name shopping, locals head east to ever-expanding UNIVERSITY VILLAGE; just east of this sprawling mall, you’ll find the vista-gifted enclave of LAURELHURST, birthplace of Bill Gates and site of stunning lakefront homes (the median price here hovers around the million dollar mark). Mottos: Laurelhurst: Et factum est in caviar (“Pass the caviar”). U District: “We are probably smarter than you. Also, are you going to finish that caviar?” Most common garage-sale item: Laurelhurst: “What is a ‘garage sale’?” U District: Musty futons.


Things don’t change too quickly here in the ’115, and that’s just the way the laid-back locals like it. Leafy streets are lined with lovingly maintained older homes, which are increasingly loaded up with families. RAVENNA’s tiny shopping district is anchored by local fave Third Place Books; in nearby ROOSEVELT, older homes (and the Pacific Northwest’s first Whole Foods, natch) flank a low-key shopping district, replete with yoga studios and vegan restaurants.

Community-minded WEDGWOOD is home to a stellar elementary school, three synagogues and a Jewish community center. Residents here, like the rest of 98115, tend to be educated, liberal—and dog-crazy. In family-friendly MAPLE LEAF, traditional bungalows are giving way to newer Craftsman-style homes in quiet neighborhoods that abut strip malls—the foothills of Northgate’s mountainous shop-aganza mega-district. Motto: “It is what it is.” Car of choice: Old Volvo with a Kucinich bumper sticker. Hobbies: Collecting rotary phones; reading home-plumbing manuals. (Photo by Hayley Young: Dog-walking is a popular pursuit in the 98115 (Ravenna))

Height Society

Fine homes dot a plethora of ’Hursts (see: Pine), Hills (see: Olympic) and Heights (see: Cedar) in this North End ZIP, which also harbors the super-exclusive yuppie hatchery Lakeside School, and the shoptropolis of Northgate Mall, Northgate North and strip-mall sprawl.

West Seattle
98106, ’116, ’126, ’136, ’146
The Other Side of Seattle

It’s not a competition, but try telling that to some West Seattleites: In the grand tradition of east-west rivalries (see: Dawgs versus Cougs), West Seattle pride can take on startling proportions. And, though it’s home to five ZIP codes and many more distinct neighborhoods, you’ll rarely hear West Seattleites claiming micro-nabe affiliation to outsiders; residents here are all from “West Seattle,” as if unified against a greater foe. This community of glorious views, fantastic waterfront parks and family-friendly neighborhoods continues to evolve upscale, with only occasional flare-ups of years-old resentment against years-old offenses (it took a little too much convincing to build that bridge, and then there was the secession rumble of 2005...). But for some, life here in the birthplace of Seattle strikes a perfect balance: just urban enough (without in-city traffic and crime); just quiet enough (but still Seattle-ish); and affordable (if a bit isolated). And those California-esque strollable skyline views (Alki Beach, 98126 and 98116), scads of new townhomes and apartments, dog-friendly wandering (Lincoln Park, 98106) and pocket retail districts make West Seattle a favorite of up-and-coming young families. Theme song: “Go Your Own Way” by Fleetwood Mac. Hobby: Extolling the virtues of West Seattle.
(Photo by Stephanie Mennella: Skipping stones and killer views at Alki Beach in 98126 and 98116)


Why BURIEN? No-nonsense (and car-dependent) 98166 offers affordable family living peppered with tucked-away stretches of waterfront, a sweet “Olde Burien” shopping strip, a beautiful new library and downtown park, and some of the tastiest Mexican chow in the entire metro area. Along with the lower-income but close-knit 98148 ZIP (mostly covering EAST BURIEN, just west of Sea-Tac airport)—B-Town maintains its independence despite its sweet I-509 “secret passageway” to Sea-Town. (Photo by Hayley Young: Olde Burien in 98166)

Shore Birds

Thriving, lively KIRKLAND just keeps getting younger and richer—Google’s doubling down here, opening an enormous new HQ in 2015 and adding 1,000 new jobs—and living here will set you back a half-mil, easy. The lovely lakefront downtown is home to several choice boutiques (Via Lago, Asher Goods) and a four-diamond hotel (The Heathman Hotel); the perennially perfect Cafe Juanita ensures the town’s culinary bragging rights. The miles of walkable waterfront, replete with public art and beach parks, make it a fave of, gasp, Seattleites. Motto: “Google it!” Hobby: Going to Costco to stock the yacht.

Suburban Alpinists

Ignore the mind-numbing stretches of strip malls; ISSAQUAH’s loads o’ yuppie families have to get the goods somewhere. Instead, train your eyes skyward—past the paragliders—to this ’burb’s true claim to fame: incredible natural beauty in the form of an eponymous “mountain” range. The Issaquah Alps—including Squak, Tiger and Cougar (the latter actually falls in 98059) mountains—boast more than a hundred miles of hikes with eye-popping views, making this a favorite day-trip ZIP for Seattleites. With a good brew pub (Issaquah Brewhouse), a gorgeous public library, plenty of horse trails and miles and miles of big-box shopping, locals see little reason to leave. Car of choice: Aggressively driven designer SUVs. most common garage-sale items: Jodhpurs, Mini Boden anything. Hobby: (When not hiking with large, muddy off-leash dog): Scrapbooking.

Members of the Club

Excellent schools (with a brand-new middle school opening in 2016), low crime and plenty of new, half-million-dollar homes—welcome to NEWCASTLE. This Eastside up-and-comer constitutes most of this ZIP (with some NORTH RENTON in the mix). Families adore Newcastle for its movie-set-perfect neighborhoods (often enforced with strict HOA rules), rife with bike-riding kids and dog walkers, and miles of parks and trails. Perched high on a hill—with panoramic views and 36 holes (in 98059)—is one of the swankiest golf clubs around, The Golf Club at Newcastle. Most common garage-sale item: Pottery Barn anything. Hobbies: Martha Stewart anything, Bunco. (Photo by Alexander Crook: Paragliders at Poo Poo Point in Issaquah’s wild backyard, 98027)

Grape Escape

WOODINVILLE’s more than 100 wineries, a brewery boomlet and woodsy neighborhoods play host to hot-air balloons and high-income denizens (median household income: $104,342).


With tens of thousands of techies (mostly at Microsoft), a sprawling mall and Marymoor Park, which boasts our state’s only velodrome, REDMOND is a seriously spandex-sporting, Windows Phone–toting ZIP.

98070, 98110, 98040
Moat Diggers

Surround yourself with water on one of these local islands, where ZIP code boundaries begin and end at water’s edge. Though mere miles apart as the crow flies, these islands are light years apart in lifestyle.

Laid-back VASHON ISLAND (98070) is rural, homogenous (nearly 94 percent white) and defiantly anti-vaccine; by far the fave nabe for living off the grid—and, increasingly, for city dwellers’ second homes. It’s also our area’s oldest-skewed ZIP (the average age here is older than 50), and home to one of our region’s only three “Blue Ribbon” high schools (Mercer Island and Bellevue have the others). Most common garage-sale item: Organic free-range eggs, Tibetan prayer flags. Theme song: “Ain’t Nobody’s Business” by Woody Guthrie. (Photo by Alexander Crook: Vashon Island’s charming historic coffee roasterie in the central part of 98070)

Seattle’s increasingly affluent bedroom community, BAINBRIDGE ISLAND (98110) sports a brand-new art museum and some very ferry-ride-worthy dining (Hitchcock). If you’re buying land here, bring a big bag of money; home prices hover above the mid six figures. If you’re visiting, make time for the lush and broody Bloedel Reserve. Hobby: Writing best-selling novels
(see: David Guterson, Susan Wiggs, Jonathan Evison). Motto: “Democrats welcome.”

In the ’040 that is MERCER ISLAND, fabulous wealth and privilege abound (with incomes second only to Medina), and families move here for the well-funded, high-achieving schools (district-issued iPads! Blue Ribbon bragging rights!). The downtown core hums with new development and new boutiques and restaurants, giving grateful islanders fewer and fewer reasons to leave. Life here is not all bliss; talk of tolling I-90 has traffic-weary residents up in arms. Nickname: The Rock. Most common garage-sale item: Last year’s top-of-the-line elliptical. Theme song: “Mo Money Mo Problems” by the Notorious B.I.G.

98004, ’005, ’006, ’007, ’008, ’039
Belle Ringers

For decades, Seattleites heaped scorn upon BELLEVUE; the rich, sprawling ’burb to the east seemed a clichéd accumulation of minivans, vanilla malls and racquet-swinging yuppies. The “Blah-vue” of old lacked character and history—and suffered from a serious dearth of culture, imagination and decent dining options (anyone remember Spazzo at the top of the Key Bank Building?).

Fast forward to a very different world. Downtown Bellevue bustles with industry, bristles with cranes and teems with wealthy young families partaking in mile after mile of upscale shopping and dining. These days, Bellevue regularly lands on everyone’s “best places to live,” “raise a family” and “start a business” lists for its copious amenities, stellar schools and location, smack dab between Seattle and the plentiful wilderness playgrounds of the Issaquah Alps and beyond. (Photo: Downtown Bellevue (98004) highrises tower above  the increasingly diverse area)

Now a city of wild contrasts and thriving diversity, nearly a third of Bellevue residents are foreign-born. In parts of Bellevue, white elementary school students are the minority, according to the city. SOUTH BELLEVUE recently celebrated the arrival of the Factoria Walmart (98006). In nearby LAKE HILLS (98005), there are more families than you can shake a cul-de-sac at, dwelling in modest, older homes; and a gun range coexists with the splendid Bellevue Botanical Garden.

In EAST BELLEVUE (98008), a revamped Crossroads Mall hops with live music and a mini United Nations of dining options. In DOWNTOWN BELLEVUE (98004), dedicated shoppers flock to the epicenter: the several-block radius that includes Lincoln Square, The Lodge and Bellevue Square. A bit east, the upscale (but quieter than expected for this prosperous ZIP) Bravern boasts Neiman Marcus and Hermès; head south two blocks to see the site of Kemper Freeman’s next project, a $1.2 billion luxury development—including two new hotels.

Bellevue’s three peninsulas are studded with homes of staggering wealth; on EVERGREEN POINT (98039), MEDINA is the richest ZIP in our state by a long shot (and home to Bill Gates); nearby HUNTS AND YARROW POINTS (98004) boast the extravagant waterfront mansions of many a mill/billionaires including McCaw, Steve Ballmer and Pete Carroll. By far, Bellevue’s biggest downside is its traffic; in a word, it’s absurd. (Help is coming s-l-o-w-l-y, and—finally—a Link light rail extension from Seattle is planned for 2023.) Preferred diet: Whole Foods. Hobby: Downloading Arcade Fire and Dave Matthews songs on this minute’s iThing. Motto: “Seattle, we are coming for you.”