Should residents get itchy feet, it’s good to know Bellingham is within easy access of the San Juan Islands as well as Seattle — perfect for weekend or day trips. Boaters, kayakers and anglers can enjoy Bellingham’s downtown harbor as well as nearby Lake Padden, while the Mt. Baker and surrounding forests are perfect for skiing, hiking and bicycling. The town also has more than a dozen public golf courses.
Bellingham gains points as a college town, and is home to Western Washington University. The university features the Academy of Lifelong Learning, which offers continuing education classes in topics as varied as Greek gods, US presidential election history and script writing. The Academy also runs excursions to cultural events like the ballet, as well as trips to nearby Puget Sound islands.
Culture lovers can enjoy theater productions at the University’s Performing Arts Center, independent films at the the Pickford Film Center and exhibits at the Whatcom Museum.
Con: Rainy winters, high cost of living
Best For: Outdoors lovers and college town enthusiasts
Cost of Living: 23% above national average
Median Home Cost: $244,140
Top State Income Tax: No state income tax
Crime Rate: 10.2% below national average
Many retirees have sought out Bellingham as their retirement destination in part because Washington State has no state income tax. Still, property taxes can be steep and the town’s cost of living is 23 percent above the national average. Median home prices are around $244,100.
The town also has a number of convenient, and important, features, including a hospital, international airport and the Bellingham Senior Activity Center. Sun seekers should be prepared — Bellingham’s winters can be cloudy and rainy, though temperatures are relatively mild year-round.