Cities Journal

Top 21 Small Cities In Washington

Top 14 Small Cities In Washington

Washington is a fascinating area with many contrasts: there are farming communities, flat plains and winding rivers on one hand and then there are forests, snow covered mountains and large, modern metropolitan areas such as Seattle and Bellevue on the other.

When it comes to the small, scenic towns and cities scattered across the state, they each have much to offer in the way of beauty and unique attributes. Following is an overview of the top twenty one small cities in Washington State, listed in descending order.

1. Moses Lake

As the name implies, the city of Moses Lake is located right next to Moses Lake. This lake was once small and salty; however, the Grand Coulee Dam built in 1955 changed that aspect. The dam helped the city to develop into a thriving farm community by providing irrigation water for a multitude of crops.

The dam was instrumental in transforming the city from a place where only fishermen, shepherds and cowboys lived to a thriving farm community that today helps to feed other cities across the country.

The Grand Coulee Dam played a key role in helping Moses Lake grow in population and size. However, the construction of a major air force base near the city during World War 2 also contributed to the township’s growth and development.

Although the base closed soon after the war, it reopened in 1948 to continue instilling life into the region. Over time, Moses Lake grew to become an important city in Grant County and it remains a hub for transportation, agriculture and recreational activities to this day.

Today, Moses Lake stands as a bustling community that offers many of the amenities people would expect to find in a large city while still retaining the pristine beauty of a country town. Potholes Wildlife Reservation can be found just south of the city and the area is home to a diverse range of birds and other animal species.

Seep lakes are still common in the area, just as they were before Moses Lake grew from a little town into a small city.

Population wise, Moses Lake has just over 20,000 people, making it the largest “small city” in the county. In addition to agriculture, the city has added manufacturing and advanced technology to its economic base, with the establishment of such corporations as REC Silicon, BMW, Dell, Guardian Industries, Sabey, ConAgra Foods and International Paper.

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  • Dan

    How about Winthrop, Republic, Electric City, Yakima, Wenatchee, Leavenworth, Clarkston…. anyone???

  • Matt Langstraat

    Not sure how Bellingham, with a population well over 80,000 residents, 12th largest city in Washington makes this list of “small cities.”

  • Linda

    The photo with Oak Harbor is actually the Mukilteo lighthouse, which it not even on Whidbey Island.

  • Sarah P

    Have you been to Moses Lake. Commercial Airplane school. It is awful, everyone I’ve met from there despise it. All day everyday. Winthrop- tourist town, no real jobs a a seasonal community. Like an island in the winter. Republic- yikes fire danger high. whats the criteria on this- standards are low.

  • Diane Satre Merkl

    I grew up in Hoquiam, great town ❤️…

  • ODA315

    “does not look down on those of different cultural, ethnic or national backgrounds”…..are you inferring that other small WA cities do? What a pompous and arrogant statement.

  • Ed_Rooney

    I know this list is BS because you have Moses Lake as #14. So far the biggest $#!%hole I’v seen in this state. No mention of the landfill that’s in everybody’s backyard. Moses Lake should be on a list of top cities for above ground nuclear testing.

  • Kristina

    I would like to know what research this article was based from? It seems like city names were pulled from a hat. Look at Great Schools ratings and see how these places fare before moving to one, Hoquiam’s high school is a 5 out of 10. The elementary schools are 1’s and 2’s. The the national crime average in 2012 was 298.9, Hoquiam was 349.7. How does it qualify as the #2 small town in Wa?

  • Annodal

    Um…Puyallup, Fox Island, Port Angeles, Gig Harbor, Steilacoom, Anacortes, DuPont and as someone previously mentioned Leavensworth? I guess we should be counting our blessings that Forks didn’t make the cut, but this was a pretty dismal representation of small Washington towns.

  • notimpressed

    A funeral chapel was the best photo of Tumwater? How about the Falls? Or anything else, really.

  • Allison

    Who is responsible for these ridiculous photos? A parking lot and Safeway for Chelan? A funeral home for Tumwater? A Pizza Pipeline in Pullman? Is it idiocy, or just trolling?

  • Rob Lewis

    Sorry, but the photo for Issaquah (#16) is actually another view of Langley (#15).

  • Rob Lewis

    RE: Kirkland: “Hundreds of square miles of green surfaces”? Really? That would imply that if Kirkland was nothing but green surfaces, it would be at least 15 miles square. Not even close! You need a new writer.

  • cactusbob

    There was obviously not enough time or effort spent on this series to be accurate, based on some comments. My contribution is about Moses Lake. The article says Grand Coulee Dam, “built in 1955,” saved Moses Lake from the effects of its salty water. The Bureau of Reclamation thinks the dam was completed in 1941.

  • DEB

    I’m surprised Oak Harbor made the cut…I would live in Anacortes or, even better, Coupville, over Oak Harbor. It’s only claim to fame is Whidbey Naval air station. There are low flying jets that make so much noise, it hurts your ears and, no offense to our troops but, the quality of the standard of living there compared to the other above listed places is noticeably lower. Besides, cell phone reception there is almost none existent.

  • denise

    Thank you to those of you who commented here! My husband and I live in Monmouth County, NJ and have been considering moving to Washington state for about a year and a half now. We have three teenage sons, a 13 year old and 15 year old twins. We have been trying to wait until our twins graduate high school and our 13 year old to graduate 8th grade – but we’re really at the point where we’re not sure if we’ll be able to wait that long. We bought a home here a couple years ago, thinking we would stay in NJ for at least another 5-10 years. But the non-stop building, increasing taxes and cost of living, (which we can’t comprehend since NJ is not the greatest, most beautiful state to live in!) schools becoming more and more of a disappointment, and many other issues – makes us think more often than ever that we must be nuts to stay here! Granted, our families live locally, which makes it harder to leave – but not impossible! I mean, we do have planes in this day and age, right!?? We see what other states have to offer in so many areas and they score way above NJ in our books! Education, housing prices, amount of land, income levels, number of small business owners, scenery/views/environment – I don’t see many areas where our state wins – except maybe when it comes to our business. My husband is an HVAC contractor as well as all phases of construction and we own an HVAC contracting company. He does very well here in NJ. He went out on his own about five years ago and his business is truly thriving, thank God. We have been very lucky and it is honestly the only thing holding us back from packing up our house today and leaving! I’ve been researching Washington state, along with a couple other states that we are considering. But Washington is our first choice to relocate to. HVAC technicians – just technicians – not licensed contractors and business owners, make good money there. My husband is known around our area as the honest hvac guy! Lol! He is disgusted, as am I, by the companies around here that take advantage of homeowners, especially the elderly. He is so personable and our customers really love him! He’ll sometimes talk to them for an hour on the phone or stay at their homes, when on an estimate, for a couple hours answering all their questions and addressing their concerns. His prices are usually always a bit lower than other companies’ and his work is top notch! I know it sounds like I’m just trying to talk him up right now, hut I’m trying to give a description of what he and his business is like so people here can respond. I guess what I’m trying to get at here is everyone’s opinions! Can anyone tell me what they think the best places are to live in within Washington state? Are there some towns that you think an HVAC contractor – who is fully licensed, bonded, and insured, as well as having a home improvement contractor’s license – would succeed in more than others? Towns that have places for our sons to be active outdoors? They play football and soccer and love to skateboard, bike, surf, and race motocross! They are extremely active, to put it mildly! My husband and I also enjoy being outdoors – riding bikes, walking ou dogs, etc. I apologize for this ridiculously long post! LOL! But this is a major life-changing decision and I want to be as thorough as possible. The green landscaping of Washington, the lakes, the mountains – it’s all so beautiful and I hope the residents of WA truly appreciate waking up to it everyday! I’m so envious! As a writer, I yearn to be there!!!!! Thank you SO, SO much to anyone who replies to my post!!!!! Have a beautiful day!!!!! Denise

    • Paul

      Think of Washington state in term of eastern and western Washington. If you want a little slower pace then go to eastern WA (perhaps Spokane) or some MUCH smaller towns like Ellensburg or Moses Lakes (the latter two are too isolated for my tastes). The climate is dryer but more extreme. Western WA is where most of the people live. Seattle is a gorgeous, wonderful city, but it can be expensive to live in and commuting and be brutal because geography results in limited routes into the city. Thus, I would think you might want to consider some west side suburbs like Edmonds, Lynwood, Bellevue, Puyallup, Redmond, Issaquah, Steliacoom etc. Some of the Seattle suburbs on the east side of Lake Washington (Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland, Issaquah) are great places to live, but prices are inflated due to the proximity to Microsoft’s headquarters. If you want a couple of local tips – check out Gig Harbor, Edmonds, and an area in Tacoma referred to as Old Town.

      I would stay away from what we refer to as the coast (Aberdeen and Hoquiam). It has tremendous rainfall and all the cities are depressed logging towns with a fairly grim feel to them (the fact that the group Nirvana came from Aberdeen is no accident).

      I have spent a lot of time in NY and NJ. I can assure you one thing you will not regret the move. I have never met an east coast transplant that wanted to go back. Moreover, the economy here is strong and there is no state income tax.

      • denise

        Thank you for the suggestions! I really appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions! I’m going to go research those areas now. And than you for also telling me where to stay away from! That’s definitely an important thing to know. It’s so difficult trying to find where we want to look due to being so far away. My husband and I hope to take a trip out to Washington within the next 3 -4 months so we can take the time to explore the towns we are considering. Real estate agents don’t make it easier – any area you tell them you’re considering is amazingly always the nicest, safest, most profitable place to move to! Lol! I’m actually getting my NJ real estate agent license next month. So hopefully that will help some! Our #1 concern is business. That’s rely all that’s holding us back! I wish I knew what towns are best to own a small business like ours. We’re not looking to be millionaires. .but we want to be able to continue our life that way it is now. I’m also hoping that living expenses are the same. .or lower in Washington. We were thrilled to learn there’s no state income tax! Im aware that there’s still a business tax, but geez!…it can’t be much worse than nj! Lol! How is the high school education out there? And what about sports…football and soccer? ? Our twins also race motocross out here….and that can be trying at times. NJ is not big on dirtbikes! It’s so asinine…tell teens to stay out of trouble and keep busy..but then make it so darn difficult! Thanks again! I’m so sorry for my incessant rambling! There’s just so much bouncing around in my head and I don’t know where to start! Lol!

  • Angel

    Roy, Washington is a very small town with a population of around 800. It’s got many old buildings and an old brick elementary school. It’s surrounded by trees and takes around a half an hour to get to the nearest store. It’s much smaller than any of the cities mentioned.

  • Husky73

    Lynden, Washington (population around 13,000) is about 15 miles north of Bellingham, bumping against the Canadian border. A preserved Dutch themed downtown (no chain stores or franchises) with two large windmills, Lynden is historic and quaint. It is home to the Northwest Washington Fair and is the raspberry capital of the world.

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