Why Bellevue, Washington Is One of the Coolest Suburbs in America

published May 22, 2019
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Credit: Courtesy of Visit Bellevue

Bellevue was chosen as one of Apartment Therapy’s Coolest Suburbs in America 2019. We showcased the burbs nationwide that offer the most when it comes to cultural activities, a sense of community, and simply a good quality of life. For more on how we define “cool” and what exactly counts as a suburb, check out our methodology here. To view Apartment Therapy’s other Coolest Suburbs in America 2019, head here.

Bellevue’s name comes from a French term meaning “beautiful view.” Let’s just say they nailed the name for this sublime suburb.

Bellevue is all about the outdoors. Hop on a Lime bike to get to quickly your destination or take your time leisurely winding through the city, taking in its sights. Take your four-legged friend on a walk around the lake—or even view the city from a Douglas-fir forest on Bellevue’s zipline tour. Downtown, grab a cup of coffee at a Starbucks (of course), or an indie spot. We’re surrounded by Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish, which means the city is replete with hiking trails, water sports, and woodlands. Plus, when the weather is right, you can see the Olympic and Cascade mountains.

It’s also a suburb full of cool, creative types. The Bellevue Arts & Crafts Festival draws in crowds of people every year. But this isn’t your typical crocheted blanket arts fair. You’ll spend hours in awe of the sculptures made out of pure metal, thick cutting boards made out of gorgeous oak, and one-of-a-kind glass bowls that go perfectly with any decor. Just steps away from the fair, you’re within reach of high-end shopping at Bellevue Square.

Bellevue is always booming with business thanks to tech giants with offices in the burb, including the Microsoft Corporation, Expedia Group, and Verizon Wireless. And soon, Amazon will be migrating thousands of employees over to Bellevue. While you’re just 15 minutes away (without traffic) from one of the most bustling cities in America, you’re also just that—15 minutes away from the hustle of a large city. And let’s be honest, that is just enough space. The city is spaced out enough that you can drive just about anywhere with ease, on clear roads with loads of parking. Bellevue is a sort of stay-cation from the skyscrapers and tech giants that have taken over Seattle.

It’s easy to spend an entire day getting lost in downtown or soaking up the outdoors. But don’t overstay your parking commitment, because parking enforcement doesn’t rest while you have a good time!

Median rent price:

$2,169, according to RentCafe.

Median house price:

$920,500 according to Zillow.

Walkability score:

40, According to Walk Score.

Median household income:

$105,402, according to Census data.


140,700, according to Census data.

Hidden gem:  

Lake Hills Greenbelt Park has great trails that are perfect for walking or biking, and is one of the best places to go in the city when the sun is out and you’re craving fresh air.

Favorite activity for families:

KidsQuest Children’s Museum. The museum is a great indoor activity (especially when it’s raining), so that little ones can get their energy out. You can also bring your own snacks.

Credit: Courtesy of W Bellevue

Favorite hangout for young professionals:

W Living Room Bar. It’s a dream spot during the summers for lounging on the outdoor patio.

Favorite place to catch a movie:

Favorite teen hangout:

Lucky Strike. Come and try and beat your friends at Dance Dance Revolution.

Credit: Courtesy of Nicole Durbin

Favorite date spot:

Black Bottle. From fried olives to bacon lemon scallops, this spot will leave a lasting impression on your date.

Average commute/traffic report:

There are two main ways to get in and out of downtown. You have State Route 520, which is the easiest and quickest path, but also requires you pay a toll. Interstate 90 takes you through Mercer Island to get to your final destination, but doesn’t leave you with a bill. While the drive can be long, the view is worth it. For most of the drive, you have clear blue waters surrounded by gorgeous mansions. It really is a beautiful sight.

Favorite local bookstore:

Half Price Books for rare second-hand books, movies, and music.

Favorite place to get coffee:

Anchorhead Coffee. This location just opened and it’s adorable, with delicious varieties of coffee!

Credit: Courtesy of Brooke Fitts

Favorite bar for when you want to be around people:

Purple Café and Wine Bar. You can come here to sip on the best rosé of your life, while snacking on the most delectable baked brie. Yum!

Favorite alone activity:

Seattle Glassblowing Studio. Get hands-on with your alone time and invest in a new hobby by blowing your own glass.

Favorite free cultural activity to take part in:

Bellevue Arts & Crafts Festival, which I’ve raved about enough above.

Signature food:

Hot pots are really popular. The Dolar Shop offers hot pot and Asian fusion cuisine for your starchy vegetable-and-meat fix. Pro tip: The best sushi is at I Love Sushi. Order the crispy rice. You can thank me later.

Favorite boutique:

La Ree Boutique carries brands from Isabel Marant and Veronica Beard, ensuring you find the perfect outfit for any occasion. Stop in for exclusive items you can’t find anywhere else!

Best BBQ:

Dixie’s BBQ. This no-frills spot offers some of the best brisket and barbecue sauce in the Bellevue area.

Favorite bike trails/parks/outdoor activity:

When weather permits, the city loves to be outside. The Lake to Lake Head Trail, off Bellevue Way, is a beautiful walk or morning jog. Lake Hills Greenbelt also offers great trails for walking or biking on perfect summer days.

Favorite spot for an Instagram:

Blank Space Cafe’s heart wall.

Favorite brunch:  

Eques, located in the Hyatt Regency, is one of the best brunches in town. It even has a Pacific Northwest-themed breakfast buffet, featuring items like a smoked salmon egg-white omelette.

Favorite free activity:

Picnic in Bellevue Downtown Park. Talk about picturesque.

Favorite place for a workout:

SoulCycle. Sweat out last night’s happy hour with a high-intensity spin class. If you’re lucky enough to catch Earl’s class, book it before it sells out!

Favorite place to take an out-of-towner:

Lucky Strike. There’s bowling, DJs, dancing—it’s a party!

Worst place to find parking and easiest place to find parking:

Downtown Bellevue is the worst. However, the mall has plenty of garages that make parking easier.

What the neighbors say:

“Bellevue is the perfect amount of city without being stuck in traffic for hours! It was a great place to find a spot to work during the day and find a perfect restaurant to grab dinner with friends!” —Candice Kumar, resident for four months.

“It the perfect in-between of city and nature. I love being surrounded by mountains, trails and having the ability to be a part from the busy city life. Yet I’m close enough to Seattle that it’s not a world away and downtown Bellevue is always fun, safe and easy to get to and find parking.” —Aiko Suetsugo, resident for 20 years.

“It’s convenient. Good commute to anything on the East Side. Its clean.“ —Jason Edds, resident for 25 years.

Credit: Courtesy of Visit Bellevue

Favorite annual event:

Bellevue Jazz & Blues Festival. There are more than 40 live shows with local and national performers.

What I miss about the city living in a suburb:

Sometimes it’s nice to walk out of your condo or skyrise apartment and walk down the street to grab takeout or your dry cleaning. City life has a fast-paced lifestyle you just can’t get anywhere else.

What I never miss about the city:

The one-way streets everywhere you look.

Favorite local garden store:

Bellevue Nursery has been around for nearly 60 years! The staff is very knowledgeable about a variety of plants and can help anyone find their green thumb.

Favorite vegan spot:

Araya’s Place Bellevue isn’t your typical vegan restaurant in the city. Araya’s Place is your new go-to spot for all things Thai food. Indulge in vegetarian spring rolls and noodle curry. We bet you won’t even remember it’s all vegan by the time you’re done!

Favorite house/garden walk:

Bellevue Botanical Garden is a true oasis, right in this suburb’s backyard. You can spend hours here, surrounded by the pure beauty of the gardens.

Favorite dog park:

Robinswood Dog Park Off-Leash Dog Corral is the perfect place for your four-legged friends to run around and release some energy. Robinswood comes equipped with poop bags and parking!

Favorite salon/spa:

SkinSpirit skincare clinic. Tucked away in Bellevue Square, Skinspirit has you covered, from facials to body sculpting and more.

Favorite resale and antique store:

Haystack Antiques has hidden gems and amazing collections waiting to be discovered. Prices vary and can range from $20 to thousands of dollars. It’s worth the stop, however, because as antiquing goes, there’s no telling what you’ll find.

Why do you think your suburb is cool?:

If you’re looking to experience city life without the city prices and more space for your money, Bellevue is definitely the place to be! The easy living and commuting, the culture, recreation, and the safety all make it a unique place to live. Plus, there’s such a sense of community—it’s like every aspect of the town was built so everyone could feel they are never far from home.

Credit: Apartment Therapy