You might be afraid that you’re gonna need an umbrella most days because your new address will have “WA” in it. (You won’t!)
You might be wondering if there’s anything to do in the Tri-Cities. (There is!)
I’ve been in your shoes. Hi, I’m Cari McGee. My husband and I moved to Kennewick in 1994 and had a ton of questions! Then four years later we moved to West Richland. (Yep, that’s part of the Tri-Cities, too.) And then six years after that, I became a licensed Realtor. Since then, I’ve sold ~400 homes in practically every neighborhood across the Tri-Cities! (In the past couple years, with help from my awesome team!)
That’s my way of saying you’re in good hands with this article.
We didn’t plan to live our whole lives in the Tri-Cities. My husband was a TV sportscaster and we were planning to work our way up to bigger cities every few years, but his career began to change right when we decided to start a family — and after just a couple years of living here, we knew the Tri-Cities was a great place to raise a family. (We were right!)
So if you’re thinking about or planning to relocate to the Tri-Cities, read on — there’s a lot of info here. And if you have any questions, get in touch anytime! We love to help folks learn more about this great area.
7 Things to Know About Moving to Tri-Cities, WA
Whether you’re thinking about moving to Kennewick, Pasco, or Richland, here’s what you need to know…starting with the fact that locals consider the “Tri-Cities” to be more than just those three cities.
1) There’s more than three cities in the Tri-Cities.
Those three cities are technically the “Tri-Cities” — Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland. They’re all joined together at the confluence of the Yakima, Snake, and Columbia rivers. But when we talk about the Tri-Cities, us locals could also be talking about
- West Richland — which is, of course, west of Richland
- Benton City — southwest of West Richland
- Burbank — east of Pasco
- Finley — the least-populated of the “suburbs” and located east of Kennewick
Here’s what it looks like on a great map that was originally created by a Wikipedia user:
Benton City looks like it’s a bit disconnected from the rest of the “Tri-Cities,” but West Richland is growing very quickly and spreading to the west, so it’s only a matter of time until we’re all connected. (In fact, right now there’s already a bunch of homes and wineries on Hwy. 224 between Benton City and West Richland.)
2) We’re growing like crazy!
The Tri-Cities added about 36,000 people between 2010 and 2018, according to the Census Bureau — and we’re expected to add another 112,000 over the next 20 years! We’ll know for sure after the 2020 census concludes, but experts are estimating our population at about 300,00 right now.
Kennewick is the most populous city in the area (about 81,000), followed by Pasco (~73,000) and Richland (~56,000). But you see the growth no matter where you drive around town — builders are working on new homes and new hotels and businesses are going up!
3) It doesn’t rain constantly like you think it does in Seattle.
When you live in the Tri-Cities, you get used to having conversations like this when you meet a stranger:
Other person: Where are you from?
You: Washington state
Other person: Seattle?
You: No, the Tri-Cities. About 3 hours southeast of Seattle.
Other person: (frowns) Oh. You must be used to rain.
No! We only get about 7-8 inches of rain per year! But everyone lumps us in with Seattle and its 38 inches of rain per year. No thanks. The Tri-Cities has really wonderful weather. We get all four seasons here. It may snow in the winter (usually not too much) and it’s not unusual to have a couple weeks with temperatures above 100 in the summer. Spring and Fall are absolutely magical.
4) We have all kinds of outdoor activities through all four seasons.
No matter what time of year it is, the Tri-Cities will have something to offer if you’re into outdoor sports and activities.
We have more than 30 walking/hiking/running trails, ranging from riverside to mountaintop. I’m a big fan of hiking up Badger Mountain, and you can do that year-round as long as there’s no snow on the ground. (Well, I wouldn’t hike it with snow on the ground, but other people do.) Biking and running are also super-popular here — there are a lot of races all year long if you’re competitive, or you can just use some of the same paths and trails that the runners do. The various paved paths on both sides of the Columbia River are really popular.
We have 10 terrific golf courses that will offer challenges to golfers of any skills, including a couple that used to host pro and high-level college tournaments. High school sports are really popular in the Tri-Cities — our teams often play for and win state titles! We also have a junior hockey team — the Tri-City Americans — and a minor league baseball team, the Tri-City Dust Devils. If you’re into sports and the outdoors, you’ll love it here!
Our biggest event all year long is the Tri-Cities Water Follies and Air Show — a three-day event that draws people from all over the country on the last weekend of July. It features thrilling hydroplane boat races on the Columbia River, incredible jets and historic planes flying overheard, all kinds of food and fun stuff for people of all ages.
5) We’re the wine capital of the Pacific Northwest.
The experts say that the weather and soil here is similar to the Bordeaux region of France. Pretty cool, huh? That probably explains why we have more than 200 wineries within a 1-hour drive — many of which have won international wine awards. Heck, even CNN has noticed our status as the hub for wine lovers in this part of the country.
This wine scene makes up a big part of the local economy. The local tourism board is always running ads across the state and even further afield to promote wine tourism. We have companies that offer winery tours via car and/or limousine, and we even have wine cruises along the river that are a perfect evening out for you and a loved one, or you and a group of friends! A few years ago, my brothers and I took our mom out on a limo-guided wine tour for her 80th birthday and it was wonderful!
6) We have a great arts scene!
The community arts scene is alive and well in the Tri-Cities. We have great groups and organizations like the Mid-Columbia Symphony, Mid-Columbia Mastersingers and Mid-Columbia Ballet. Our local high schools put on award-winning productions every year — we’ve been proud to sponsor the Hanford High School drama department for a couple years now. That’s where both our kids went to school. And even younger thespians can get started at the Academy of Children’s Theatre.
We have regular productions and events at the Richland Players theatre, and there’s a new outdoor theater — the HAPO Community Stage — not far away also in Richland. We have several music festivals in warm weather months, and one of our biggest events of the year is Art In The Park, which fills Howard Amon Park in Richland on the same weekend as the Water Follies.
7) We have a great food scene!
I kid you not: 20 years ago, it was a huge deal when Outback and Olive Garden opened restaurants here. Like, people lined up around the block to get in. Not just on opening day, but for weeks! Nothing against those restaurants — we’ve eaten there plenty of times! — but overall, the food options in Tri-Cities were pretty dire back then.
Now, it’s a totally different story! We have tons of great, locally-owned restaurants offering all kinds of food — Italian, Mexican, Indian, Asian and more. We have a Brazilian steakhouse, great sushi restaurants, incredible brewpubs and wonderful bakeries. Guy Fieri even came for a visit during the winter of 2018-19, and six of our great local restaurants were featured on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives” in 2019. Our food truck-scene is starting to take off, too.
If you like to cook, or prefer to eat fresh food at home, we also have excellent farmer’s markets that run through most of spring, summer, and fall. Fresh fruits, vegetables, gourmet spices and so much more — all sourced from local farms.
And all of this adds up to give any foodie plenty of things to love about the Tri-Cities!
Where to Live in the Tri-Cities
Homes in the Tri-Cities are very affordable compared to our big-city neighbors to the west. Over the years, and especially recently, I’ve regularly helped Seattleites and Portlanders find homes here that are every bit as beautiful as the ones they were living in — but they cost far less than what they would have paid for something similar over there. For the latest info on median home prices and other local data, see the recent articles on our blog in the Tri-Cities Housing Market category.
If you don’t have a preference on where to live, start with this map-based home search. But if you have a good idea of where you want to be, here are links to each city:
One of our favorite events each year is the Tri-Cities Parade of Homes (and Chefs on Parade). Many of our local builders show off their latest and greatest homes, giving you a great sense of what options are available if you want to build a new home.
Let me warn you about what you might see if you’re browsing homes on Zillow. The Zestimates for Tri-Cities homes are really bad, like much worse than they are in Seattle, Portland, and across the country. In 2019, we spent six months studying the accuracy of Tri-Cities Zestimates — comparing them to the actual sales price of more than 500 homes.
If you’re looking at the Zestimate of a Tri-Cities home, you can assume that it’s too high by almost 6%. So, if you see a home with a $320,000 Zestimate, the home’s actual value is probably closer to $300,000. And get this: Across the Tri-Cities, about 16 percent of Zestimates were at least $50,000 wrong. Yikes!
What is it Like to Live in the Tri-Cities?
The Tri-Cities is big enough that you can enjoy many big-city luxuries — I mentioned the art scene above, and all the great restaurants that have opened in the past 10-15 years. But we’re also small enough that it won’t be unusual for you to see cows, horses, or other animals grazing in yards on the outskirts of each town. There’s really a great mix of small-town and mid-sized city. We don’t have an Apple Store or a Trader Joe’s — those are two of the stores that locals are always clamoring to get. Maybe someday!
A lot of Tri-Cities life surrounds the rivers. The Yakima and Columbia intersect the area and meet up with the Snake just east of Pasco. Some of our best restaurants offer amazing river views while you eat. We have a lot of boat owners here and the river is busy most of spring, summer, and fall. Pasco has a row of beautiful riverfront homes. Kennewick and Richland both have a lot of riverfront parkland, and those are busy year-round with families having fun, or people walking, jogging, biking, playing frisbee golf … you name it.
When it’s time to leave town for vacation or a business trip, you’ll appreciate our recently remodeled airport (PSC is the airport code) with plenty of options to get you wherever you’re going. These airlines serve the Tri-Cities Airport:
- Alaska – flies to/from Seattle
- Delta – flies to/from Seattle, Salt Lake City, and Minneapolis
- United – flies to/from Denver, San Francisco, and Chicago (starting in mid-2020)
- Allegiant – flies to/from Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Phoenix/Mesa
You can drive to Spokane in about two hours, and it takes ~3.5 hours to drive to either Seattle or Portland.
Are the Tri-Cities Safe?
The Tri-Cities is a very safe place to live! West Richland has been named one of the safest cities in the whole state more than once, and Kennewick/Pasco/Richland don’t rank too far further down those lists. We’re small enough and safe enough that, on the rare occasions when there is a serious crime … it’s BIG NEWS.
What About Tri-Cities Schools?
Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland each have their own school districts. The Richland School District also serves the city of West Richland with both elementary and middle schools. Learn more at the links below.
You can also look up school and district information on GreatSchools.org.
Final Thoughts on Moving to the Tri-Cities
We really love living in the Tri-Cities — so much so that my husband and I changed our career advancement plans 25+ years ago and decided to settle here and start a family. We think you’ll love it, too! As you can see by now, there’s a lot to love — great weather, plenty of outdoor activities, great wineries and restaurants, a vibrant arts scene and so much more. It’s a great place to live, work, and play. It’s safe and the people are super friendly.
If there’s something I didn’t include in this article, or a question that I didn’t answer, drop me a note anytime. You can leave a comment below, or email me here, or just call or text me directly at 509-430-5342. I’d love to talk to you about the Tri-Cities and make sure you have all the info you need if you’re thinking about moving here.