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Seattleite 101: Our guide to becoming a Seattle resident

From how to register your car to finding your favorite coffee shop, this overview will give you everything you need to know to get established as a Seattle resident.

A view of the Space Needle set against the backdrop of the mountain range

We’ll never get tired of the spectacular views around Seattle.

Photo via @chaibhav

Table of Contents

Picture this: You just moved to Seattle, WA, and you need some help with the practicalities of life (we can’t just sit back and pound fantastic espressos all day, unfortunately). That’s where we come in. Keep reading for Seattle 101, our guide to all things Emerald City.

A ballot box in King County with instructions in various languages

You can now track your ballot via text and email alerts. | Photo by SEAtoday staff

The essentials

Voter registration

Make sure you’re eligible and registered to vote, find your polling location, and preview upcoming elections and sample ballots here.

Driver’s licenses and vehicle registration

New residents in need of a Washington state driver’s license will need to provide proof of identity, a Social Security document, payment for fees, and documents to confirm your residential address.

To register your car in the state of Washington, you’ll need to bring a valid Washington state driver’s license, your vehicle’s bill of sale (if it’s out of state or newly owned), and an Odometer Disclosure Statement (depending on the year of your vehicle’s model) to any King County office (such as the Georgetown License Agency at 5962 Corson Ave.).

Initial registrations may be subject to a minimum $30 fee.

You can make an appointment online to obtain a Washington driver’s license at local offices. Registration for your vehicle is conducted on a walk-in basis.

Health care

Establishing yourself with a primary care provider is one of those things you’ll be glad you did when you need one. Reach out to the professionals at Virginia Mason, Swedish, or UW Medicine, to name a few. Pro tip: Websites like DocSpot filter physicians by location, patient reviews, insurance, language, and more.

The front of the Seattle Public Library's Central branch, with latticed architecture work

The Seattle Public Library’s Central branch is a hub of free, educational resources.

Photo by SEAtoday staff

Educational needs

School registration

Prepare your student for the school year by registering them with Seattle Public Schools. Here, you’ll find your school zone (based on your home address), info on school choice and open enrollment (applications run through February), a list of registration and immunization requirements, and the student entry forms. With your required documents in hand, you can complete the enrollment process online — there’s also an admissions portal for any questions.

For information on Seattle area private schools, check out Niche’s list.

Library card registration

If you think libraries are only for renting the occasional book, think again. Register for a library card at your nearest Seattle Public Library (SPL) branch, or apply for a visitor or non-resident card (valid for three months and one year, respectively) online, to take advantage of:

  • Genealogy services
  • Events
  • Streaming music, TV, and movies
  • Virtual tutoring
  • Meeting and study group spaces
  • Legal counsel for small business owners
  • Washington State Park Discover passes

To get your card, you’ll need proof of identity and address. Parents of children under the age of 13 can apply for a free card for them to be used at any SPL branch.

The neon sign of Seattle's City Light building

Seattle City Light has been going strong since 1910.

Photo via WikiMedia Commons

Home necessities


Thanks for thinking green. For everything you need to know about recycling in Seattle, from where to place your bin to pickup times and accepted materials, check out Seattle Public Utilities.


Moving is exciting, but no one wants to unpack by candlelight. Establish your services with Seattle City Light by creating an account or updating your address in your existing account. Pro tip: You can peruse some home rebate solutions to learn how you can save money and energy every month.

Internet providers

No connectivity issues here. Check out some of the internet providers in the 206 (availability may be subject to your address):

  • CenturyLink | The basic unlimited high speed plan starts at $50 per month, but you can add phone service, too.
  • T-Mobile 5G Home Internet | The plan at $50 per month has no annual contract.
  • Astound | Get up to 100 Mbps starting at $25 per month for two years.
  • Xfinity | You can lock in the lowest price — $20 per month — on a one-year contract.
  • Ziply Fiber | Plans range widely from $20 to $120 per month, with free installation for a limited time.

Bring a sweater — the average temperature in Bainbridge is a wee bit chillier than Seattle’s. | Photo by SEAtoday Staff

The ultimate Seattleite initiation

Having a Washington driver’s license and a 206 area code may qualify you on paper, but you’re not officially a Seattleite until you’ve taken part in some local fun that is only found in the Emerald City.

The great outdoors

Ah, just get a whiff of all that fresh air. No matter the season, locals love to take hikes and nature walks. You can plan an adventurous road trip to the Olympic Peninsula, enjoy a ferry ride out to nearby Bainbridge Island, or just grab a blanket and have a picnic in one of our many beautiful parks. Be sure to get a reliable puffer jacket — just like a local would.

Fab food and drinks

It’s not bragging if it’s true Seattle seafood lives up to the hype, particularly at spots like Taylor Shellfish or The Walrus and the Carpenter. If you live here, you must have a fave pho joint and opinions on whether cream cheese on hot dogs really does work. But, of course, nothing is complete without a trip to the local coffee shop for serious roasts.

Rockin’ clubs

As the birthplace of grunge and Jimi Hendrix, this city can jam. Some of the most iconic music venues are still kicking like the Crocodile, which has a calendar filled with exciting artists. You can find more intimate live shows at Tractor Tavern and Cafe Racer — and start an after-party at Life on Mars to buy classic vinyl records while sipping cocktails.

Quirky activities

Any city with a gum wall and giant troll sculpture as tourist attractions tend to embrace the weird. In the summer, the wild Fremont Solstice Parade rolls through with a naked bike ride, but other oddball curiosities include the steampunk vibes at Gas Works Park and Pike Place’s Giant Shoe Museum.

…And about all that rain

Yeah, we get it — there’s a lot of precipitation here. About 37 inches each year, to be exact. Still, true locals resist the urge to own an umbrella. And all that rain is worth it for all the greenery we get. Of course, when the clouds break, you can bust out your Seattle bonafides by simply saying our catchphrase, “The Mountain’s Out.”

Is there something you’re still left wondering about to get you properly established in the Emerald City? Ask us your question and we’ll do our best to answer it for you, like a good neighbor.

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