Chicago vs Seattle (First Impressions)

When we announced that we were moving from Chicago (where Tim and I are both originally from) to Seattle, everyone asked us if we were sure we wanted to move because the weather in the PNW is so terrible in in the winter.

At first, I was a bit scared of what we would encounter upon moving. But now I have to wonder… what winter was everyone referring to?!

We’ve lived here since October, and at this point the flowers are starting to bloom… so I guess that means we survived winter, but I don’t know when it happened. I mean, consistently 40’s and rainy?! Sounds like a few extra months of spring to me. I’ll take it any day over the frigid temps of the Midwest, thankyouverymuch.

Moving from Chicago to Seattle four months ago was quite the adventure, and I can honestly say it was one of the best decisions we’ve made. These two cities are very, very different.

Chicago vs Seattle

Here is how I would compare living in Chicago vs Seattle:

  • Chicago: Sidewalks and buildings and the beautiful lakefront.
  • Seattle: Trees, lakes, green space, neighborhoods.
  • Chicago: The news always focuses on corrupt politicians, unions, and shootings.
  • Seattle: If any shootings happen it’s a BIG deal.
  • Chicago: People are friendly but very, very busy. It’s hard to make plans with people because getting together is so inconvenient.
  • Seattle: Community has been easy to find and people seem to get together frequently. Outdoor (free!) activities & bigger home sizes have made it easier for me to get together with other moms and their toddlers.
  • Chicago: We spent all of last winter indoors and miserable.
  • Seattle: We can go outside every single day, whether it’s a walk to the library or to the park or around the zoo… even when it’s rainy, we go outside.
  • Chicago: Within a short drive are the suburbs. Or Wisconsin. Or Indiana.
  • Seattle: Within a short drive are the mountains (and snow) with skiing and hiking and snowshoeing and plenty of other options for outdoor activities.
  • Chicago: Parking is so expensive that I either preferred to use public transportation, ride my bike, or walk to get anywhere.
  • Seattle: Parking is readily and cheaply available so everyone drives places.
  • Chicago: Housing is expensive.
  • Seattle: Housing is expensive but (in my opinion) you get more for your money. The housing market is nuts, though, and houses are routinely sold for $100k over asking.
  • Chicago: Everything in the city is 15-20 min away, without traffic.
  • Seattle: Everything in the city and suburbs seems to be 15-20 min away and I honestly can’t tell where the city ends and the suburbs begin.


  • Chicago: People (generally) tend to be on the more unhealthy end of the spectrum in terms of food choices and activity levels.
  • Seattle: I swear everyone seems to be in-shape and are constantly talking about all of the activities they’re interested in – like rock climbing, jogging, mountain biking, etc.
  • Chicago: In childbirth, labor and delivery is handled strictly, with a lot of rules. Doulas aren’t a popular option and ‘natural’ deliveries are very rare.
  • Seattle: There are plenty of options for at-home births, birth centers, midwives, doulas, etc.
  • Chicago: The best food. Just the best. (Which explains the obesity.)
  • Seattle: We haven’t gone out to eat very much here… so I can’t comment. But I’ll probably always be biased in favor of the food in Chicago, although the seafood options are great here!
  • Chicago: The most gorgeous skyline in the world.
  • Seattle: On clear days the views of the mountains and water are breathtaking.
  • Chicago: Driving is SO stressful because of traffic and maniacs.
  • Seattle: Driving isn’t stressful. People say that people here can’t drive, but I think everyone drives like me, so I actually love it! Also, people can park on either side of the street so I always feel like I’m going the wrong way down a one-way road. Also, there aren’t always stop signs at intersections… people are just supposed to know to look out for each other. It’s kind of bizarre.
  • Chicago: Wonderful (and infrequent) thunderstorms in the spring, summer, and fall. Snow in the winter.
  • Seattle: Yes, it rains. It rains a lot. I can’t speak for the summer weather but I hear it’s going to be glorious.
  • Chicago: Flat.
  • Seattle: HILLY. I had a hard time adjusting to driving and parking on hills and also walking with a stroller uphill! It’s been hard work and my glutes are getting more of a workout, for sure.
  • Chicago: People tend to work in a variety of jobs in a variety of sectors at some big name companies or at small start-ups. A lot of people have jobs in finance or management/consulting or at law firms.
  • Seattle: People work in tech jobs and everyone assumes that recent transplants have a job with Microsoft or Amazon.
  • Chicago: Apartments or duplexes or townhomes.
  • Seattle: Single family homes.
  • Chicago: Pizza and hot dogs.
  • Seattle: Pho.
  • Chicago: Really diverse.
  • Seattle: Not as diverse.

Have you been to both of these cities?! What did you notice?

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26 Responses to Chicago vs Seattle (First Impressions)

  1. erinhzauner says:

    hmmm, if you ever want to move back to the midwest, I think the twin cities sound like a perfect balance between seattle and chicago….we’re like the healthy version of chicago, with the space of seattle! plus we’re super nice here. just saying…

  2. I’ve been to Chicago a few times, but never to Seattle! I’d love to get out there, though. I live in Green Bay and I’m with you about the obesity. I think it’s even worse up here. I’m super active, but I have to go to the gym basically 11 months of the year because there’s not much to do outside (if it’s ever nice enough to get outside!)

    • Lisa says:

      Ohhhh definitely visit Seattle if you ever have the chance, you will love it! And I agree, it’s much more necessary to go to a gym in the Midwest – in Seattle I can workout outside every day of the year (even though I might get a bit wet).

  3. Ahhh…this totally makes me want to visit! Sounds gorgeous!

  4. Katie @ Live Half Full says:

    I live in Chicagoland and recently went to Chicago for the first time. I tend to agree! The food in Seattle though we loved… time to get out there!

  5. I love this, you were so nice to our city 🙂 It has rained a LOT this year, and has been warmer than usual, but maybe that will continue? You are in for a definite surprise with the summers, they’re amazing. But if your house doesn’t have it, and I assume it doesn’t, because AC just doesn’t exist in Seattle, do yourself a favor and go to Sears now and buy a few portable air conditioners – your toddler and soon to be infant will be thanking you for it come July! Also, fans, the stores will run out if we get a heat wave so buy ahead of time 🙂

    • Lisa says:

      I’m SO excited for the summer! We definitely have fans because our house in Chicago didn’t have AC either, and we somehow survived! I’m hoping this is a more mild summer than you guys had last year, though!

  6. Macy Volpe says:

    Love this comparison! I’ve been to Chicago several times, and haven’t made it to Seattle yet, but it’s so nice seeing things listed side-by-side. Baltimore is pretty similar to Chicago with the news stories, obesity, terrible drivers, and jobs. I was actually in the post office yesterday and two men were talking about how their sons moved to Seattle with Amazon, funny you mentioned that.

    • Lisa says:

      Definitely visit Seattle when you have the chance! And you’re right, Baltimore seems very similar to Chicago, from the limited experiences I’ve had there.

  7. I loved reading this! Super interesting and I loved the comparisons. I’ve lived 3-4 hours away from Chicago my whole life and go there several times a year. I love Chicago and they “big city feel” it has. However, when I traveled to Seattle last summer, I instantly fell in love with it. It’s currently #1 on my list if I were going to move anywhere. Just comparing my experience on trains, people in Seattle were so friendly and would randomly strike up a conversation. I’m trying to find a time when I can back out to Seattle because I just love it so much 🙂 I love the proximity to mountains, the water, and basically I just love the PNW haha. (sorry I feel like I wrote a book on here! Haha)

    • Lisa says:

      I definitely love Chicago, but Seattle is easier living for us now that we have a growing family! I agree, people here are so friendly and the PNW is an awesome area of the country 🙂

  8. Olya says:

    I loved reading this because we moved to Chicago in June for a year and are really loving it so far (and will miss it when we leave!) I agree about the food here-it’s so amazing! My friends here love to ski, so I recently asked them where they go, and they said there are three ski resorts within an hour of Chicago, which really surprised me (because where are the mountains?! Haha)! I really loved visiting Seattle, and we have even talked about moving before! I’m so glad that you have had an easy time making friends there! When I was searching cities, lots of people discussed the “Seattle Freeze” and said it was hard to make friends there. Some friends who moved to Seattle for the same reason we moved to Chicago (medical internship) said they have had a hard time making friends, but they don’t have kids, so maybe that’s it? Anyway, I will stop rambling, but comparisons like these fascinate me. 🙂

    • Lisa says:

      Oh yay, I’m glad you’re enjoying Chicago! I really, really love that city. There really aren’t ski resorts near Chicago. There are hills that you can ski on, but they are resorts by any stretch of the imagination! I’ve heard of the Seattle freeze but haven’t experienced it here. I think that it helps that we’re very involved in our church and with other moms, already!

  9. Kalyn P says:

    I haven’t been to either city (sometimes I think I’m well-traveled and other times I’m hit with the reality that I’m not at all) but I really want to visit the PNW as I hear it’s beautiful in the summertime. We went to Shuswap Lake last summer which is in British Columbia so I feel like the weather is maaaaybe similar? Who knows but it’s on my bucket list to explore the west coast!

    • Lisa says:

      I’ve never been to British Columbia but since the PNW is so nearby, I think we may need to visit as soon as I get these little ones o’ mine passports! (I need to wait until Baby Beni is actually on the outside of the womb, though… otherwise the picture isn’t going to be very accurate.)

  10. EdyeNicolesMakeup says:

    Loved reading this! I have never been to Seattle before, but hope to someday. Thanks for the info 🙂


    Edye // Gracefulcoffee

  11. Lisa C says:

    $100K over asking price? I wouldn’t mind that trend coming to my part of Colorado!

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  13. David says:

    Fun blog post! I just moved to Seattle from Chicago four months ago. I miss Chicago’s cosmopolitain essence. Seattle just doesn’t seem like a “big city” to me. But it has the outdoors beat. You can drive an hour and hike with gorgeous views and a great workout. I’m still learning about the difference between people, but the folks in Chicago tend to dress nicer than the folks in Seattle.

    • Lisa says:

      I agree! I basically needed to get rid of all of my ‘Chicago’ (dressy) clothes to make space in my closet for the casual and outdoorsy clothes here! It’s definitely way more casual. And I agree that Seattle is nowhere near as cosmopolitan as Chicago, but I think the abundance of outdoors activities more than makes up for it – especially in the summer! I wish I had lived here without kids for a bit so I could really have explored! I hope you’re enjoying it here so far! We continue to love it.

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