Magnolia Matt & Ian’s Top 5 Seattle Hoods for Free-Range Parenting

What makes an urban hood a good choice for free-range parenting? 

Free-range parenting is a term recently introduced into our lexicon as kids have become very sheltered in today’s world. In fact, most of us at or over 40 years old remember that at one time, ALL parenting was pretty much “free-range.” I remember walking to the market for my mom, or riding my bike through the neighborhood with friends, or possibly heading to a local park with friends. 

The reemergence of “free-range” parenting is a good thing, in my view. Kids learn to problem solve, they figure out how to be independent, and these things will define the rest of their lives. However, you can’t expect to live in Belltown and raise free-range kids. You need to mitigate the chances of catastrophe by choosing the ‘hood for which to raise your kids. 

Let’s define some characteristics that make a hood good for free-range kids:

1.) Lack of major thoroughfares. I’d define this as roads that cut through multiple ‘hoods (which mean people are more likely to be using these roads use to get downtown or to work). Madison, 23rd, NE 25th and NE 35th are a couple of examples.

2.) Should have many parks walkable from your home. 

3.) Corner market or grocery store also walkable from your home. 

4.) Kids occupy much of the neighborhood so you can yell “Go play with your friends!” 🙂 

5.) Schools should be walking distance or a short bus ride from your house. 

6.) Sidewalks and medians are nice. 

7.) Still quick to work so you can still take care of those free-range kids! 🙂 

So, which hoods do we feel meet this criteria, you might ask? We will run through them in order of which meet these goals, ending with our #1 top choice!

(Note: All following median prices are simply set as 4 bedroom homes. But the size of the homes in each hood vary. For example, you’ll note that View Ridge is quite expensive for being up north, but the homes are 3000+ sq.ft. positioned on large lots whereas Queen Anne’s will be 2000 – 2200-sq.ft. and on small lots. Keep these things in mind as you review.)

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Neighborhood #5: Madrona Seattle

Madrona would rank much higher if it weren’t for the tale of two schools here, but I’ll get back to that. First, Madrona is beautiful! If you live just a few blocks west of 34th between Olive and Cherry, you will have all you need, plus you’ll have views of Lake Washington. Of course, those homes still come with hefty price points (median is $1,635,000). Still you get a lot of home for the money here. You’ll get a beautiful turn-of-the-century with a median size of 2,967 sq. ft.

As I mentioned earlier you also get views, parks, and walkability. The issue is Madrona is serviced by Madrona K-8. Middle class kids do perfectly well in this school. In fact, they do great! If you just look at middle and upper middle income students, this school is a 10 out of 10. The issue is that some of the children with disadvantage are scoring very low scores, but I can say this school is improving. With the new property tax bill going into effect and better school funding, I suspect this school will continue to improve with the years to come. Not a deal breaker, and a neighborhood worth looking into more deeply. 

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Neighborhood #4: View Ridge

View Ridge has it all. If you live in this hood (defined as east of 40th Ave NE, south to NE 65th and north to NE 87th) you’ll be in prime free-range kid zone! There is a PCC on the South end of the hood 40th and 67th. View Ridge Play Field at 45th and 70th, and View Ridge Elem (10/10 school) at 73rd and 48th. The only major road is at the edges of the hood at 40th and East at Sand Point Way. All other roads are polite neighborhood roads.

This hood would rank higher, but it’s getting a little far from downtown and the bus service from here to SLU is a little slow but manageable by most. Homes in this hood are also pricey. A 4-bedroom single family home sit at a median price of $1,298,000. But for that you get wide streets, sidewalks, mature landscaping, and homes on larger lots. 

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Neighborhood #3: Bryant

Hmmm, I’m not too sure if Bryant should be third and if Queen Anne should be second. Bryant has AMAZING schools and everything a free-range parent would need to feel great about letting their little roamer roam. Still, there are a few major roads with fast traffic and that more than anything is the reason I landed on third with Bryant.

EVERYTHING you need is walking distance. Bryant’s boarders are defined as 35th to the west. 45th to the South sand point to the southeast, 45th to the east then back west at 65th, then turns north up 40th where the northern border is found on 75th. There are shops on 35th, 55th, and 65th. You are also walkable to U Village, especially if you live on the southern edge of Bryant or near 55th.

Bryant’s elementary schools test scores are 10/10, as are the middle school and high school. Homes in Bryant vary in price dramatically, but as a median Bryant sits at $957,500 for a 4-bedroom home.

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Neighborhood #2: Queen Anne

Once upon a time, I would have called Queen Anne my #1 pick, but for a few reasons today I don’t. First, let’s talk about the good. Schools are off the hook in a very good way. Second, there are tons of parks and everything you need is in walking distance. Also good, there are sidewalks everywhere and views can be plentiful and amazing in Queen Anne.

Now let’s have a little real talk. Queen Anne has suffered a bit from the rise of Amazon. It’s tough to get out of Queen Anne now. Another issue is the areas in which you can live and not worry about traffic have shrunk. If you want your kids to be able to walk to the store or friends homes, you will be more worried about car traffic in Queen Anne. Queen Anne is much more urban then in times past.

In the few places at the top of Queen Anne where you can live and let the kids roam you will pay (median) $1,550,000 for a 4-bedroom home. You’ve still got to send those kids to college, so for that reason Queen Anne comes in second for me. #1 is a mile better in my opinion for free-range kids. 

 Neighborhood #1: Magnolia

Now, you might also have to figure out exactly where in each hood is best. The schools, parks, and shops are usually near the center of these neighborhoods. You’ll also typically find that those homes are also the highest price. So you’ll want to find out which neighborhood you can live in the ideal spot and still keep to your budget. Magnolia is 15 minutes to downtown, has very few major arterials, and more parks per square mile then any other hood. The (median) home price in Magnolia is less than Queen Anne at $1,390,000 for a 4+ bedroom house. You will also likely get a larger lot than you will in other neighborhoods.

You can ride your bike downtown via water front bike trail which lets you off in Sculpture Park. There is a Metropolitan Market, Albertsons, and QFC for groceries. There is also a cute urban village where you will see your neighbors walking dogs and enjoying Magnolia’s many cultural and culinary delights. You’ll love Magnolia and it’s our first choice for families who want to take a more free-range style of parenting.

Plus, more than 9,000 new jobs will be moving just down the hill to Interbay as of 2019 so there is a good chance you could work VERY close to your new home in Magnolia. Magnolia is quite, beautiful, and filled with shops. This is why it’s our first choice. Click here to see the other reasons why locals love this neighborhood! 

Check out our latest home listing in Magnolia! 

Want a more affordable option? 

Neighborhood: North Beacon Hill

North Beacon Hill has been one of my hottest hoods for the last two years. In fairness, I also live in NBH. There are three sections of North Beacon you could live and still have a safe environment for free-range kids: The best is directly below the light rail station at 17th Ave S to the West, North to College and South to where Chesty Blvd intersects 24th Ave S next to Jefferson Golf course, then up Spokane as the remaining southern border.

The first area is the best because there is only one major road to worry about (23rd), and the elementary school is located between S Hanford and S Hind between 24th Ave S and 23rd Ave S. Low income students are doing about average in this school (5/10) but non-low income students are excelling 10/10 according to Great Schools. Homes in this area also sport high walk scores. There is a grocery store, corner markets, and great bus service to SLU and downtown. Plus, you can drive downtown in about 10 minutes, Capitol Hill in 8 minutes, and all without getting on the freeway.

This section is our first choice also because Jefferson Park is close by, and you can choose a path that keeps you from having to cross any major roads to get there. Median home prices for a 4-bedroom home sit at about $750,000 currently which is up 19.5% over last March. There is a another great option on the west side of 15th between (S) to Spokane and (N) to Holgate. The only issue there is the elementary School will require several crossings of neighborhood thoroughfares. But everything else is VERY walkable. Maybe you drop the kids off at school if you choose the west section. Median home price for a 4-bedroom home here is at $746,000 currently which is up 28.6% over last March. 


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  • Matt Miner

    Real estate guru and Seattle know-it-all

  • In everything that I do as your REALTOR®, I have one guiding principle in mind: To make certain that your home-buying experience is a happy, successful, wonderful life experience!