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Winner: Best 'burb
Yes, there are the cul-de-sacs, the Costco (in fact, the company is headquartered here), and other hallmarks of suburban life, but Issaquah defies ticky-tacky stereotypes thanks to 1,700 acres of parkland, walkable neighborhoods, historic buildings, and increasingly urban amenities (read: indie coffee shops, wine bars, and a Tony Award–winning theater). Ask locals to describe the place and they’ll tell you it feels like a small town—or a vibrant city neighborhood. Even more impressive, the former coal mining town 22 miles southeast of Seattle managed to hold onto its distinctive character while growing exponentially. Instead of the typical suburban sprawl, the town decided to go urban, green-lighting the construction of compact, sustainably built communities on the east side of town. Issaquah’s not a perfect town. Not everyone sees development as a good thing. Some neighborhoods remain car-dependent. And commuters bemoan the lack of a light rail to Seattle. But it is a good model for how a suburb can grow without losing its sense of place.