Portland vs. Seattle: The Battle of I-5

As a former Seattleite and current Portlander (a fairly common breed, I’ve been told on more than one begrudging occasion), I know firsthand what each city brings to the proverbial table.

From the Seahawks to the Timbers to the Needle and the Schnitz, the Emerald and Rose cities have a lot to be proud of (and more than a little to apologize for — I’m looking at you, Jeff Bezos). But which cold-brewed hipster utopia should you call home? Well…

If basketball is your thing…

…then you don’t really have a choice: Grab your favorite Blazers-embroidered beanie and farm-to-table IPA and take your seat among the roaring throng of pinwheeled fanatics who routinely sell out the Rose Garden.

After all, long gone are the days when Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp gave basketball fans in Seattle a reason to step out of the rain and cheer the Supes in (now-defunct) Key Arena. While it’s been decades since either team cut down the nets, only one franchise still exists, and — spoiler alert — it’s not the one with a Sasquatch mascot.

But if soccer is your thing…

…then grab your favorite XBOX-emblazoned jersey and march to the Clink with the rest of your scarved brethren, because there’s no denying the Sounders’ historical dominance in this particularly nasty rivalry.

seattle sounders game

Photo by Frantzou Fleurine on Unsplash

While each team boasts exactly one MLS Cup, the Sounders lead the overall series (which dates all the way back to the Ford Administration!) by a fairly healthy margin, a trend that’s only continued since these two PNW powerhouses joined the MLS.

What about controversial billionaires?

Don’t tell Bernie Sanders, but the Pacific Northwest is home to more than its fair share of polarizing one-percenters. If you’ve ever slipped on a pair of Prime-delivered Nikes before heading out for yet another #PSL, you’ve helped pad the coffers of three of America’s most high-profile billionaires.

Whether you find Jeff Bezos, Phil Knight or Howard Schultz admirable or loathsome probably says more about your politics than retail preferences, though we’re fairly certain those aforementioned Sonics fans might have something, er, colorful to say about one man in particular.

  • Winner: Toss-up.

I just want to go outside!

hiking in portland

Photo by Cole Patrick on Unsplash

Why didn’t you say so?! On this score, you can’t really go wrong with either I-5 metropolis. While Stumptown is home to Forest Park, Mt. Tabor and the Tom McCall waterfront, an indisputably beautiful trifecta of scenic outdoorsiness, Seattle proudly offers Puget Sound, Mt. Rainier and the San Juan Islands, the last of which requires an always-pleasant ride on Washington’s famous ferry system.

With the North Cascades little more than a day-trip from the Emerald City, and the Oregon Coast a relative stone’s throw from downtown Portland, PNWers are living in a veritable land of riches.

  • Winner: Everybody

But coffee.

In cities as infamously coffee-snobby as Seattle and Portland, don’t you want to go with the one that isn’t home to Starbucks? That’s what I thought, you skinny-jeaned, vinyl-spinning bohemian.

Now, pull up a chair at your favorite Heart or Case Study location and explain, again, how voting third party in 2016 was actually the responsible thing to do.

  • Winner: Portland


Absolutely atrocious. Don’t bother moving to either city.

  • Winner: Nobody

What about public transportation?

portland streetcar

Pretty good, actually! With its streetcar and MAX system, Portland has long been a leader in delivering clean, accessible public transportation to its ever-expanding citizenry.

And in recent years, its sister city to the north has been doing an admirable job of playing catch up with new light rail options and the recently-opened SR-99 tunnel. On second thought, feel free to move to either city. Just, you know, don’t raise our rents.

  • Winner: Portland, but perhaps not for long

Okay, back to sports. I really just want to watch football.

Go Hawks. ‘Nuff said.

  • Winner: Seattle

But really, which one should I move to?

With their offensively reasonable climates, highly-educated inhabitants and stunning natural landscapes, you really can’t go wrong with either I-5 destination.

But whether you set your clocks to Dame Time or drape a “12” flag across your front door, make sure you tell the locals, when asked, that you’re a seventh-generation Pacific Northwesterner. This is especially true if you grew up in California.

Never, ever tell us you’re from California.

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Travis RobertsTravis Roberts has written on behalf of corporate law firms, legal translation providers and property management companies throughout the United States. A graduate of Western Washington University's Creative Writing program, you can find his fiction and poetry in journals like Black Heart Magazine, Literary Orphans and WhiskeyPaper, among others. He currently lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife, cat and motorbike.

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