New Hometown?
January 27, 2009 1:24 PM   Subscribe

Where should I move? I'm finishing up grad school and searching for my first job. My intention has been (and is still) to settle in the Seattle area, but I'm curious about alternate suggestions, because it's good to have a Plan B.

I searched AskMe for similar questions, and while people have asked related questions before, my parameters are a bit different, so here goes.

What I'm looking for:

- Totally flexible on town/city size, but I am interested in having plenty of art/cultural amenities available or very nearby, especially where live music and touring bands are concerned. Museums are a plus, as is the presence of an academic community.
- I love going out to try new restaurants, and the availability of a decent variety of ethnic places/types of cuisine is a very good thing. I also love to cook at home, and would appreciate having access to a local farmers' market.
- Other things on my list: good bookstores, art/independent movie theaters, record stores, cafes, quality craft shops, parks and green spaces.
- Bikeability, walkability, and decent public transportation are giant pluses.
- The presence of other young/young-ish, friendly people would be a big advantage. It would, obviously, be nice to meet new friends.

I've lived all over the country, and I'm pretty open as to location and climate. I'm looking for suggestions beyond Portland and San Francisco. Thank you all very much in advance! Let me know if I can clarify or elaborate on anything.
posted by teamparka to Home & Garden (21 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
That fits Northampton/Pioneer Valley in Western MA to T, if you want a smaller city and more rural area. Cambridge/Boston might be good if you like New England but want a bigger city/more urban environment.

New York City has all that, of course. I even hear rents are going down.
posted by min at 2:06 PM on January 27, 2009


No, really. Hear me out.

It's a medium-sized city, not too huge, not too small. Three art museums, a ballet, an opera, and a recently revived symphony. Not really a non-art museum, but Oklahoma City's museum complex and OU's huge natural history museum are less than two hours away.

They get a lot of smaller music tours, especially of Texas and KC/StL college bands, but Cain's Ballroom also pulls in some big acts.

Restaurant scene is diverse, big influx of Asian cuisine to go with French and Italian, exploding Hispanic community means lots of strip mall and hole-in-the-wall taquerias, and there's the usual Midwestern fare of BBQ and chicken fried steak.

Farmer's markets are just getting going, but they have a Whole Foods.

Indie bookstores are on their way down, sadly, but still some indie record stores that take cash only. Couple of indie movie theaters showing first-run indie fare. Cafes have sprung up all over (though Starbucks is the default).

Lots of craft shops. Knitting and quilting never died in Tulsa.

Lots and lots of green space. Big running trail along the river. Lots of parks. Huge one on the north side that holds the zoo.

Bikeability they're getting better. Seeing more sharrows. Riverparks were always bikeable.

And it's a young town again, lots of twentysomethings hanging out in the Blue Dome area.

Housing is cheap. You can get into a mid-century in Midtown for under $150K. 1920s bungalows run around $200K.

Downside is the bus system sucks rocks, there aren't a lot of techie jobs, and well, all your stereotypes about a city that voted 62% in favor of McCain -- most of any major American city.

The point I guess I'm trying to make is that you can probably find what you're looking for in any of the 50 largest cities in America.
posted by dw at 2:20 PM on January 27, 2009

Thanks, all. I should mention, New York isn't really an option I'm considering (been there, done that). These are great ideas! Keep them coming!
posted by teamparka at 2:40 PM on January 27, 2009

Come to Gainesville, Florida!

If you live downtown or near the duckpond area, you will be within walking distance of: a great weekly farmer's market, four independently owned cafes, a huge yearly used book sale, a Cuban restaurant, several tapas places, Jamaican food, a bunch of bike shops, two burrito joints, the University of Florida, and a bus line. There is a (fairly small, but decent) art museum connected to UF, as well as a natural history museum and several live theaters. It's not the best place for independent film, but we do have the Hippodrome. Gainesville is gorgeous in terms of natural spaces--we even have a prairie!

It's an extremely livable place. I've just made the decision to stay here an extra year after grad school. If you have any questions, let me know.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:41 PM on January 27, 2009

Oh, for a full listing of every restaurant in Gainesville, go here.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:43 PM on January 27, 2009

D'oh, sorry. That link should have gone here.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:43 PM on January 27, 2009

Madison, WI, fits the bill. My hometown, although I don't live there now, I will again someday. Search AskMe for Madison -- there has been lots of discussion about it.
posted by crickets at 2:54 PM on January 27, 2009

Don't know what your tolerance for heat is, but Austin, TX fits most of your criteria. Can't really speak to the public transportation, but it's got the rest pretty much nailed. But it is 100+ for the summer months, so there's that.
posted by pdb at 3:13 PM on January 27, 2009

Austin, of course. But everybody wants to come here, so finding a job isn't easy.

(And I was in Tulsa visiting friends over the weekend and had very good experiences there, so I wouldn't rule it out even though it's not my kind of place. We went to catch a Celtic touring act that didn't come to Austin.)
posted by immlass at 3:27 PM on January 27, 2009

Pittsburgh was the best biggest small town place I've lived. Lots of culture, pretty decent expanse of restaurant options. Highbrow and lowbrow attractions. Pretty easy to get around on a bike or bus. Cost of living ridiculously low for what you get in housing (lots of homes built during the heyday of the robber-barrons).

It's got lots of young people, colleges out the wazoo (Carnegie-Mellon, Duquesne, Pitt, and lots of little ones). Temperate most of the year and parks galor (hiking, mt biking, picnic, sport).

Know for lots of indie bands and music scene. Lots of craft stores, 2nd hand shops, alternative stuff.

Downside is that you are geographically isolated from a bunch of otherwise close cities due to mountains and rivers.
posted by qwip at 3:36 PM on January 27, 2009


I promised myself when I first started reading, "don't tell 'em. It's competitive enough already."

I didn't want to say this, but when every single point on your list hit perfectly, my sense of honesty kicked in, and is compelling me to type right now.

Austin, Texas.

"Live music capital of the world"

I had heard that before I moved here in August. I thought cool, I could go see some good shows-- I had drastically underestimated that slogan. Go to Ikea on a freaking Wednesday night, hand to god, they have a live band. Airport-- same thing. Every bar and restaurant has a stage, and most of the time they've got somebody playing. Theres ACL and South By Southwest, two major city-shutting-down music festivals. SXSW also includes visual art and film festivals.

Art: You've got AMOA, The Blanton, Arthouse at The Jones Center, The Mexic-Arte center. Dozens of smaller galleries, and a really active artist community. The East Austin Studio Tour takes the cake. About a hundred artists and galleries on the East side open their homes and studios for a weekend.

Food: Oh holy crap, the food. Austin has a really amazing restaurant scene, boasting Uchi, one of the best restaurants in the country. I grew up in New Mexico, and thus, raised to believe Tex-mex is evil. In Austin the mexican food has been lovingly influenced by silicone valley ex-pats and is fresh, complex, and way beyond "meat-cheese-tortilla" combinations the rest of the state is stuck with. BBQ, oh holy crap, BBQ. My boyfriend and I call it "the meatening". There are tons of finding hole in the wall BBQ joints, and the walls are blackened from decades of smoke. Its a kind of social voyeurism for me, connecting to a tradition I don't quite understand, but respect. Damn, I respect it.

I also really enjoy to cook. There's about half a dozen CSA, a large farmers Co-op in a dedicated store, two year round farmers markets, and one that happens twice a week. Food prices in general, are way lower than where I moved from (DC area). Also, the mothership Whole Foods is in downtown Austin.

Independent Stores: Austin takes pride in making chain stores fail, unless of course you're talking about an Austin based chain. (like Whole Foods) The Alamo Drafthouse is amazing. They show mainstream films as well as indy, student, and local. I'm in love with Master Pancake Theater. Think MST3K, but with modern movies. Best part, is they have an excellent draft list, and pretty good food while you're watching your movie.

Waterloo records is based here. Craft-O-Rama is an excellent craft store, targeted to an audience under 80. (Ah! I respect my elders, I promise!) JP's Java house owns two Clover machines, and participates in the Cup of Excellence, which is a level of coffee fanciness I didn't know existed.

Parks: There's a big lake that runs through the middle of Austin, and green spaces, nature trails and dog parks line either side of it. It's the south border of downtown, and I often walk around there in the evenings. There's also the Congress Bat Bridge over Town Lake, where the largest colony of bats in North America stays in the warmer months. You've also got Barton Springs, a natural spring fed pool, and the accompanying park a short drive out of downtown. People here love bikes, it was Lance Armstrong's hometown. Bike co-ops are plentiful, though I don't own a bike, and lots of roads have bike lanes. Bus system is pretty excellent-- clean and on time. With the bus and living walking distance to downtown and south congress, I basically only use my car for grocery shopping.

Young People: The University of Texas is here, and it's alumni seem to just stick around. This does lead to my one major complaint, and hesitation to tell you to consider moving to Austin.

There are way more educated young people than jobs here. Chat up a waitress, and you're likely to find out about her PhD dissertation. I'm a recent graduate, (BFA, graphic design) but I've only found part time work. I'm sure lots of that is to do with the economy, and the crappy luck of starting my career now. Luckily there's a low cost of living in Austin, and no state income tax.

There's also a sense of a sort of transient culture. Everyone our age has been living in Austin for 5 years or less. We're making it up as we go along. We buy cowboy boots ironically, learn the proper minutiae of BBQ (smoke rings), drink lots of locally crafted beer, see excellent shows, and then either stick around long enough to become a native, or move on. I figure I'm having an excellent time right now as it is, and I can't even begin to think of my life 5 years from now, so I might as well keep hanging out in Austin.

Another excellent bonus of Austin, active Metafilter community! I've been to 3? 4? meetups since this summer.
posted by fontophilic at 3:38 PM on January 27, 2009 [3 favorites]

Long Beach, CA!

It's large enough that there's always something to do without leaving the LBC, so you don't have to deal with LA if you don't want too. But if you need something a little more HUGE CITY, LA is only a 45 minute drive away.

Long Beach has a nice music scene, lots of cafe's, a small indie theater district (plus the NuArt in Santa Monica is a 30 minute drive if there's no traffic)

Food wise, there's almost every ethnic type of food you could imagine within 30 mins.

Lots of young people near CSULB and recent graduates that stick around. Plus there's plenty of jobs in the LA metro area. Public transit sucks for the most part, but the Long Beach bus system isn't that bad. If you expect to use public transit to actually get up to LA proper though, keep dreaming.

And the weather .... oh the weather. It's southern california all the way. Sunny and nice for most of the year. I know some people want seasons and everything, but imo seasons are over rated.

Orange County is also right near by for plenty of tiny beach side boardwalks and surfing.
posted by Arbac at 4:27 PM on January 27, 2009

Portland has all of the above, and better public transportation than Seattle.
Bend has a lot of restaurants for a town its size, fantastic beer, and bikeability, but less of the cultural stuff.
Olympia has a lot of the above and not-terrible access to Seattle.
Austin rubbed me the wrong way (I found it insular, smug, and unbearably self-congratulatory. Also: hot), but I'm apparently the only one.
Philadelphia has a lot going for it, including rich and abundant history. Pittsburgh has a lot of good stuff and I hear it's cheap.
posted by willpie at 5:42 PM on January 27, 2009

Seconding Madison, WI
Its my current home, and it really is a pretty decent place. It has everything you are looking for and comparatively the cost of living and job availability is pretty decent. Feel free to Mefi Mail me for more info-its absolutely worth consideration
posted by mjcon at 5:55 PM on January 27, 2009

Thanks, everybody, for the feedback. One of my friends is from Madison, and can't say enough good things about it. Austin is high on the list, seeing as how it's pretty much ideal for all of the above, as you all mentioned--but it's insanely hard to get a job in my field there, due to UT being in town and all. I've also lived in Philadelphia, and loved it, but don't know as much about Pittsburgh--very intriguing. All the things I've heard have been positive, including the abundance of cute old houses. And, Tulsa?! Intriguing.

Thanks again, and I look forward to more good suggestions! This is so edifying.
posted by teamparka at 8:35 PM on January 27, 2009

Chapel Hill/Carrboro/Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina.
posted by rbf1138 at 9:51 PM on January 27, 2009

Santa Cruz, CA.
- Very liberal, lots of mom-and-pop shops
- It's got the amenities of a big city with small town vibes (50K people)
- Lots of amazing restaurants (definitely fits the ethnic variety bill, from Brazilian to Sri Lankan to good ol' late night diners)
- Cozy bar scene (friendliest dives ever!)
- Plenty of healthy food options (farmers markets, excellent produce shops)
- UCSC is there, which means there's lots of younger folk
- Good music scene (I've seen some big names play at the Catalyst, smaller bands play the Rio, etc.), but also 2 hours away from San Francisco to widen the music options
- Next to the ocean, but also on the edge of a lush redwood forest
- Very good bus system -- really don't need a car if you're near a bus stop. Biking might be a bit tough at some spots due to the inclines, but all buses have bike racks, and you can basically go anywhere via the metro.
posted by spiderskull at 9:59 PM on January 27, 2009

I have to second Tulsa. I recently moved to Tulsa from D.C. and I love it. In addition to all of the things mentioned by DW, the University of Tulsa often has interesting lectures open to the public. There are large Indian and Vietnamese populations that contribute great restaurants to the food scene here. While the number of indie bookstores selling new books might be on the wane, there are tons of fantastic used bookstores scattered around the town. A downtown revival is underway, with a number of craft and curio shops, bars, restaurants, and condos springing up. There's even a hipster bar devoted to bicycling (the Soundpony on North Main). Tulsa recently opened the BoK Center, a large convention space that hosts larger, more mainstream music acts. Smaller acts and/or indie bands often play at places downtown, including the previously mentioned Cain's, the Mooch and Burn, and the Soundpony. The Tulsa Ballet is first-rate. There are lots of art galleries and young people engaged in creative enterprises. If you've never been to Tulsa, you should at least visit to check it out. It might surprise you.
posted by hilaritas at 7:01 AM on January 28, 2009

For a small city, Providence (GASP! Rhode Island?!?) has a lot of these qualities. The restaurants are as good as anywhere (especially if you like Italian cuisine), there are small museums all over the downcity area, and it is home to no less than five institutions of higher learning. It's definitely bikeable and walkable, but you might find the bus system lacking compared to other public transit systems.

The music scene is one of the city's hidden gems too. Besides Lupo's Heartbreak Hotel, which usually hosts the medium to semi-big acts, there are several smaller venues including AS220, which is fabulous for small, original acts of all varieties.

And if you can't find anything here, Boston is an hour's train ride away for less than $20. And the cost of living is way cheaper than Beantown.
posted by LouMac at 7:09 AM on January 28, 2009

I've recommended it before, I'll happily do it again: Providence, RI.

1hr. from Boston, 3hrs. from NYC. Great arts scene. RISD/Brown make it a pretty young town. There's quite a lot going on for a town of its size - great food, great coffeeshops, galleries, and the RISD museum isn't half bad.

I was sad to leave and I'm really looking forward to going back.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:22 AM on January 28, 2009

Is going international an option? Because Brisbane, Australia may be a good fit.
posted by divabat at 9:15 PM on January 28, 2009

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