Needing a break...
June 15, 2009 4:31 PM   Subscribe

Where should I go on a short trip, to both recover from a traumatic incident, and spend my birthday?

My birthday is coming up soon. I encountered a recent upsetting event (sexual assault), and I would like to take a trip out of the state to give myself a break (most of my friends here are also friends with the perpetrator, and this has added to the stress of the situation for me), and to celebrate my birthday away from the situation and people involved. I am a college student on the East Coast of the US. Previously, I thought I might want to go to NYC - but I'm not sure whether the fast-paced, crowded atmosphere there might make me feel more stressed. Usually I love being there, but I have been having panic attacks from time to time, and I don't know whether the city would be too overwhelming. At the same time, I don't want to be in an isolated, rural-type place where there is nothing to do but marinate my head in my own thoughts.

I don't drive. It would be good to visit a place with decent public transportation. I like live music - or anything music-related, really - but it probably wouldn't be wise for me to hang around typical live music places (e.g. pubs) just yet. I initially wanted to catch a Broadway musical, since a theatre seems like a more organized, less 'iffy' environment to enjoy some sort of musical entertainment... but like I said, I'm not sure about the rest of the city.

I'm open to suggestions outside the US as well, but probably not too far away. Some places I've been to, that I've really liked, are Vancouver, BC and Salt Lake City. I liked the atmosphere of the former, and was interested to learn more about the culture and history of the latter (I am not Mormon, but I liked walking around Temple Square and learning new things about their traditions and history).
My budget is around $500 (I guess I could always increase it somewhat if the trip is really worth it, but would rather cap it at this amount).

Thanks in advance for any suggestions!
posted by anonymous to Travel & Transportation (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You might really like Santa Fe or Taos, New Mexico. Both have public transportation, and are reachable by Greyhound, if that's how you're traveling.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 4:41 PM on June 15, 2009

Toronto, maybe? I'm no expert—I've spend a total of four days there—but from my experience it has the diversity and culture of NYC without feeling as "big" or as crowded.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:57 PM on June 15, 2009

Quebec City is really magical. Montreal's great. Charleston SC is a great town, though there may be a little less in the way of PT. I've never been, but most everyone adores Austin. Hard to know where to stop...
posted by cymru_j at 4:57 PM on June 15, 2009

How about Nashville? Lots of music and a slower pace...also, really good BBQ.
posted by Edubya at 5:07 PM on June 15, 2009

I was recently in Boston for the first time, and it was lovely - tons of amazing culture, without NYC's insane pace and the push of allllll those people.
posted by you're a kitty! at 5:12 PM on June 15, 2009

San Francisco. I spent one day just lying on the grass at the Martin Luther King memorial, listening to the water, blue sky all over..... very peaceful.
posted by Billegible at 5:16 PM on June 15, 2009

Hey, San Francisco was to be MY suggestion. I like San Diego, too. In fact, the San Diego Hilton Resort hotel is close to airport, right on the water and has a fantastic staff with a laid back atmosphere.

Also, Seattle is nice.
posted by bz at 6:02 PM on June 15, 2009

This is personal to me, but every time I go to the Canadian Maritimes (3 or 4 times so far, I live near Boston), I come back totally rejuvinated. People are friendly but not intrusive, almost goofily kind. There is a lot of kind of desolate, dramatic places that make me feel reflective. It sort of feels like the end of the world.

I think you could fly into Halifax, and then take a bus to Cape Breton, stay at a hostel or B&B there. It's probably the prettiest place you'll ever find yourself. You can hear some of the most amazing fiddle music on the earth in a town called Mabou and see old and young people dancing with each other. There's hikes and walks. I think there is a bus. I'd get the lonely planet and go from there. I hitchhiked, I don't think you want to do that. But it's that kind of place. Lots of friendly, kind people. Have some food at the Red Shoe in's amazingly good. Halifax is a small city with all the amenities you could want.

It's weird how that place always puts energy into doesn't take it out. Other places I've travelled, I feel like I need to do something. There it's pretty ok for me to take a walk and look at the ocean, and then go dancing at night. They like newcomers to the dancing there, it's pretty easy and about t, the most fun you can have.

The Magdellein Islands in Quebec is similar in a lot of ways, a little harder to get to, but equally beautiful.

Self link alert photographs from my last trip to Canada (some of Newfoundland too, which is also amazing)

Oh crap. I just read the part about not being isolated. You still might like Halifax. Since I already typed this, I'll leave it. If you want any more info, email me.

Good luck...sounds like a hard time for you. I hope you have a good trip wherever you go.
posted by sully75 at 6:17 PM on June 15, 2009 [2 favorites]

Places I've been able to clear my head:

San Francisco

Places that I've really enjoyed but find them not good for clearing my head:

Los Angeles
Las Vegas
posted by mrmojoflying at 6:20 PM on June 15, 2009

Charleston, SC is a wonderful city, but I wouldn't recommend it right now because it's so hot and humid. Perhaps that doesn't bother you, though. It has lots of lovely european-looking cobblestone streets and beautiful flowers. One of my favorite parts is the large porch swing-like benches right on the water in the harbor.

I can understand what you mean about NYC. Have you ever spent time in Brooklyn? That could be a good middle ground for you. It's my favorite borough and has a lot of culture and things to do. You could stay in a neighborhood like Williamsburg, Park Slope, Fort Greene, etc., where there are boutiques, bars, galleries, restaurants, parks, museums, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Botanic Garden, and so on. It's not as busy and crowded as much of Manhattan tends to be.

Have you ever been a bit north of the city to some of the towns in the Hudson Valley? Beacon is great. It is home to a modern art gallery called the Dia:Beacon, many cafes and boutiques and art galleries. You can get there via Metro North from Grand Central in Manhattan, and it's quite walkable. There is also some great hiking nearby. Some other places that came to mind, though I believe they are harder to get to w/o a car (I think you take a bus from the train), are New Paltz and Rhinebeck - where the Omega Institute is.

Westward, I lived in San Francisco for 7 years and it's a cool town, but I'd recommend Portland. Portland is an awesome city with fantastic public transportation, coffee, food, art, and music. Of course there's a lot of beautiful scenery in and around the city, including Mount Hood and the Columbia River Gorge.

Other ideas: Montréal, Canada. Providence, RI.
posted by jacquilinala at 6:38 PM on June 15, 2009

Considering what you have written, I would vote for D.C. Travel expenses to DC should be inexpensive, since you are on the East Coast. There is a great deal of things to do for about every taste, and plenty of places to be quiet if you wish to be away from the crowds. Art, Statues, walks, architecture, music, people watching, etc.

Another thought is a working break; there are plenty of trips where you can volunteer your time ( and ( but out of date). I think the National Parks has something as well but you'll have to look for it.

Lastly, if you are up for biking, stop by your local bike shop and ask about some places to tour/camp/ or Bread and Breakfast. There are some interesting parts of the US to bike through...
posted by fluffycreature at 6:47 PM on June 15, 2009

Portland, OR fits your request well, if a bit more "crunchy" than the other places listed. Relax and enjoy!
posted by cestmoi15 at 7:05 PM on June 15, 2009

I love (and live in) Austin and it fits many of your criteria, but any time "soon" is going to be in the midst of our worst weather and not likely to be a very good time, especially if relying on public transportation. It was 100 degrees outside today and it's not going to get any better.
Madison, Wisconsin has a similar vibe, although I don't know much about their music scene, and the weather is much more tolerable this time of year.
posted by katemonster at 7:52 PM on June 15, 2009

Providence sucks. I know, I live here. Unless you're a hard-core foodie, once you've been to AS220 and the RISD Museum, you're done with the city, and the bus service is terrible and you're going to get mugged.

Newport, RI is better: safe and amazingly compact, you can walk every damn where, and there's something to take your breath away every time you turn around, but you really need to love small bars to get into the music scene. Ditto New Orleans.

Boston, however, has a theater district with musicals, and an opera, and the jazz clubs are refined and book top-tier acts and there's bus service to Tanglewood (an open air venue in rural Massachusetts) for the Boston Symphony and other fun stuff (Garrison Keilor is going to be there on the 27th). Transport in the city proper is excellent: safe, regular busses and subways run everywhere.

It's a bustling, Northeast kind of city, but not as pushy and scary and jam-packed as New York. Cambridge is a lot of fun, and accessible via the red line - a college town to end all college towns.

Boston shuts down at midnight, tho, so not for night-owls.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:58 PM on June 15, 2009

Boston is pretty sweet. If you want a really rejuvinating experience go to the Gardner Museum, which is just spectacular during the day when the sun lights up the courtyard. Also the old McKim building of the Boston Public Library is a lovely place to spend some time. Coincidentally, another amazing courtyard.
posted by sully75 at 9:03 PM on June 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

DC weather is nice right now, though can be hot and humid this time of year. DC would work if you choose carefully, i.e. stay someplace like the Dupont Circle neighborhood (the Tabard Inn, for example), with nice sidewalk cafes, Kramerbooks, etc., rather than the more overtly touristy places. DC's big museums can be crowded this time of year (Air and Space), but there are tons of smaller ones where you can catch your breath (Freer/Sackler, Phillips Collection). All the Smithsonian museums are free, which is good for your budget. If you like music, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival will be going on soon, and there will be lots of fun and quirky musical and other events there, all free. The festival is set up in tents on the Mall and can be crowded, but you can wander in and out of various parts of it at your whim and hang around the edges of things. I'm a bit agoraphobic in crowds, but can handle this just fine.
posted by gudrun at 12:12 AM on June 16, 2009

I think Montreal would be perfect. There's a ton to do, zillions of museums, and it feels very safe. A modicum of French would get you by. Depending on where you are it could be a pretty short drive. MeFi mail me if you want more info.

I'm sorry for what happened to you.
posted by miss tea at 3:47 AM on June 16, 2009

Ithaca, it has beautiful natural areas right in town as well as nearby, and it has a thriving youth culture, lots of music, etc.
posted by mareli at 6:08 AM on June 16, 2009

Seconding Ithaca. There's enough to do at night for it to be lively, but also plenty of hiking, waterfalls, and swimming holes.
posted by kestrel251 at 8:13 AM on June 16, 2009

I'm from Montreal too, if you decide to come here then you can ping me also via mefimail for eating, lounging etc. recommendationd.
posted by Billegible at 10:09 PM on June 16, 2009

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