Eugene vs Vermont vs Austin
June 26, 2009 12:13 PM   Subscribe

What the difference between Eugene, OR, Vermont and Austin, TX?

I'm considering moving to the Eugene area at some point in the next year for either grad school or to take a farming apprenticeship. I currently live in Austin and most recently have spent some time in Vermont. I'd like to know how the hivemind thinks these places stack up.

(Yes, I've read the Eugene threads, but I think this is a specific question that hasn't been previously answered.)

Things I love about Austin: the lakes, the dog-friendliness, the hills, the amazing food, the niceness of people, the music / film scene, the local stores and stuff

Things I loved about Vermont: the mountains, the trees, the friendliness, the "do it yourself" Yankee vibe, the cheese, the beer

Things I hate about Austin: the heat, the heat, the heat

Things I hate about Vermont: the six months of cold, the isolation

So, tell me. Will I like Eugene? What about it will I like? What about it will I hate?
posted by youcancallmeal to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Why not visit the place for a good feel?
posted by Ky at 12:16 PM on June 26, 2009

Well, from what I understand the temperature of OR is pretty mild, but can't really speak to your other concerns except to say it is very "outdoorsy" in general in OR, and people are pretty nice there.
posted by shownomercy at 12:30 PM on June 26, 2009

My sister, born and raised in New England and approaching 60, is considering Austin on her short list for retirement. She's tired of the winters and the allergies and wants to trade them for heat, heat, heat. The one thing stopping her is she can't stand Texans. Everyone she meets in Texas sets her off. Could be their politics, could be their loudness, could be their guns, could be their clothes. Even the people at the churches she's attended seemed to give her the creeps. She says she feels like she's in a foreign country speaking a different language. Her husband likes Austin for all the same reasons you do but I don't think she's going to give Texas her vote.
posted by birdwatcher at 12:34 PM on June 26, 2009

From the sound of it, Eugene is the best of both of those places in terms of the things you like. And Oregon doesn't have a sales tax.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:40 PM on June 26, 2009

birdwatcher, please let your sister know, lest she misses out, that Austin's not IN Texas, it's just Texas-adjacent, to paraphrase a recent episode of "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me." You can see Texas in every direction from Austin, but it is nothing like the rest of Texas.

--Texas-born and -raised but I'll never live anywhere in Texas again but Austin
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:44 PM on June 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

birdwatcher, he lives in Austin. He's asking about Eugene.

I'm sorry to hear about your sister. :)
posted by Houstonian at 12:51 PM on June 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

for austin, as they say, it's not the heat so much as the humidity.... usually. sometime just the heat is enough (106 yesterday?). having lived in southern california -- which can get hot hot -- and austin, i'd say that austin is less bearable because of the positively glue-y air. perhaps someone from an equally-humid part of the country wouldn't mind so much, however. :)

austin also has high allergen counts almost all year long, and especially mold problems. i didn't know what an "allergy" was before i moved out here, but now they're the bane of my existence. unfortunately, it's one of those things that seems to get worse over time, rather than something you get acclimated to.

as for the food --- check out for opinions on the food in many cities, austin included. the chowhounders are very positive on some of austin's eateries, but -- maybe not many of them. the more well-traveled foodies seem, at times, to think the food down here is not all that. in my experience, i tend to agree. though there are definitely a few winners. and the grocery stores (central market, sun harvest, whole foods) make up for it when you decide eating in is a better experience. if i ever move, i'll miss central market dearly!
posted by phoeniciansailor at 1:17 PM on June 26, 2009

Based on the above, I imagine you might love:

-Hiking, dog-friendliness (great town to live with a dog) -- neither of these are me, but experts tell me it's a fantastic town on these counts. I know a couple from San Francisco who are going to honeymoon here, for the hiking and parks and hills.
-I only just started getting involved with film people, and have no comparison elsewhere, but some films DO get made around here.
-There are some neat stores; the big boxes are all here, but downtown and in Springfield there are a disproportionate number of local boutiques, vintage stores and stuff. Not in massive numbers, but Deluxe, Kitsch, Eugene Jeans etc. are all good, and there's a decent large new/used bookstore with two branches (Smith Family). Nice Saturday craft market if that's your thing.

But you might hate:
-I'm told there's not been much music scene since the 90s, and my observations back that up. I've heard a couple good bands at the Wandering Goat, though (and it bears mentioning that I don't indefatigably follow local scenes; that's why I prefer cities, like Portland, where live local music drops into the laps of lazy people like me). There's a regular bluegrass night at Sam Bond's; people into traditional music usually find companions. Historically, medium-to-major artists have toured here VERY rarely; however, this year, the Decemberists, Modest Mouse, Neko Case and Santigold have all come by -- so maybe that's the start of a trend.
-It does get cold here -the winters seem awfully long and wet to me- but with Vermont as your comparison, it's probably not that bad. Not much extreme heat, though there's usually a couple weeks of it in the summer.
-Likewise, I find it quite an isolated place, though again, our definitions may differ. Portland is 2 hours away, near enough to be an easy enough trip, but just far enough that it stops being a plausible day trip.

It's a pretty food-neutral place. It's not England in the '80s; it's also not New York. On the plus side, many cheap decent restaurants.

I've had a largely negative experience with Eugene, but that's partly to be expected from me -- I love densely-populated places, variety, lots of people on the streets at all hours, a feeling of freedom to walk around and see interesting things; Eugene is an oddly quiet place and *deserted* on weeknights (except for isolated drunk/high people and large groups of wandering kids) which can lead to a paranoid, isolated feeling. On weekends the streets are full of happy drunk students.

Eugene is inevitably going to appeal more to someone who prioritizes the hiking and biking and dog walking - all of this stuff could recede, also, if you're more confident than I am. Really, it's probably a matter of personality and what's the most important to your happiness.

If you do end up going to grad school, your department or program can also make a lot of difference. Feel free to MeFi me if you want to find out any more specific stuff.
posted by thesmallmachine at 1:21 PM on June 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

I started my comment before any of the above were posted; if I'd known the degree to which people would compare the three cities (as the question suggests) rather than focus on Eugene, I would've specified right away that my comment was entirely about Eugene. It's probably obvious by the time you're done reading it, but it's probably initially confusing after the general flow of the conversation thus far.

I spent some very young years in New York State, but have no experience of Austin or Vermont. :)
posted by thesmallmachine at 1:29 PM on June 26, 2009

Oh, it also bears mentioning that the surrounding small towns -Fall Creek, where my partner grew up, and the like- seem to be much more pleasant places to live, and are set in unbelievably beautiful places, which might be helpful if you take the farm-apprenticeship option (unless those provide board).

From looking briefly through your profile and stuff, it sounds like you have a high tolerance for urban and rural areas both; Eugene can be an awkward compromise, but the rural getaway options are much better than the urban ones.
posted by thesmallmachine at 1:34 PM on June 26, 2009

I have a really cosmic word-repetition problem in all of the above. Sorry. And now I have a really cosmic multiple-post problem, so that's it for now. :)
posted by thesmallmachine at 1:38 PM on June 26, 2009

Things I love about Austin: the lakes, the dog-friendliness, the hills, the amazing food, the niceness of people, the music / film scene, the local stores and stuff

Things I loved about Vermont: the mountains, the trees, the friendliness, the "do it yourself" Yankee vibe, the cheese, the beer

Hill/mountains? Check. You can get to snow-capped peaks mostly year round. Eugene is essentially in the foothills, so elevation is easy to come by.
Lakes? Check, there are hundreds dotted around Oregon, though not many right in Eugene.
Dog-friendly? Well, they are always building more dog parks.
Amazing food? Not so much. There is some good food, and quite a bit of ok food. It all closes early though, so if you're a late night eater, you're going to be stuck with burritos or bar food.
People? People in Eugene (and Oregon in general) tend to be mid-west friendly. They are polite and somewhat reserved (this holds less true for transplants). We do get our fair share of zealots though, so take that into account.
Film/Music? Can't really help you there, though the local alternative weekly has a fairly large "what's happening" section.
Local stores? Has the usual mix of chains and local with a downtown that's constantly being "revitalized"

Trees? Yeah, there are enough trees to satisfy just about anyone.
DIY vibe? There is an amazing number of craftsman in and around Eugene and in Oregon in general. Blacksmiths, local food, soap-makers, tech places, etc.
Cheese: There are some good cheesemakers in Oregon, and a couple of the local stores have a pretty big selection.
Beer: Well, Vermont has more craft breweries per capita, but Oregon has more in total. They are mostly up in Portland, but Eugene has a few. You can also get most of the Oregon output somewhere in Eugene.

I will echo what thesmallmachine said. For the second-largest (or third, depending on who you ask) city in Oregon, Eugene doesn't "bustle". It doesn't seem to have a core that all the energy coalesces around.
I think part of that is Portland being so close, it tends to draw the action away, and partly because the downtown is in dire shape.
It's also a college town, but even the college kids don't make as much of an impact as you might think. If you stay away from the east side (where campus is), you might not even realize there is a 20,000 student college attached to Eugene.

There are quite a few leftover hippies, but their influence is greatly exaggerated.
Politics are generally central to leftish in Eugene, but the last mayoral election between a Democrat and Republican-pretending-to-be-Independent was a close one.

One other note, if you have allergies (especially grass ones) Eugene(and the Willamette Valley in general) is probably not for you. Eugene regularly records some of the highest pollen counts in the world.
posted by madajb at 3:14 PM on June 26, 2009

Eugene has a wonderful Mediterranean climate during the summer, and there are few places more visually appealing than western Oregon on a good day. During the long winter it is cloudy every day and rainy or sprinkly on many of those days. Factor in whether you can tolerate going without the sun for months at a time.
posted by bbranden1 at 4:09 PM on June 26, 2009

I'll just add that, as a native Montanan, Oregon winters are harder for me to handle. They are as long as northern winters, and nowhere near as cold, but that damn rain and grey, grey skies can feel deeply chilling.

I think the food scene is decent in Eugene, esp when compared to other towns this size. There are a good number of places focused on local/sustainable eating, and much of what they serve is very good (the recent breakout hit, in my opinion, is Belly). Wine, beer scene is great. The produce available here during our long growing season is really amazing and hard to compete with. Fabulous cheeses made in Oregon, too-and hey, you're only an hour from the ocean. The DIY vibe is great here-lots of chicken-raising, beer-making, solar-building, off the grid living folks.

Camping and hiking are wonderful, and it's a dog-friendly community. Coming from Montana, I found outdoor activities to be more regulated than I was used to-having to buy parking permits, more gated roads, etc, but I don't know how that compares to Austin or Vermont.

Grass/pollen allergies can kick your ass here, if that's a problem you have.
posted by purenitrous at 7:27 PM on June 26, 2009

I've heard only good things about Oregon, but out of curiosity: The "diy" Vermont vibe you speak of can either mean brewing your own beer with your hipster friends in a basement in Burlington or Montpelier, or building a 15'x15' sign that reads "OUR ANUS GOVERNOR TRADES VERMONT COWS FOR QUEERS." Which was it?
posted by pintapicasso at 11:16 PM on June 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

pintapicasso: Both, actually.
posted by youcancallmeal at 8:11 AM on June 27, 2009

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