More Than Scary Homeless & Drum Circles
December 29, 2010 9:46 AM   Subscribe

Tell me why the Bay Area beats up New York so hard. Outside the weather.

As the possibility of really moving gets bigger and bigger, I get more worried about The Change of Going. So I want to get excited. Help me get excited. Interests include low-key sports leagues, books, dive bars, swimming, meeting new people. Do not include hippies.
posted by dame to Society & Culture (24 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Hippies tend to stay on the outskirts like Berkeley and Santa Cruz these days (oh and hippy hill in Golden Gate park).

Nature, Nature, Nature. Muir Woods, the (Albeit cold) beach. 3 hours from world class skiing. 90 minutes from Napa and Sonoma wine tasting (great way to get away for a weekend).

Right now, despite a major dump of rain last night, its sunny and you can go outside in a jacket (okay thats the weather).

Dive Bars? We pretty much do nothing but dive bars real estate prices are too high for fancy drinking. Swimming? I swim in a pool on my gym roof with city views.

If you're a sucker for punishment you can always try swimming in Aquatic Park

Books? How do you like dem apples?

New people? What do you want to talk about?

Food? You like food right? We don't do much fancy dining like NY, but if you want fresh, friendly eating you'll find some of the best in the world here (and Real Burritos!).
posted by bitdamaged at 10:02 AM on December 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Subjective opinions only which I probably can't defend:

It's hard to leave New York easily to go hiking or be by yourself. San Francisco makes it easy to have a varied life, not just an urban life.

It's easier to have a dog or a car.

It is funnier. San Francisco likes a laugh more than New York does.

If you're a liberal, you'll be delighted, because pretty much everyone else is too. If you grew up in a dump like I did, that's really nice.

It's prettier. There are hills with different views all over the place. Many areas have actual trees.

You can walk or bike straight across it (you get used to biking hills.)

I'd guess the place is rife with low key sports leagues.

Dive bars - plenty of lovely ones, and lots of just plain easy going places to be.

Slower pace, except for Muni rides. That's the same as everywhere.

People are happier.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 10:15 AM on December 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Two of the best tiki bars in the country. Well, bars for tiki drinks. Smuggler's cove is more of an all around rum bar.

On the more serious side one huge advantage of the bay area over NYC is that it's a lot easier to get out of. The NYC area is so congested that I often felt trapped in it. A great little place to be trapped in, sure, but trapped never the less.
posted by bswinburn at 10:33 AM on December 29, 2010

Micro-neighborhoods! Yes, NY has its boroughs, but every 10 blocks or so will have a different vibe. This is also true of weather (microclimates)--if you don't like what's happening outside where you are, travel half a mile in another direction--it's likely to be very different.

We also have a decent music scene, some reasonably spiffy museums (not the best, but pretty good, and they get good traveling exhibitions) and lovely parks.

And parrots! (You really do run across them in the city)
posted by smirkette at 10:51 AM on December 29, 2010

Local character things that I haven't found replacements for: Castro Theater, Sutro Baths (and the Camera Obscura over there), the shoe garden in Alamo Square Park, good vegetarian options everywhere, Mission burritos, four or five used bookstores within walking distance of each other along Valencia.
posted by dreamyshade at 11:00 AM on December 29, 2010

Best answer: You can combine low-key sports leagues and swimming with the Dolphin Club, which swims at Aquatic Park (as well as across the Bay). Swimming at Ocean Beach is not recommended - the water's cold all year, the currents are treacherous, and there are no lifeguards.
posted by rtha at 11:04 AM on December 29, 2010

Oh, and how could I forget? Every October, there's an amazing free 2.5 day concert in Golden Gate Park. Hardly Strictly Bluegrass has got to be one of the best free concerts in the world. World class acts, both well-known and unknown, a pretty chill's on my top 10 list for things I love about SF.
posted by smirkette at 11:06 AM on December 29, 2010

You can surf in San Francisco.
posted by fshgrl at 11:10 AM on December 29, 2010

Tell me why the Bay Area beats up New York so hard.

You'll be in good company with like-minded folks who try to talk this up. In my experience, there are few cities that have as much of a complex about one-upping New York as San Francisco.

Except maybe Boston.
posted by hwyengr at 11:25 AM on December 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

I like both NYC and SF (and currently live near SF) and I don't even think these two cities are comparable. They are completely different. There are lots of things that I love about NYC that SF doesn't even come close to (and doesn't even really try)... one easy example is public transit. SF's is decent, but nowhere near as convenient and pervasive as in NYC. Other things about SF, like its proximity to so many diverse outdoor/sporting activities, NYC can't even hope to match due to simple geography.

I'd suggest visiting SF for a few days and seeing what you think before you move there. If you're looking for a west coast version of NYC, it doesn't exist.
posted by buckaroo_benzai at 11:36 AM on December 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Having lived in both NYC and San Francisco, I'd really only consider moving back to SF. It is just so much more livable in so many ways.

Others have always stressed how easy it is to have a much more varied life which includes everything a city/urban environment has to offer including music, nightlife, theater, bars, bookstores, cafes, restaurants and be able to drive up north into a Redwood forest, along Pacific coastlines, into wine country, up to mountains, down to huge forests, into relaxed beach towns.

Here's a recent article in the NYTimes about San Francisco book culture. It gives you some idea of the wonderful contrasts that exist in the city. With Silicon Valley just down the coast, San Francisco also feels like the center of the technological world. Everyone knows someone from Apple or Google or Yahoo or any of the thousands of startups in the news. This is where things are happening these days and you get that sense of excitement in the air as soon as you arrive.

The food culture there is unbeatable. Farmer's markets, Slow food, a life centered around eating all have a strong place here. It is only one of three cities in the US where Michelin bothers to publish a guide. I miss unpretentious places like Canteen where the focus, as it should be, is on the food. I miss the freshly grilled steak at the Taquerias. I miss the creamy ice cream at Bi-Rite, the delicate pizzas at Delfina...

San Franciscans adore their city and work hard to keep it independent and full of character. They take pride in their Victorian architecture and the neighborhoods fight hard to keep out chain stores. There's a lot of great coffee shops and bookstores in the Mission district. And I am not talking about Starbucks or Barnes & Noble.

NYC in contrast, sort of lost that battle already. The city these days feels like one big mall. I used to live in Soho in the mid-90s. Even then, with small galleries shutting down and big retailers like Patagonia moving in, it felt like NYC was rapidly losing its edge although, of course, it had built such a large reputation, that it can continue to coast on it for quite a while longer. And it does.

I live in London and we travel to Italy, France and/or Portugal almost every month. For eating and sightseeing. When I tell Europeans where I have lived in the US, they sort of look bored when I mention NYC but get excited when I mention San Francisco. "Now there is a place I would love to visit" they say. I get the sense that they have met too many loud NYers who insist that NYC is the greatest place in the US. But, after examining the evidence for themselves, many Europeans suspect that the truth is that that city is more likely to be San Francisco.
posted by vacapinta at 12:25 PM on December 29, 2010 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks all. Just wanted to chime in and say yes, will be visiting shortly, perhaps will try for a meetup, and for me hiking is a little meh. I like running water and things to look at that are not trees or mountains, like shops and cute boys. Which I presume will be possible.
posted by dame at 1:59 PM on December 29, 2010

Current SF resident, here. I think the tax to just live your life in NYC is just too high. SF (and the Bay Area, in general) really hits a sweet spot in terms of its offerings across the board, especially when balanced against costs like hassle, congestion, or general pain in the ass factor.

Let's put it another way: I never hear about people moving out of the Bay Area because they don't like the lifestyle or what's available here. It's always about the cost of living (note: still cheaper than Manhattan) or being tired of the technology industry.

As far as shops - we've got Cow Hollow, Hayes Valley, the Mission, etc. etc. etc. Shopping we can do. Cute (straight) boys is SF have the run of the place due to the gender ratio. Your odds wil be much better as you head down the peninsula.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 2:16 PM on December 29, 2010

If you want to think in terms of "boroughs," then Oakland, Berkeley and Marin would constitute some pretty damned interesting outer boroughs.

Having ridden extensively on both systems, I am of the opinion that the New York train and bus system is better run than the Muni (trains and busses) or BART. There is no such thing as a Metrocard in SF or the Bay Area.

If I had the resources, though, it would be a toss up for me which city to live in. I would enjoy both.

Of course the San Andreas or related fault is going to jump every century or so in SF. But epic snow storms, not so much.
posted by Danf at 2:29 PM on December 29, 2010

There is no such thing as a Metrocard in SF or the Bay Area.

The Clipper card seems very similar to the Metrocard - you can use it on Muni, BART, SamTrans, ACTransit, Caltrain, etc.

But! Except for a few all-night bus lines (Owl, they're called here), most public transit shuts down around midnight. Plan to sleep on a friend's couch if you get caught on the wrong side of the bay after BART stops running.
posted by rtha at 3:13 PM on December 29, 2010

I know you were being jokey, but you're not really helping yourself by framing the question as "NY vs. SF." Because, as others have said, they're really different cities and living in each is a really different experience.

Let the comparison go, and I'll wager you'll be happier in the long run.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:14 PM on December 29, 2010

I've lived in both (currently Oakland). Besides the weather:

-in NYC it feels impossible, or at least very expensive, to get out of the city. Here I can get on my bike or BART and be in the wilderness in a few minutes. And "wilderness" can mean anything to the mountains, the coast, the redwoods, anything - it is amazing how many options there are for outdoor activities (and I never considered myself an "outdoors person" before but California will change that about you)

-Speaking of biking, this is pretty much the best place to ride one in the US inside or outside of the city.

-taco trucks

-food. The farmer's markets, the restaurants, the excellent coffee (I heard Brooklyn got a Blue Bottle, but still - I live next to their roastery!).

-it is SO laid back compared to the east coast. No one is ever really in a hurry here.

-It is expensive, but not nearly as expensive as NYC.

-We make it extremely hard for franchises and chains to take over. Everything is very locally oriented from coffee to bookstores to restaurants.

-Everyone's pretty liberal, weed is legal, and the ultra-accepting live-and-let-live atmosphere makes the bay area a place where things happen that couldn't anywhere else (can you imagine someone pitching Twitter to investors in NYC?)

I meet tons of NYC transplants and when I ask them why they moved west the answer is always "quality of life". I agree.
posted by bradbane at 3:27 PM on December 29, 2010

Best answer: Some things I like about the Bay Area vs. NYC (I'm not going to say what I like about NYC over the Bay Area, because that's not what you asked): friends have room to invite you over to their house. There are more opportunities for awesome food and drink that can be had for less money and in a more relaxed atmosphere. You can pretty much cover the entirety of SF on foot if you have to- it's only seven miles wide. People seem more willing to go across town to see friends (again, 'cause it's small). There is no ice or gross melty snow. It does not stink as bad in SF in the summer as in NYC, and Oakland really doesn't smell at all, generally speaking. People have more time to see their friends. There are not enough people for big cliques of "theater people" or, I don't know, "fashion people"- creative types tend to overlap more and have more interests in other stuff, just because they can't be subsumed into a large group of totally like-minded people. There is space, and empty places if you need them. Even in summer, there's room on the grass in public places.

I like running water and things to look at that are not trees or mountains, like shops and cute boys.

There are more men than women in SF- the opposite of NYC. :)

There are things I like about Oakland in particular, which is why I live here. It's cheaper than the City, the weather is nicer. Oakland has issues, so any sense of smugness is non-existent. There's a lake to walk around. Lots of different kinds of people live in my neighborhood. There are some really good bars, restaurants, and cafes I can walk to that rarely have a line or a wait. I can even walk to wine tasting. There are no tourists!
posted by oneirodynia at 6:17 PM on December 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

While there are plenty of both in both cities, I find that there are more people in SF genuinely excited about changing the world for the better (science, technology, art) than there are those who are just out to make some money.
posted by namesarehard at 7:47 AM on December 30, 2010

Plan to sleep on a friend's couch if you get caught on the wrong side of the bay after BART stops running.

Just had to chime in to say this isn't really a major problem. The all-night Owl bus schedules are quite regular, and although it's inconvenient that they only run once an hour, once you're on them they're quick and reasonably comfortable. The only time I've had a problem was when there were already enough other bicyclists there ahead of me that there wouldn't be room on the bike rack on the front of the bus for mine. Had to wait an extra hour that night, but a cup of coffee and a maple bar from one of the nearby donut shops made it more tolerable.

Bay Arean by birth & rearing, married to a New Yorker.
posted by Lexica at 5:02 PM on December 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: SO PRETTY. The fog, the crazy-colored buildings, the street art, the water, the views of Twin Peaks or the Golden Gate Bridge that you can see when you peek between buildings at the top of a hill. I (a NYC native) fell in love with all the pretty when I was visiting here. I thought it would get old, but 1.5 years later it makes me happy every single day.

And oh god, TREES WITH LEAVES IN THE WINTER. The smell is amazing.
posted by squasher at 2:12 PM on January 1, 2011

Response by poster: So I've been living in San Francisco (the Mission specifically) for about six months now. For anyone who hunts up this thread later, I will say, all the best answers are right on. I can afford to live closer to the things I like. I ride my bike to work in wonderful bike lanes full of other cyclists. The food is making me fat. It is beautiful. I've discovered hiking is kinda fun.

And vacapinta was right about SF not having lost the big-store battle yet. It is fantastic.
posted by dame at 7:09 PM on June 4, 2011


We've got at least one meetup in the works in the coming weeks. See you at one of them!
posted by rtha at 7:47 PM on June 4, 2011

Hey, I was wondering what you ended up doing. Yay for moving West!
posted by oneirodynia at 4:59 PM on June 7, 2011

« Older USPS assigning a PO Box without consent?   |   I hate moving Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.