Where to live in the land of the free?
April 23, 2012 3:04 PM   Subscribe

Where would an outgoing, adventurous bachelor live, his primary interests being craft brew and bicycling?

I have a burning need to leave my home state of Kentucky, where I am called "the polite colored boy" bi-weekly by strangers, and "hipster" by small town standards. No, I'm not joking. I don't mind not fitting in to the community at large- I'm very comfortable with who I am and this "Yank" needs to leave this place.

I'm giving myself until summer 2013 to get my shit together and find where I want to live for a year or so- I'm currently employed and saving money for a car/safety net/rent/accumulating necessities.

Currently at age 25, I'm a college-dropout with a strong background in electronics retail sales at store level, a serious interest in craft beer, a basic understanding of web design, and next year will have almost 2 years of bar-tending experience, plus several years serving experience.

I plan on spending the year as a first time bike courier, and already have both a geared hardtail, and a single-speed road bike, though I don't have cold weather gear yet.

I might go to community college part-time, but that's not a huge priority for me.

Other interests: theater arts, skydiving, stunt driving, animal training, finding healthy food easily.

I had 2 great vacations in Chicago, so I'm looking there, and have heard good things about Austin, TX but worried that Austin would be too Southern for me. I have some vacation time this upcoming year that I plan on using to couch-surf potential cities. Where else should I be looking?
posted by Giggilituffin to Travel & Transportation around United States (39 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
posted by crunchtopmuffin at 3:06 PM on April 23, 2012

Well, the first place I thought of was Portland (the Oregon one). Lots of craft brewers and distillers there.
posted by rtha at 3:07 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seattle is another option, if you like cycling up endless hills ..
posted by dotgirl at 3:09 PM on April 23, 2012

Cheaper and closer to home, Pittsburgh would be a decent option.
posted by jon1270 at 3:10 PM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

The other thing about PDX, though, that I've noticed on my visits from San Francisco, is how white it is. That may or may not be a thing for you. Everyone I've encountered has been friendly. Even the crusty punks say "thank you" to the bus driver when they get off the bus. And there's a ton of awesome mefites there.
posted by rtha at 3:11 PM on April 23, 2012

Best answer: Los Angeles!

Year round good weather for cycling (I don't even own a long sleeve jersey.)

LA has a big and growing craft beer industry. (like the new Golden Road)

Access to beaches and mountains (in the same day)

Nearby to Perris, home of a huge skydiving community (Perris Skydive)

And access to pretty much every cuisine from around the world.

Come visit Silverlake or Eagle Rock and you'll be impressed with the diversity.
posted by Argyle at 3:13 PM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Denver/Boulder/Fort Collins, CO?
posted by jabes at 3:13 PM on April 23, 2012

How important is it to you to live in a city where there is a substantial black community and black political presence? Because if that is important, Chicago or Atlanta stand out to me; you might want to think about Oakland as well.

If you don't mind being the only black guy at the bike messengers' meetup or the craft brewing festival, Portland, Oregon might be a great fit.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:16 PM on April 23, 2012

Best answer: Craft beer and bikes and 20-something!? Look no further than beautiful Portland, OR.

While jobs here are not uber-plentiful, finding work in retail or bartending is not too difficult. After you get here and make some connections, you find how small the community is, and getting things like good bartending gigs, once you're in, is pretty easy (or so my bartender friends tell me). It's also a great place to be a bike messenger, and there are many.

It's a very manageable city, and not too expensive. You can easily find a room in a cool house for around $400 a month.

We also have a great community college, if you wanted to continue that pursuit. There's also PSU and OIT if you wanted to transfer to a public university in a city.

Healthy food everywhere.

As far as diversity goes - no, it isn't Chicago or New York or the Bay Area, but it really isn't as white as a lot of folks make it out to be. Many neighborhoods are relatively diverse (getting less so though, it seems), but places like North and Northeast Portland still have a pretty decent mix of folks and cultures.
posted by Lutoslawski at 3:17 PM on April 23, 2012

Best answer: Chicago is wonderful. The Chicago MeFite crowd is, for the most part, very heavy into cycling and beer-drinking, and pretty much anyone other than me will be a great resource for insight into both of those things. I'll pop into our open IRL thread and try to direct some attention this way.

Bikes and booze aside, Chicago is extremely awesome, offers a variety of different places to live (lots of niche neighborhoods), and is very affordable. You're sure to find a place that you fit in.
posted by phunniemee at 3:18 PM on April 23, 2012

I was thinking PDX, but Boston is great.

There's a good amount of beer brewin' and a delightfully imbiberiffic culture all around. Plus, plenty of educational opportunities if you find that you're so inclined.

Very bike friendly, though it's not Amsterdam, or Portland, etc.

It's a nice place to live!
posted by Admiral Haddock at 3:22 PM on April 23, 2012

I know Portland is sort of the knee-jerk reaction, but you should really consider Philadelphia. It has a huge bike culture, a thriving messenger scene, and some very respectable beer-brewing activity. People are very nice and welcoming, it's relatively affordable depending on what neighborhood you live in, and just generally pretty great. Seriously, check it out.
posted by anonnymoose at 3:25 PM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: P.S. Philly is about 510% times more diverse than Portland. I love both cities, but this is just objectively true.
posted by anonnymoose at 3:26 PM on April 23, 2012 [6 favorites]

I love the Boston area, where I was born and where I live, but again it has the disadvantage of being politically and socially dominated by white people like whoa. Not as much as Portland (where, in the city proper, 6% of residents self-identify as "black" on census forms), but way too much for the actual size of the black community here (ca. 25% of residents of the city proper self-identify as "black" on census forms).

We do have a big craft brewing and bicycle scene here, though.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:42 PM on April 23, 2012

I'm just putting in a vote for Madison, WI. More jobs than Portland, and fantastic biking and brewing cultures. There isn't much work for bike messengers though, I don't think. Also more affordable than anything on the west coast.
posted by rockindata at 3:44 PM on April 23, 2012

Depending on how close to home you want/need to be, Nashville has a surprisingly large brewing and biking community, particularly in East Nashville. (You can certainly memail me for more info, or ignore this entirely if you're looking to flee the South.)
posted by WidgetAlley at 3:44 PM on April 23, 2012

Portland or Denver. End of story.
posted by superfille at 3:47 PM on April 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

Craft brew and bicycling sounds like Portland to me.
posted by J. Wilson at 3:53 PM on April 23, 2012

Was going to say Portland, Philly, Pittsburgh, maybe Austin. So I'll consider myself beaten to the punch.
posted by willpie at 4:07 PM on April 23, 2012

I'm a huge fan of Chicago, but one of the places where Chicago really falls down is racially integrated communities. You probably won't get called colored here, but at least from what I've seen, the hipsters (us hipsters?) in Chicago aren't very racially diverse. I haven't seen any discrimination from hipster or hipster joints, but as a white guy mostly surrounded by other white peeps, I probably wouldn't see it.
posted by garlic at 4:35 PM on April 23, 2012

Come to Portland! We will welcome you with open, beer-filled arms. And rain. Lots of rain. The culture trumps the rain, but only just.
posted by Specklet at 4:36 PM on April 23, 2012

Here's a vote for San Diego. Big brewing scene (I joke that everyone who moves here eventually brews their own) and a large biking scene that is supported by year-round sunshine. You won't need cold weather gear here.
posted by rhythm and booze at 4:45 PM on April 23, 2012

Philly's your place. You could probably land a food service gig pretty easily (I got one with much more limited experience), it's mad bikeable, plenty of non-white folks (myself included!), and very lively craft beer scene. I'd probably consider Chicago too, if I were you.
posted by black_lizard at 4:48 PM on April 23, 2012

My wife and I moved out of the South for similar reasons to yours, sounds like. We jumped over to the Bay Area, and I think it might suit a person like you very well. Plenty of craft brew in Northern California, tons of bike messengers, &c., &c. Pretty expensive place to be, though, especially moving from Kentucky (it was a shock to us when we moved from Tallahassee, anyway). Still, it's a hard place to beat on almost any level.

Portland is pretty great, though, and so is Seattle. Both have dreary weather, but are full of good people and things to do. For my money, Seattle wins between the two on shear beauty alone - it's a truly sublime place, in the summer especially - but neither is as diverse as the Bay Area.

Any case, good luck.
posted by Pecinpah at 4:48 PM on April 23, 2012

Best answer: I came in here to say Chicago.

One thing to consider is that you cannot make a living as a bike messenger in a lot of the cities people have listed. My boyfriend's a messenger, we have idle conversations about where we'd like to move when we "grow up" all the time and most of them are discarded because what was always a niche industry is now a dying industry and a lot of smaller cities seriously only have, like, 12 employed bike messengers, if any.

I would definitely talk to some messengers working in the city of your choice before you make a final decision.

That being said, if you end up here in the Windy City hit me up. Big ole dirty bike hipster and drunkard, here.
posted by Juliet Banana at 4:57 PM on April 23, 2012

Come to Minneapolis/St Paul and I will drink whatever brew you craft and only call you a yankee hipster ironically. Our living costs are high, but not as inflated as some of the other places on this list.

That said, I don't think the bike messenger route is the way to go, especially if you have retail experience.
posted by Think_Long at 4:59 PM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I think San Diego would work well for you, and as rhythm and booze says, you won't need winter gear unless you're riding at 2am when the temperature drops to a miserable 48 degrees.

Here is an interactive bike map of San Diego, with routes color-coded according to how bike-friendly they are (ranging from separated bike path to bike lane to "share-road" and other designations).

From Wikipedia:San Diego has a vibrant craft brewing community featuring more than 30 active local brewpubs and/or microbreweries.[3] The city and county of San Diego are often referred to as "America's craft beer capital".[4] [5] San Diego was listed first in the "Top Five Beer Towns in the U.S." by Men's Journal,[6] and the Full Pint said that San Diego is "one of the country's premier craft beer destinations" with a "thriving brewing culture".[7] San Diego brewers have pioneered several specialty beer styles, most notably the American Double India Pale Ale. Three San Diego County breweries are consistently rated in the Top 10 breweries in the world: AleSmith Brewing Company, Pizza Port/Port Brewing/Lost Abbey, and Stone Brewing Co. None of San Diego's old breweries (such as Aztec Brewing Company which was closed in 1953) survived the spread of big national brewing companies. The first of the new wave of local breweries and brewpubs, and now the largest local brewer, was the Karl Strauss Brewing Company which opened in 1989. A second wave of microbrews was led by Port, Stone and Alesmith.[3] Annual events celebrating San Diego's beer culture include San Diego Beer Week in November[8] and numerous local craft beer festivals.

Local community colleges include the Grossmont/Cuyamaca district and the San Diego district, as well as other schools further up north but still within San Diego County.

In addition to Whole Foods, we have Sprouts supermarkets scattered about, as well as some other one-location shops including People's Co-op in Ocean Beach. This being Southern California, there are also quite a few health-oriented restaurants or vegetarian places. San Diego has generally been a fairly conservative place, but it's been changing quite a bit since the mid-90s. Our local modern art museum is no longer quite the joke it used to be, and for a while they hosted free Thursday night openings once a month, but it seems that fell victim to the recession.

Skydiving can be found at Brown Field, at the south end of town near the Mexican border. There are a number of local theaters in town; the complex in Balboa Park is pretty major - some plays start here and go to Broadway (Into the Woods is the only example I can think of at the moment), and they have a Shakespeare run in the Summer in their outdoor theater. There's an under-30 program where young people can get tickets from batches that are sold at reduced price.

The downsides: I don't know how viable bike messaging is as a career here - most of the town is pretty spread out and there's some topography that can limit access from one area to another. Bike messaging seems to be mostly limited to the downtown area, with things going to and from the courthouse to lawyer's offices (which are mostly located downtown or a mile or two north). Also, housing can be expensive; coming from Kentucky, you'll probably see your rent double. Areas near the center core of the city are much more integrated than the suburbs, but San Diego has been a fairly self-segregated city for a long time.
posted by LionIndex at 5:05 PM on April 23, 2012

Well, you sound like you already live in Asheville but there aren't any bike messengers here. Bartending and brewery jobs, though, we got, and beer? We got beer.
posted by mygothlaundry at 5:05 PM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

One nice thing about Chicago is that you can pretty much give up on saving up money for a car. I guarantee you, most of your peer group will not own cars, and spending a little more on rent to live close to the CTA is still going to be cheaper than endless parking tickets, insurance, and car payments.
posted by Juliet Banana at 5:25 PM on April 23, 2012

Yes, move to Chicago and hang out with us (self-link, there is a website just for bike-related stuff in Chicago). Although if you decide against Chicago, Austin is very nice and not terribly "Southern". PDX is an excellent place, but I think you'd find it easier to find a job in Chicago, from what I've heard of Portland.

As a born-and-bred San Diegan (one of the few), I'd strongly advise against Southern California. Yes, the weather is lovely, and yes, the beer scene is amazing, but it's really tough to make new friends in cities that are dominated by car-culture. Bicycling is getting bigger out there, but the infrastructure still isn't really in place to support it, and bike messengers are basically a non-entity in those areas because of the distances involved and reliance on freeway traffic.
posted by booknerd at 5:42 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Colorado's really fuckin' white, but if you stay outta the Springs, you'll be in great shape. Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins...there's an absolutely not-believable number (like 150) of breweries in the state. And the biking, of course...
posted by notsnot at 6:35 PM on April 23, 2012

Best answer: Denver, for these reasons:

Surprisingly tolerable winters. Yes, it snows, but it melts quickly thanks to intense high-altitude sunshine 300 days a year. Low humidity makes BOTH cold and heat bearable.

Great biking. The city is flat with hundreds of miles of trails, and the mountains are nearby.

Home of the Great American Beer Festival and dozens of small craft breweries.

Jobs. I don't know about bike messaging, but things are really picking up here economically.

Good local healthy food with lots of farmer's markets, including one open year-round.

Yes, Colorado is pretty white, but Denver is the most racially diverse city in the state.
posted by caryatid at 6:59 PM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Denver is much more diverse than anywhere else in CO, and far more affordable than Boulder. It's not big but it is more "city" than "town." Colorado would be an especially good fit if you're into the outdoorsy brand of biking as well as the city streets kind. Memail me when you get here!
posted by TrixieRamble at 8:39 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Came in to also recommend Chicago for all the above-mentioned reasons.

And you mentioned theater, which is something that Chicago has a lot of.
posted by baniak at 8:41 PM on April 23, 2012

You have described in great detail the average person from Portland. That might be a good choice, although I would probably suggest Seattle instead, which is similar, but due to the larger size has more opportunities for stuff. I know a lot of people who love spending time in Portland, but the few people I know who have moved there from Seattle ended up moving back after a few years.
posted by markblasco at 10:57 PM on April 23, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for all of the replies! It's good to know that I wasn't far off in considering Chicago, based on my preferences. There is always a museum or something to do there. Avoiding the cost of car-ownership is one huge perk that I'll look into for other cities, as well.

Having visited Nashville, and it feels too Southern for me to consider moving there. However, being that it's only a 2-hour drive away, I'll visit to get another impression of the bike scene, though.

Portland and Seattle, I'll be visiting you this year for sure, and I'll try to make it out to Denver and Philly.

How many days would it take to get a good general impression of each of these places?
posted by Giggilituffin at 7:08 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Providence, RI.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:00 AM on April 24, 2012

For Philly, I'd probably allow four to five days. Center City's pretty compact--you can do all the historical tourism (Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, etc) in about a day--but the outlying areas stretch on for a while. I have some ideas about neighborhoods you'd want to be looking at and things to see, given the interests you list; memail for info.
posted by ActionPopulated at 2:17 PM on April 24, 2012

For Portland, I'd allow three days. Five would be better, if you can find a local to show you around. (I'm five months pregnant and anticipate being pretty busy at the end of the summer, but memail me if you're in town and I'd be happy to at least suggest some places to go.)

The public transportation here is very good; it's pretty easy to live car-free. Seattle not so much.
posted by Specklet at 2:07 PM on April 27, 2012

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