Small-to-Medium Writing Retreat Town in U.S?
September 4, 2014 3:04 PM   Subscribe

I'm leaving it all behind to finally put up or shut up. Where in the U.S. can I do this? Details inside.

I've quit my job, my relationship's falling apart, and I don't want to do anything for "the man" for the foreseeable future. But I don't need advice on any of that.

I want to rent out my luxury apartment in New York City and seclude myself somewhere for 3-6 months, possibly a year, and focus on writing my script, once and for all. No more excuses.

I'm looking for a small- to medium-sized town somewhere in the U.S., region doesn't matter, where I can do this. Here are my requirements:
- relatively low cost of living (I will have no other income than rent from my NYC apartment - so let's say $3000/month)
- access to culture (arthouse cinema, local bookstores, maybe even a theater)
- active restaurant scene
- liberal/diverse, or at least not frothing at the mouth with middle-America racism/sexism/homophobia
- no Internet problems
- no extreme temperatures
- no need for car (what I mean is, the downtown area is accessible on foot, and the main drag has pretty much all amenities one would want; or even a short bus ride away)

Nothing outside of these conditions matters - could be Northeast, West Coast, even Queens/Staten Island somewhere (Far Rockaway?)

If you live in one of these towns, I'd love to hear about it. Throwaway:
posted by anonymous to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
You want a college town. A few off the top of my head:

- Northampton, MA (though I hear it's been getting more expensive)
- Bellingham or Olympia, WA

All of these should be ok on a day-to-day basis without a car, but might be annoying for those times you need to go to Target or something like that.

I feel like Northampton would be pretty much perfect for everything you're looking for, if you can find the right housing downtown.
posted by lunasol at 3:09 PM on September 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hudson Valley (Cold Spring or Rhinebeck for example). Intellectual, accessible by train. Then invite me up.
posted by JimN2TAW at 3:12 PM on September 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

Savannah, GA is the first thing that comes to mind for me. It's absolutely stunning, a writers dream. Lush, gorgeous scenery on the river, rich history, a local arts college, SCAD, that owns a ton of buildings in the downtown area. I live about an hour and a half south of there, and we spend a weekend there about once a year and I NEVER want to leave.

Rent is super reasonable, maybe $900 a month or less in the historic district. Travel to everything by foot or bicycle is pretty much how anyone who lives in that area functions. They have a great local transportation system because it's a good tourist attraction for history buffs and ghost lovers.
posted by Sara_NOT_Sarah at 3:24 PM on September 4, 2014 [5 favorites]

Totally 110% Austin tx.
posted by chasles at 3:46 PM on September 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

College town for sure. In Lincoln, NE you get all you want except possibly the walking thing )depends on where you live) but people do get by with just a bike. Rent in the 500-600s, red state but the city itself is much more blended. The uni brings in good cultural stuff and also runs an art house theater, there are museums and parks and coffeehouses and crunchy coop groceries.
posted by PussKillian at 4:01 PM on September 4, 2014

Not sure if this would work for you, but I knew someone who did the same thing recently and chose to rent a beach house at a beach somewhere in Jersey. Beach rentals are extremely cheap off-season, of course, and the towns are quieter during that time. Depending on the beach you chose, I'm sure you'd still be within reasonable distance (ideally walking distance) of arts/culture and good restaurants.
posted by nightrecordings at 4:02 PM on September 4, 2014

if you're into a secluded, rustic high end village within a few hours of SoCal metro take a look at Ojai, California. Very quaint, cultural, diverse, and quiet.
posted by comedownbird at 4:05 PM on September 4, 2014

Unless you are hiring a very reputable property manager, I'd recommend you stay close by NYC, in case of any emergencies with your apartment.
posted by Ardea alba at 4:08 PM on September 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you're really going to go for it, then go for it: Santa Fe, New Mexico.
posted by GoLikeHellMachine at 5:34 PM on September 4, 2014

Seconding Savannah. Cost of living is low, quality of life is good. Amtrak or plane to NYC is reasonable if you need to go there.
posted by mareli at 7:21 PM on September 4, 2014

Seconding Bellingham, Washington.

Rent is reasonable if you stay away from the University area (true in all college towns, I think).
Art house cinema (3 screens).
An amazing bookstore and 3 solid used bookstores; top notch library system.
A really surprising theater scene, considering the size of the town. Also, lots of improv.
Many small lively restaurants, ethnic and/or organic, shade grown, free trade, non-GMO.
Excellent internet access everywhere.
An inch of snow brings us to our knees; 85 degrees the paper publishes sunstroke warnings.

People walk and bike a lot, but most of my friends without cars regularly rent a car to go any distance. The bus system is very limited, except to get out of town. If B'ham starts to feel too small, it's easy to take a bus to Seattle (an hour and a half) or Vancouver, BC (40 minutes)

The nights are very long in the winter, and the days are gray. Excellent for staying inside and writing.

Warning: the town motto is "Bellingham: The City of Subdued Excitement" and we refer to ourselves as 'Hamsters.
posted by kestralwing at 3:34 AM on September 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thirding that Bellingham has what you ask for and I can vouch for the culture - have seen some great dance and theater at the college by traveling troupes.
Pretty much the only bus system I have actually liked.
posted by cda at 8:55 AM on September 5, 2014

Try Ashland, Oregon. You can google up the details, but it's a university town, with several theaters, plus a boffo Shakespearian theater company. Several other small theatrical houses exist in nearby Talent and Phoenix, and a couple of neat venues exist in Medford.

The citizenry ranges from liberal middle America to neo-hippy to neo wingnuts. Lots of musical venues. Ashland is pedestrian and bicycle friendly. The town itself is nestled at the base of the Siskiyou Mountains. Elsewhere in the county, the political spectrum is checkerboarded with red and blue areas--we pretty much (politically) cancel one another out around here. The cost of living in Ashland is a bit higher than in the surrounding areas, but, like any university town, you can find places that cater to the starving student demographic. BTW, the university sponsors its own internet access, and any housing in the area will be well-endowed.
posted by mule98J at 12:49 PM on September 5, 2014

Ashland's a great little town, but it's very hot and dry in the summer and very cold in the winter.
posted by kestralwing at 12:57 PM on September 5, 2014

How about Eureka Springs, Arkansas? They even have a decent public transportation system, believe it or not.
posted by Jess the Mess at 1:47 PM on September 5, 2014

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