Moving to St Louis vs. Nashville in your mid 20s: pros and cons?
February 11, 2016 7:56 PM   Subscribe

My roommate is looking at St. Louis and Nashville for a first-job-after-school move - he has job opportunities in both. Can anyone speak to the pros and cons of either or both cities?

Are either or both cities places to move to for a couple of years and then move on, or places to move to for the longer term? How is getting and finding an ok place to live on a post-grad-school job budget? What are the good places to hang out/live near if you are in your mid-20s and a guy? General recommendations on the awesomeness/livability of either or both cities?

There is an old askmefi post on Nashville, but I wonder if anything's changed since then.

A few key thing about my roommate:
1) He's in his mid-20s, and he's looking to settle somewhere and maybe get a house in a couple of years if the place works out.
2) He likes outdoor activities like hiking, climbing, volleyball, golf, camping, being outside, biking, etc. He's rarely home - he's always out doing things.
3) He loves music (so much guitar music) - not as much new country or pop; lots of blues, rock, and folk. Lots of concerts on his calendar.
4) He's a native Illinois person, so the Midwest and him are basically one in the same.
posted by beccasaurus to Society & Culture (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
St Louis is nearly double the size of Nashville. Bigger cities have more stuff, more arts, more food options, more diversity etc.
posted by kdern at 8:08 PM on February 11, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I did exactly this — the St. Louis route — for a first job after school, in my mid 20s. I'm still here, and now own a house and have a wife and kid. So, it's worked pretty well for me so far.

I'll preface with I don't know anything about Nashville.

1. If you compare metro areas, Nashville's median value of homes is around $178,000. St. Louis' is around $156,000. If you narrow that down to the city proper, you get $169k for Nashville and $114k for St. Louis. For St. Louis, there's been a lot of flight, both white and otherwise, to the suburbs. But in recent years, there seems to be a movement by 20-30-somethings to make a point of living in the city itself (I do).

2. In the city proper, St. Louis has many parks, including Forest Park at 1,300 or so acres. Forest Park has running and biking trails, a woods with hiking trails, two golf courses and a driving range. There's other outdoor stuff too, but those are the ones that cover the list. Forest Park also has our major museums and zoo. The region has increased support for biking in the time I've been here. In addition to on-street bike lanes, there are also several dedicated bike/walk/jog trails. You'll want to check out Trailnet for those. Outside of St. Louis and its suburbs, I'm not sure we compete well with Tennessee and the Appalachians, but there are lots of parks, and it's not terribly far to the Ozarks or Southern Illinois. If he's really into biking, we have the Katy Trail, which starts near St. Louis and stretches almost all the way across Missouri. There are a bunch of state parks in the region, but I haven't had the chance to explore them.

3. We've got tons of music. Too many venues to name. The Pageant is one major one — and the owner of that room recently announced plans to open a smaller venue down the block. Up until a year or so ago, Chuck Berry played a monthly gig at Blueberry Hill (and it still hosts lots of bands). We also have the National Blues Museum opening up downtown soon. KDHX is the local independent radio station. We also have a world-class orchestra.

4. Me too. He should be fine here. (though to be fair to Nashville, I doubt there'd be a huge culture shock between Illinois and there either)
posted by brentajones at 9:16 PM on February 11, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I can't speak to Nashville except to guess from reputation that it would have a better music scene. But St. Louis's isn't bad at all... steady stream of touring acts and some solid local stuff.

St. Louis is cheap. He can rent for cheap and get a mortgage for really cheap.

Plenty of outdoor stuff to do in the area. Hiking, biking, camping, lots of disc golf courses.

St. Louis isn't great for biking but it's improving. In the city there's lots of bike lanes/paths and you can put bikes on the buses, which is great.

As brentajones mentions, Forest Park is huge and something special - on the level with Central Park and Golden Gate Park, urban-planning-wise - and in the middle of the city. Tower Grove Park is also a large, central, really nice park.

I'd say as a 20-something, he'd want to live in South City, probably the Tower Grove South area or near Cherokee if he's real hip. Dogtown, Maplewood or Shaw would be neighborhoods to think about settling down/starting a family. Soulard is also a great neighborhood and close to downtown.

The Cardinals are a big thing so if he likes baseball or sports at all, it'll be fun. If not, it's not too hard to ignore.

There's a thriving restaurant scene and a TON of great breweries.

There are neighborhoods in the city that are very walkable but the city itself isn't very cohesive - mostly people drive a lot. Living without a car is doable but difficult. It's only doable in certain neighborhoods but in Tower Grove South, for example, I was only a few blocks away from a grocery store, a post office, a gas station, a big park, a bunch of coffee shops, restaurants, bars and a reliable regular bus that went to the metro. But to be honest, in much of the city, it's difficult unless you like biking a lot.

STL is a second (or third) tier city, to be honest. It's been through a lot and it's still struggling. Anybody looking for or used to the NYC/SF/Chicago life will be disappointed in St. Louis. But it has a lot going for it and it's emminently liveable. It's so cheap the prices in those other cities seem absurd. There's culture, art and nature.

I'd say STL works as both a "couple of years and then move on" and a "for the longer term," depending on his tastes.

But yeah, good city, check it out.
posted by saul wright at 10:57 PM on February 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

Nashville is a boom town right now. They are building condominium high rises as fast as they can all over town and the traffic is getting worse by the day.

However, I love it here and don't ever want to live anywhere else. We have just about any concert you'd want to see, a great arts scene, and lots of great restaurants. If I was just out of college and could afford it (just like when I first moved here), I think I would have a blast in Nashville.
posted by dawkins_7 at 12:17 AM on February 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I moved to St. Louis just after I turned 30. There are pros and cons.

-Forest Park is one of the most incredible urban places in the country. I can't stress this enough. It's a treasure.
-Great food. Pretty much everywhere I ate was delicious. It's pretty easy to find local places, and often they're not very expensive. Outsiders never think of STL as a food city, but I'd go back just to eat.
-Lots of fun old neighborhoods. STL is a pretty old city, and its cityscape reflects that. The architecture in delightful. Some of my fondest memories are of just walking around turn of the century residential neighborhoods admiring the houses.
-Local culture. People in STL are proud of STL (but see below). There's a real sense of place. You won't ever mistake STL for somewhere else, and there are tons of ways to express civic pride.

-The people. So rude. I never got over how unfriendly so many of them are. Very cliquish and unwelcoming to outsiders, like the stereotypes of New England. This is not just for people who aren't from St. Louis; it's intra-city, too. People from other neighborhoods are considered outsiders as well. It's weird, and it's a big reason I discourage people from moving there.
-Racism. If your friend's a white dude, this won't affect him as much. But I'm a white guy from the North, too, and it really struck me. The city is extremely segregated, and people don't really hold back. The comments sections of local media are unbelievable. It's not a coincidence that Ferguson happened in Ferguson.

I lived in the Delmar Loop, and I'd recommend that to your friend as well. Lots of live music and nightlife, not expensive. The Central West End is pretty cool, too, and Midtown, although I didn't spend as much time there. Longer-term, look at Dogtown as a place to settle down. The parts of Clauton closest to the park are nice, too, depending on your friend's budget. I don't think I'd buy a house more than a mile in any direction from the park. I had a friend in Carondelet (far south), and while it was a cute neighborhood, it felt so far removed from everything.
posted by kevinbelt at 4:27 AM on February 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I lived in Nashville for a couple of years and there's a lot to like about it. For me, it was too small, so I tooted my butt down to Atlanta, but I have to say Nashville is pretty cool.

1. If you like music there's a lot to choose from. More live music than you can shake a stick at. the other fun thing about it is that it's not all country.

2. Sports, if you're into that

3. Lots and lots of churches. We used to joke that when first meeting someone in Nashville, one of the first questions they'd ask was, "What church do you go to?" It's not meant to be rude, it passes for polite conversation.

4. Because of Vanderbilt and Tennessee State University lots of young folks and clubs and shops and cafes downtown.

5. People are amazingly friendly.

6. A lot more authentic food culture than you'd think. We had a great Mexican restaurant and a Korean place, right in our suburban neighborhood. Shocked the heck out of me.

7. Hot Chicken

You know, take a little recon trip. Long weekends. Check them out. You'll vibe with one or the other, and pick that one.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:38 AM on February 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Following up to add a couple other things I forgot, and to clarify something...

-I don't drink, so I left beer off my Pros list for St. Louis, but others mentioned it, and it's true. If you like beer, St. Louis is like a wonderland.

-STL will never compare to Nashville for live music, but it's got a fair amount. Your friend will not be disappointed.

-If your friend likes baseball (and isn't a Cubs fan), STL is baseball heaven. No other city in the US loves its baseball team like St. Louis loves the Cardinals. If your friend isn't a baseball fan already, he probably will be after living in STL for a while. It's infectious, and I say that as someone who grew up a fan of a rival team that was fighting the Cards for a playoff spot while I lived there.

-One of the weird things about the city that always stuck out to me is that everyone sends their kids to private schools. Something like one out of three kids go to private high schools, even in suburbs with great public schools. This might be a personal quirk of mine because I strongly support public education, but it's something to consider if your friend plans to start a family.

-To clarify my comment about rude people: I moved to STL from a city where nearly everyone comes from somewhere else, I knew a grand total of two people in the city (one a high school classmate I hadn't spoken to in 12 years, and one a former co-worker I was never particularly close to), and I was unemployed when I first got there. When I finally did get a job, it was outside sales working from home, so I didn't have co-workers to chat with over a water cooler or go to happy hour with. Also, I'm kind of an introvert, so meeting people is not easy for me. So take that into consideration when I say I didn't like the people in STL. If your friend has other friends there already, or can make new ones easily, this may not be as much of a con as it was for me. I still maintain that they're unfriendly; he just might be able to get past that more easily than I could.
posted by kevinbelt at 6:28 AM on February 12, 2016

Best answer: I grew up in the St. Louis area and still live here. The STL city/suburb relationship is really weird, probably because the city itself is not only very segregated but also because you often have very bad areas close to very good areas. Sure, it might be a mile from restaurants and bars, but that mile might mean he doesn't want to walk outside after dark. There are tons of abandoned buildings in the city as well, which I undersand is rather unusual for a major city.

I'd have to agree with kevinbelt as well that people here are very cliquey. If you're not from the STL area it can be hard to make friends, and you are often seen as an anomaly. One of STL's favorite questions is, "Where did you go to high school?" If you don't give the right answers, people don't know where to slot you into the social hierarchy.

As a late twenty-something I'd never live in the city. Most people tend to move out to the suburbs when they want to buy houses/raise kids, or if like me you grew up in the suburb, you don't want to live in the city. Lots of white flight, lots of prejudice, etc. STL is the only major city I know of where people clamor to escape to the suburbs, not to move into. It is actually pretty cheap to live within city limits because of this. Everything in the STL area is very spread out and car commutes of half an hour or longer are not unusual. Public transportation really sucks here as well. There are some buses, and a very short metrolink with very few stops.

I've never lived in Nashville, only visited, but based on a few visits, my opinion is that the music scene was better, the city itself feels safer, and there seems to be a lot more to do.
posted by possibilityleft at 6:53 AM on February 12, 2016

I saw this thread early this morning and wasn't going to comment but have since changed my mind. I grew up, lived and worked in the STL area for the first 35 years of my life. I moved away about 10 years ago. I would not move back.
posted by LoveHam at 7:20 AM on February 12, 2016

Disclosure: I live in Nashville area.

For someone in mid-20s contemplating a first job out of college (i.e., flexible, adaptable, eager to meet and make new friends, etc.) there may not be a particular tilt toward either St. Louis or Nashville. As noted above, there are plenty of things to do/see in either city.

Any difference there may be lies in longer-term trends. Those tend to favor Nashville.
posted by John Borrowman at 9:51 AM on February 12, 2016

Best answer: Having moved to Nashville just about 3.5 years ago, I have to say... Nashville is its own little version of hell.

Granted, yes, the music scene is great - you can go to pretty much any bar and find live music. It might not be good music, though.

And, yes, the craft beer scene here is good, as is the hiking, biking, outdoors-oriented stuff. (Really, I love the Greenways; they are the best thing about Nashville!)

But the cons are outweighing any pros, for me. The traffic here is awful - the volume is getting worse, which makes the fact that Nashvillians/Tennesseans cannot drive their way out of a paper sack glaringly obvious. These folks are afraid of turns, curves, merges and... just about any moving or non-moving object near a road.

Another con is the number of churches around here and seemingly everyone's assumption that everyone is, or should be, Christian and god-fearing. That gets old really quick, particularly in the workplace.
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 9:58 AM on February 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I have lived in both. Did Nashville area post-college and I'm spending late-30s/early 40s in St. Louis.

I ADORE St. Louis. There's vastly more stuff to do, I find the people to be really sweet, and the food and entertainment beyond compare. Nashville has changed a lot in the 5 years since I left, but it still seems smaller and less interesting.

Yeah, the music scene is abundant in Nashville, but so are the posers. Traffic is a nightmare and no one can drive worth a shit, but the roads are smooooooth and beautiful to drive on. It wasn't until I moved to St. Louis that I discovered you can have historical buildings and things that are completely unrelated to the Civil War.

And like LOLAttorney mentioned, the whole church thing in Nashville is insane. For example, back in TN, I lived 3 blocks from a Baptist Church. Every Wednesday night, a busload of fresh faced Baptist children would show up on our block and knock on doors to "visit" with us. Here in STL, I live a block away from a Catholic Church with a Convent and A Bowling Alley. The nuns have nodded and smiled at me once or twice while I'm walking the dog and the priest says "Hi" when we go down there for the fish fry. There was no pressure to join, and there's never been a single visitation from the Baptist church on the other end of the block.

I will say that maybe it's just my personality, but I haven't had a problem making new friends in St. Louis. Everyone I've met has been very nice and easy to get along with and once I give them a bizarre answer to the "Where did you go to high school?" question, things are usually pretty mellow.

For me, if Nashville and Chicago got drunk one night and had a kid, it'd be St. Louis. It's got some drama and some difficulties, but the good for me far outweighs the bad. Plus...some of the most liberal liquor laws in the country. So that's nice. I kinda wished I'd lived in STL when I was younger because there is just so much to do and not enough hours in a 40 year old's day to do them all.

Ignore the Rams, pick STL.
posted by teleri025 at 1:47 PM on February 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

As someone who's spent a lot of time in both Tennessee and Missouri: St. Louis.
posted by woodvine at 5:26 AM on February 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! These are super useful descriptions of the character, pros and cons of both places right now. Roommate is still on his way to a decision, but really appreciated the outside input!
posted by beccasaurus at 10:30 AM on February 22, 2016

« Older A mom, a grandma, an aunt. What do you call her in...   |   Should I sell furniture to my new supervisor? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.