Where do the ex-New Yorkers go?
September 11, 2016 9:11 AM   Subscribe

I've lived in New York City for many years and am ready to move somewhere else. I haven't traveled that widely within the US though, so I suspect I'm unfamiliar with a lot of cities that might be wonderful places to live but not obvious vacation destinations. I'd love to hear from people - particularly people who have liked living in NYC - who are happy where they live and why!

I'm definitely looking for a city of at least a few hundred thousand people, rather than suburban or rural recommendations. I'm open to places in the US and beyond (especially in Canada given the relative ease of moving there from the US, but Europe and elsewhere are ok with me).

Here are my preferences, but please feel free to make recommendations even if they don't quite fit all of them!

1. Walkability - I want to live somewhere where it's reasonable to expect a pleasant walking commute, or, at worst, a 20 minute or less public transit commute. I'm willing to spend more on housing to live somewhere central, but affordable housing is always a plus!

2. Vegan-friendly - I'm a vegan. I like to go out to dinner, and would like to have access to a decent selection of low- and mid-range options, and a couple of really nice celebratory dinner options.

3. Not hot - I'd love to live somewhere with no 100 degree plus days. I can live with New York's climate, but would prefer to live somewhere with cooler summers. I can cope with lots of snow and cold or with grey and rain.

4. Diverse and not too segregated - some cities feel uncomfortably white even if on paper they seem reasonably diverse (I find Boston has this problem).

5. Easy access to outdoor recreation - I'm not at all outdoorsy, but would love to live near walking/hiking trails to take my dog out on, tennis courts, pools/lakes, etc that residents can just waltz out to and use without having to plan ahead and spend a whole afternoon getting there/buying passes/waiting in line to access the facilities for an hour.

6. Reasonably safe from natural disasters and global warming over the long-term - everywhere has its risks, but I can't cope with the earthquake risk of Seattle (some earthquake risk is ok, the Pacific Northwest's is just so strong that I'd spend all my time worrying) or the global warming risk of Miami (or New York, for that matter).

7. Some interesting cultural scenes - whether theater, visual art, or music.

8. Good job opportunities - especially in the intersection of finance & tech and in public policy/economics (on the progressive end of the spectrum). I'd also prefer the city not be completely dominated by one company (e.g. Charlotte/Bank of America).

I like a lot of things about New York - the walkability, the food, the culture, my job. But, I'm tired of how crowded it is and want easier access to the outdoors and a better culture of work-life balance. I don't care for Boston or DC, but love Philadelphia. Help me prioritize which non-east coast cities to visit as I figure this out!
posted by snaw to Home & Garden (47 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Minneapolis--St. Paul
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 9:13 AM on September 11, 2016

I know you say you already love it, but I'll throw in a plug for Philadelphia anyway. Aside from the summers, which tend to be hotter and boggier than NYC's, I think it hits all of your requirements. As a native New Yorker, Philly is one of the few places I've lived where I don't feel a constant background whine of "and you call THIS a city?"
posted by telegraph at 9:14 AM on September 11, 2016 [4 favorites]

Pittsburgh ticks a lot of your boxes. Boxes it might not exactly tick: it can get +100 in the Summer, but that's pretty unusual. It's kinda segregated (it's America, after all), but not Chicago-segregated. I dunno what you do about global warming, since it's gonna get us all.
posted by dis_integration at 9:18 AM on September 11, 2016 [3 favorites]

New England is packed full of ex-New Yorkers. The toughest thing to get used to is relative lack of diversity. Well, that, and not having 24-hour businesses and understanding that many restaurants close and 9 and a lot of stuff isn't open Sundays.

But check out some of New England's college towns and cities. Portsmouth, NH; Northampton, MA; Providence, RI; Burlington, VT - the list goes on from there.
posted by Miko at 9:19 AM on September 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

Madison, Wisconsin.
posted by JoeZydeco at 9:37 AM on September 11, 2016

Will throw in for Minneapolis. I'm a New Yorker born and bred, but I plan to move to Minneapolis someday. Of course, you have to not mind the cold, but that's not a problem for you.

I also really like Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti, Michigan, although I'm not sure how it does on your walkability index. I have a couple of friends who work in tech-related jobs near there.
posted by holborne at 9:46 AM on September 11, 2016

Honestly? Looking at your criteria, you should stay in New York. There is no city besides New York that as just as good at all of those things. Even the suggestion of Philadelphia -- which I also agree with -- only really works because Philly is practically NYC, Junior. It fits your criteria in that it is like New York.

The only other city that comes remotely close is San Francisco.
posted by Sara C. at 9:55 AM on September 11, 2016 [13 favorites]

I would have said San Francisco by the criteria you mention, except that when you explain why you want to leave NYC (crowded, frenetic culture, monolithic industry) then SF is at least as bad. It's way better for getting out of doors but that's about it.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:00 AM on September 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

Madison is a cool place, although you really, really have to like winter.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:11 AM on September 11, 2016

Check out Denver for sure.

I do feel obligated to mention that no matter where you go, you're not going to have the culture / diversity / walkability of NYC. Be prepared for that and you'll evaluate the places you visit much more fairly. There's just no city in the US that cities as well as NYC.

Anyways, I lived in NYC for 8 years and have now been in Boulder for 5. Feel free to MeMail if you have specific Denver questions as you dive into this.
posted by rachelv at 10:16 AM on September 11, 2016

I am so confused to not see LA mentioned yet, as it is what comes to mind first. The only potential box it doesn't tick is your mention of natural disasters - but I would argue that the blizzard and tornado danger potential in the mid-west is much higher than the earthquake potential danger due to frequency. Many parts of LA are walkable (we are a 2-person, 1- car family), vegan-friendly, with plenty of access to the outdoors, high levels of diversity, job variety, frankly un-met art and theater culture, and the climate can't be beat. Seriously. I didn't believe it until I moved here... but once you move here, you get it.
posted by samthemander at 10:27 AM on September 11, 2016 [11 favorites]

Toronto. Ticks all your boxes except no hot days. Also, the housing isn't so affordable, but it's going to be affordable compared to New York City. Though I'm not sure I buy into your assumption that immigrating would be easy.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 10:28 AM on September 11, 2016 [5 favorites]

I was you 2 years ago.

My recommendation? Stay in New York. If you can hack living in New York, like it, but are just tired of the crowds and the grind, go upstate 4 or 5 times a year. There's no city in America that comes anywhere near New York (Madison? Ha!) I'm in the process of moving back to New York after being away for 18 months.
posted by Automocar at 10:35 AM on September 11, 2016 [12 favorites]

Minneapolis. I moved here from NYC five years ago and it ticks all the boxes, particularly easy access to nature and job opportunities. The only thing I miss about NYC is a few specific people - that's how well it scratched the "like NYC but not NYC" itch for me.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 10:41 AM on September 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Chicago seems like the best choice for you if you've given up on DC. It's big, good transit, lots of walkable parts, strong finance industry. I can't comment on Minneapolis or Toronto but every other city I can think of that you might consider is going to fail most of your criteria pretty hard unless you manage to snag the perfect job and the perfect housing in just the right location, and are content not to roam too far.
posted by ch1x0r at 10:46 AM on September 11, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm a New York transplant to Los Angeles. Here's why I didn't suggest it:

1. Walkable: If you live in one of 2 or 3 neighborhoods, and even then, if you live on certain blocks in those neighborhoods. I know Angelenos really don't like it when you say this, but L.A. is not walkable in the way that New York (or any Northeastern city, or even Chicago or New Orleans or San Francisco) is. Unless you have very deep pockets and all the time in the world to wait for just the right place to open up, you will be disappointed by how non-walkable Los Angeles is.

2. Vegan-friendly: This is something that Los Angeles actually does have going for it.

3. Not-Hot: lol

4. Diverse/non-segregated: Absolutely not to the extent New York is. Also, the walkable areas are basically 100% white, maybe a token person of color every now and then. Los Angeles is the most segregated city I've ever lived in, and I grew up in the South.

5. Outdoor Recreation: Yes, but you have to drive there.

6. Safe from natural disasters/global warming: ashes literally rained from the sky a few months ago

7. Interesting Cultural Scenes: Yes, but it manifests in very different ways from New York. If you like art galleries, theatre, bookstores, and intellectual pursuits, you will be very disappointed. If you like comedy, pop culture, street food, and surf/skate scenes, on the other hand, yeah, Los Angeles has a very vibrant cultural landscape.

8. Jobs: This is really hard to say, because almost everyone I know here works in or adjacent to the entertainment industry, or does a thing you can do anywhere like nursing, teaching, accounting, etc. The local tech industry is growing, though my sense is that it is also more entertainment-adjacent than places like SF and NYC.
posted by Sara C. at 10:56 AM on September 11, 2016 [9 favorites]

I would have said San Francisco by the criteria you mention, except that when you explain why you want to leave NYC (crowded, frenetic culture, monolithic industry) then SF is at least as bad. It's way better for getting out of doors but that's about it.

I lived in NYC for about 10 years (mostly living in brownstone Bkly, working in Midtown), and moved to San Francisco about 5 years ago. Its population density is apparently second-highest in the country after NYC, but it's still so much less dense even than Brooklyn, I spent the first year feeling vaguely lonely all the time -- like I had moved from a city to a prairie. So I think you can move here and feel like it's comparably not at all crowded or frenetic (unless you want to go to a somewhat popular restaurant which for some reason will have much longer lines than its NY equivalent).

Now the population density feels normal to me, but I did end up moving to Oakland a few months ago. The part of SF I was in (Noe/Castro near Dolores Park) felt very rich and white, whereas Oakland is much more racially and economically diverse.

I'd definitely recommend coming out here and checking it out, but know that whereas you can easily live just about anywhere in NYC very comfortably without a car, to do so here requires picking your neighborhood very carefully.
posted by pocketfullofrye at 11:53 AM on September 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

Live and work in downtown Cleveland, although there are one or two 100-degree days a year.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 11:54 AM on September 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

I am another person who left New York (for SF) and came back because nothing hit those spots for me — culture, walkability, racial diversity, industry diversity. I understand being sick of New York; even when a place is big it can get boring and god-damn does it feel like this place just keeps getting more crowded forever. At most, I might suggest leaving town for a year or two — enough to really miss it. That's what left me willing to put up with the BS. Or else travel a bunch. We are a direct flight to pretty much anywhere and an easy train to some cute putterable places.
posted by dame at 11:59 AM on September 11, 2016

Putting in a plug for Baltimore. Here's my estimation of how it ticks off your boxes:

1. Walkability - There are many neighborhoods with very high Walkscores. Mine is 73, and I live in the north central part of the city, in a neighborhood that's about 55% white, 45% black. I work in tech, and I used to have a one-mile commute when I worked nearby.

2. Vegan-friendly - Baltimore probably doesn't fare well here; I really can't speak to it. We have an explosion of farm to table places, so currently we're pretty heavy on meat.

3. Not hot - We routinely get days in the 90s, unfortunately.

4. Diverse and not too segregated - Baltimore is extremely diverse. Whites are in the minority.

5. Easy access to outdoor recreation - We have tons of great hiking trails nearby for walks with your dog, from the city-owned Lake Roland Park (with both a fenced area explicitly for dogs and a system of walking trails in the woods), to Prettyboy Dam Reservoir, Loch Raven Reservoir, Little Gunpowder Falls trail, and the enormous Patapsco Valley State Park with miles and miles of hiking trails past waterfalls, lakes, etc.

6. Reasonably safe from natural disasters and global warming over the long-term - I mean we all seem to experience more Biblical rain than ever before, but Baltimore scores fairly low on the scale of things we're prone to, as long as you're not on the water. Also, the historic Fells Point area tends to flood when hurricanes pass by.

7. Some interesting cultural scenes - We have such great art scenes, including DIY theater (are you a fan of rock opera?), the internationally known improvised music festival High Zero, a new theater opening every time I turn around, and lots of underground art/music movements that spawned the likes of Dan Deacon/Wham City. We are home to Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), one of the oldest art schools in the US and ranked well by US News & World Report. Every time I turn around, I meet another artist who moved here from New York because they are tired of "the scene" and wanting to just live a real life. citypaper.com and Atomic Books can give you a better bead on our cultural scenes. Anything with a pink flamingo is for tourists.

8. Good job opportunities - Baltimore is traditionally dominated by "feds, meds, and eds," with both Hopkins and University of Maryland Medical Center (aka Shock Trauma). But we have a very active tech scene that's intertwined with our arts and politics circles. Talk to the folks at Betamore, a non-profit incubator and coworking space, to get a better idea. Our big financial companies are T Rowe Price and Legg Mason, but there are some interesting fintech startups in the region.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 12:05 PM on September 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

Portland checks a lot of your boxes but is out for a few obvious reasons (diversity, earthquakes), but I'm chiming in because I know a handful of New Yorkers who moved to Portland for similar reasons, and were constantly disappointed that it wasn't New York. ("I need a car to get to the grocery store?!" Well, yes, if you didn't specifically make sure one was nearby when you rented your place.)

What you've described is such an awesome place that everyone would want to live there. Where are you willing to compromise?

You might also think about making a bigger change. Instead of trying to find a mini-NYC, maybe think about a smaller city where you can live in town.

College towns have trade-offs, but they often have a small, walkable center and localized density.

Good luck!
posted by bluedaisy at 12:16 PM on September 11, 2016

Oakland hits almost all of your preferences except walkability (but, as others have already mentioned, no place in the country is going to have the same kind of public transportation infrastructure and compactness that NYC does, so you're going to have to lower your expectations in that regard).

The weather here is basically perfect, the vegan food scene is blowing up right now[1], if you work in tech you'll have no trouble finding a job, it's more diverse than most places (and work toward racial justice is on the forefront of people's minds in a way I've never experienced anywhere else), outdoor access is abundant and beautiful, and there's all sorts of great culture. Plus San Francisco is right across the bay, for better or for worse, and there's world-class stuff to do there, too.

You might be saying, "But, what about the earthquakes?". As someone who lived in New England for 35 years before moving here, no earthquake risk has been as scary to me as trying to drive in a blizzard back home. Yeah, there might be a big earthquake here some day, but there's DEFINITELY going to be some scary winter storms out there, and as Sandy showed everyone, those storms are some serious shit that can impact your life and your livelihood just as much as a big earthquake can.

[1] The Butcher's Son, S+M Vegan, Analog, Hella Vegan Eats, No Worries, Millennium, Encuentro, I could go on and on and on...
posted by jesourie at 1:29 PM on September 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

It sounds like you are up for a bigger move/adventure than this but for what it's worth, I grew up and lived in NYC for many years and would live there now if I could (I can't). I disliked Boston, was neutral to negative about DC, and love living in Philadelphia.
posted by trixie119 at 1:55 PM on September 11, 2016

Hi. I used to live in Pittsburgh, and now I live in New York but still maintain close ties to the city. Based on what you've written and what I know of both places, I do not believe Pittsburgh would be a great fit for you. I'm going to MeMail you details. Anyone else who happens upon the thread is welcome to as well. I won't discourage you from visiting because it really is a lovely city, just completely different from New York, for good and for bad.
posted by unannihilated at 2:21 PM on September 11, 2016

It's certainly not New York, but I really like living in Columbus, OH. 850,000 people in the whole incorporated area. But yes, it is in the midwest. However, parts of it check off your boxes.

1. Walkability - Depending on where in town you want to live, and where in town you're trying to get to, you can be within walking distance/a reasonable bus ride from everywhere. I walk or bus to work (I am a graduate student), the grocery store, ballet, the gym, an awesome couple of movie theaters, a few concert venues, interesting food, the bar, etc.

2. Vegan-friendly - Columbus is a foodie town, and there are several explicitly vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants/etc. I'm sitting across the street from a vegan bakery right now.

3. Not hot - OK, this is a failure. Summers are hot and muggy. But not in the way that New York feels stifling, because thing are a little more open.

4. Diverse and not too segregated - It depends where in town you are. Parts of it are very segregated; parts of it are quite diverse.

5. Easy access to outdoor recreation - There are some really nice greenways and trails, and a really beautiful series of metroparks. Lots of rock climbers in the area, and apparently the US's largest free-standing climbing wall. Lots of dog parks, public tennis courts and recreational areas.

6. Reasonably safe from natural disasters and global warming over the long-term - We get big thunderstorms, and occasional heavy snow, but fire, earthquakes, etc. are pretty rare. I think it's definitely warming, but we're not going to be swept away.

7. Some interesting cultural scenes - whether theater, visual art, or music. Columbus has a pretty good music scene. I'm not hooked into the theater scene, but there is one. There is a pretty significant arts community. I can vouch for the quality of dance in Columbus, too - professional ballet, African, modern/contemporary, etc.

8. Good job opportunities - especially in the intersection of finance & tech and in public policy/economics (on the progressive end of the spectrum). I'd also prefer the city not be completely dominated by one company (e.g. Charlotte/Bank of America). Columbus is the state capital and there are lots and lots of business opportunities here. It's a good place to work on policy and health, and there's a lot of tech stuff going on as well. I'm not very keyed into that part of town, but it's regularly one of the cities that gets mentioned for entrepreneurship and public-mindedness.
posted by ChuraChura at 2:22 PM on September 11, 2016

I'd also say Toronto had everything you are looking for - there do tend to be a few heat waves in the summer, (though this summer was particularly nuts) but even in those the temp doesn't usually go above 80 - 90
it's very vegan friendly - I was just at the vegetarian food fest yesterday and it was great!
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:42 PM on September 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

Chicago is among the most diverse cities at the city level, measured only by race and hispanic-origin diversity, but note that both Chicago and Baltimore are among the top 10 most segregated cities in the US. So you're not actually going to GET diversity in either of those cities and if you're looking to avoid segregation, neither is a good bet.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 3:31 PM on September 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

San Francisco hits all of your criteria except for the natural disaster issue (mostly earthquakes, though I think there is a tsunami risk in some areas as well).

Various neighborhoods in LA meet of your criteria except for the earthquake issue, but I can't think of any parts that hit all of them. For example, Koreatown is diverse, walkable, and has easy access to downtown and many parts of the city via the metro - but gets very hot. Santa Monica is walkable, has fantastic weather (it's not too hot because it's so close to the ocean), and is almost entirely white.

Internationally, London hits most of your criteria. I'm not sure about outdoor recreation, but I think it has everything else. There are certainly lots of great job opportunities for those with the right to work in the UK, but getting that right can be very difficult for a US citizen.

I suspect that Ann Arbor would feel way, way too small for you. The city has about 120K people and the entire county has only about 350K, spread out over more than 700 square miles.
posted by insectosaurus at 3:58 PM on September 11, 2016

I'd like to put in a small clarification on Chicago. As an NYC-Chicago transplant myself, I will absolutely not argue that as a metro area, it's as segregated as people say. HOWEVER, that is not a blanket truth applying to every single neighborhood in the city.

The neighborhoods that fall into your desired commute range are a mixed bag; some have long been diverse, some are now diverse due to (early-to-mid-stage) gentrification, and others are not that diverse at all. The further north you go, the more incredibly white things become, but then you're getting into a long-ass train ride too.

All this to say: it is easy to segregate oneself in this city, but it's also easy NOT to, if that's what's important to you. If it is important to you not to participate in a city that is overall segregated, then no, Chicago won't work for you.

(Anecdotally: I 100% know what you mean about how Boston has that feel of being white in fact if not on paper. I do not find that Chicago has that feel. In fact, I think we residents are sometimes lulled into forgetting how segregated the city's housing is, because the public experience of the city is more diverse than that.)
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 4:12 PM on September 11, 2016 [5 favorites]

I came to say what Blast Hardcheese said re diversity. I spent almost 30 years in Chicago (a few years in nearby Oak Park, after bailing on CPS) and it's a wonderful city* that checks almost all your boxes.

That said, summers are ungodly hot and humid. After years of vowing to leave the midwest to escape the winters, I'm now in search of a new home in order to escape the summers.

*With horribly corrupt local politics, but that's a whole 'nother story.
posted by she's not there at 4:31 PM on September 11, 2016

Definitely not Baltimore. You need a car to access any sort of real nature, it's HUGELY segregated (Google it. The 'White L' is a real thing.) and the weather is terrible.

If you're willing to go abroad and can afford it, how about London? It checks all of your boxes and then some.
posted by youcancallmeal at 4:39 PM on September 11, 2016

I think Philly is the obvious answer- you say you want somewhere less crowded,with better work-life balance, and with better access to the outdoors- we are all those things! Plus, everything else on your list, big time- EXCEPT that it gets very hot and humid in the summers.
posted by bearette at 4:55 PM on September 11, 2016

Austin, Texas: lived there 10 years. Have lived in Asia the last eight years (Chiang Mai) but if ever need to come back to USA, Austin it is. The only negative, re. your list is hot summers, but they can be dealt with. Has culture, diverse population, loads of greenbelts and nature; veg supportive, and lots of work opps. Trust me, it's Austin for you.
posted by lometogo at 4:59 PM on September 11, 2016

To balance what somebody said up thread I would strike Portland OR off the list. Geologic hazard, culture that is a bit spindly, Whitey Whiteville and segregated. Its melba toast for someone who considers themselves an urbanite.
posted by Pembquist at 6:09 PM on September 11, 2016

How about San Diego? I moved here a year ago and it is pretty great!

1. Walkability - there are lots of great neighborhoods bordering Balboa park that are very walkable and connected to public transit.

2. Vegan-friendly - yes

3. Not hot - San Diego temperature ~75 degrees at almost all times

4. Diverse and not too segregated - some data

5. Easy access to outdoor recreation - the beach! hiking, Balboa Park

6. Reasonably safe from natural disasters and global warming over the long-term - compared to most of Southern CA, San Diego is lower earthquake risk

7. Some interesting cultural scenes - definitely

8. Good job opportunities - I don't know as much this, but I expect it would be on par with most cities of its size
posted by kms at 6:22 PM on September 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Seriously do check out Toronto. I live here. It checks I think all of your boxes:

1. Walkability: Totally, 100%

2. Vegan-friendly: Yes.

3. Not hot - I'd love to live somewhere with no 100 degree plus days: Just barely ticks that box. It is hot here in summers. But I think it's pretty rare for temps to get up to 100. But they get pretty close pretty often.

4. Diverse and not too segregated: Totally, very much.

5. Easy access to outdoor recreation: Lots of stuff like what you describe.

6. Reasonably safe from natural disasters and global warming over the long-term: I think pretty okay. I don't know where we are at for global warming. We are not earthquake-y.

7. Some interesting cultural scenes: Absolutely. (But, of course, it will not be anything like New York. But presumably you understand that any city that is not New York will not be anything like New York).

8. Good job opportunities - especially in the intersection of finance & tech and in public policy/economics (on the progressive end of the spectrum): As with #7 - There are a couple of places that are the center of the universe. New York is one of them. Toronto is not. There are lots of people doing cool stuff here, but if "good job" means "at the global cutting edge" of something - there will way way fewer opportunities here than in NYC, or the Bay Area. If you are looking on the "progressive end of the spectrum" I think you'll find Canada generally pretty politically progressive compared to most of the US.

> But, I'm tired of how crowded it is and want easier access to the outdoors and a better culture of work-life balance.

Toronto checks all those, compared to NYC. (It is still a bit crowded. People are still a bit overworked. But way less than NYC)

(it may or may not be easy to immigrate here....)
posted by ManInSuit at 6:23 PM on September 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm thinking you really need to look at Europe. I'm not familiar enough with the various cities to make a recommendation, but London or Paris have to come pretty close.
posted by wwartorff at 7:01 PM on September 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

LA as a whole is massive and not walkable the way older cities are. It's like 30x70 miles. But parts of LA are very walkable--Pasadena, Santa Monica, downtown; I've a friend who just moved to K-town and hardly ever drives.
posted by persona au gratin at 2:12 AM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Another note on Sara C's note: probably more of LA County isn't walkable than is. And many of the walkable parts aren't NYC diverse.

Oh yes, Long Beach, too.
posted by persona au gratin at 2:16 AM on September 12, 2016

Since you said Europe isn't out of the question and since London has already been mentioned upthread, I'll throw in a plug for my city here. I've been to New York a bunch, and it feels like home. Like London but not.

1. Walkability - Absolutely. London is a great place to walk, run and cycle. I don't drive, I've never needed to. Public transport is perfectly serviceable nomatter how much we Londoners like to complain about the Tube, it's still very logical and reliable.

2. Vegan-friendly - London has a great dining scene, some great vegan restaurants and easy access to good quality vegan ingredients.

3. Not hot - Hehe

4. Diverse and not too segregated - Certain areas are better at this than others, but London is a fantastically diverse city. I'm not white for what it's worth, and sometimes when I go to other cities in England I am struck by the feeling of being the only non-white person, but I don't get that feeling in London at all.

5. Easy access to outdoor recreation - Parks wherever you go. Everyone knows about Hyde Park, Regent's Park and Hampstead Heath, but there are smaller local parks in most areas. I walk through a park to get to my local Tube station in the mornings. You don't have do any advance planning to get access to the outdoors. It's all right there. Because London is basically a collection of hamlets that kind of morphed together into one big city, there are many parts of it which feel pretty rural even though they lie within a London postcode. The city-ish bits are more towards the centre.

6. Reasonably safe from natural disasters and global warming over the long-term - I've not experienced anything like that here

7. Some interesting cultural scenes - HELL YES!

8. Good job opportunities - This I cannot comment on, as I don't have experience of your field, but I would be amazed if the answer was no.
posted by Ziggy500 at 2:29 AM on September 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Another vote for London. Speaking as a Londoner who became a New Yorker and then went back to being a Londoner again. I prefer London overall, it's generally nicer in my opinion (though I may be speaking from familiarity here). It hits all your buttons - culture, climate, jobs etc.

The only thing is (and it's a big thing, especially at the moment) is that the required visas/immigration may be hard to get unless you are lucky enough to have an employer who can sponsor you, certain very specific skills, or just possibly can get either UK or e.g. Irish citizenship through ancestry, which will allow you to work. Even spousal visas are hard to get and expensive these days...

Also bear in mind the average income:cost of living ratio may not be as favourable, although a lot depends on your field of work and employability so it's really hard to say. Working conditions (e.g. time off) are generally better, although again that depends on your field and who you are - hard to generalise.

If staying in the US, I'd say Boston or Chicago.
posted by plep at 6:03 AM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Thanks all! Lots of great answers, and the power of inertia may well mean that I stay in NYC forever but you've given me a lot to think about!

I've lived in Philadelphia too and loved it - it's the obvious choice in a lot of ways.

Chicago and Toronto were both high on my list of places to learn more about, and I had never even thought about San Diego as an option, but will check it out. I actually don't like San Francisco and Oakland that much even though they seem like a really good choice for me on paper (which is probably for the best given the cost of living there right now!). I like visiting LA and Austin, but those are both a firm no because of the weather. I'd love to hear more about Minneapolis too - a lot of people have chimed in with it but without a lot of detail.

I love London and could happily live there, but the cost of living issue is daunting!
posted by snaw at 7:44 AM on September 12, 2016

OK, having looked at your preferences, I am going to make the case for Providence, where I live now.
I moved here from NYC in 2013 and it has continued to grow on me.

1. Walkability - I live on the west side of Providence and I walk downcity (i.e. the city center, downtown) every day, unless I'm super late and then I'll ride my bike. 20 - 30 minute walk depending on my pace and the weather. 5 minutes on a bike. I don't own a car, and I rarely have to use ZipCar.

2. Vegan-friendly - I'm a vegetarian. There's a ton of great stuff for me, but this may be the place where PVD is weakest for you as a vegan. There are vegan restaurants, and many are vegan friendly, but it's not like NYC. However, the general quality of everything, including the vegan offerings is VERY high, due to the constant output of highly qualified chefs and other food service folks from the culinary school at Johnson & Wales.

3. Not hot - Definitely less hot than NYC (less of a concrete heat sink), but damn it gets humid here sometimes. Still, I have had to use my AC unit the past two summers, but the one before I didn't even bother with it.

4. Diverse and not too segregated - This will vary with where you are in Providence, but the west side is fairly diverse.

5. Easy access to outdoor recreation - You can definitely get to some excellent biking trails that take out out to most of the state from most places in the city, and they are used by pedestrians as well. I can also speak to the fact that folks that use them actually know how to share the path with other modes of transit and they pay attention and are fairly friendly. There's plenty of river and stream about, as well and many of the paths are laid out along such.

6. Reasonably safe from natural disasters and global warming over the long-term - Providence has hurricane risk, but also has a fairly large preventative infrastructure to deal with the likes of storm surges. Parts of downcity are probably at risk for rising sea levels.

7. Some interesting cultural scenes - Quite a bit going on in PVD with RISD constantly attracting art producing types.

8. Good job opportunities - There's a good bit of banking/tech work out this way, as well as in health care. Also a lot of universities, which may provide the kind of policy stuff you're interested (i'm not really aware of that field).

And, as a bonus, NYC is pretty darn close. I take non-infrequent weekend or even just day trips to see folks or to see a show.
posted by ursus_comiter at 11:35 AM on September 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

Stay in NYC, but move to Riverdale. Still in the city, but a sweet spot in terms of transportation and housing cost. And much quieter.

Tip: focus on proximity to grocery stores, restaurants and other services, while you're looking around. Some sections aren't particularly close to these amenities.
posted by JimN2TAW at 11:45 AM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

As a New Yorker who lived in Chicago briefly, I will second that while the city may be statistically segregated it doesn't particularly feel that way in day-to-day life. There's a wide variety of different cuisines and things available at different places around town; you see people of different ethnic groups and races on public transit and walking down the street. I didn't notice segregation there any more than I notice it in New York.

Also, if the big-city-ness of New York appeals to you, a place like Pittsburgh or Providence, let alone Madison or Burlington, is going to feel quite small. Chicago and Philly are big enough that you probably wouldn't notice the difference, but lots of other places might not be.
posted by breakin' the law at 12:58 PM on September 12, 2016

To flesh out my pro-Minneapolis comment:

1. Walkability. Minneapolis is perhaps more bike-friendly than walking-commute-friendly, but many neighborhoods themselves are very walkable. The light rail and bus systems are really great and a functional commuting option used by many downtown workers. (Downtown itself is kind of boring for actually living in.) If you're a biker, it's doubleplusgood.

2. Vegan-friendly. Lots of ethnic and vegan-friendly food, a vegan butcher, lots of fully stocked co-ops, vegan options at the cupcake bakeries. It might be the land of the juicy lucy, but it's no problem to be vegan here.

3. Not hot. There's like a week of summer where it gets north of 90, but tomorrow's high is in the 50s for example. Summers are amazing.

4. Diverse and not too segregated. Definitely better than Boston in this regard. There are large immigrant populations here (primarily Somali and Hmong), and while things are not as integrated as they are in New York, I see lots and lots of different types of people in my daily life. There is, generally speaking, a pretty high tolerance for different cultures and religions here in my experience.

5. Easy access to outdoor recreation. Our urban park system is rated #1 in the country.

6. Reasonably safe from natural disasters and global warming over the long-term. I've not heard of anything to contradict this. Our biggest risk is probably tornadoes, but not as bad as on the plains.

7. Some interesting cultural scenes - whether theater, visual art, or music. Lots of great theaters in both Minneapolis and St. Paul, the Walker and the MIA and the entire Northeast neighborhood is a great arts scene, First Avenue and many other musical venues host great live music, and The Current is a fantastic public radio music station. There are lots of cultural festivals (Polish, Greek, Irish, German, Ukrainian, Hmong among others), a very large Pride celebration, Fringe Festival, the state fair if you think that qualifies (in terms of people watching alone, I'd say it does!), Open Streets celebrating individual communities, and more. No shortage of interesting things to do, and even better, they are way more affordable than NYC and there's a pretty good chance you might actually get to do most of them.

8. Good job opportunities. We have lots of big headquarters here - Target, Best Buy, Medtronic, Wells Fargo, 3M - but we're not dominated by a single big employer. We've had a strong economy the last several years even as other cities have not bounced back as quickly. From my anecdotal experience, finding a job has been fairly easy, and having a NYC pedigree has been very helpful. The jobs pay fairly well and the cost of living is so utterly different from New York that it was like getting several years' worth of raises at once. People seem to be serious about a life-work balance too, without the overtime/facetime expectations of my NYC jobs.

In order to not sound like a commercial for the city, let's see, downsides. Winters are long and cold. And dark. Minnesota Nice is a thing. Many people who grow up here never leave, so making friends as an outsider can be challenging since you're basically trying to get into friend circles that have been in place since high school (it can be done, but it's not as easy to meet people as it was in New York). There's a stiff-upper-lip Midwesternism that's a little confounding to me (it's perpetual Guess Culture, and I'm not an Asker by nature but I wind up seeming like one here). But if you're fairly introverted and/or don't need a huge bubbly friends group, that all might seem just fine, actually.

I didn't grow up here and never imagined living here, but honestly I can't think of anywhere I'd rather move to. I'm delighted for my kids to grow up here. We live in one of the suburb-y parts of the city itself: downtown is a 20-minute bus ride and the airport is less than half an hour away, we can walk to restaurants and shops or bike to a movie theater or grocery store, we have a great public school system and world-class health care within easy reach, we get by fine as a one-income home-owning family, and there are four playgrounds within five blocks of my house. I can deal with shoveling some snow for all that.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 7:23 PM on September 12, 2016

I moved to San Diego three years ago (and to California four years ago.) I never stop being grateful. First of all the plants all look like Dr. Seuss drawings. That's because he lived up the road in La Jolla! Additionally, I will never scrape a windshield again. The not having seasons thing is bull, they're just milder and in a weird order. In a bit here it will start raining and be all green and spring like (for five minutes.)

The neighborhoods around Balboa park are amazing: Hillcrest, North Park, South Park. Pacific Beach and Ocean Beach are super close to the water. All these neighborhoods are walkable - as are many more that I've been in but don't know the names of.

I was afraid to move to a bigger city again after Chicago became so oppressive toward the end of my living there. But I've never felt that kind of struggle to get through a day here. It is a very relaxed pace of life.

Vegan is incredibly easy here. The outdoors with no hassle is the best - I can decide I want to take my dog to the beach and be parked and walking onto the sand in 15 minutes. There are plenty of insanely beautiful hikes - Torrey Pines is a fan favorite.

It's pretty damn white. There's a big Mexican population, but not a lot of integration.

LA is just one Orange County length away, if you've got something there you'd like to do or see. It's not a difficult drive to Vegas or Tuscon/Phoenix. It's not even a difficult drive to Yosemite.

A story passed on to me about a Steinbeckian family who did the whole Grapes of Wrath dustbowl exodus: the husband and wife got agricultural labor jobs straight off when they arrived. They worked inland, and didn't have a day off for three weeks. The third Sunday, they drove to the ocean. Standing at the coastline and taking it all in, the wife says "We can be dirt poor right here, I'm never going back." I think and/or say that at least once a day.
posted by The Noble Goofy Elk at 1:04 AM on September 15, 2016

« Older How can I make the best of a temporary separation...   |   Sherlocking through the history Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.