Where should we live, 2018 edition with imaginary snowflakes
January 8, 2018 11:22 AM   Subscribe

My partner and I, currently living in the Bay Area, are trying to decide where we want to move to in 1-3 years, to live for the long term. Where should we consider living?

Reasons for moving away from northern CA:
- Neither of us are California natives and we don't love the Bay Area, although in many ways it's a compromise between each of our ideal locations.
- We currently rent in the 4th-most-expensive zipcode in the USA. Needless to say, we can't afford to buy in our current neighborhood, even on DINK tech salaries.
- We do want to buy a small house or townhouse. We have sufficient savings to afford a downpayment in a far-out Bay Area suburb, or a closer city if we save for another few years, but the price/commute tradeoff is unappealing. We like the walkability of living in a "vibrant" downtown like Palo Alto or Mountain View, moreso than SF proper (my first choice neighborhood in the city would be Glen Park--quiet with good transit access).

Strong desires:
- Critical Asian population mass to have authentic Asian restaurants in the food scene. Basically limits us to large cities and their suburbs, I think.
- Proximity to at least one of ocean (not lakes) or mountains. I spent one summer living in Urbana-Champaign, IL and the endless horizons drove me insane.
- The fewer bugs, the better (I have a phobia). I know from experience that I can't handle Austin- or Florida-sized cockroaches.
- The less rain, the better. Snow is fine; I love sunny, cold winter days.
- The less humidity, the better. I met my partner during college in the Northeast, where I'm from, and he hated the humid summers.
- Lower housing prices than the mid-Peninsula Bay Area. Not a particularly high bar to entry...

Top contenders so far:
- Seattle. Great in most respects EXCEPT I don't know if I can handle the weather. Living in CA, I really miss humid summer nights and sunny winter days. Rain makes me want to never go outside. How often does it drizzle hard enough in Seattle to drip on my glasses, if I'm not using an umbrella?
- Boston. But the humidity may be a deal-breaker for my partner. Is it more/less/equally humid compared to Philadelphia?
- Staying put: what Bay Area cities should we consider, if commuting to PA/MTV? I think my hard price limit is 1.5M; I'd love to stay around 1M. However, I hate the drive-everywhere mentality of San Jose's suburbs.

Other ideas:
- Boulder, CO. Don't know much about it, besides an increasing number of CA transplants (but we're not really Californians)--does it fit our criteria?
- Austin, TX. But, it has bugs and no oceans or mountains.
- NYC. We'd escape to Brooklyn, but it's probably still too expensive. We both dislike Manhattan.
- Missoula, MT (my partner's hometown). I've visited several times and love the cultural feel, but the tiny Asian population and lack of good Chinese food is a deal-breaker. Otherwise we'd be game for smaller towns.
- ??? Hope me!

In theory, we could live anywhere in the USA/Canada/UK/EU-pre-official-Brexit, thanks to dual citizenships. But our families are in the US (across the country from each other) so preference for staying 'round here. No kids or plans to have any; I'm firmly in the childless-by-choice camp.
posted by serelliya to Home & Garden (35 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Would you consider Southern California? It hits a lot of your needs and might have a greater variety of housing stock - I feel like the everywhere's-a-suburb feel of SoCal isn't too different from Palo Alto/Mountain View/Glen Park even within more urban environments (with older, more charming housing stock). It's still expensive, but more variety might give you more options. You'd want to figure out your working location and look for housing after that.
posted by vunder at 11:29 AM on January 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

How often does it drizzle hard enough in Seattle to drip on my glasses

Pretty much from October through July. Honestly, it's the short, dark days more than the rain. If you want to try it out, I highly recommend spending a week or so here in November.

BTW, Asian and Mexican food here can't compare to the Bay Area. Be prepared to be disappointed.
posted by humboldt32 at 11:32 AM on January 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

Based on your criteria, I would consider SoCal. Specifically San Diego and the more beach-adjacent areas of LA and Orange County. Commutes can be an issue but beach towns often have a local walkable feel. None of these places would be exactly cheap but many would be cheaper than SF.
posted by feckless at 11:40 AM on January 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

I came in to suggest San Diego. Ticks almost everything.
posted by like_neon at 11:41 AM on January 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

Avoid Seattle/PNW given your weather criteria. To answer your question with a number pulled out of my butt, i'd say the chances of getting glasses-wet drizzle/rain/precip at any time between Oct and April is about 75%. Sunny winter days are a rare phenomenon to be treasured and definitely not the norm.

Never lived there, but I also thought of San Diego as well. It's on my post-Trump list for when I finally have to escape the weather of the PNW/VancouverBC area.
posted by cgg at 11:47 AM on January 8, 2018

I would rate Philly as inferior to Boston in weather, and tech scene. Can't say about housing. And, Philly isn't actually on the ocean.

You could escape NYC to NJ as easily as Brooklyn, especially if you were going to get jobs on Wall St.

A city that's on the rise is Pittsburgh but the local mountains aren't much by western standards.
posted by SemiSalt at 11:47 AM on January 8, 2018

If you dislike Manhattan, half the benefits of living in NYC won't be benefits for you. I wouldn't.

I've never felt Boston to be terribly humid, but it's certainly not as dry as, say, Phoenix. It's also not more humid than NYC, though. The Asian population is creeping up on 10%...not much lower than NYC's, actually. I bet you'd like Cambridge. Not cheap, but still cheaper than SF!
posted by praemunire at 11:48 AM on January 8, 2018

Seconding the Southern California suggestions based on your weather priorities.

Also, if NY is on the list, what about Queens instead of Brooklyn? Queens has a huge Asian population and lots of great Asian food. More importantly, the housing costs are generally cheaper than Brooklyn, though the housing stock can be old. Or, consider Upper Manhattan (above 125th St), which I think is very different than what most people typically think of/experience when they say Manhattan. However, having lived in both NY and Philly, NY in the summer is almost as humid as Philly, so your partner may not be happy here.

What about somewhere like Albuquerque? If the mountains in that area are big enough to meet your criteria, the weather might also fit. I'm not sure about the Asian restaurant scene however.
posted by Caz721 at 11:53 AM on January 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Austin gets fairly humid, too. The eastern half of the U.S. is basically a sticky mess. If you move that way, you might as well live on the beach in Florida, at least you've got a breeze and the lizards eat the bigger bugs. (BTW the site I linked to is pretty cool for answering climate questions)
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 11:56 AM on January 8, 2018

I would vote Denver for you. I didn't find Boston terribly humid, but housing is really expensive there too...maybe not quite Bay Area expensive, but it's still one of the most expensive housing markets in the U.S. With your budget, in Denver you could absolutely get something central with great walk-ability and a fair amount of square footage.

Easy access to mountains and definitely does not have the "endless horizon" feel to it, few bugs, very dry/low humidity, lots and lots of sun but still has 4 seasons. The Asian food will admittedly not be as good as San Francisco or New York, but there are Asian markets and some good restaurants (more so than in Boulder).
posted by rainbowbrite at 12:00 PM on January 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

Boston. But the humidity may be a deal-breaker for my partner. Is it more/less/equally humid compared to Philadelphia?

Equally humid, I think - I've lived in both. But Boston isn't as hot so the humidity doesn't feel quite as bad. See weatherspark's Philadelphia humidity data and Boston humidity data.
posted by madcaptenor at 12:13 PM on January 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Seattle is not going to be much easier on you in terms of affordability, to be honest, but depending on which tech company you work for, it may be easier in terms of commute.

You'll probably have a tough time with the weather 3-4 months of the year. December to February can be pretty dreary, but there really, truly, is not much better than a Seattle summer. And the water/mountains can't be beat.
posted by DuckGirl at 12:21 PM on January 8, 2018

Come to Camberville or similar in Metro Boston! It's still expensive but nothing like the Bay Area and totally doable for DINKs. Boston is humid but not awfully so, really, no bugs, the ocean is beautiful, and clear winter days are some of the most beautiful anywhere. It rains but not more than most non-desert places.

Cons: winter is... long. Expenses are... expensive.
posted by lydhre at 12:21 PM on January 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

wildly off the wall suggestion: Hawaii

never lived there so this is hardly first-hand advice but we just visited and to say that my spouse was tempted to stay forever would be my biggest understatement of 2018 (so far).

transit and affordability are probably not ideal there, but Asian food/culture and access to the ocean is as high as you're going to get without leaving the continent.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 12:28 PM on January 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

You've only picked really big cities. Is that a requirement or an assumed necessity to get Asian food? If it's not a requirement, come to Portland Maine! The Atlantic is right there, and we have mountains around. Not humid. More snow than rain, summers are the most beautiful weather I've ever known. Bugs are primarily mosquitos, haven't seen a cockroach since I moved here. The food scene, including authentic Asian food, is insane. Definitely cheaper than where you are, you could buy pretty much anything in town with $1M. Median is probably $350K.
posted by donnagirl at 12:28 PM on January 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Well, it doesn't have an ocean or mountains, but Chicago meets most of your other criteria. And it is a very different world than Urbana-Champaign. If you live near Lake Michigan, you will definitely FEEL like it's the ocean. In the city, all the buildings break up the landscape so it doesn't feel big-flat-open.

-LOTS of Asian food, especially Vietnamese and Thai on the north side. And then you have Chinatown on the south side.
-Bugs aren't bad - the cold winters kill most of them off. I grew up in the south so I know what you're talking about. I barely even get bit by mosquitos here.
-I don't actually know how we rank in terms of rain but I've never noticed it being especially rainy. We do get lots of cold, sunny winter days and I also love them.
-We don't have LOW humidity but it's definitely better than Atlanta - not sure how it would compare to Philly.
-Housing is CHEAP considering it's one of the biggest cities in the country. With a $1M budget, you could afford to live in any neighborhood your heart desired.

Other stuff:
-Two airports, and cheap flights to most of the country. Very easy to visit your respective families. Traveling internationally is convenient and affordable too.
-Really good public transit. Definitely better than Seattle. I don't drive, I live right by the train and take it everywhere, and buses on occasion as needed. Many, many people in the city don't have cars.
-Lots of tech jobs - not like SF, obviously, but a respectable amount.
-I would have never guessed before moving here, but Wisconsin and Michigan are chock full of gorgeous scenery for nature-focused getaways. There's also a sprinkling of wineries in Michigan. And you can't throw a rock without hitting a brewery, if that's your thing.
-Midwest culture is so great. Growing up southern, I never really thought people lived up to the stereotype of southerners being friendly and welcoming. But there is absolutely a difference in the general atmosphere here. Work culture is laid back and respectful, strangers are mostly friendly and polite. It's great.

I've lived here just over two years, and I'm a huge fan. Feel free to ask me any questions. I love bragging about my adopted city.
posted by ohsnapdragon at 12:31 PM on January 8, 2018 [7 favorites]

Twin cities/Minneapolis? The Asian population is fairly low (~5%) but not much different than Boulder or Austin and it meets your other criteria pretty well.
posted by mosst at 1:05 PM on January 8, 2018

If you still want to stay in the Bay Area, have you considered the East Bay? Houses and condos are in your price range. I like both downtown Pleasanton and Livermore. Plenty of Asian food options, respectable local wine scene, you can catch BART at the Pleasanton or Dublin stations, and the commute by car isn't too terrible if you have flexible hours and don't have to leave during peak commute times. The weather is similar to inland San Jose. No major bugs like Texas or Florida. The worst you'll have to deal with is an occasional ant invasion, but those are easy to manage with some Terro. Walnut Creek might also be an option; I hear their downtown isn't too bad.

And I second rainbowbrite on Denver. I've visited several times and never want to leave. Good tech jobs. Wonderful weather. No ocean, but the mountains and great outdoor options kinda make up for it. The food scene is up and coming, but it's nowhere near the Bay Area's cuisine. If dining out (and Asian food in particular) is really important to you, I'd stick with the Bay Area or Vancouver BC.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 1:12 PM on January 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Re: Hawaii, we have bigass cockroaches, lots more bugs, it rains A Lot, and it gets extremely humid. Good Asian food, though.
posted by taskmaster at 1:23 PM on January 8, 2018 [4 favorites]

If you're seriously considering Boston, here's my braindump as a hapa-Filipina-American 4th gen Bay Area native (married to a Korean-American 1.5 gen) who somehow ended up in Boston after graduation and we haven't left yet, though the latest bombosnowpocawhosiewhatsits is sparking hard questioning of our life choices. Both of us are in tech-adjacent careers.

- Critical Asian population mass? Close to the tech jobs you're going to be commuting to (high concentrations of tech in Kendall Square in Cambridge, and the Seaport in Boston), you're looking at Cambridge, Malden, and Quincy, and parts of Boston proper. Don't come in expecting to find anything like Daly City, though; Quincy has the highest percentage of Asian people, and even that's only 25%-ish; "diverse" suburbs around here it's more like 10-15%, and more typical burbs are well under 10%. Honestly, most of the Asians we know go to New York when they're craving Asian food; there are bright spots here and there, but there's a reason we primarily eat Asian food when we're visiting our families in the Bay Area and LA, or when we're down in NYC. The Asian people I see on the street most often are of grad student age, though.
- Proximity to ocean: yes-ish. I miss the ocean, which sounds ridiculous to say when we're less than 10 miles from the Atlantic, in walking distance of two ponds and an easy train ride down to the Charles River. But getting out to an actual beach from where we are is kind of a pain, due to traffic or a double transfer on the train or sheer distance to the cleaner beaches north and south of the city. Quincy is on the ocean, so that's another reason to look there. Though given the flooding we've been having this week, you might not want to be *too* close to the ocean.
- Proximity to mountains: you are going to hear so many New Hampshire people talk about their 4000-footer clubs as evidence that New England has mountains. In reality, if you're used to walking around San Francisco, you'll eat Somerville's hills for breakfast, at least until winter when you'll find yourselves unwittingly tobogganing down them thanks to the black ice from somebody's crappy shoveling job.
- Bugs: not nonexistent (mosquitoes, black flies are the worst part of July) but nothing larger than that, either.
- Rain, humidity, snow: Boston's summer thunderstorms confused the *hell* out of me when I first moved out here. The good news is that this rain tends to be short-lived (like, skies open up and then 15 minutes later all done), and a much-needed break in the heat and humidity. Rain in fall and spring lasts longer, but isn't all that frequent. Snow, you can expect to get at any point between October and April inclusive. Humidity in general: a summer phenomenon that gets worse the further south you go on the East Coast. People flee to Maine when it gets really bad.
- "Drive-everywhere mentality" - if you live within walking distance of most T stops, you'll mostly manage to avoid this. This is probably the number one biggest reason why we haven't pulled the trigger on leaving Boston - our commutes don't require us to drive, and we put well under 2000 miles per year on the car, mostly for things like visiting friends who've moved out to the burbs.
posted by Pandora Kouti at 1:24 PM on January 8, 2018

So I moved from the Bay Area to Denver a little over 2 years ago, and yeah, Denver or Boulder tick a lot of (but not all) your boxes.

* No humidity
* Tons of sunshine even in the winter
* Minimal bugs (unless you're hanging out directly on a body of water in the summer)
* Lots of vibrant, walkable neighborhoods in various stages of development and with various pesonalities
* Not as expensive as the Bay Area
* Decent tech scene, with some larger, established companies and a ton of growing startups

2 big potential compromises:

1. Colorado is definitely landlocked. But! In terms of bodies of water, there are rivers and creeks through both Denver & Boulder, and moderately-sized lakes and reservoirs around. Also the mountains break up the horizon and they're beautiful. I grew up on an island and spent the past 15 years living in the Bay Area with a view of the bay nearly every day, and I miss the ocean like crazy. The mitigations I've listed are enough for me to not go crazy living here for another few years--but they're not enough for me to be happy building a forever home here. YMMV, of course.

2. Neither downtown Denver nor Boulder have the critical mass of Asian populations and authentic Asian food you're looking for. The Denver metro area is 77.5% white and only 4.5% Asian (with the caveat that a significant portion included in 'white' also identify as Hispanic). I still find it really unsettling to be in a restaurant in downtown Denver and noticing that everyone else dining there looks like me (white). And many of the popular Asian restaurants are fusion, and not great, though there are a couple notable exceptions. But! If you venture even slightly outside of downtown, the suburbs have thriving nonwhite populations ad great authentic Chinese, Vietnamese, and Mexican restaurants. You may specifically want to look at Aurora and the western parts of Lakewod.

* Boulder's home prices are rapidly approaching Bay Area levels
* Denver is getting more expensive than it was, but not yet approaching Bay Area levels (compare: I live in a nice 1BR in downtown Denver and pay $1385/mo. The same size, niceness level, and closeness to downtown in SF would be ~$2500-3500)
* It can take some time to get used to the altitude
* It can take even more time to adjust your daily habits to mitigate the effects of the extreme dryness and sun exposure. Once you figure out your skincare routine, settle on a hand lotion and lip balm you like, and get a humidifier and get used to maintaining it properly, you're good.
* The farther you get away from downtown Denver, the worse the walkability and bikeability gets less good
* The city is rapidly expanding and there's construction everywhere. I find this kind of exciting, but others may not.

If Denver is appealing to you at all, I highly recommend a visit. Memail me if you have any other specific questions, or want guidance for places to check out if you visit!
posted by rhiannonstone at 1:41 PM on January 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

Just off the top of my head, what about Corpus Christi Texas? Right on the Gulf of Mexico, lots of fresh seafood and lots of Asians living there, so good food. Low humidity but really hot in summer (ocean breeze mitigates some), no snow, little rain (comparatively). Practically on the Mexican border, so easy to run down the coast and vacation in Cancun etc. Not a hotbed of multiculti or liberal folk but getting there little by little. Long drive to a big city (Houston is north, San Antonio is west). Cost of living lowish. Big draw for snowbirds.
posted by MovableBookLady at 1:59 PM on January 8, 2018

Missoula also has 5-6 month long grey winters. It’s more Seattle than Chicago but there are few sunny days from November to June. Last winter we went 180 days without getting above 70 degrees.
posted by ITravelMontana at 2:11 PM on January 8, 2018

Based on your climate priorities the San Diego area does sound like a very good fit for you.

What you think of the Asian food scene depends on what specific cuisines you're interested in as some are better represented than others.

Housing in the region is more affordable than in the Bay Area (as you say that's not hard) but is still expensive. If you have enough money for a house in a far-flung Bay Area suburb you probably have enough for a small single-family house in one of the mid-range central San Diego neighborhoods, or a larger place on the outskirts.

As tech workers, you will still make a good living but be prepared to take a hit in both salary and in the number and quality of job opportunities available.

There are few insects of intimidating size, but what the region does have is ants, ants, and more ants.

The greater San Diego area is quite large and there is variation in affordability, culture, and even climate by sub-region. I've spent most of my life between San Diego and the SF Bay Area so if you're interested in a more detailed comparison of the two areas you're welcome to MeMail me with questions.
posted by 4rtemis at 2:53 PM on January 8, 2018

Yeah, never mind Corpus: too humid for you (avg.78%) and too hot (avg 88). I suppose if you lived right on the water, it'd be bearable, but that might be hard to do. Maybe try Mexico on the Sea of Cortez: dry and not too hot right on the water. Hermosillo would be a possibility.
posted by MovableBookLady at 3:14 PM on January 8, 2018

N-thing Southern California, particularly the San Gabriel Valley area if you’re really serious about proximity to Asian food, but I have to disagree with the earlier suggestion of Portland, Maine.

My brother and sister-in-law just moved away from there largely because the Asian scene was so lacking. We visited them several times before they left, and quickly learned that Maine is literally the whitest state in the Union. While Portland has a lot of charms, diversity is not its strongest suit, and my brother and sister-in-law really struggled with life in Maine. Admittedly, this is coming from a bunch of Asians who grew up in SoCal and went to college in the Bay Area, so we’re probably spoiled, but we would meet up in Boston or New York when they really needed a fix, but having also lived in Cambridge, I agree with others that Boston is a very reasonable suggestion.

My brother and sister-in-law ended up in Las Vegas, which doesn’t fulfill your ocean requirement, but it has just about everything else. It’s not my personal scene, but they are absolutely delighted to be there, and encourage everyone they know to move there. We’re just pleased they have easy access to a super convenient airport again and are within driving distance of my mom’s place in the SGV.
posted by Diagonalize at 3:28 PM on January 8, 2018

San Diego resident here. If one of your unmentioned requirements is distinct culture and intellectual scene, what you find here pales in comparison to SF. The city is a military/ college/ surf city, and in the livelier parts of town (which are also the more walkable ones), it shows.

Also, I'm Asian, and there is NO good Chinese food out here. There's good ramen, pho, and maaaaybe decent KBBQ. You'd have to go to Orange County for Chinese food. The San Diego food scene is definitely up-and-coming, but as of right now, I've been having to go to LA when I'm craving sheer variety and quality.
posted by Everydayville at 4:44 PM on January 8, 2018

I was going to suggest Seattle but then got to your weather stipulation and it's a big nope. Seattle is amazing and I personally love the mild weather, but the tradeoff is constantly being dripped on for about 4-5 months out of the year (well, not constantly, but at least half the time).

You may consider Minneapolis/St Paul. I lived there for 6 years and it's my plan if Seattle prices me out. Boxes it checks: great Asian food (mostly Southeast Asian but it is GREAT), summers that are warm and kinda humid but not crushingly so (save for one-two really hot weeks/summer), very low housing prices compared to the coasts (and really nice housing stock). There are some areas of both cities that would give you that "walkable suburban downtown" feeling you're looking for. There are also a few inner-ring suburbs with walkable areas.

It obviously does not have an ocean and that was hard for me too. I do love Lake Superior and some of the towns north of Duluth have that seaside town feeling, but it's not exactly the same and it's hours away.
posted by lunasol at 5:00 PM on January 8, 2018

Thank you so much, everyone, for the info and suggestions. Please keep them coming! I've marked a bunch of best-answers to return to, but every answer was really helpful.

So far my new top contender is LA (I forgot that my current company has an office on the beach!), or using data to convince my partner that Boston isn't TOO humid. But I now have lots of other cities to research.

On the Asian population/diversity front, my baseline reference point is Philadelphia at 6.5%, but I'd consider ~5% cities. We don't take full advantage of the Bay Area food scene, sticking mostly close to home in the mid-Peninsula where the Asian food is noticeably worse than SF or San Jose (although still much better than most of the US).

"Distinct culture and intellectual scene" is a nice bonus, but not a requirement. Our hobbies are eclectic/nerdy and on the homebody side: a yarn store, an ice rink, reliable high-speed internet.
posted by serelliya at 5:31 PM on January 8, 2018

Spokane, Washington? Asian population unknown.
posted by Jackson at 6:43 PM on January 8, 2018

L.A. is great. Bad place to visit (IMO), excellent place to live. And contrary to rumor, there isn't necessarily a drive-everywhere mentality. Or at least there doesn't have to be. I know people who don't drive. The trick is to live within walking distance of rail. Gaps - and there are admittedly many gaps - get filled in with bikes, the occasional rideshare, or a carpool with friends who are game to do [X].
posted by desert outpost at 7:13 PM on January 8, 2018


- Critical Asian population mass to have authentic Asian restaurants in the food scene. Basically limits us to large cities and their suburbs, I think.

Yes, but less Chinese than Korean and Vietnamese. But at 16.6 percent, definitely a serious Asian population in the city.

- Proximity to at least one of ocean (not lakes) or mountains. I spent one summer living in Urbana-Champaign, IL and the endless horizons drove me insane.

Close to both but not in both. An hour and 45 minutes to the ocean and about the same to the Sierras. The city itself does kind of have the endless horizons issue.

- The fewer bugs, the better (I have a phobia). I know from experience that I can't handle Austin- or Florida-sized cockroaches.

Bug situation is the same as the Bay Area.

- The less rain, the better. Snow is fine; I love sunny, cold winter days.

Roughly the same weather as San Jose. A little warmer in the summer and cooler in the winter. It's probably even a little more sunny.

- The less humidity, the better. I met my partner during college in the Northeast, where I'm from, and he hated the humid summers.

Almost never humid, like the East Bay or South Bay.

- Lower housing prices than the mid-Peninsula Bay Area. Not a particularly high bar to entry...

Probably half the cost of that area for the best neighborhoods, and less for the suburbs. (I'm a little bit loathe to even post this, because Bay Area refugees are in part driving up housing prices.)
posted by cnc at 10:52 PM on January 8, 2018

Just popping in to expand my earlier answer for San Diego as I now I have a bit more time to review your requirements better. I lived there for 7 years but this was 10 years ago:

- Weather: It is almost boringly pleasant most of the year. Sometimes hot, but I don't recall it ever being humid. September is glorious, bright and sunny with a slight chill in the air usually interrupted by a brief Indian Summer.

- Proximity to oceans: Tons of beaches with different personalities to choose from and not just oceans but Mission Bay is also lovely.

- San Diego County is very large and house prices vary. I'm sure there are many neighbourhoods that will fit your budget, especially compared to Bay Area values.

- Bugs: We once had tiny cockroaches in our house but we were a bunch of sloppy college girls. That was quickly rectified once we realised how disgusting our kitchen habits were. I don't recall bugs other than that.

- Tech companies/jobs: I'm not sure where the assumption you guys work in tech came from but I'm gonna go with that and from what I remember 10 years ago there were quite a few tech companies based in San Diego (and I worked in tech).

- Foodie scene: You can definitely find great Vietnamese and Thai easily. Next Korean although that's a bit more of a dig. And I agree, for some reason, I couldn't find great Chinese, however there were a few pretty good dim sum places from what I remember! But listen, I'm gonna be controversial here. I lived in San Francisco for almost 18 years and San Diego for 7 years and San Diego has better Mexican food. It seems obvious because of its location, but I'm sure people will want to fight me on this. Trust me, the San Diego Mexican food oh my god I miss it so much. Also, not quite foodie but San Diego has an awesome micro-brewery scene and I hope it's still going on but I remember going to a great beer festival every year.

- Yarn: Hello fellow knitter! I actually started knitting when I lived in San Diego and there were quite a few independent, cozy, friendly yarn stores that I frequented. Common Threads and Black Sheep come most readily to mind.

I also lived in LA for a year, in Venice Beach area, close to Santa Monica. It's not the most fair comparison because LA is HUGE and I'm sure it varies by area, but I vastly preferred San Diego culturally and socially.
posted by like_neon at 2:18 AM on January 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Some random tips, focusing on the places I know best:

-$1m is probably not enough for a small house or townhome in Brooklyn, but it probably is enough for a small house or townhome in an inner suburb with a walkable downtown. It could also get you a really nice apartment in Brooklyn.

-Summer humidity is a thing throughout the Eastern US. Boston is no less humid than NYC/Philly, but it's a bit less hot, which helps. Really, if humidity is a dealbraker for you, you probably shouldn't live on the East Coast anywhere south of Maine.

-NYC does not feel particularly close to the ocean for a coastal city, due to traffic and geography (I also think a lot of our beaches kind of suck, but that's another matter). Boston is better in that regard, but still not like SF or SoCal, where you've got people living in city neighborhoods down the block from the ocean. Chicago is an odd one. The lake is definitely not the ocean, but it's similar-ish, and it feels far more accessible from the city than the ocean does in NYC or even Boston.

-I think the Bay Area and LA have the largest Asian populations in the country. But NYC, Chicago and Boston have enough of one that you probably won't notice the difference, based upon your last comment.
posted by breakin' the law at 9:55 AM on January 9, 2018

I am a native Angeleno who has lived in Boston and Seattle (where I live now). I've also spent a ton of time in the bay area.

If it weren't for the rain I'd suggest Seattle. It ticks nearly all of your boxes, though I'm not sure about home prices. I've read Seattle is the #1 toughest market in the US. That said, I was able to buy a home here in 2016, and I'm no blue blood. But it is very, very wet here. It rarely pours rain, but in the winter, it nearly always drizzles. That said, spring and summer (and much of fall) are heavenly.

Boston is humid in the summer, but you'll only experience 2-3 days a year where it is hot enough to be uncomfortable. I lived in Boston for six years and I loved it. The weather, though, was too much for me. I prefer Seattle to Boston for the weather for sure. Snow is fun, but it is much harder to manage day to day than rain, and some winters, in Boston, it seems it snows as much as it rains in Seattle. We also had biblical thunderstorms quite regularly. I lived in Allston for a big part of it and there is an Asian population, but not nearly what I was used to in LA. Boston is also so different from the west coast. This is part of what I loved about it, but I had to learn how to live there, it did not come naturally.

I had no car for 2 years in Boston, and in Seattle, I rarely drive on weekends. Even in the rain! Public transit is not as good as Boston, but it's very walkable.

All that said, I really think you should consider LA. The biggest issue for you would probably be the car culture, but they have improved a lot there. Happy to answer questions via memail if you would like!
posted by pazazygeek at 10:56 AM on January 9, 2018

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