i want outta here
August 13, 2006 4:38 PM   Subscribe

I'm thinking of moving from seattle, going out east. My initial thoughts are of Burlington Vermont, but my company also has a branch in Buffalo New York. Can anyone give me an idea of what the cities are like/have to offer? I also work as an EMT (any idea on the EMS services in those areas?) and will be going on to be an RN. So ideas on decent school options/length of residency?

Any other suggestions city wise? I don't want to live in too big of a town. I want to be somewhere that I can visit New York City and Boston fairly easily. Somewhere "politically progressive".
posted by andywolf to Grab Bag (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
buffalo is dreadful. burlington has so much to offer. it's like black and white.
posted by brandz at 4:45 PM on August 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

in Bufalo you get a lot of lake effect snow.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 4:48 PM on August 13, 2006

I've never lived in either place, but rather grew up in Montreal and currently live in Toronto. Both cities are within spittin distance of Burlington and Buffalo so I feel I am qualified to give my opinion.

Burlington : quaint, charming, friendly, good skiing, close to Montreal...

Buffalo : not quaint, not charming, industrial town, pro sports teams hence lots of sports fan types and tailgate parties if that's your thing, close to Toronto...

Though much smaller and less urban i would still pick Burlington...
posted by dawdle at 4:53 PM on August 13, 2006

It's been a while since I was in Buffalo, and I never lived there, but I don't think it's what you're looking for.

Burlington is pretty unique among small cities - beautiful natural setting on the lake, thriving arts culture, about as politically liberal as it gets in the States (we have a three party system here - and the Progressive Party is very viable in local government).

EMT-wise, I don't have any first- or second-hand knowledge. UVM does have a very good nursing program.

If you like the outdoors, liberal politics, the arts, etc., I think you'll find your niche here.
posted by vers at 5:00 PM on August 13, 2006

Wish I had something more constructive to say, but Buffalo is a dump.
posted by BillBishop at 5:03 PM on August 13, 2006

Nurses live like queens (and kings) out here. Vermont in general has a really strong visiting nurses program and most of the nurses I know here are happily employed and well paid. People have already mentioned some of what's great about Burlington, which I concur with, but I'll tell you a few things that are less good: housing is expensive here, not compared to other big cities but definitely to the rest of the state; there's traffic (again, not a huge deal, but I'm from an hour south, traffic is unheard of here); the public library is sort of "eh" as public libraries go.

From Burlington it still takes a while to get to both Boston (4 hours) and NY (8 hours?), though it's close to Montreal. Also, Burlington, like the rest of Vermont, is in a tech shadow. If you're used to companies you do business with having web sites and email, think again. Burlington is less like this than the rest of the state, but coming from Seattle, I was astonished at how behind all of Vermont was technologically, even compared to similarly rural places like upstate NY and New Hampshire.

Buffalo is a real post-industrial city, close to Toronto, easy to buy nice houses in. It's not really full of young people though the colleges help. The public library system is also struggling. I don't think, if you're looking for progressive, that you'd want to be there. I'm not sure how many options you have moving-wise, but Brattleboro is in the southern part of the state and closer to NYC and Boston and similarly progressive, same with the Pioneer Valley in Mass with Amherst and Northhampton.

Email is in my profile if you want to chat more about Burlington.
posted by jessamyn at 5:13 PM on August 13, 2006

I lived in the Burlington area for several years, and I definitely plan to go back some day. It is astoundingly progressive, with a great culture and community focus. It is about 4 hours from Boston, which was not too bad, to prevent us from going down for weekends often, but you might consider something a little further down I-89, if the Boston commute is a real issue. You will also find housing prices drop fairly significantly. I might suggest Montpelier or thereabouts -- 45 minutes to Burl, (and 45 minutes closer to Boston), with an absolutely delightful downtown and beautiful surroundings.

Also, Burlington, like the rest of Vermont, is in a tech shadow.

You really think so? I moved from Burlington to NH, and I found my neighbors/colleagues in VT much more tech-savvy and willing to embrace new ways of communicating and doing business than the fogeys in Old Hampshire.

I, too, am always willing to chat about the wonders of Chittenden County, and my email is in my profile.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:33 PM on August 13, 2006

The 6 hours I spent in Buffalo were more than anyone should bear.
posted by cillit bang at 6:03 PM on August 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

I lived in Burlington from 2001-2005. I miss it so much. It is reasonably affordable, although expensive compared to wages. There are lots of great places to live. Fantastic people to befriend. Very politically progressive. Very tech friendly.

Only drawbacks:
- if you have a S.O., there aren't always a tons of jobs. Where I used to work, people sometimes had to leave the company because their spouse couldn't find work in the Burlington area.

- real estate ain't cheap

E-mail is in the profile if you want to chat about more specific things.
posted by k8t at 6:18 PM on August 13, 2006

Buffalo is much farther from both Boston and NYC than Burlington, though neither is close to those places.

I assume from the phrasing of your question that your company has offices in those two cities, but not in other places in the Northeast. If that's not the case, Jessamyn's Brattleboro suggestion is good. It's at the southeast corner of VT, so is closer to Boston (but not NYC). Bennington is another option, on the west side of VT.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:21 PM on August 13, 2006

Born and raised in Buffalo, I currently live downtown.

First off: Buffalo dosen't get that much snow. Much less than you think, less than Syracuse even. We normally get one bad storm a year, but look at last year, it barely ever snowed.

Buffalo is much more of a big town than a city. Pretty high quality of life, very low cost. Lots of night life (read:bars and drinking). Lots of theatre, art and music.

We have tons of universities and colleges: SUNY Buffalo, Buffalo State, medaille, canisius, deuville, etc.

No matter where you live you are no more than 30 minutes away from total farmland country. Also a wonder of the world. Also across the bridge in Canada the strippers are completely naked.

Our government is completely fucked up and the city has little money. They were talking about shutting down some libraries but I don't think that ever happened. Too much uproar from the people.

We're a pretty liberal city. Very welcoming to gays and lesbians. We have a burlesque show and just started a roller derby league. Our midnight mass bike rides routinely pull in 60-80 people.

Housing here is silly affordable. We're looking to buy a house down in Allentown (hot arty neighborhood downtown) with a yard, off-street parking, and garage (3-4 bedroom) and our estimated price range is 200-250,000. In any other city that house would be in the 750-1,000,000 range. A nice two bedroom apartment with off street parking and a yard would be 500-600 dollars.

Just don't come here thinking it's Toronto or New York, it's a big town/small city.
posted by Formiga at 6:24 PM on August 13, 2006

Buffalo Rising is a pretty good city blog to give you a sense of Buffalo's upsides. There's a community of young people who are working for change, but the city's not in great economic shape.

You've already heard most of the standard knocks. The bottom line is, if you've got a decent job you can have a wonderful life here.

Less than two hours to Toronto, unless the border is SNAFU-d. Incredible theater community. Ridiculously easy commute - people complain when traffic thickens for 30 mins. at 5 pm.

I've spent a few days in Burlington and like it a lot. I couldn't afford to live there.
posted by sacre_bleu at 6:39 PM on August 13, 2006

If you're the depressive sort who enjoys a Joy Division-suicidy atmosphere of shattered hope and bleak dark dreams and are looking for others like you, then Buffalo is your place.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 6:43 PM on August 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

Rochester, NY
posted by blue_beetle at 8:18 PM on August 13, 2006

Please, Kraftmatic. Go through a real Buffalo snowstorm (as infrequent as they are), and see how shattered and depressed the city is. It is rather more like a street party in 4 feet of snow. Keeps the beer cold!

I agree with sacre_bleu, it is not bad. You can makeyour quality of life here, and do VERY well with much less money than other places. UB has a great nursing program, and if you live here for a bit, is rather cheap. That is really the name of the game. Sacre_bleu, again, is right. Gorgeous, well-kept houses for a fraction of what you would pay even in Rochester, nice, family neighborhoods, some really great food (yes, really great), and a very strong sense of community, even if thelocal government has their head up their asses. But I am from Albany, so I am used to it.

Email in profile.
posted by oflinkey at 10:36 PM on August 13, 2006

Buffalo has a more midwestern feel. My strong first impression was that the downtown area was empty of people, and the people I saw were suburban commuters who were well-padded. More meat-and-potatoes cuisine, less ethnic and hippy and yuppie and vegetarian food. Great, great minor league baseball team.

Burlington is a great, pedestrian-friendly town. All the kinds of food Buffalo doesn't have, hippie/green-yuppie values and vibe. But expensive, as people have observed. Close to skiing and hiking.

New England is chockablock with great small cities though. Portland ME and Providence RI if you want an actual city. (Climate of Providence is very similar to Seattle; it tends to rain rather than snowing there. Great pedestrian city, too,a nd a good local arts and music scene.) Northampton/Amherst, Brattleboro, or any of a dozen other towns if you are willing to look at smaller places.

Upstate NY is also good. Rochester is economically depressed, but with gorgeous cheap houses downtown, and they also have a great minor-league baseball team.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:22 AM on August 14, 2006

I just moved from Buffalo after living there for 9 years. Here are some of my thoughts:

Economically depressed and getting worse. Sure, some will argue that there has been a turn-around lately, but I would say the exact opposite. I think it's getting worse.

However, if you can find a decent, secure job, it not a bad place to spend a few years. Housing is very affordable, both rentals and buying.

The local and county government are completely messed up. I mean: really, really bad. No one can seem to make a decision worth shit up there, and when a decision is made, it just goes into some crazy court-case to try to reverse it.

Downtown is pretty horrible. Lately, there has been a trend of converting some of the abandoned buildings into nice lofts. However, just take a trip down Main St. and you will see one abandoned building after another. It's a bit sad, actually.

Things I liked about Buffalo: The small-town atmosphere. It's really a big "small" town.

I liked being close to Toronto and Canada.

Restaurants: Buffalo has some *great* restaurants at good prices too.

Wegmans. Simply one of the best Grocery Stores in the US.

Buffalo is strange. I've found people either LOVE it or Hate it. Personally, it depressed me beyond belief.

I second "Buffalo Rising", but check out some of the blogs they link to as well. Buffalo Rising is a bit *too* positive sometimes.

OH! One more thing, as I learned a few times while I lived in Buffalo: if you think you know what "Lake Effect Snow" is, you have no clue until you experience it in person. That is some crazy-ass snow man.
posted by punkrockrat at 10:15 AM on August 14, 2006

Best answer: Aw, you guys and gals are so sweet. I'm not a Buffalo native but I have lived here for almost 20 years. Except for the 5+ years I lived in Plattsburgh, right across the lake from Burlington.

Burlington (and all the surrounding suburbs) are insane expensive for real estate, both to buy and to rent.

Burlington has a central corridor of activity... if it's not happening on Church Street, it's not happening. Yea, there's UVM. Take the tuition as a guide to who goes there.

There is at least one mallplex in Burlington. There's a big outdoor "country life" museum. I'm sure there are other activities that escape me right now.

As everyone has pointed out above, there is almost no action in "downtown" Buffalo. Downtown Buffalo means the section of Main Street from about Goodell to the HSBC Arena, where all the bank/office buildings and other crap are.

No action translates to no street life after 5pm. Yes, Buffalo made a collosal mistake putting a stupid train that goes nowhere above ground. But frankly, that was only a nail in the coffin.

And no action also means "I can't find anything to do." Anything other than the Towne Ballroom, where I saw Bauhaus in the middle of the week, the night before their Toronto show, a few weeks ago. And the amazing Mohawk Place, which has live music almost every night of the week... with bands that go on to become much more famous. And the not so great bands too. And Soundlab, where you can go see everything from freak out jazz to amazing electronica to a Peter Hook DJ set. Yea, there's nothing to do downtown.

Oh, there's also Chippewa Street and the Market Arcade. The "Chip Strip" has everything from frat bars to La Luna and some amazing restaurants. The Market Arcade shows the not-so-blockbuster movies that you won't see at the metroplex. Actually, it's part of the "Dipson Theaters" chain (which includes the North Park, Amherst, and Eastern Hills theaters). They show a lot of off-main street films.

And then there's the church that Ani DiFranco just restored and is home to Hallwalls, a world famous art organization founded, in part, by Robert Longo.

All in the non-existent downtown.

But you probably want a comparison to Church Street. That's Elmwood Avenue. The active part runs from Allen Street (aka Allentown), a national historic register district with loads of amazing old houses (and astoundingly inexpensive rent). Allentown is home to a fair number of great restaurants, bars, Rust Belt Books, weird shops, artist types, student types, antique stores, tattoo shops, etc.

The "happening" part of Elmwood ends around Forest Ave, near Buff State College. In between are shops of all stripes, including Talking Leaves (liberal and local bookstore), more tattoo places, places to get weird stuff, two amazing record stores, coffee shops, small delis, a big food coop, etc.

In August a big chunk of Elmwood is shut down for the Elmwood Art Fest, a miniature (and some would say more authentic) version of the Allentown Art Fest that happens in June.

Buffalo is home to the Albright Knox Art Gallery, full of great artworks, as well as dozens of small art galleries. Want something wacky and artistic? Check out the TriMain center, in a recycled automobile factory.

About the food. We have a few restaurants that serve food beyond the local staples of wings, pizza, and beer. Like, for instance: American, Asian Fusion/Pacific Rim, Barbeque, Beef on Weck, Cajun, California, Canadian, Caribbean, Chinese, Coffee & Tea, Continental/Eclectic, Creole, Dessert, Franchises, French,
German, Greek, Hungarian, Indian, Irish, Italian, Japanese,
Korean, Kosher-Style, Latin American, Lebanese,
Macrobiotic, Malaysian, Mediterranean, Mexican, Middle Eastern, New Orleans, Pakistani, Pizza, Polish, Puerto Rican,
Russian, Seafood, Southwestern, Spanish, Steak and Steak Houses, Thai, Vegetarian, Vietnamese, and Yemeni.

The UB medical school pretty darn decent. A few of my friends have been through it for nursing. They have decent jobs.

Politically progressive? Yea, we're liberal. We actually run the full gamut from far left to far right. We just got 2 "left" radio stations (AM, to compete with the Limbaugh/Hannity crowd) that have lots of local and nationally originated programming. Two NPR stations. Only one college station but CFNY (from Toronto) comes in pretty good.

Burlington has Seven Days, Buffalo has ArtVoice. Burlington brought you Phish, we gave you The Goo Goo Dolls and Ani DiFranco (and 10,000 Maniacs and a few others).

Buffalo is flat, Burlington is hilly.

Ultimately, your choice can be summed up this way: do you want your progressives to be patchoulli scented, Volvo driving, white-boy/girl dread-wearing Phish kids from Long Island or gay/lesbian video artists/musicians/writers from the midwest?

Yea, Buffalo is laden with the sports crap. But there's so much more. My advice is to visit both.

And then pick the city that, when Pere Ubu comes to town to do a show, can actually put an audience in the room. When I saw them at UB, it was packed. When I saw them in Burlington, they almost outnumbered the audience. And Dave Thomas had to ask that the bar TV be turned off.
posted by jdfan at 12:23 PM on August 14, 2006 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: thanks everyone, i'm planning on visiting both towns and maybe a couple more next fall. i'll hit some of you up a little later and i appreciate the offer of answering further questions i might have.
posted by andywolf at 1:08 PM on August 14, 2006

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