Best and Worst U.S. Cities | The Boneyard

Best and Worst U.S. Cities

HuskyHawk

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This seemed a popular topic in the Cooper Flagg thread, so let's move it here.

Good.
On the whole, I'm going to like smaller cities with some greenery and natural scenery with minimal tall buildings. Burlington VT is good example. l liked San Diego 40 years ago as a kid, probably still would despite it being overdeveloped now. New Orleans is still a big winner for me, despite crime in areas. Boston still lands on the good list for me, but changes are a mixed bag. Too many new high rises, development of the seaport beats the old parking lots, but lacks any soul or charm. Charleston and Savannah always get mentioned, but really "parts" of them are nice. Los Angeles is somewhat underrated, if way too big and sprawling. Austin is nice, but overrated and is growing too fast. Kansas City is nice and a rare example of a city that has been getting better the last 20 years.

Bad.
I don't like NYC, just hate the verticality and density of it. It creeps me out. Yes, I know the museums, food and shows are top notch, doesn't matter. San Franciso was filthy and showing major decline even in the late 90s, I can't even imagine it now. Springfield, MA has few redeeming qualities and many bad ones. St. Louis. It used to have some charm downtown and even out to Clayton. Now it's just pretty bad, not clean and crime is high.
 

storrsroars

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Spent years in the convention industry and had opportunties to spend a decent amount of time in pretty much any city that hosted big shows. I'll set my sample universe as cities outside NE/NYC where I've spent at least two weeks across multiple visits*. I'll do a top 8 of faves, hated, and indifferent:

Faves:
Chicago (food, direct flights, activities)
San Diego (food/climate)
Milwaukee (surprising gem of a lakefront)
Minneapolis (summer/fall only)
DC (always something to do, options for a decent ethnic meal from anywhere on planet)
Atlanta (grew on me, hated it in 90s, loved it in 2010s - MARTA/much improved food scene)
Cleveland (short trip for me, good food scene)
Tampa/Sarasota/Bradenton (Cuban food, some nice entertainment areas, only area of FL I'd consider moving to)

Never going back:
Tulsa (people/media/religion)
Phoenix (heat/heat/heat)
Orlando (too much Disney and overindulged kids)
Reno (I don't loathe it as much as others on the thread, but gotta admit, there's lots of good golf nearby)
El Paso (albeit my experiences there did produce from amusing stories)
New Orleans (last couple trips had the benefit of knowing a local who took me to interesting places, but he's no longer around there, so it has little appeal these days - better left to the young and alcoholic crowd.)
Atlantic City (c'mon, y'all gotta admit it's way worse than Reno)
Anaheim (unlike LA, I can definitively say the place sucks, but I'll cede points for John Wayne Airport)

Indifferent:
LA (simply too big to explore adequately, but lots to like and dislike)
Nashville (interesting, but a bit too country)
Seattle (feel I've seen/done everything worth seeing/doing)
Vegas (not a gambler, there's nothing "organic" about the place, but I'm intrigued by the new dome)
Dallas (been there a lot, feel like there's still stuff to see/do, but just not overly compelled to visit again)
Philly (I feel I should like it more than I do, but I kinda don't care)
Charlotte (it's a nothingburger, not really much to like or hate)
San Jose (Charlotte with better beer)

Cities I've been to once and didn't really get a chance to explore adequately, so didn't make the list: KC, Cincy, Houston, Louisville (got very sick), San Antonio. Wouldn't rule out returning to any of them. Might even add Detroit as haven't been there in 30 years.

Cities I loved where I might not go back: SF. Just hearing too many horror stories, but always had a great time there in 90s/00s; and Miami - too old for the freak shows on South Beach I used to enjoy.

*Smaller sample size than 2 weeks for Tulsa but it so creeped me out I can't imagine ever wanting to set foot there again).
 

HuskyHawk

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Spent years in the convention industry and had opportunties to spend a decent amount of time in pretty much any city that hosted big shows. I'll set my sample universe as cities outside NE/NYC where I've spent at least two weeks across multiple visits*. I'll do a top 8 of faves, hated, and indifferent:

Faves:
Chicago (food, direct flights, activities)
San Diego (food/climate)
Milwaukee (surprising gem of a lakefront)
Minneapolis (summer/fall only)
DC (always something to do, options for a decent ethnic meal from anywhere on planet)
Atlanta (grew on me, hated it in 90s, loved it in 2010s - MARTA/much improved food scene)
Cleveland (short trip for me, good food scene)
Tampa/Sarasota/Bradenton (Cuban food, some nice entertainment areas, only area of FL I'd consider moving to)

Never going back:
Tulsa (people/media/religion)
Phoenix (heat/heat/heat)
Orlando (too much Disney and overindulged kids)
Reno (I don't loathe it as much as others on the thread, but gotta admit, there's lots of good golf nearby)
El Paso (albeit my experiences there did produce from amusing stories)
New Orleans (last couple trips had the benefit of knowing a local who took me to interesting places, but he's no longer around there, so it has little appeal these days - better left to the young and alcoholic crowd.)
Atlantic City (c'mon, y'all gotta admit it's way worse than Reno)
Anaheim (unlike LA, I can definitively say the place sucks, but I'll cede points for John Wayne Airport)

Indifferent:
LA (simply too big to explore adequately, but lots to like and dislike)
Nashville (interesting, but a bit too country)
Seattle (feel I've seen/done everything worth seeing/doing)
Vegas (not a gambler, there's nothing "organic" about the place, but I'm intrigued by the new dome)
Dallas (been there a lot, feel like there's still stuff to see/do, but just not overly compelled to visit again)
Philly (I feel I should like it more than I do, but I kinda don't care)
Charlotte (it's a nothingburger, not really much to like or hate)
San Jose (Charlotte with better beer)

Cities I've been to once and didn't really get a chance to explore adequately, so didn't make the list: KC, Cincy, Houston, Louisville (got very sick), San Antonio. Wouldn't rule out returning to any of them. Might even add Detroit as haven't been there in 30 years.

Cities I loved where I might not go back: SF. Just hearing too many horror stories, but always had a great time there in 90s/00s; and Miami - too old for the freak shows on South Beach I used to enjoy.

*Smaller sample size than 2 weeks for Tulsa but it so creeped me out I can't imagine ever wanting to set foot there again).
It's always going to be interesting to see the different things people prioritize. For me, food, especially varied ethnic foods, doesn't matter much at all. Mexican food, sure, aside from that, I probably won't try it anyway. I like history, historic buildings and I like pubs and breweries and a cool live music scene. Weather plays a role. I haven't been to Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Detroit or any central north city outside of Chicago. Nicer here in summer and fall and worse there in winter. I'm not found of the desert cities any time of year.

I hear great things about Orlando away from the parks, so plan to go check it out. Could be persuaded by Milwaukee, but it's a hard sell to go there just to go there.

I'm with you on indifferent to Seattle. It used to be cool and hip, but it's not interesting now. Same with Portland, OR (I'd probably put it on the never list if I went now). Vegas has good and bad. Going in October for U2. Dallas I saw for two days. Seemed like that was enough. I lived in San Jose. It's fine. Nice enough but nothing about it compels a visit in any way.
 

storrsroars

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Sweet on getting the opening concert for the dome in Vegas. I don't really care much about seeing U2, but I would definitely consider going the Vegas if Gilmour decided to play in the dome.

I know you can survive on chicken tenders, but I will recommend both those cold cities (MKE/MSP) for things beyond food. Both have a vibrant music scene, plenty of brewpubs, and interesting history. And it's not you couldn't drive between the two. It's under 5 hours and you'll pass thru Madison, and if you're interested, Stillwater, the birthplace of Minnesota. Both cities are really hopping in summer/early fall. Maybe plan a trip to MKE for SummerFest.

And, fwiw, some of us believe that food IS culture, reflecting on both an area's past and how immigration/population movements have influenced regional cuisines.
 
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I've traveled quite a bit for work to places I never would have gone to on my own.

Good:
Milwaukee - I echo @storrsroars here. This city surprised me the most in all my travels.
Cleveland - Same here. Not sure why it gets a bad rap. Very walkable, all the major sports and the Rock and Roll HOF.
New Orleans - Name another city that has it's own food, music, architecture with an ethnic niche of the cajun culture overlaying it. Mardi Gras. Second Line funeral celebrations. Totally unique.
Portland, ME - Just a personal favorite. My kind of place.

Bad:
Atlanta - Traffic, heat, no special architecture or culture other than college football and peaches. Been there 10-12 times and don't have a single memory worth noting.
Detroit - Just a downtrodden ghetto. Great sports vibe (I went to a Red Wings game at Joe Louis) and not much else. Saw cops chasing a guy with guns drawn 10 minutes after I checked in my hotel.
Phoenix - I just don't get it. Brutally hot. Can't do anything outside. Scenery is just dead brown burned out vegetation and mountains. Spent all my time just rushing from building to car to building to stay out of the heat....can't imagine living there.
 

HuskyHawk

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Yeah @storrsroars and @Deepster I’ve heard good things about Milwaukee, but it’s good for mostly the same things Boston is good for. Hard to justify flying there for that when I have no local connection to it. I mostly go south to explore in the U.S. because I’m already in pretty much my ideal summer location. Maybe I can go for a UConn Marquette game, or Pats vs Packers.

Seems none of us enjoy the hot, brown desertscape of Arizona. I had fun in Scottsdale, but it was a bachelor party. The place is bland as can be.
 
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Growing up in New Haven and visiting often, I never really thought of it as a great city. BUT, friends who visited recently commented how much they liked it and how lively it is. I found this interesting.

About Detroit, it used to be much worse than it is now. If the last time you visited was 15 yrs ago, things have changed a lot. They finally have people living downtown again.

Philly and San Francisco fall under the category of beautiful cities that lose attraction for me because I've struggled mightily to get a meal in both places. My wife is from Philly and we know a lot of people there but every time we go, even the locals find it a struggle for us to go out to eat. Not sure who controls the liquor licenses there but it's clear there aren't enough restaurants for the number of people and tourists. 3 hr wait to be seated is untenable. I've only been to SF 2x but both times I had the same experience. It reminded me of being in Prague in the 1980s when we spent half the day foraging for food.

Cities that I liked despite being told otherwise: Houston, Lowell, MA and Fall River, MA.

Cities that once had great appeal but which have now been wimpified: New York and Boston.

Cities I didn't much like at all: Anaheim, Dallas, Atlanta, Columbus OH, Oklahoma City, any city in Florida, but esp. Ft. Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.

Cities that were good but closer to mediocre (I'd consider them decent places to live): Denver, Tulsa, Raleigh-Chapel Hill, Richmond VA.

Cities deserving of their hip reputation: Pittsburgh, Portsmouth NH, Baltimore, Providence.

Canadian cities that live up to their excellent reputations: Vancouver and Montreal.
Canadian cities that are overrated: Toronto and Quebec City.
Blah Canadian cities: Edmonton, Hamilton, Calgary, Ottawa.

I've lived in Buffalo for 20+ yrs now. Until the pandemic, it was coming up rapidly as a great city to live in. The pandemic has done a number on our restaurant industry. So many closings. It's taken a lot out of the cultural scene.
 

storrsroars

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I've lived in Buffalo for 20+ yrs now. Until the pandemic, it was coming up rapidly as a great city to live in. The pandemic has done a number on our restaurant industry. So many closings. It's taken a lot out of the cultural scene.
Sorry to hear that. I've heard a lot of good things about Buffalo in past 5 years but have only stopped by once, to get a beef on weck to try and understand the appeal (I don't).

But as far as going downhill, I'm sure the pandemic contributed, but I blame @.
 
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Sorry to hear that. I've heard a lot of good things about Buffalo in past 5 years but have only stopped by once, to get a beef on weck to try and understand the appeal (I don't).

But as far as going downhill, I'm sure the pandemic contributed, but I blame @.
Beef on Weck is not really as big as people claim around here. People rarely order it.

Buffalo has upped its wing game in recent years though. There are places blowing the old guard out of the water.
 
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It's always going to be interesting to see the different things people prioritize. For me, food, especially varied ethnic foods, doesn't matter much at all. Mexican food, sure, aside from that, I probably won't try it anyway. I like history, historic buildings and I like pubs and breweries and a cool live music scene. Weather plays a role. I haven't been to Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Detroit or any central north city outside of Chicago. Nicer here in summer and fall and worse there in winter. I'm not found of the desert cities any time of year.

I hear great things about Orlando away from the parks, so plan to go check it out. Could be persuaded by Milwaukee, but it's a hard sell to go there just to go there.

I'm with you on indifferent to Seattle. It used to be cool and hip, but it's not interesting now. Same with Portland, OR (I'd probably put it on the never list if I went now). Vegas has good and bad. Going in October for U2. Dallas I saw for two days. Seemed like that was enough. I lived in San Jose. It's fine. Nice enough but nothing about it compels a visit in any way.
If you come back to Chicago you should drive to Milwaukee. I make it there in 1 hour 10 minutes. It's also worth a trip on it's own, IMO. Not much of a skyline at all but there's beautiful architecture throughout the city with beautiful old churches, buildings, parks, beer baron mansions, and homes all along the lake. They have a serious crime problem like Chicago does but you won't really see it unless you make a point of driving to the bad neighborhoods.

The lakefront is awesome and a lot easier to deal with than Chicago's. Underrated food scene and the bar scene is excellent. Milwaukee is brew city because of the beer but it's also the bloody mary city. Any time day or night at any bar/restaurant you can get an awesome bloody with homemade mix and all sorts of fixings. Brady Street is hopping with a younger crowd, Old Historic Third Ward for a mix of regular pubs and more upscale places. Good breweries and they seem to get most of the big national acts that Chicago gets. The people are very friendly and the city is downright cheap for what it offers. It's the only other city I would want to live in the Midwest.

Chicago and Milwaukee are the two best summer cities in the country IMO. Every time you walk out the door you run into multiple neighborhood festivals. Just this weekend I had a block party put on by the bar at the end of my block with a DJ and an oyster shucker outside the bar. Two blocks over the elementary school had a street fest with craft beer, food, bouncy castles for the kids, karaoke etc. Three blocks in the other direction from me there was the Bucktown Art Fest with local and national artists, 2 music stages, craft beers, a bunch of food trucks, a wrestling ring with professional wrestlers...

As far as weather Chicago/Milwaukee is a little bit colder in the winter and Boston gets more snow. The summers are pretty much identical but our summer seems to last a little longer and we seem to have a shorter fall than Boston. People flock to Milwaukee and Chicago in the summer, people flee Boston and NYC in the summer.
 

HuskyHawk

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If you come back to Chicago you should drive to Milwaukee. I make it there in 1 hour 10 minutes. It's also worth a trip on it's own, IMO. Not much of a skyline at all but there's beautiful architecture throughout the city with beautiful old churches, buildings, parks, beer baron mansions, and homes all along the lake. They have a serious crime problem like Chicago does but you won't really see it unless you make a point of driving to the bad neighborhoods.

The lakefront is awesome and a lot easier to deal with than Chicago's. Underrated food scene and the bar scene is excellent. Milwaukee is brew city because of the beer but it's also the bloody mary city. Any time day or night at any bar/restaurant you can get an awesome bloody with homemade mix and all sorts of fixings. Brady Street is hopping with a younger crowd, Old Historic Third Ward for a mix of regular pubs and more upscale places. Good breweries and they seem to get most of the big national acts that Chicago gets. The people are very friendly and the city is downright cheap for what it offers. It's the only other city I would want to live in the Midwest.

Chicago and Milwaukee are the two best summer cities in the country IMO. Every time you walk out the door you run into multiple neighborhood festivals. Just this weekend I had a block party put on by the bar at the end of my block with a DJ and an oyster shucker outside the bar. Two blocks over the elementary school had a street fest with craft beer, food, bouncy castles for the kids, karaoke etc. Three blocks in the other direction from me there was the Bucktown Art Fest with local and national artists, 2 music stages, craft beers, a bunch of food trucks, a wrestling ring with professional wrestlers...

As far as weather Chicago/Milwaukee is a little bit colder in the winter and Boston gets more snow. The summers are pretty much identical but our summer seems to last a little longer and we seem to have a shorter fall than Boston. People flock to Milwaukee and Chicago in the summer, people flee Boston and NYC in the summer.
You had me until the end. Boston is one of the top tourist destinations in the country in the summer. Tourist season is May - October. There certainly isn't anybody fleeing in the summer. 26M tourists in 2020, most of them in that May-October window. It's a cycle, college kids leave, tourists arrive, then college kids come back. September - October it's mobbed because they are both here.

I'll try to check out Milwaukee. Too many people have said good things about it. Work travel seems to be a thing of the past for me now, but even before I'd really only go to Austin the last few years. Now that's a place people flee in the summer.
 
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You had me until the end. Boston is one of the top tourist destinations in the country in the summer. Tourist season is May - October. There certainly isn't anybody fleeing in the summer. 26M tourists in 2020, most of them in that May-October window. It's a cycle, college kids leave, tourists arrive, then college kids come back. September - October it's mobbed because they are both here.

I'll try to check out Milwaukee. Too many people have said good things about it. Work travel seems to be a thing of the past for me now, but even before I'd really only go to Austin the last few years. Now that's a place people flee in the summer.
I'm only basing it off of a long summer weekend I spent there and the times my Boston buddies have visited me in Chicago. They were shocked at how busy Chicago is in the summer and how there's festivals and block parties everywhere, said Boston doesn't have any of that. Boston seemed downright sleepy when I was there. I figured without the college students and with people going to the Cape and islands Boston clears out some in the summer. It felt a bit like NYC in that regard where people are angling to leave for the weekends.
 

HuskyHawk

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I'm only basing it off of a long summer weekend I spent there and the times my Boston buddies have visited me in Chicago. They were shocked at how busy Chicago is in the summer and how there's festivals and block parties everywhere, said Boston doesn't have any of that. Boston seemed downright sleepy when I was there. I figured without the college students and with people going to the Cape and islands Boston clears out some in the summer. It felt a bit like NYC in that regard where people are angling to leave for the weekends.
I haven't noticed that, but are you talking about downtown? Boston has a lot of neighborhoods, like yours in Chicago, that are quite a bit different than the places most people go. It's true that some folks with money in Back Bay, Beacon Hill etc. are going to head to the Cape, North Shore, Maine coast, Newport or the New Hampshire lakes. The whole region is just so busy in summer. The traffic is insane. July 4th brings over a half million people to the Esplanade along the Charles. Fenway area is now bustling all summer long (much nicer than it used to be). Southie and the Seaport are busy all summer. The downtown financial district will slow down for sure. More people on vacation, and work from home made that even more noticeable.

My basic point was, if you're in New England in summer, leaving the region to go to the midwest or south is pretty much the last thing on your mind. Seems I should make a point to get to Milwaukee though.

Thinking about this thread, there are a lot of places I've really never spent time. I've visited a lot of states, but I've only ever driven by Philadelphia. Charlotte? Just the airport. Drove through Denver, never stayed. Spent one night in SLC. One day/night in Atlanta. Two days in Dallas. Drove to the edge of Cheyenne, WY, switched from I-80 east to I-25 south. Drove through Indianapolis and Columbus. One night in Cleveland (en route to Chicago). I don't know if I'm missing much. Maybe.
 
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Thinking about this thread, there are a lot of places I've really never spent time. I've visited a lot of states, but I've only ever driven by Philadelphia. Charlotte? Just the airport. Drove through Denver, never stayed. Spent one night in SLC. One day/night in Atlanta. Two days in Dallas. Drove to the edge of Cheyenne, WY, switched from I-80 east to I-25 south. Drove through Indianapolis and Columbus. One night in Cleveland (en route to Chicago). I don't know if I'm missing much. Maybe.

Philadelphia is worth a longer visit.

As for the rest you're not missing much (haven't been to Cheyenne, but if I find myself in Wyoming at some point, I'm not checking out their towns or cities).
 

HuskyHawk

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Philadelphia is worth a longer visit.

As for the rest you're not missing much (haven't been to Cheyenne, but if I find myself in Wyoming at some point, I'm not checking out their towns or cities).
Yes, given what we enjoy (historic sites etc.) we need to make an effort to get there. It just keeps falling short on the list. I assume Denver is interesting, or at least has that reputation.
 
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I'll go

My criteria:
Natural beauty
Public transit
Walkability
Diversity
Food/Drink
Architecture

Good:
NYC (Manhattan outside of Midtown)
Boston (waterfront, esplanade, Cambridge)
Atlanta (a city in a forest)
Seattle (great neighborhoods north of the city & mountain views)
Chicago

Indifferent:
LA (an unconnected sprawl of neighborhoods, no true park system)
Portland
Boise (cool areas & access to outdoors within the city)

Bad:
Texas cities
Nashville

Need to see Milwaukee, Philly, Pittsburgh
 
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Best party cities:

New Orleans
Vegas
Miami

That’s all that really matters.
 

Waquoit

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Indifferent:

Portland
Huh. Both are favorites of mine. When I was in OR, transit within the city was free. I though it was great.
 

Waquoit

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In New Orleans, I thought the "tourist traps" were great. We both got a kick that when watching the pilot episode of NCIS: New Orleans; the on-location shots were practically a video of our recent trip.
 

HuskyHawk

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In New Orleans, I thought the "tourist traps" were great. We both got a kick that when watching the pilot episode of NCIS: New Orleans; the on-location shots were practically a video of our recent trip.
They can be a hoot during daylight. I'm probably just old, but I leave Bourbon Street to the kids and crazy people after dark. Jackson Square is fine.

Frenchman Street is the core of the live music scene, more locals and it's an absolute blast going up and down and checking out different acts. What the Quater was 25-30 years ago according to some locals. There is some interesting stuff up by Tulane and Loyola in Uptown as well. You can find really good restaurants and fun bars in Uptown. Magazine has lots of nice spots as well. Shout out to the WWII museum, which is really well done.
 

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