Month-long visits to American cities

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55andout
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Month-long visits to American cities

Post by 55andout »

My wife and I, both 57, have been retired for a couple of years, me from a public accounting career, and her from advertising and marketing. We are both in good health, active, and we've always had a dream of visiting various major US cities for longer than the typical "tourist" visit. Our goal is to become part of a neighborhood, shop and eat at local stores and restaurants, and blend in to the fabric of the city. We've visited many of the major cities while on business trips and otherwise, but never for long enough to feel like we "knew" the city. We both enjoy history, learning, museums, cycling, running, and using local transportation, and want to explore more than the Gray Line bus tours provide:-)

Locations at the top of our list are Boston, NYC, San Francisco, Chicago, Washington DC, Atlanta, and Seattle. We are looking for feedback related to short term rental options and preferred locations in various large cities, and any other feedback from people of have done this previously, the positives, negatives, etc. We have used and are comfortable using vrbo, homealone, and a few other like kind websites to find reasonable short term rentals. We might also be open to "condo sitting", should the right situation arise. Our goal is to visit for anywhere from 2-4 weeks in any given city, and we are flexible in terms of the time of year. We currently reside in Michigan, and have spent the last 2 winters in FL (Jan. through March) assisting with my elderly parents, so our preferred travel dates are probably spring and fall, sort of like the shoulder seasons in Europe.

Any and all feedback would be much appreciated.
upsydaisy
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Re: Month-long visits to American cities

Post by upsydaisy »

I don't have a huge amount of experience, but I really like the idea. My wife and I are likely to take overlapping career breaks sometime next year and we're very tempted to do something similar for around a year before settling back down into new jobs. A few years ago we did this in Seattle and, two years before that, in New York and I would offer the following thoughts/observations: (note that our situation was a little different - in each case, one of us was working in the city in question and the other took extended leave/work-from-home from the other job)

- Live centrally. It's totally worth the extra cost on VRBO or AirBnB to live as centrally as possible. I think a lot of the essence of a city dissipates as you move further out. Given you're only there for 2-4 weeks, you need to experience the essence in the most concentrated form!

- Use public transport. Apart from, say, LA, most locals in most cities in the US use public transport a lot. I think using it yourself helps you integrate with the feeling of living in the city. I really noticed this in New York. Before our two months there, I'd visited upwards of 20 times for upto about a week at most on business trips. When I'd visited, though, I always used cabs and/or limos because work was paying and they wanted me to jump around from place to place. When we were there, we took the subway everywhere and I really felt much more like a real new yorker.

- Buy local and cook local. Similar to transport, figure out how locals buy their food and do the same and cook yourselves. It's easy to fall into a trap of relying on eating out when you're a tourist but too many of the places you'll try with either be part of national chains and/or have some kind of diluted cuisine to fit most tastes (obviously there's an exception for local specialities ... we ate some of the most incredible Japanese food in Seattle thanks to the large, thriving immigrant population there, for example).

- Pick a good time. While this is 'gaming' things slightly, most cities have classic times to be there. Given you have the choice, I'd pick the right time. Eg DC when the blossoms come out, New York either in the fall or at winter, Seattle in the summer or deep winter, etc.

Hope it helps and have a great time -- I think you're going to have a lot of fun doing this!
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VictoriaF
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Re: Month-long visits to American cities

Post by VictoriaF »

Hostelling International (HI) is present in all cities you listed except Atlanta. Hostels are usually well connected by public transportation because typical visitors do not drive. Many hostels have kitchens with refrigerators, stoves, and dishes.

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Re: Month-long visits to American cities

Post by sport »

One other thing to consider is that the experience in an unfamiliar city can depend heavily on the neighborhood you stay in. I know that my city will give you a wide variety of experiences depending on the area of the city. There are a lot of ethnic neighborhoods and they differ greatly in almost all aspects from one another. Other cities may not have such wide variations. Depending on what you are looking for, researching the city of interest would be very worthwhile.
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Rainier
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Re: Month-long visits to American cities

Post by Rainier »

Why would you consider Atlanta? It would be the last place on my list. Other cities sound nice.
camden
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Re: Month-long visits to American cities

Post by camden »

Interesting idea. I would suggest considering New Orleans as an alternative to Atlanta. Come anytime between November and May, except the couple of weeks before Mardi Gras. April is the single best month to visit.
btenny
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Re: Month-long visits to American cities

Post by btenny »

I like your idea and envy your plan. I would also agree with Atlanta. It is a fun city with lots of things to see locally and around the area. Things like the Coke Museum, Downtown Atlanta and the Olympic stuff, Braves Stadium, Georgia Tech, Buckhead, Martin Luther stuff and so forth. Then there are the north lakes and river to see and fish. And relatively nearby is the Atlantic coast and Savannah for a few days as well. Or if you are connected maybe jog over to Augusta and see the Masters next week. :sharebeer

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MitchL
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Re: Month-long visits to American cities

Post by MitchL »

Was there a reason you're limiting the options to domestic? I've thought about staying a month in a city overseas when I'm "55 and out..." :)

ML
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Re: Month-long visits to American cities

Post by The Wizard »

btenny wrote:I like your idea and envy your plan. I would also agree with Atlanta. It is a fun city with lots of things to see locally and around the area. Things like the Coke Museum, Downtown Atlanta and the Olympic stuff, Braves Stadium, Georgia Tech, Buckhead, Martin Luther stuff and so forth. Then there are the north lakes and river to see and fish. And relatively nearby is the Atlantic coast and Savannah for a few days as well. Or if you are connected maybe jog over to Augusta and see the Masters next week. :sharebeer

Bill
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centrifuge41
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Re: Month-long visits to American cities

Post by centrifuge41 »

I agree to live in fairly central neighborhoods and use public transportation so you can get the essence of a city. Here's some samples:
Boston: Back Bay, Cambridge. Live near a T station.
NYC: Greenwich village, midtown, upper east, upper west, etc.
San Fran: not as familiar with.
Chicago: Near north, loop.
Washington DC: most of the NW quadrant, somewhere close to metro. Dupont circle, Adams Morgan, Foggy Bottom, Chinatown etc.
Atlanta: In your list, this may be the least city-ish of the cities you've listed. Mid-class professionals don't often like MARTA that much, so public transit alone might not take care of your needs. The city isn't that dense. Downtown is sort of a food dessert. Midtown and Buckhead might be reasonable neighborhoods.
Seattle: Belltown, Capitol Hill, International District, Queen Anne, University District etc. There's not really a lot of rail (other than that one light rail line), but the bus network is quite solid.
jbourne99
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Re: Month-long visits to American cities

Post by jbourne99 »

For your time frame (2-4 weeks, maybe more) I'd look to craigslist. I had a reunion with college buddies in DC and we found an awesome weekend rental in DC near Adams Morgan that was fully furnished. I have little doubt that such a unit could be negotiated for a longer stay.
Valuethinker
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Re: Month-long visits to American cities

Post by Valuethinker »

centrifuge41 wrote:I agree to live in fairly central neighborhoods and use public transportation so you can get the essence of a city. Here's some samples:
Boston: Back Bay, Cambridge. Live near a T station.
NYC: Greenwich village, midtown, upper east, upper west, etc.
San Fran: not as familiar with.
Chicago: Near north, loop.
Washington DC: most of the NW quadrant, somewhere close to metro. Dupont circle, Adams Morgan, Foggy Bottom, Chinatown etc.
Atlanta: In your list, this may be the least city-ish of the cities you've listed. Mid-class professionals don't often like MARTA that much, so public transit alone might not take care of your needs. The city isn't that dense. Downtown is sort of a food dessert. Midtown and Buckhead might be reasonable neighborhoods.
Seattle: Belltown, Capitol Hill, International District, Queen Anne, University District etc. There's not really a lot of rail (other than that one light rail line), but the bus network is quite solid.
I think in New York City, for a month, you'd be alright staying in Park Slope in Brooklyn? The neighbourhood is like an Upper West Side in Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Museum of Art is fascinating (would be a major museum in any city but New York!) and you can commute in by subway, avoiding the worst of rush hour. There may be other suitable neighbourhoods in Brooklyn too (Brooklyn Heights, the one in 'Moonstruck', right across the river from lower Manhattan, is a beautiful place indeed but, I imagine, priced to boot). With the rising cost of living in Manhattan, the 'trendy' in New York has really moved out to the Boroughs, I believe, particularly Brooklyn.

We spent a week in Back Bay in Boston renting an apartment. Fabulous trip. If you get your timing right, you can do a Fall Colors tour. And other times, there are bus tours to Revolutionary War sites, Walden pond etc. Driving in Boston would be ughh.
Valuethinker
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Re: Month-long visits to American cities

Post by Valuethinker »

MitchL wrote:Was there a reason you're limiting the options to domestic? I've thought about staying a month in a city overseas when I'm "55 and out..." :)

ML
We have rented an apartment in Venice for a week. Time of year is important because you have to avoid the summer months due to the number of tourists (always bad, but worse) and there is the flooding in winter. I am not sure there is a month to do in Venice but a week certainly flies by.

Of Italian cities Rome might be the one to spend a month (but not in summer!). The winter can be surprisingly cold and the pavement is slippery when it is wet but even at Christmas you usually get some sunny days.

Paris or London there is a month to do. Other cities with a lot of charm include Berlin, Antwerp (small place), Toulouse (you'd need a car, but great trips around there, in fact I'd rent outside of Toulouse-- plenty of Brits who have places they rent out). Cordoba Granada or Seville (again with a car, although in Seville itself I don't think I'd want one day to day). Barcelona (ditto on no car!). Lisbon perhaps.

There is no 'good' month to be in London, because the crowds are big and the weather so variable. However generally from the 2nd week of July it's summer holidays until the week before Labour Day (the British Bank Holiday is the last Monday in August), and so by August the suburban 'British' areas get really quiet (relatively) and the downtown gets really busy with foreign tourists. I would say September often has the best combination of weather, etc. In terms of renting a family place though, August might be ideal-- the English usually take at least 2 weeks off in August.

Paris oddly you can get bargains in August, because the whole town decamps for the annual holiday. What's left is tourists and (even more than) usually grumpy Parisians. But then things (when they are open, and most of the museums etc. should be) are less crowded and the traffic not as bad. You do get heat waves but usually it's not too intolerable.

London for a month would not be cheap, but it's perfectly feasible to stay in say Surrey and commute in (as long as you can avoid the 6.30-9.00am rush hour) or if you are on the Tube in the outer suburbs (Balham, Tooting, Wimbledon, Ealing, Barnet for example). Or perhaps rent some place which is not charming but has good transport eg on the eastern end of the Docklands Light Railway (DLR).
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Frobie
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Re: Month-long visits to American cities

Post by Frobie »

I've never understood why some people on the Internet (and it's far from a Bogleheads-specific thing) feel the need to talk badly about some places whenever they are mentioned.

I grew up in the sticks--and in a lot of ways I prefer that to city life. And I tend to be a somewhat cynical and pessimistic person. But I've never visited a new city and left thinking, "Well, that was a lousy place."

If you can't find Something to Do in a city of a few million people, that says a lot more about the complainer than it does the city IMHO.

This sounds like a lot of fun. 55andout, I hope you have a wonderful time.
Valuethinker
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Re: Month-long visits to American cities

Post by Valuethinker »

Frobie wrote:I've never understood why some people on the Internet (and it's far from a Bogleheads-specific thing) feel the need to talk badly about some places whenever they are mentioned.

I grew up in the sticks--and in a lot of ways I prefer that to city life. And I tend to be a somewhat cynical and pessimistic person. But I've never visited a new city and left thinking, "Well, that was a lousy place."

If you can't find Something to Do in a city of a few million people, that says a lot more about the complainer than it does the city IMHO.
There is a difference between spending 1 or 2 days in a place and a whole month. Often in the 1-2 case you are in a hotel somewhere, perhaps tacked onto a business trip, finding your way around is not always easy etc. But there is usually some sight of interest.

It's hard, if you grew up in a traditional city, some North American cities (more towards the west) there is 'no there, there'-- just spread out. And also the classic 'office buildings downtown, surrounded by bandit country'. (as a tourist, you have to be more careful than a local, who usually knows where/ where not to go). To be fair I am thinking Detroit, and even in Detroit there are supposed to be some interesting bits (around the Art Museum?). Then you go out to the suburbs, and there can be this sameness of shopping malls and big box stores and highways.

Some of the more modern cities in China just don't have a lot of charm and they are in a hurry to bulldoze what historic charm there is, even in a place like Shanghai-- you get something like the Forbidden City in Beijing or the Bund in Shanghai which is preserved in plastic for the tourists, whilst new superbuildings spring up around, and endless endless traffic. Plus in an Asian city you may have the issue of perhaps not being able to read the street signs or communicate with locals, etc.

Also you get cities which are just horrible especially in Eastern Europe. Bucharest in Romania used to be like that: Ceaucescu bulldozed a lot of the old bit to build his palaces, the streets were full of packs of stray dogs, etc. I think it is better now.

You get cities here like Coventry and Birmingham which were badly bombed, rebuilt at just the wrong moment (big roads you can't cross, grey concrete edifices that have not aged well) and whilst they have things to look at (Birminghas has, acoustically, one of the best concert halls in Europe, if not the world) they really aren't that pretty places. I agree there is usually a civic museum etc. of some note, but a lot of postindustrial cities in Western Europe are fairly dull.

Damascus and Aleppo were once wonderful places-- they won't be again,likely in my lifetime. I have heard the reconstruction of Beirut is pretty soul-less. I shall probably never get to Baghdad or Tehran.

Cities I would like to experience more of (or for the first time) in North America include:

- Philadelphia
- Cleveland (at least to see the 'streetcar suburbs' which were famous in their day)

There are several midwest art museums which are worth a trip in their own right, when these cities were richer in the first half of 20th century they collected a lot of important art. I'd have to do some homework to say which ones but I think Cleveland and Detroit for sure.

- Buffalo (for the Victorian architecture, generally Buffalo has not had a happy last 50 years or so)
- Seattle
- Portland
- Los Angeles (although the original 'no there there')- changing planes in LAX doesn't count ;-)
- San Francisco
- Washington/ New York/ Boston although I've been to all of those a few times
- Montreal
- Vancouver

With most countries I usually recommend trying to get out into the smaller places, get a real feel for the country. It's not so much the great museums, it's sitting in the town square with a coffee or a beer, watching the world go by.
ILnative
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Re: Month-long visits to American cities

Post by ILnative »

I think it sounds like a wonderful plan! One thing to research before you jump into a rental is that particular city's codes regarding subletting or short term rentals. I am pretty sure that in NYC (all boroughs) this is illegal for short term rentals and you can be kicked out if someone in the building objects or notices. There may be nuances that would allow a longer (month or two) rental - but I think this would be worth investigating before you take the plunge in any particular city! Let us know how it goes!
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Re: Month-long visits to American cities

Post by Rupert »

You have to have a car in Atlanta. MARTA will simply not get you where you want to go. I recommend staying there only 2 weeks and, while there, staying in a neighborhood like Virginia Highlands or in a separate town just outside Atlanta, such as Decatur. Downtown Atlanta is dead at night. The only folks walking around will be tourists in town for conventions. I recommend spending another 2 weeks somewhere else in the South, such as Charleston, Savannah or New Orleans. I recommend staying in the Garden District in New Orleans. It's too noisy and touristy in the French Quarter.
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Re: Month-long visits to American cities

Post by john94549 »

For a long(ish) visit to the SF Bay Area, be very aware of our micro-climates. It can be over 100 and beastly in Healdsburg or Walnut Creek, and freezing in the City. Once my wife decides to retire, I've thought it would be fun to "trade places" with another retired couple in another part of the country. A couple of years back, I stumbled across a website where folks offered swaps. I'm sure it's still out there.
Hikes_With_Dogs
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Re: Month-long visits to American cities

Post by Hikes_With_Dogs »

Out of the cities you mentioned, my favorites would be Boston, Seattle, and Chicago.

I think your choice should reflect more of what you like to do - you can blend in anywhere and get to know anyplace, but what do you like to do in your spare time? For example when I think of Boston, I think of the rich history, the seafood, very walkable. Chicago has some of the world's best museums and shows - comedy, opera, etc, amazing shopping. Seattle has that outdoor granola vibe - beautiful scenery and nature and a decent food scene. Also consider the weather - Chicago and Boston can be very very cold and snowy depending what month you want to do this - Seattle has rain much of the year besides the summer.

I'm living in Seattle right now, so I'm very slanted towards that - there are about 10 or so different areas of Seattle I could tell you about - but I'll just tell you some of the best things: Pike's Place Market - San Juans - space needle + museums, all the amazing places to hike and see waterfalls or boat trips to see whales. plus fun sporting events!
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Re: Month-long visits to American cities

Post by halfnine »

Frobie wrote:If you can't find Something to Do in a city of a few million people, that says a lot more about the complainer than it does the city IMHO.
Except, it's not limited to people who just speak badly about a place. It is also relative to those who speak well of a place. As such, I never judge a place by other people's opinions. However, I can definitely figure out what type of traveler a person is and what their interests are based on the places they like and the places they don't.
Diogenes
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Re: Month-long visits to American cities

Post by Diogenes »

We are doing that now, but not U.S. cities. Having lived in many of those, and lived 7 years overseas, we decided that American cities are now too similar in too many respects. Interesting things to see, and I love America, but not enough differences really. Currently we are in France where we have rented a house for a month. Next we plan New Zealand and Malaysia. Many people limit themselves to the U.S. as they think it is too expensive to do otherwise. Not necessarily true. It is a big world out there . Great way to brush up language skills and form your own opinions with relying on the media. Also we view it as a chance to be a positive American presence to the local people by jumping in with both feet and inquiring minds.

_D_
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texasdiver
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Re: Month-long visits to American cities

Post by texasdiver »

If it were me, I would scratch Atlanta off the list and pick a different more interesting southern city to experience. Perhaps Charleston. Or maybe New Orleans although that isn't everyone's cup of tea. I would even pick one of the big Texas cities over Atlanta.

Other cities to consider would be Portland, Vancouver BC, and Montreal. In fact for experiencing a fascinating and accessible world-class city you'll find it hard to beat Vancouver.

Oh, and each city has a prime month to visit so you'll have to schedule carefully.

Boston - fall for the New England foliage.
Seattle - Summer (late summer is best) and NOT late fall or early winter when it is cold dark and rainy.
Atlanta - early Spring (NOT summer)
Washington DC - later spring

etc.
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Re: Month-long visits to American cities

Post by KyleAAA »

I live in Atlanta and despite what others have said, you can easily get anywhere you want to go on MARTA, you just have to take the bus. It takes more planning to use public transit outside the main routes because some of the surrounding counties have their own transit systems and they don't interface all that well, but you can see and do absolutely everything you'd want to via MARTA. I wouldn't stay downtown, though. Like those above said, it's primarily a business and convention district and is completely deserted at night. Midtown near piedmont park, Inman Park, or the Virginia Highlands would give you a more authentic experience. Stay away from Buckhead except perhaps to shop. They tore down everything fun in the area in order to build high-rise condos. There aren't even many decent restaurants in the area anymore.

Best time to visit would probably be right now. It's beautiful outside so long as pollen doesn't bother you too much.
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Watty
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Re: Month-long visits to American cities

Post by Watty »

One thing I would do is to check out the housing near college campuses. When school is out in the summer apartment and condos often are begging for people to sub-let them. Even during the school year there are often empty apartments and condos available when students plans change. Most campuses are active and pretty well connected to public transportation too.

If you are retired from a large company then check with the people there to see if you can still book hotels and rental cars at their corporate rate.

Hotels that run residence Inn type of hotes also have their version of "frequent flyer" points so it would be worthwhile to research these and possibly get an affiliated credit card to get as many points as possible. If there is a large sign up bonus do not get an extra card for your wife on your account. If she gets her own credit card she may also get the sign up bonus.

Be sure to check out various affiliated museums and zoos. Often you can get a membership at one and your membership will also get you into affiliated museums in other cities.
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Re: Month-long visits to American cities

Post by wilked »

Agree with the others, skip Atlanta. Otherwise looks good! :sharebeer

I used to live in New Orleans, and that is a much better substitute
Harold
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Re: Month-long visits to American cities

Post by Harold »

This is a fantastic idea. It should greatly enhance your life, and the lives of those you interact with.

Of note though, you'll likely find this easier and more enjoyable in pedestrian-friendly cities with good public transportation. Although every place where people live has much of interest and value, you'll find it much easier to immerse yourself in a vibrant life in New York, San Francisco, or DC -- than you will in Atlanta or Houston.
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happymob
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Re: Month-long visits to American cities

Post by happymob »

I like the idea. I will be following this thread. My wife and I (with 2 young kids and jobs where we are are officially off for 3 months) are considering doing something similar for 2 months out the year.

Edit - I don't want to suggest a city, but I do want to point out that for an individual or a couple (no children), there are a lot of options for "corporate housing". Any city in the US will have options for housing someone for a month that costs somewhere between hotel rates and normal year-long rental rates. Craigslist might be better, but there are alternatives. Retirees could certainly look at the corporate rental world and save some money if Craigslist doesn't work out.
halfnine
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Re: Month-long visits to American cities

Post by halfnine »

Follow up posts rarely occur, but this is one of those posts in which I'd certainly enjoy hearing about the details once you've done it.
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Re: Month-long visits to American cities

Post by carolinaman »

Rupert wrote:You have to have a car in Atlanta. MARTA will simply not get you where you want to go. I recommend staying there only 2 weeks and, while there, staying in a neighborhood like Virginia Highlands or in a separate town just outside Atlanta, such as Decatur. Downtown Atlanta is dead at night. The only folks walking around will be tourists in town for conventions. I recommend spending another 2 weeks somewhere else in the South, such as Charleston, Savannah or New Orleans. I recommend staying in the Garden District in New Orleans. It's too noisy and touristy in the French Quarter.
Charleston is a much better choice IMO than any of the other Southern cities mentioned. It is very unique with great history and culture, great food, wonderful beaches and other attractions. We go to Charleston often. I have been to both Savannah and New Orleans and never understood the appeal either has, at least in comparison to Charleston. I attended a conference in downtown Atlanta 2 years ago and was surprised at how dead it was. Quite disappointing. Charlotte downtown has more going on than Atlanta.
wesleymouch
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Re: Month-long visits to American cities

Post by wesleymouch »

Having lived in New Orlean for four years I can only say that it is a crime ridden dump but would likely be enjoyable for a one month visit. You can live uptown, in the Garden District or the French quarter and use the trolley to get around. It is the most unique American city and has great food and night life. Just be very careful as the crime is quite high and dangerous neighborhoods can look like safe neighborhoods. I have only visited Charleston once and can confirm that the downtown is enjoyable, walkable and I felt safe but did not stay long enough to find out if it actually was. You are also forgetting Miami which is one of the USA's most unique cities and has great restaurants, nightlife, etc. You would likely need a car to take full advantage but you could live in the Brickell Ave area, Miami Beach or Cocunut Grove and get by without one.
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55andout
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Re: Month-long visits to American cities

Post by 55andout »

Thanks so much to everyone for the great feedback, and the well wishes on our plan. It's something I've dreamed about for years, and we're hoping to finally make it start to happen.

I didn't expect to generate so much buzz when I mentioned Atlanta :-) We've spent a fair amount of time in the past in Charleston (had a good friend who owned some very nice restaurants on Bay Street....Magnolias, Blossoms, Cypress) and New Orleans. Have stayed both in the Quarter, as well as on Canal Street a number of times. Loved the WW II Museum, and went to the Jazz and Heritage Festival 3 years ago.....an awesome time! Maybe we haven't been to the right parts of NO, but I don't feel the same sense of being safe walking around NO as I do in most parts of Manhattan, for instance, so that's a few of the reasons why I mentioned Atl vs Charleston and NO. I've driven through Atl, and changed planes at the airport there many times, but have yet to really experience the city. Given all that, Atl is probably more down the list than some of the other cities I mentioned.

In terms of travel overseas, we've had the pleasure of a fair amount of travel there, primarily backpacking (years ago) and more recently via trains. Spent the month of May in Italy two years ago right after I retired, visiting primarily smaller cities, (have already done the big cities prior) staying about a week at a time at a hotel/apartment in a central area, and doing day trips from there. BTW, the most beautiful place in the world I have ever experienced is when we staying at an apartment for a week in Managgio, on the banks of Lake Como. The combination of the Italian Alps, ferry boats cruising across the blue lake water, and the red tiled roofs of the homes and businesses along the shores of the Lake are enough to take your breath away. I think we'll keep the overseas city visits an option going forward, but our thought right now is to try it in the US first, where we at least have the language part figured out! Also, with elderly parents in their late 80's, the thought is it's easier to get to them from somewhere in the US vs having to return from overseas if something unexpectedly happens to them.

So far, I'm excited by all the positve feedback, with very little negative, so I think we might be on the right track. Thanks again, and feel free to add any further feedback if you think of it, or to PM me directly.
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Re: Month-long visits to American cities

Post by Barefootgirl »

The best months of the year in Washington DC, in my opinion - are September and October.

No pollen, temps start to moderate, tourists mostly go home/back to school, more events to attend, wonderful walking weather and days are still long enough to enjoy them fully..

BFG
How many retired people does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Only one, but he takes all day.
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55andout
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Re: Month-long visits to American cities

Post by 55andout »

As a followup to my original post on 4/8/2013, and as many of you requested, I wanted to share our first experience with visiting another US city, and I'm afraid it will be difficult topping the great time we had!

As it turned out, a fellow Boglehead from the San Francisco Bay area saw my post, and contacted me via email initially, then we followed up with phone calls and finally a Skype session. Turns out his wife and him were leaving town for a two week vacation, and they invited my wife and I to house sit their wonderful apartment and cat while they were away. As unusual as this might seem, we got a real good feeling about the opportunity, and made plans for our plane tickets and a Clipper Card that covered all forms of public transportation while in the Bay area. And for my wife, the topper was being able to have a cat to take care of while we were away from our two cats!

We arrived at their place in early October, and spent a day or so getting to know them and their friendly cat. After they left on their vacation, we started ours. A trip to the local Whole Foods was first in order to stock up on a few basics, then we quickly figured out the bus and BART schedules so we could get around town efficiently. They had left us with a list of some great local restaurants, and we enjoyed those, as well as a few others that we stumbled upon. Although we were not able to visit Alcatraz due to the govt shutdown, that was probably the only item on our list we were not able to do. Activities included visiting both Stanford and Berkeley campuses, an 18 mile bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge, through Sausolito, and ending in Tiberon, going to a couple of concerts, a music festival, an Octoberfest street festival, a couple of movies, two museums, a food tour, a brewery tour, and many miles both running and walking.

As they say, the more you know, the more you find out what you don't know. After two weeks, it seems we just scratched the surface of what the Bay area has to offer, and the ability to return each night to a wonderful apartment overlooking the city was beyond my wildest thoughts when I posted our travel ideas on this forum back in April. It just goes to show the level of trust that fellow Bogleheads have for each other, and even though we spent very little time discussing our investment strategies, there was an immediate comfort level with our host and hostess.

With this first fantastic adventure under our belt, we are more excited than ever to continue the idea of exploring other cities in the US, and getting the opportunity to fit in like locals. You could say this experience was crafted and executed in the truest sense of following the Boglehead philosophy!

Thanks so much to my Boglehead friend from the Bay area, and I trust our paths will cross again further on up the road. If I've missed anything, or should anyone have any questions regarding our adventure, feel free to respond here, or via my private email.
Last edited by 55andout on Tue Oct 22, 2013 7:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
reggiesimpson
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Re: Month-long visits to American cities

Post by reggiesimpson »

You couldnt have timed your post better. We have one giant foot "out the door" so to speak and your plan is helping me formulate our own plan. All i can add at this point is to be wary of Air BnB costs in and NYC and boroughs. According to todays WSJ the host apartments may be getting hit with a NYC Hotel tax soon.
Grt2bOutdoors
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Re: Month-long visits to American cities

Post by Grt2bOutdoors »

reggiesimpson wrote:You couldnt have timed your post better. We have one giant foot "out the door" so to speak and your plan is helping me formulate our own plan. All i can add at this point is to be wary of Air BnB costs in and NYC and boroughs. According to todays WSJ the host apartments may be getting hit with a NYC Hotel tax soon.
The city needs the money? :oops: From personal experience, there are more taxes in NYC than anywhere else - the tax code is thicker than my set of encyclopedias from Britannica.
"One should invest based on their need, ability and willingness to take risk - Larry Swedroe" Asking Portfolio Questions
reggiesimpson
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Re: Month-long visits to American cities

Post by reggiesimpson »

Grt2bOutdoors wrote:
reggiesimpson wrote:You couldnt have timed your post better. We have one giant foot "out the door" so to speak and your plan is helping me formulate our own plan. All i can add at this point is to be wary of Air BnB costs in and NYC and boroughs. According to todays WSJ the host apartments may be getting hit with a NYC Hotel tax soon.
The city needs the money? :oops: From personal experience, there are more taxes in NYC than anywhere else - the tax code is thicker than my set of encyclopedias from Britannica.
Yup! Couldnt agree more. And if its successful there the door will be open to..............everywhere.
jlawrence01
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Re: Month-long visits to American cities

Post by jlawrence01 »

I am retired. My wife is in one of those positions where she can work anywhere there is a high-speed internet connection. We intend to do pretty much the same thing as the OP starting next year.

Next year, we will spend one or two months in Tucson during the winter months.

When she retires in three years or so, we plan to relocate to a low-cost state and spend 2-3 months in other locations around the US. We have a few cities in mind - and none of them are cities mentioned are on the OPs list. Our initial list includes Nashville, Reno, San Antonio, Detroit, Jacksonville, Ocean City (MD), and Minneapolis.

We have never had problems finding things to do and explore in any major US city. Generally, we prefer off-season rentals.
protagonist
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Re: Month-long visits to American cities

Post by protagonist »

camden wrote:Interesting idea. I would suggest considering New Orleans as an alternative to Atlanta. Come anytime between November and May, except the couple of weeks before Mardi Gras. April is the single best month to visit.
I agree with this. I lived there for 7 years. New Orleans is more different than other American cities, more eccentric, more interesting- cuisine, music, architecture, culture. Plus much of Atlanta's history was destroyed in the Civil War.
Valuethinker
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Re: Month-long visits to American cities

Post by Valuethinker »

jlawrence01 wrote:I am retired. My wife is in one of those positions where she can work anywhere there is a high-speed internet connection. We intend to do pretty much the same thing as the OP starting next year.

Next year, we will spend one or two months in Tucson during the winter months.

When she retires in three years or so, we plan to relocate to a low-cost state and spend 2-3 months in other locations around the US. We have a few cities in mind - and none of them are cities mentioned are on the OPs list. Our initial list includes Nashville, Reno, San Antonio, Detroit, Jacksonville, Ocean City (MD), and Minneapolis.
Whilst I am aware that there are parts of Detroit that are undergoing 'regeneration' and what is, in effect, urban homesteading I assume you mean you are going to stay outside of Detroit somewhere? Ann Arbor?

It strikes me as a place a young artist with not much money might move to, to join one of these homesteading type communities. But for a retired adult, it sounds altogether too dangerous and run down? I can imagine there is a week of stuff to do there (maybe somebody runs old architecture tours? The Art Museum is said to be fantastic if they don't manage to sell the collection ;-)) but 2-3 months?

On flavours of similar cities that have seen rough times, but have a Victorian architectural heritage (Detroit is actually (one of) the largest concentrations of 1920s buildings in America) then consider Buffalo, NY, which has the added virtue of Toronto a drive away if you need to 'escape' to a large modern affluent city for the weekend. I believe Buffalo also has built up something of an artist community. Upstate New York (to the east) is just lovely.

Minneapolis. Summer ;-). I deny that 2 million North Americans live in the area defined as Minneapolis-St Paul from November to March ;-). And any rumours you have heard of a city further north called 'Winnipeg' are just that, rumours.
Harold
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Re: Month-long visits to American cities

Post by Harold »

protagonist wrote:much of Atlanta's history was destroyed in the Civil War.
This is just part of the mythology. Atlanta had close to no history prior to the Civil War (unless you're talking Creek/Cherokee history). The railroad terminus was designated in the late 1830s; in the 1840s/1850s it grew as a railroad hub, becoming a major distribution center during the war -- which of course made it a prime candidate for being destroyed.

I could easily see an enjoyable month in Detroit (as long as that month isn't January). It was such a significant city, and so recently, that as fast as it may be deteriorating -- many richly fascinating remnants of that era can still be found. As for museums there, the Henry Ford Museum/Greenfield Village is as good as you'll find anywhere -- I'm still staggered by a guy rich enough that he starts to collect houses and bring them home with him (Thomas Edison's lab -- yeah ship it to Michigan).

And for the original poster. I'm sorry to say you chose the wrong city first, because it's all going downhill from here :wink:
travellight
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Re: Month-long visits to American cities

Post by travellight »

Great list and plan! I would add Portland to the list.
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Valuethinker
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Re: Month-long visits to American cities

Post by Valuethinker »

Harold wrote:
protagonist wrote:much of Atlanta's history was destroyed in the Civil War.
This is just part of the mythology. Atlanta had close to no history prior to the Civil War (unless you're talking Creek/Cherokee history). The railroad terminus was designated in the late 1830s; in the 1840s/1850s it grew as a railroad hub, becoming a major distribution center during the war -- which of course made it a prime candidate for being destroyed.

I could easily see an enjoyable month in Detroit (as long as that month isn't January). It was such a significant city, and so recently, that as fast as it may be deteriorating -- many richly fascinating remnants of that era can still be found. As for museums there, the Henry Ford Museum/Greenfield Village is as good as you'll find anywhere -- I'm still staggered by a guy rich enough that he starts to collect houses and bring them home with him (Thomas Edison's lab -- yeah ship it to Michigan).

And for the original poster. I'm sorry to say you chose the wrong city first, because it's all going downhill from here :wink:
OK you are up on me on Detroit. I am surrendering to the stereotype, no doubt.

Some day I want to do a tour of the art museums of the upper Midwest-- there are some great collections. These cities were once the industrial powerhouses of the world-- Buffalo, Detroit, Cleveland, Akron, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh. Start with Buffalo and finish with Chicago.

Atlanta I don't know how much historic is left in Atlanta. My blurred impression was of a giant urban sprawl-- mostly built in the last 30 years? There is of course a lot to see and do in Georgia generally (Savannah for example).

There's another 'someday' project. Follow Sherman's campaign from the West, via Atlanta, to the East. Kennesaw Mountain etc.
Harold
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Re: Month-long visits to American cities

Post by Harold »

Valuethinker wrote:Some day I want to do a tour of the art museums of the upper Midwest-- there are some great collections. These cities were once the industrial powerhouses of the world-- Buffalo, Detroit, Cleveland, Akron, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh. Start with Buffalo and finish with Chicago.
And Toledo needs to be near the top of that list -- perhaps a better art museum than any but Chicago.
Valuethinker wrote:Atlanta I don't know how much historic is left in Atlanta. My blurred impression was of a giant urban sprawl-- mostly built in the last 30 years?
And that's much of the point. Atlanta's history is to a large extent, the present and the near past. More than anything else it would be the economic dynamism of the confluence of white and black cultures (Peachtree meets Sweet Auburn) and the magnificently stellar lineup of civil rights leaders who made Atlanta a center of the civil rights movement. (Another fascinating bit of history is that Atlanta and Birmingham were similar in most respects until somewhere around the 1930s when Delta set up shop in Atlanta, when it quite literally began to take off and leave Birmingham in the dust.)
Valuethinker
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Re: Month-long visits to American cities

Post by Valuethinker »

Harold wrote:
Valuethinker wrote:Some day I want to do a tour of the art museums of the upper Midwest-- there are some great collections. These cities were once the industrial powerhouses of the world-- Buffalo, Detroit, Cleveland, Akron, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh. Start with Buffalo and finish with Chicago.
And Toledo needs to be near the top of that list -- perhaps a better art museum than any but Chicago.
Thank you for that tip. Much appreciated. Toronto has its merits, but other than for Canadian paintings (and the donation of the Thomson collection (ie Thomson-Reuters) has much improved that) it's not a great city for art from say before 1950. I do love the Whitney in New York for its collection.
jlawrence01
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Re: Month-long visits to American cities

Post by jlawrence01 »

Valuethinker wrote:Whilst I am aware that there are parts of Detroit that are undergoing 'regeneration' and what is, in effect, urban homesteading I assume you mean you are going to stay outside of Detroit somewhere? Ann Arbor?

It strikes me as a place a young artist with not much money might move to, to join one of these homesteading type communities. But for a retired adult, it sounds altogether too dangerous and run down? I can imagine there is a week of stuff to do there (maybe somebody runs old architecture tours? The Art Museum is said to be fantastic if they don't manage to sell the collection ;-)) but 2-3 months?
I worked in the projects in Detroit for three years in the late 80s. My biggest problem was that literally, all I did during that period was work. I can think of at least 2-3 months of activities in SE Michigan and S. Ontario (Essex Co.)

If I were to spend a month in the Detroit area, I would try to find a rental in the Fordson neighborhood of Dearborn or I would rent out an apartment on the campus of University of Windsor (available May - August each year), both of which are about a mile outside of the city limits.

As for crime, I have had a lot more issues in St. Louis, Orange County (CA), and areas around the Loop in Chicago than I had in Detroit.
KyleAAA
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Re: Month-long visits to American cities

Post by KyleAAA »

Harold wrote: And that's much of the point. Atlanta's history is to a large extent, the present and the near past. More than anything else it would be the economic dynamism of the confluence of white and black cultures (Peachtree meets Sweet Auburn) and the magnificently stellar lineup of civil rights leaders who made Atlanta a center of the civil rights movement. (Another fascinating bit of history is that Atlanta and Birmingham were similar in most respects until somewhere around the 1930s when Delta set up shop in Atlanta, when it quite literally began to take off and leave Birmingham in the dust.)
This. Atlanta's history is intimately tied up with the civil rights movement. There's a ton of history if by "history" you don't mean "buildings that were around 400 years ago." There are also a lot of civil war battlefields in the area, plus an extremely racist carving in a large piece of granite where supposedly the KKK got back together. But mostly it's just a really laid-back city that a shockingly high number of global corporations and top-tier restaurants call home.

And the best Chinese food I've had outside of China (yes, including San Francisco).
3504PIR
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Re: Month-long visits to American cities

Post by 3504PIR »

wilked wrote:Agree with the others, skip Atlanta. Otherwise looks good! :sharebeer

I used to live in New Orleans, and that is a much better substitute
Agree, skip Atlanta (I am from ATL) and insert Savannah into the list.
l2ridehd
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Re: Month-long visits to American cities

Post by l2ridehd »

My wife and I are planning something close to this but almost all overseas locations. We want to do a month in Strasbourg, Florence, Naples, Nice or Cannes, Vienna, Munich, Zurich, Budapest, Prague, Copenhagen, and then on to Hawaii, Sydney, Christs Church, Singapore, Chang Mai, Hong Kong, and St Petersburg. Some of the Europe ones will be an either or as many are close to each other and can probably be seen by day trips. But staying a month or more in a single place and getting immersed in the local culture would be the goal. I doubt we will ever get past more then a half dozen of these locations, but it is on the bucket list.
Valuethinker
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Re: Month-long visits to American cities

Post by Valuethinker »

l2ridehd wrote:My wife and I are planning something close to this but almost all overseas locations. We want to do a month in Strasbourg, Florence, Naples, Nice or Cannes, Vienna, Munich, Zurich, Budapest, Prague, Copenhagen, and then on to Hawaii, Sydney, Christs Church, Singapore, Chang Mai, Hong Kong, and St Petersburg. Some of the Europe ones will be an either or as many are close to each other and can probably be seen by day trips. But staying a month or more in a single place and getting immersed in the local culture would be the goal. I doubt we will ever get past more then a half dozen of these locations, but it is on the bucket list.
A great list but stick Berlin in there (substitute Berlin for Munich in my view). It's not that Vienna, Munich aren't really interesting places with lots to do, but Berlin is capturing the zeitgeist of modern Europe (especially for young people). It's a city on a roll. It's just at that moment when it is rising enough to be interesting, but before gentrification cuts it off at the knees (that will happen, just as it has happened to New York and to London). Munich to me is charming and slightly dull (fantastic art museums, great science museum). But I'd take Munich over Zurich.

The virtue with all the Germanic cities is the excellent public transport which makes most things easily accessible.

My 2 favourites out of Vienna are the monastery at Melk, and the Armoury (Zeughaus) at Graz, which has to have one of the best collections of 1600 era weapons in the world. In fact maybe the best. Both are a day trip. And there is a Museo Stibbert in Florence (founded by an eccentric Scotsman) probably has the best collection of pre modern weapons I have ever seen. Sienna is of course a simple bus ride from Florence (there probably is merit in staying overnight in Sienna, as it will be a different place once the daytrip tourists go away).

Again Nice. It's a pretty bourgeouis place. Lots to see around there outside of Nice. But I confess to preferring Languedoc to Provence (ie Toulouse to Nice). That bit less touristy, that bit less crowded.

Zurich? OK if you are really into mountains. Zurich itself is worthy and fairly dull.

Naples is likely a fascinating place, albeit with all sorts of street crime and other problems (I am not saying it is unsafe, mind, just of Italian cities it is large and troubled). Barcelona might be the other example of a magnificent Mediterranean city, Latin lifestyle etc.

I am not sure if you do Prague you need to spend a month in Budapest, or vice versa. However again there will be a lot *outside* both those cities which I have just never done.
MoonOrb
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Re: Month-long visits to American cities

Post by MoonOrb »

If this is something you're still considering, I'd suggest identifying neighborhoods in each city you'd like to visit and look for short-term accommodations there. This will be a challenge, since most short-term accommodation is likely to be in the CBD or touristy areas, but if your goal is to really feel as if you're living in a city, living in one of the touristy/CBD areas isn't going to give you this feel nearly as much as if you live in a neighborhood. There are some exceptions, of course--I'm just thinking of the several cities where I've lived. If you have reason to know that a CBD/touristy area will give you the experience you're looking for, then you might as well just look for a place there since one will be so much easier to find.

It's tough to find short-term accommodation in a neighborhood, though, so I'd refine that even further by looking at neighborhoods near universities, where this is generally a lot more achievable. University areas have a lot of built in advantages besides just the likelihood that some form of short-term accommodation can be secured: you're very likely to find things like: a variety of public transportation routes, cafes, ethnic restaurants and food stores, movie theatres, book stores, and of course the resources of the campus itself--sporting events, art installations, museums, lectures, green space, music performances, theatre, etc.

Since you mentioned Seattle, your best bets would be the University District, where the University of Washington is located (most likely to have short-term housing options); the First Hill area near Seattle University (likely to be very expensive); and the area of Queen Anne near Seattle Pacific University (the hardest of the three areas to find housing options, probably). If I were looking to "experience" life in Seattle, I'd focus on those three areas, in that order. Other terrific neighborhoods where you might be able to have this experience: Fremont, Wallingford, Green Lake, Capitol Hill, Ballard, Lower Queen Anne, or Greenwood.

"Shoulder season" is a bit of a mixed bag in Seattle. September is often an amazing month, and usually a nicer time to visit compared to, say, April or even May, when it feels like you are waiting forever for the rain to finally stop. Getting into October will give you more and more rain, but I'm looking outside the window today and it's nothing but blue skies and a beautiful view of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains, so, you never know.
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