The top ten least bohemian cities


Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

Related Post Roulette

31 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Can’t we just pick the Hutterite cities?Report

  2. Avatar North says:

    No clue for Bohemian cities but I’ll accept any excuse to trash rent control so lets blame a paucity of bohemia on rent control schemes too!

    Honestly though I don’t have a clue how you’d foster bohemian cities, are they even something that can be planned to occur or do they just happen?Report

  3. Avatar Madrocketscientist says:

    Annual Folk Music Festivals (you’ve all seen the South Park with the Hippie Music Festival, right?). And art, lots of local art (with the ‘Made in China’ sticker).Report

  4. Avatar Cascadian says:

    I’m not sure what “Bohemian” entails in this day and age. At a guess, it’s going to require young’ns so universities might help.

    Having a place to congregate would probably be necessary too, so a central core and careful watch on the big boxes and fast food chains would help.

    Neighborhoods make a city interesting. Mixed zoning for retail and residential allow for this.

    And of course, needle exchanges as Jay points out. Can’t be having an oppressive police presence, it ruins the buzz.Report

    • Avatar trumwill says:

      @Cascadian, people can’t congregate at fast food chains?Report

      • Avatar ThatPirateGuy says:


        Do they?Report

        • Avatar trumwill says:

          @ThatPirateGuy, you ever been at a McDonald’s on a Saturday morning? The corner table is almost always taken by elderly folk. When I was a teenager I would also hang out with friends at fat food establishments.

          When we got older, we’d relocated either to a local restaurant, an IHOP, or an independent IHOP variant. It’s not fast food, but they’re still the type of people that people that hate fast food places also hate. The difference between IHOP and Taco Bell was mostly one of price (we went to the latter because it was what we could afford) and hours (IHOP was a great late-night destination).Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          @ThatPirateGuy, it ain’t the same. You can’t just go to the Taco Bell and hang. It has to be, if outdoors, Tay-Stee Friiz or thereabouts or, if indoors, Waffle House or thereabouts to hang.

          Preferably, you have an indy kinda bar/grill in which to hang and, if you’re really lucky, to work part-time at (5 hours a week gives you UNLIMITED just-show-up-and-hang rights) and you can pay for your fourth refill of coffee by just working the counter when rush hits without putting it on the clock.

          But that’s more of a perfectly ideal Bohemian situation. Without the ideal, you’re probably at Denny’s.Report

      • Avatar Cascadian says:

        @trumwill, I suppose it depends if you mean semi-hip college towns with a bit of hippie chic or White Castle, Bohemian Rhapsody stuff, via Wayne’s World.

        • Avatar Rufus F. says:

          @Cascadian, The other evening I was walking through our park when I came across a group of teenagers in black and white face makeup that was either KISS or The Baseball Furies from the film The Warriors. They didn’t bother me, but I still have no idea what that was all about.Report

  5. Avatar Simon K says:

    The interesting thing about trying to replicate pre-zoning patterns of development is how hard it is. The city governments here are constantly trying to create walkable mixed residential/entertainment/commercial neighbourhoods and what they mainly get for their efforts is complaints.The goal in the end of course is to have people live, shop and entertain themselves within walking distance. But you’re not going to attract residential and commercial tenants on that basis – they’ll be worried there won’t be enough shops/entertainment or enough customers. So there has to be parking for residents or customers to park their cars. But parking is the bitter enemy of pleasant, walkable space. Put in enough parking for everyone you need to make an area pleasantly busy and you don’t have walkable space any more . You have a parking lot in a shopping mall or apartment complex. Put the parking further away or try to hide it and your commercial tentants in particular will complain. Its not a coincidence that the most bohemian neighbourhoods also tend to be places where parking spots are so scarce people will risk trashing their cars to get into them before anyone else sees them …Report

  6. Avatar Zach says:

    Salt Lake City, Indianapolis, Orlando… trying to avoid cities in the Southwest that are too easy to pick on. It’s pretty difficult to think of any city in the South that’d work. Perhaps Raleigh or Charlotte from what I’ve heard, but no first hand experience. Houston probably wins for the biggest city without much of a soul.

    Car dependence isn’t really dispositive on this… see Detroit.Report

    • Avatar Bubbaquimby says:

      Interesting that you pick Houston since it has zero zoning laws. Although I think Houston gets unfairly picked on, it actually does have a bohemian culture of sorts.Report

    • Avatar JFM says:


      Orlando is dead on. The area as it exists today was built to serve Disney tourists, not residents, and it shows.Report

  7. Avatar Ryan Davidson says:

    Indianapolis is okay, if you know where to look, but my current location, Fort Wayne, Indiana, is a true cultural hellhole.Report

    • Avatar Lyle says:

      @Ryan Davidson,
      To be fair the other cities mentioned are in a different size class than Fort Wayne, it being smaller. Also Fort Wayne has undergone a slow decline in relative wealth from the 1910s when it was one of the richest cities in the US and a leader in the then emerging electrical industry.Report

  8. Avatar Ian M. says:

    Blaming zoning laws is like blaming “feminism” or “conservatives” – a broad, easily caricatured vessel ripe for straw man destruction. Zoning laws could easily create an area ripe for a Bohemian lifestyle (whatever that is). It’s a matter of application. I’ve lived in Detroit, Chicago, Portland (OR) and Nashville – with Chicago and Portland having what I expect is the most “Bohemian” reputations as well as the most restrictive zoning laws. Nashville is a relative zone-free area which generates lots of poorly considered housing developments (many of which just flooded).
    I do agree about car culture – Portland and Chicago have great public transportation and/or bike cultures. Nashville and Detroit are car cities – Detroit probably leads in its deference to the car.Report

  9. Avatar Mike Farmer says:

    Savannah is a good example of what promotes a bohemian city — Oglethorpe didnt know he was helping walkers when he laid out the grid of downtown Savannah with over 20 squares, but traffic has to slow down to go around the squares, so over time, pedestrians have the right of way by habit — Savannah College of Art and Design has pumped green-haired, tattoed artists into downtown — you need a street on a river — and you need good music with street players named Ace and Quirky — Throw in a few eccentric characters and a mayor named Otis and you have a good bohemian city.Report

  10. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    When I came up from the states, the first place I lived was Toronto, which has a certain hip cache, but never really struck me as being especially bohemian. Actually, I think the blue collar steel town where we live now is considerably better for that bohemian sort of thing thing for two reasons: the working class people who live here haven’t a shred of pretension and let you do your own thing- I saw a middle aged guy walking down the sidewalk the other day in leopard print pajama pants, no shirt and a cowboy hat and nobody else batted an eyelash. Secondly, the local economy sucks and everything is really cheap. So, if you’re an artist, you can be eccentric and nobody’s unfriendly to you and you can probably make enough money to live as cheaply as everyone around you. Thus we have a very nice gallery district.Report

  11. How come no one’s talking about Geneva, home of John Calvin, big banks, and precision time pieces. Its vibe could not be more thoroughgoingly anti-bohemian.Report

  12. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    Bratislava? It divorced itself from Bohemia.Report

  13. Avatar Amy says:

    Bratislava? It divorced itself from Bohemia.Report

  14. Avatar Kaleberg says:

    New York and Boston both have Bohemian quarters and a long history of rent control. In fact, a lot of people find them less Bohemian now that rent control is on its way out.

    My guess is that a college or university helps, but it also helps to have been a port city at some time.Report