The problem with anything great is everyone else knows about it. That great new neighborhood restaurant you found before anyone else now has a three-hour wait a year later. Many places that were once cool, undiscovered finds are now borderline unbearable, with sky-high prices everywhere you look. The good news is that for every one of these overplayed, overhyped cities, new cities come along and fill the void they leave behind. That’s why we’re proclaiming these seven cities officially over for visitors, and propose seven even-better alternatives.
1. San Francisco, California
Why it’s over: As long as it has its sweeping views of San Francisco Bay and Marin County, SF will never really be “over,’ per se. But, as the most expensive place in the country and a city increasingly becoming an industry town for tech, it’s lost a big chunk of the character that made it such a unique destination. Look no further than Giants games, where, once upon a time, guys, six-beers deep, talked about baseball in the bleachers. Now, you’ll overhear discussions of cryptocurrency and IPOs over $12 craft beers in $100 box seats. San Francisco has gone upscale, where landmark dive bars seem to close every month, replaced by a cocktail-bar-du-jour serving $20 drinks full of unpronounceable ingredients and a big garnish of pretension. That, and despite all the money, the city still hasn’t done much about its rampant homelessness problem, which seems to be the number-one observation of every new visitor after they return home.
Where to go instead: Oakland, California
Those sweeping views of the bay you get in SF are even more sweeping if you take a hike through Tilden Regional Park in Oakland, where trails lead to vistas over the entire Bay Area skyline. You know what else you can find in Oakland? All those cool, quirky, creative people that were living in San Francisco a decade ago, but have been priced out by people allergic to fun. Food here is no step down from what you’ll find across the way, with dynamic ethnic offerings from Chinese at Shandong, to Jamaican at Kingston 11, to Ethiopian at pretty much anywhere on Telegraph (but go with Café Colucci). For now, it’s still home to three pro sports teams, including A’s games, which are a welcome throwback to the Candlestick outfield of yesteryear. Though it lacks the glamour of its western neighbor, Oakland is equally as fascinating a destination when done right.
2. Nashville, Tennessee
Why it’s over: Nashville was once a fun place to go and catch up-and-coming country stars. Now, it’s a place to catch the latest up-and-coming penis hats as it seemingly hosts every single bachelorette party in America. Every. Damn. Weekend. That’s not to say throngs of women wearing jorts, black boots, and matching black “#samedickforever” tank tops is a necessarily a bad thing, it’s just that bars full of them might not be everyone’s cup of whiskey. The influx of tourists now means you’ll wait an hour for hot chicken at Hattie B’s, and possibly until 2022 at Pancake Pantry. Sure, you can still catch better live music watching Sunday Ticket at a sports bar here than at any club in most major cities. But you’ll also be doing it next to people rooting for every team BUT the Titans, and probably another bachelorette party.
Where to go instead: Memphis, Tennessee.
It’s the same neon and live music you’ll find in Nashville, minus the invasion of pre-nuptials. Beale Street is still touristy, make no mistake, but the blues clubs here still feel gritty and real, and if you sit down at the bar on a slow night you’ll likely find yourself next to a Memphian lifer, who can tell you stories about the city you wouldn’t believe. Go to the right place, and the food here is every bit as good as Music City’s, with inventive Cajun spots like The Second Line and upscale Italian like Catherine and Mary’s drawing national attention. Plus, it’s got Graceland, which is way better than Dollywood.
3. Austin, Texas
Why it’s over: People used to wax poetic about Austin, saying it was “like a little slice of California in the middle of Texas.” And they’re still right. Except now that slice of California means endless traffic, high prices, and bars filled with tech dudes. Not only has Austin failed to “stay weird,” it’s sold the heck out. Its once quirky bars now feel gimmicky, with lines out the door and crowds full of transplants. Austin also failed to plan for its explosive growth, to the point where people sell the “fun” of waiting an hour for pretty-good brisket as a tourist attraction. Austin still has plenty of creative people and a vibe that’s decidedly different than most of Texas. The only problem is you’ll pay through the nose and wait forever to experience it.
Where to go instead: San Marcos, Texas
The home of Texas State University is a popular destination for the musicians, artists, and general hippie weirdos priced out of Austin when California moved in. You’ll find the same quality of live music in spots like the Cheatham Street Warehouse and Stonewall as you will in most of Austin, as well as barbecue just down the road in Lockhart that won’t require an hour in line. Austin culinary stalwarts like Blue Dahlia have opened outposts here. Plus, San Marcos is home to its namesake river, where some of the best tubing and beer-soaked float trips in America go down all summer long.
4. South Beach, Florida
Why it’s over: As greedy landlords, throngs of careless tourists, and an unstable nightlife industry have forced all the cool new things opening in Miami to the city’s mainland, South Beach has become a wasteland of abandoned storefronts, overpriced restaurants, and tourists twerking on top of police cars. You can still find some good restaurants on the beach, but most of what you’ll find are Italian restaurants who think $24 for a plate of spaghetti is normal, and bars who add tip to your bill without telling you. South Beach has become so dependent on soaking tourists, that aside from a handful of cocktail bars, the city hasn’t opened anything worth visiting in a decade. And as mainland Miami becomes a world-class city with most of the area’s art and culture, South Beach feels more like a giant tourist trap every day.
Where to go instead: Delray Beach, Florida
Yes, once upon a time, this was only a place people went to live out their days playing shuffleboard and complaining about deli service. But over the past decade, Delray has turned itself into the South Florida city of choice for young professionals looking for great food and nightlife in a beachy destination. Clubs like Salt7 and Honey aren’t exactly LIV, but you’re probably not exactly LIV either. And clubs like this have the same attractive crowd with far more accessibility. Atlantic Avenue is lined with restaurants that measure up to anything further south, with spots like Max’s Harvest luring successful South Beach chefs with cheaper costs and easier crowds. The beach here is just as turquoise as it is in Miami, and unless you were looking to party with rappers and models, Delray will give you all you’re looking for in a South Florida vacation.
5. Napa, California
Why it’s over: Even before the unfortunate fires of last year, Napa had become the most overplayed wine destination in the world. A spot that was once a high-class retreat for discriminating connoisseurs became a place where wineries lived and died by charging $25 a tasting to busloads of tourists. Will you find finer wine here than in most other American regions? Probably. Will you be able to tell the difference between a $50 bottle and a $10 bottle after winery number 2? Absolutely not, so don’t waste your money. Hotels and restaurants here get in on the gouging as well — burgers are $20 and rooms at the Holiday Inn top $300. All for food, wine, lodging, and scenery that can be found elsewhere for half the price.
Where to go instead: Paso Robles, California
This small town about halfway between San Francisco and LA still feels like a small town, where vintners will come out and talk just for the love of the juice. And tour buses are nary a sight. Tastings run about $10 at places like Pomar Junction Vineyard, where Friday nights feature live music in the courtyard and a barbecue. Or Tobin James Cellars, where the tasting hosts pour with a heavy hand and the décor is a throwback to the wild west. It’s a far-less pretentious destination where tasting room cornhole is a regular thing, boasting all the Central California scenery of your Sideways fantasies. Even sommeliers will tell you a visit here is as worthwhile, or better than anything further north.
6. Honolulu, Hawaii
Why it’s over: It’s no huge revelation that once-romantic Waikiki has become a chain-restaurant-stuffed shopping mall packed with tourists from both sides of the Pacific. That’s been over for a while. And though the city has improved its nightlife and restaurant offerings in places like Chinatown with Bar Leather Apron and Pig and the Lady, they’re not exactly close to the beach and are filled mostly with locals. Which, if you know anything about Hawaii, aren’t exactly embracing tourists with open arms. The city also has a rampant homeless problem (can you blame them?) and some serious drug issues it’s still trying to work out. And if you try and venture off the shopping-bag filled streets of Waikiki, you’ll run into them almost instantly.
Where to go instead: US Virgin Islands
Aside from doing your patriotic duty to help rebuild one of the hardest-hit areas from 2017’s hurricane season, going to the Virgin Islands will also have you questioning why you ever considered Honolulu. What it lacks in surfing and Tom Selleck TV shows it makes up for in jaw-dropping scenery, whether it’s the emerald mountains along the gondola ride to the top of Paradise Point in St. Thomas, or the complete isolation of the beach at Buck Island in St. Croix. Locals here don’t just tolerate visitors, they’re welcoming in the warm, laughing way that gets people addicted to the Caribbean. Because of the hurricanes, tourists have been afraid to go back, and you’ll find the white powder beaches have plenty of space. As will the beachfront bars in St. John, where waterfall hikes through the jungle are every bit the paradise of Hawaii.
7. Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Why it’s over: Once upon a time, this was a charming, western-themed resort town that drew affluent guests alongside the rugged, western folk that gave the place its charm. Those people have been priced out of Jackson Hole, where the most expensive weekend rentals in America on some weekend now dominate the real estate scene. What’s resulted is a city that feels completely populated by rich tourists, like St. Tropez in the mountains. Which is great if you happen to own a shipbuilding company or you’re Kanye West. Not so great if you’re just someone looking for a ski weekend in a cool western town.
Where to go instead: Telluride, Colorado
It’s not cheap either, but Telluride is still the kind of place Neil Diamond can walk around in a baseball cap and jeans and never get bothered. It’s upscale, but somehow still feels authentic, like the rich folks who bought up expensive ski homes agreed to assimilate and go for beers at O’Bannon’s or The Last Dollar Saloon instead of opening up tasting rooms or anything with the word “craft.” The historic downtown might be the most picturesque of any small town in America, and the hikes in the mountains around the city are still free. So, for a place that feels like the old west but still keeps its class, Telluride is the place to go. Oh, and weed is legal here too.