Since 2012, we've compiled an annual list of what we think will be the next hipster cities of America. We specifically leave off the obvious cities such as Brooklyn and Portland — with their Bukowski-loving, facial hair-sprouting millennials — to focus on the overshadowed towns that are seeing a renaissance in arts and culture.
, Tucson, Arizona; Oak Cliff, Texas; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania rose to the top of the list. Read on to see which towns are emerging as hipster meccas in 2014.
Buffalo, New York
Recently, I found myself stranded in Buffalo, New York during the never-ending winter vortex of 2013. (I'm from Upstate New York, and I had traveled home Planes, Trains and Automobiles-style to avoid flying in a metal death tube.) Spending time in Buffalo got me more acquainted with the city I affectionately called the "armpit of Upstate New York" for most of my childhood. Little did I know how misguided my juvenile feelings were.
Buffalo is a vibrant and historically rich city featuring breathtaking architecture by the "trinity of American architecture."
Buffalo is a vibrant and historically rich city featuring breathtaking architecture by the "trinity of American architecture," Frank Lloyd Wright, Henry Hobson Richardson and Louis Sullivan.
For ruin porn lovers, some of Buffalo's grandest buildings are now vacant shadows surrounding the city. Buffalo Central Terminal, built in 1929 and abandoned in 1979, is 523,000-square-feet of Art Deco perfection. The building and surrounding property are now home to the occasional event or commercial shoot, but plans are bubbling to restore the complex. The city revitalized its abandoned Larkin soap factory to include shopping, food trucks and events. The famous Buffalo silos now boast silo-climbing and kayaking in the harbor. Even the Erie Canal has seen a renaissance with the new Canalside District.
Charming central neighborhoods include Elwood Village, filled with affordable Victorian homes and one of the first gay-friendly bars in the U.S. (Cole's, established in 1934); and Allentown, another old-timey district that features some of the city's best live music venues and coffee shops. The League of American Bicyclists recently named Buffalo the 14th most bike-friendly town in America.
Wilmington, North Carolina
I included Asheville on my initial list of future hipster cities, but now I'd like to throw another North Carolina town in the mix. Wilmington is a sleepy, scenic, near-coastal city of 109,000 people, but scratch below the white picket surface and you'll find a wonderfully weird creative community. In 1985, filmmaker David Lynch chose Wilmington to be the setting for his American gothic tale, Blue Velvet. This is a proud title the city still boasts today with the occasional party at Dennis Hopper's former apartment in a Masonic temple and PBR drink specials at the Barbary Coast bar. Heck, Blue Velvet the Musical will even be playing at TheatreNOW in November.
Scratch below the white picket surface and you'll find a wonderfully weird creative community in Wilmington.
The city's colorful and twisted imagination is in part fanned by the people behind the Cucalorus Film Festival. This notoriously lively fest, now in its 20th year, is a favorite for locals and visiting filmmakers alike. Screenings pop up in theaters across town, and the after-party often culminates at Cucalorus headquarters, Jengo's Playhouse, a theater and art studio located near the old Coca-Cola bottling factory in an area affectionately called the Soda Pop District.
Wilmington is also the birthplace of the Internet-famous boutique clothing store, Edge of Urge, and the lovable knit koozie maker, Freakers (Austinites can buy Freakers in BookPeople and Waterloo Records).
Now, you might scoff at this choice, but hear me out. Birmingham is a beautifully diverse town that features ornate, vintage theaters and brick storefronts (many abandoned), re-purposed lofts and a burgeoning culinary scene.
The Steel City is home to one of the most inventive contemporary green spaces in the nation, Railroad Park.
Patrons often wait in line to eat at El Barrio, downtown Birmingham's "multi-regional Mexican restaurant." Highlights from the menu include Oaxacan Donuts (roasted apples, citrus cream cheese, candied chipotle pecans and cinnamon sugar) and grilled chorizo meatloaf. Two miles east of El Barrio is The Bottletree Cafe. This local favorite features a rotating list of indie music acts and eats for carnivores and herbivores alike. Over in the Five Points South neighborhood, James Beard-honored Highlands Bar and Grill offers Southern fare with a French twist.
The Steel City is also home to one of the most inventive contemporary green spaces in the nation, Railroad Park. Built next to the minor league baseball field, this 19-acre park features Dwell-worthy landscaping, lakes, playgrounds, skate parks and even free Wi-Fi. Many of the seats and walls in the park are made from reclaimed materials found from the former railyard. After an afternoon in the park, locals and visitors can stroll over to microbrewery Good People to try a Snake Handler Double IPA or Coffee Oatmeal Stout. Nearby, Sloss Furnaces, a brooding industrial site built in the late 1800s, is now home to metal art exhibits, community events and a yearly haunted house.
Birmingham's independent film festival, Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival, is growing in popularity, in part because of the fest's excellent curation of independent film and community-friendly events. But what makes Birmingham really cool is more than its culinary and art scenes. Its dense history in diverse music — Jazz, Americana, gospel and even Dixie — can be heard across town. Check out the restaurant and bar Zydeco for Cajun-inspired fun and Ona's Music Room for a sampling of the city's rich jazz and blues scenes.