Kansas City, Missouri
A thriving arts and cultural scene that rivals the Coasts
City population: 465,005
Cost of living index: 91 (9% lower than US average)
Long overlooked (and flown over) because of its cow-town heritage, KCMO has become the unlikely stomping ground of hip urbanites opting for a three-bedroom house at a fraction of what they'd pay for a crawlspace in Brooklyn. Revitalized neighborhoods offer lofts and condos at rock-bottom prices, alongside converted industrial warehouses bustling with flea markets, artist exhibits, and pop-ups. Free high-speed internet is available to all, courtesy of Google Fiber, and a brand-spankin'-new trolley system (also free) makes parking Downtown a nonissue.
An impressive list of arts, theater, and music festivals attracts diverse crowds and talent to KC year-round. Take it from a West Coaster who just spent his freaking honeymoon there -- the scene does not disappoint. The heart of Downtown boasts an Alamo Drafthouse and the Midland Theatre, with a full calendar of music and comedy shows, plus blocks of classy bars and good eats. Further south, the historic Crossroads neighborhood is one of the most concentrated arts districts in the nation, home to more than 100 independent studios. Every First Friday, thousands of residents flood the area for live music, street theater, aerial performances, food trucks, and gallery open houses.
Craft brew enthusiasts get their kicks at the Boulevard Brewing Company or seek out Manifesto, one of our favorite underground secret speakeasies. (Order the Zombie Apocalypse. It more than earns its name.) 18th and Vine is the historic hub of African-American culture here, featuring the American Jazz Museum and the Blue Room, a swinging jazz club packing local and national talent. No, you're not in New York City, but we can understand how you might be confused. -- Brock Wilbur, Thrillist contributor