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Leaving California? Try One of These 3 Cities

Austin, Denver, and Nashville have been capturing the hearts of ex-Californians
Austin - Hamilton Pool Preserve

Hamilton Pool Preserve in Austin, Texas

Bidding our beaches adieu? Say it ain’t so! There’s no doubt that other cities are tempting San Diegans who need a better bang for their buck—last year, California ranked fourth in the list of most outbound moves by state, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

See what all the hype is about in these hot spots for ex-Californians around the country (just know that we might judge you if you leave).


There’s an easy big three to follow if you want to see the best of Austin: barbecue, breakfast tacos, and live music. For the first, go to Franklin Barbecue to see (and taste) why pitmaster Aaron Franklin’s joint is considered not only the best barbecue in Texas (Texas Monthly) but the best barbecue joint in America (Bon Appétit). A short drive away you’ll find La Barbecue, which holds its own with salty, savory Central Texas–style spice rubs. Up next on your list is the unofficial Texas breakfast: the breakfast taco. Go classic with the El Tradicional at Veracruz All Natural: egg, bacon, beans, cheese, and potatoes in a warm tortilla. At Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ, the Real Deal Holyfield has a slice of brisket stuffed alongside those classic ingredients. Live music is slowly coming back. If you’re not ready for the big-name venues like ACL Live at the Moody Theater or The Parish, look to more intimate ones like The Far Out Lounge or Speakeasy.

When it’s time for some shut-eye, Austin has no shortage of stylish spots to rest your head. Hotel ZaZa opened in late 2019 in the city’s Warehouse District; it’s got vintage-inspired rooms, a seventh-floor pool deck, and a mix of artwork and photographs of some of Hollywood’s most iconic faces. Prefer a more stately affair? Stay at the Commodore Perry Estate—the historic mansion and its surrounding English gardens opened for guests last summer right in the center of Austin. Get a suite in the main house or stay in the new courtyard inn behind the mansion. While you’re there, be sure to stop into Lutie’s, the restaurant led by chefs Bradley Nicholson and Susana Querejazu (Barley Swine, Odd Duck). Lastly, Hotel Magdalena is a fun and funky new addition that sits at multiple elevations with lush landscaping and peaceful courtyards weaved in, almost like you’re in a treehouse.

Bluebird - Nashville

Bluebird Cafe in Nashville


Take Southwest’s direct flights from San Diego to see why Californians are flocking to the Music City. Aside from the more affordable rent, Nashville is much like San Diego: Its strong small-business community is spread out among its many neighborhoods, and it has quick access to nature when you need a break from the city. Look to neighborhoods like East Nashville for murals, coffee shops, and restaurants.

Try Lyra for Middle Eastern meals meant to be shared, Mas Tacos Por Favor to see why their quinoa tacos won Guy Fieri’s praise, or Hunters Station if you don’t want to settle on just one dining option. In the 12 South neighborhood, find charming bungalow homes mixed in with trendy boutiques and hangouts like The Filling Station, which has 24 rotating taps, and Five Daughters Bakery for daily pastries made from scratch. Regardless of your whereabouts, an absolute must is the hot chicken. Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack and Hattie B’s Hot Chicken helped put the Nashville classic on the map, but the unassuming Moore’s Spicy Fried Chicken was named the best hot chicken spot by The Tennessean.


Stop Here: Hattie B’s Hot ChickenThis family-run shop offers six different heat levels for their fried chicken. Go for “Southern” if you want to skip the heat or “Shut the Cluck Up!!!” for the highest heat level. We double-dog-dare you.

Oh, the music? That’s pretty good, too. While Broadway is where you’ll find the honky-tonks, check out more intimate music venues like Listening Room Cafe, The Basement East, and The Bluebird Cafe, where many country music stars got their start. To rest and recover, head for boutique hotels like Graduate Nashville, a self-described “funky, floral jewel box”; Bobby Hotel downtown; or Urban Cowboy, which houses eight suites in a historic mansion, all with their own clawfoot tub.




One of the first cities to catch the eye of California expats is still just as sparkly with new hotels, restaurants, and things to see. Start by exploring some of Denver’s most walkable neighborhoods, like River North Art District (RiNo). It recently launched a program where local artists create a new mural each month with rotating themes for Women’s History Month, Black History Month, and AAPI History Month. Elsewhere in RiNo, the Denver Central Market houses 11 vendors that offer everything from artisanal cheese and butcher meats to, most recently, hot chicken. In Lincoln Park, Denver’s oldest restaurant, The Buckhorn Exchange, continues to serve up the city’s most notorious dish: Rocky Mountain oysters.

Other new notable dining spots are Sunday Vinyl, a wine bar spinning records behind Union Station; beloved Denver chef Penelope Wong’s Yuan Wonton food truck, serving dumplings and wontons (preorder early—they sell out fast); and Italian Restaurant Olivia. Still to come later this summer is Grange Hall, a food hall concept by restaurateur Troy Guard.

To sleep, newbie Clayton Members Club & Hotel is bringing some funk to the Cherry Creek neighborhood. The hotel opened this spring with 63 rooms, a speakeasy, and a ground-level restaurant open to the public. The “members” part comes with a rooftop lounge, access to events, coworking spaces, and more at a $3,000 annual price tag. The Curtis got a revamp last year with a new lobby that plays on its “Happy Camper” slogan. Opening this fall, Hyatt’s Thompson Denver will offer luxury accommodations within walking distance to Union Station and Larimer Square.

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