Life

Minority-Owned Tour Operators, Hotels, And Restaurants That You Should Road Trip To This Summer


Tocabe

Travel is a lot of things. It’s a part life-expanding adventure. It’s part escapism. It’s part fantasy. It’s also a driving economic powerhouse. Where we chose to spend our tourist dollars is a vote of confidence in a tour company, hotel, or restaurant — a way to directly infuse hard cash into businesses we believe in.

Keeping that in mind, we thought we’d cobble together a list of some of our favorite minority-owned tour operators, hotels, and restaurants around America. These are places you can go right now. Spending money at these properties, restaurants, and with these guides will put money directly into the hands of people who have been historically marginalized in this nation. That alone should help to break down some of the institutional racism that has plagued the travel industry for so long.

One huge caveat here: this is just a tiny sampling of the Indigenous, Hispanic, Asian, and Black-owned and operated businesses across these United States. It’s meant to simply pique your interest. Maybe we can all start to look at destinations a bit more deeply when we travel, especially in our own backyards. It’s a chance to think about whose hands we’re putting our travel dollars into and who we want to support.

TOUR OPERATORS

Skokomish Tourism — Olympic Peninsula, WA

On the southern reaches of the Olympic Peninsula along the big bend in the Hood Canal, you’ll find the Skokomish Indian Reservation. The rez is one of the more economically stunted regions in the state, so the tribal council decided to lean into tourism to quell their woes. The Skokomish have embraced the beauty of the Hood Canal fjord and the majesty of the Olympics to lure people to a truly stunning corner of the country. They opened a resort with well-fitted rooms, RV parks, and even glamping sites all within the reservation and a stone’s throw from the Canal.

Skokomish Tourism also offers trail hikes into Olympic National Park, watersports, local winery tours, and more.

Up in the Air Life — Kentucky Bourbon Trail, KY

Claire Soares started a travel and lifestyle brand that focuses on offering first-class travel experiences all over the country and world for the Black community. Her trips are expertly guided, no-hassle affairs where you literally just have to show and start enjoying the trip.

One of our favorite trips with Up in the Air Life is the Kentucky Bourbon Trail — which Soares hosts in collaboration with the Black Bourbon Society. The four-day trip centers around a VIP tour of Maker’s Mark, boutique hotels, and Kentucky Derby-inspired parties with plenty of whiskey, history, and luxe surroundings.

NOMADNESS Travel Tribe, AUDACITY Fest — Oakland, CA

Evita Turquoise Robinson started the NOMADNESS travel brand back in 2011 as a place for “black and brown” travelers to discuss travel and plan trips with like-minded vagabonds. Today, it’s a massive travel brand with “19,000 black and brown nomads, responsible for over $50,000,000 being injected into the travel industry annually.” This year, it’s evolving into a travel-focused festival in Oakland, CA.

The Audacity Fest is a space for people of color who love travel to gather, listen to music, eat amazing food, build ideas around travel, and meet influencers. Think of it as a dope festival with all the accouterments blended with a travel symposium geared towards POC. You can check it out at the end of summer on September 8th. You never know, you may end up on a trip of a lifetime.

Express Travel — Florida

Supporting the Hispanic community across the US is imperative right now. One way to do that is to book travel through Hispanic-owned travel companies that also employ people from that community.

Express Travel in Florida is just one example of a female, immigrant-owned business that focuses on sending people on dream vacations around America and further afield. Check out their website for deals on travel to Florida and beyond.

Tatanka Rez Tourz — Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, SD

Tatanka Rez Tourz is the only guided tour company on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The father-daughter team of Warren and Tianna Yellowhair leads travelers through the harrowing history of the Lakota people as they drive you to important sites around the rez.

You pay by the hour and by person or group for guided, personalized tours. We’d recommend at least three to four hours as the distances around the reservation are quite big (Pine Ridge is the size of Connecticut). You’ll see the rolling grasslands, fields of horses, the Wounded Knee Massacre mass grave, and more — all guided by experts in local history and culture. It’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime tour that’ll change the way you understand US history forever.

HOTELS

Courtyard by Marriott Washington, DC/U.S. Capitol

Okay, bear with us here. We know this is a corporate branded hotel. But this hotel also happens to be the first Hispanic-owned and operated hotel in Washington, DC. We think that that’s worth highlighting. The property opened in 2009 as part of Marriott’s Diversity Ownership Initiative to bring more people of color into the hotel business at every level, including as owners. That’s something worth supporting.

The property is a few minutes from the Mall and most DC attractions, making it the perfect home base for a trip to the nation’s capital. It’s a standard mid-range hotel at the end of the day, so you won’t be breaking the bank to stay here either.

View this post on Instagram

Well Alright Bye @gq_papi2.0 See You At Brunch

A post shared by Master Of Coin (@korie.alister) on

Little Creek Casino Resort — Squaxin Island Indian Reservation, WA

Back in Washington State, the Little Creek Casino Resort on the Squaxin Island Indian Reservation is the perfect weekend getaway if you’re in the Seattle area. The resort is about an hour from downtown Seattle, and well worth the drive south. The casino is one of the bigger ones in the state and the attached hotel, restaurant, and spa are all top-notch.

The resort helped fund the Squaxin Island Museum Library and Research Center where you can brush up on the local history and culture of the Squaxin people and community. Little Creek is also the location of the first legal cannabis dispensary in Indian Country. It’s probably a good idea to get the gambling out of the way before you hit the weed store.

Urban Cowboy — Brooklyn, NY & Nashville, TN

Urban Cowboy, owned and operated by Lyon Porter and Jersey Banks, opened up in Brooklyn back in 2014 as a sort of chic hideaway from the bustling madness of New York. Their aesthetic and vibe were beloved by travelers of every ilk and Banks and Porter decided to expand. This time they found an old Victorian house in Nashville and brought their look and vibe to their new B&B. Both are the sort of chilled luxury that seems to only exist in Instagram posts. Yet, they are both very real and accessible right now.

Roberts Riverwalk Hotel — Detriot, MI

Robert Riverwalk Hotel has a distinctly old-school vibe and a rich Black American history. The property offers well-fitted rooms and direct access to Detroit’s scenic Riverwalk. The hotel’s location and classic aesthetic are huge draws here and make for the perfect base for exploring Detriot’s burgeoning food and bar scenes.

Kayenta Monument Valley Inn — Navajo Country, AZ

The Monument Valley Inn in Kayenta, AZ, is the perfect spot to be if you want to explore the magic that is Navajo Country. This is a great road trip way station between the Grand Canyon and Four Corners. You’ll get views of the drastically beautiful desert from the rooms and be within driving distance to Black Mesa, Navajo National Monument, Ancient Anasazi caves, and, of course, Monument Valley.

FOOD AND DRINK

Robledo Family Winery — Sonoma, CA

View this post on Instagram

La fiesta!!!!

A post shared by Robledo Family Winery (@robledofamilywinery) on

California has a long tradition of winemaking thanks, in large part, to the Mexican community of the mission era. Today, that heritage is largely diminished due to centuries of ethnic cleansing of Mexican-Americans from the area — but a few vineyards are still owned by Hispanic families and they’re 100 percent worth your time.

Robledo Family Winery in Sonoma has a long history in the region. Reynaldo Robledo arrived in the area to work in the vines back in the early 1960s. By 2003, the family opened the first winery owned and operated by former migrant workers. That’s worth celebrating right there. Plus, the wine is spot on and the vineyard is a delight to visit for a tasting and tour.

Kogi Korean BBQ — Los Angeles Area

Korean-American Roy Choi started off as a pretty standard chef. Then he bucked that system and opened up his own food truck in a time when food trucks were mostly unknown to the food zeitgeist. Now, Choi and Kogi are a massive brand that’s come to define multicultural food and everything a food truck can be with a little elbow grease and imagination. Regardless of how big Choi’s empire has become, he still employs people of color from struggling neighborhoods and helps bring up cooks to chefs across the board.

If you’re in the L.A. area, a trip to a Kogi truck is a “must” — up there with a trip to In-N-Out. And if there isn’t a truck nearby, you can always hit up Choi’s brick and mortar Kogi-inspired Taqueria on Overland Ave for all the delicious tacos you can eat.

Tocabe — Denver, CO

Out in Denver, a small revolution is brewing. Two Indigenous chefs have taken the food of their families and adapted it into a fast-casual setting, making it accessible (and affordable) for everyone.

Tocabe serves delicious and colorful bowls with bison, local corns, beans, and bright greens as fast as any Chipotle. Their bison ribs are the stuff of legend. It’s a truly unique and wholly Indigenous American experience through a food culture that’s set to take over the conversation in the coming years.

Ben’s Chili Bowl — Washington, DC

Ben’s Chili Bowl is a Washington, DC, institution. Their chili dog, the famous Half-Smoke, is a must for anyone visiting the city. The crack of the smokey half-beef, half-pork sausage is just spot on. Add on the pale yellow mustard, mild white onion, and the perfect scoop of spicy chili and you’ve got something bordering on sublime.

Ben’s Chili Bowl is more than just its food. It’s 60 years of Washington, DC, Black history and entrepreneurship. Their brick wall mural is worth the trip alone with important figures in Black-American history — from Prince to MLK — lining the wall. Don’t skip this stop in the nation’s capital.

Bette’s Kitchen — Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, SD

View this post on Instagram

Bette's #frybread!

A post shared by Cory True (@corytrue) on

We’re going to say this with zero hyperbole: This is a one-of-a-kind authentic experience that has no parallel. A trip to the middle of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to find Bette’s Kitchen is kind of an adventure in-and-of-itself. The place has basically no signage to direct you, so you’re going to have to be crafty to find Bette’s house. Yes, this restaurant is in her actual house. And, yes, you will fall in love with her dogs as they hover for table scraps.

Bette’s Kitchen isn’t fancy. It’s comfort food. She fries up batches of fry bread to serve with her buffalo stew. She’ll grill you up a burger and throw some fries or baked beans on the plate for you too, all with love and care. The “dining” room are a few tables in the front part of the house. The walls are filled with photos of her kids, parents, grandparents, nieces, nephews, and grandkids. It’s a virtual family history of reservation life in glossy 8x11s.

The meals are simple and served on paper plates but they’re nourishing and the clearest example of what “rez” food is. Make sure to order a bowl of wojapi (a thick local berry sauce) to dip your fry bread for dessert. Also, don’t hesitate to strike up a convo with Bette about her 20 years serving passers-by from her small home kitchen.

View this post on Instagram

Some good views

A post shared by Greg Steer (@gregsteer__) on

×