Summer is a great time to solo travel, especially around the U.S. You can hop on a cheap Spirit, Frontier, JetBlue, or Southwest budget flight and be somewhere completely new and exciting in a matter of hours. Though, choose between those airlines wisely. They don’t provide equal experiences.
We digress. Let’s get back to summer solo travel. Hitting up a city has its advantages. The biggest being that there are a lot of people already in a city to mingle with. Bars, clubs, restaurant scenes, parks, beaches, farmer’s markets, breweries, theaters, and, hell, even dog parks are full of locals. Meeting new travel buddies in a city is as easy as finding a dope place to eat or a rad hotel to lay your head.
With all of that in mind, we thought we’d compile a list of eight fU.S. cities that feel like the perfect fit for the solo travelers this summer. These are all cities with great food scenes, unique drinking haunts, and plenty of open space for a little recreation. We’ve also added in our favorite spots to hang, sleep, and drink.
PDX is an easy win for solo travelers. The city has a decent public transportation system. It’s fairly compact, making ride-sharing affordable after a night out. The Rose City also has one of the best food and drinking scenes in the country pinned to a deep craft brewing culture. Plus, the city is surrounded by stunning nature heading east towards the Cascade Mountains and along the Columbia River, or west to the magnificent Pacific beaches.
What to See: Washington Park
A stroll through the rose gardens in Washington Park is the perfect hangover cure or reset for your day. The 410 acres includes a forestry museum, amphitheater, arboretum, zoo, and plenty of forested and hilly trails to roam.
Where to Hang: Deschutes Brewery Portland Public House
Deschutes is the granddaddy of Oregon craft suds. Their Public House is a great place to grab a beer, learn about the craft, and maybe make a few beer-loving friends who can give you a local’s tour of the scene.
Where to Eat: Pine Street Market
Located in the old Carriage & Baggage Building in downtown Portland, the Pine Street Market is the city’s first official food hall. There are ten options to choose from that branch out into several international cuisines. The scene is hip, chilled out, and definitely worth a stroll.
Where to Sleep: The Heathman Hotel
Sticking in downtown Portland, The Heathman Hotel is a classic experiential boutique hotel dating back to 1927. The newly renovated property is luxe hotel in easy reach of everything dope Portland has to offer. From Powell’s Books to Tasty & Daughter restaurant — the best of PDX is just a short walk or tram ride away.
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About to make love to this ice cream on this half way decent day in Portland. 📷 by @gabbyyeet . . . . . . . . #ombrehair #pinkhair #harajuku #transwoman #transmodel #saltandstraw #makeupforthegods #makeuplife #nyxcosmetics #urbandecay #katespade #lgbtq #femmelesbian @pinestreetmarketpdx @wizbangbar #pastelprincess
LAS VEGAS, NV
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Okay, this is an obvious choice. Las Vegas is the party capital of America. That makes traveling there solo and making friends along the way pretty easy. The party scene at the massive clubs is one of the craziest in the country. Meanwhile, resorts are leaning into experiential food scenes that are attracting the world’s biggest chefs.
There’s a lot more to Vegas these days besides a craps table and slot machines.
What to See: Fremont Street
The famed Fremont Street is part-Disneyland and part-adult-themed-bacchanalia. You can party there. You can chill and enjoy some of Nevada’s legal cannabis while taking in the light shows. The street has an old-school Vegas feel with an actively modern pop cultural bent.
Where to Hang: Poolside
Pool parties are the place to be during the day. Cocktail bars, DJs, fireworks, controlled substances (just being real), and poolside dancing take up long afternoons in the hot Vegas sun. Hit up pools at Hard Rock, The Palms, MGM Grand, and The Cosmopolitan for the best pool parties.
Where to Eat: Jaleo by José Andrés
José Andrés is one of the most interesting chefs working today. Chef Andrés leans heavily towards social activism by taking the money he makes from his restaurant empire to feed the unemployed and those stricken by natural disasters. You know your money is going to a good place when you sit down at his restaurants. As for the food, Jaleo is as close to a legit Spanish dining experience you’ll ever get in the United States. Don’t sleep on the paella and definitely order the Jamon (Spanish cured ham) with Golden Caviar for a briny, farm-funk umami delight.
Where to Sleep: The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas
If you’re already in The Cosmopolitan and eating at Jaleo, you may as well grab a plush room. The casino resort leans into a killer food scene with outlets from some of the country’s hippest restaurants represented. Then, of course, there are the digs. Rooms start around $112 a night and are always worth a night or two of stylish luxury living.
Austin has one of the coolest music scenes in America — with that comes music venues, drinking, partying, eating, and having a dope time being out and about. The city is a food haven where barbecue shines alongside a range of cuisines from all over the world. Then there are the honky tonks where you can hang with locals and party well into the night. Austin rocks.
What to See: Lake Travis
Look, Austin is great. The area around Austin is also fantastic. Take some time to get out of the city and spend time getting into nature around Lake Travis. The dam-made lake offers a chance to cool off with some fun watersports and dive into the local food and beer scene around the lake. Also, check out Hamilton Pool Road for a rad waterfall/swimming hole combo.
Where to Hang: The White Horse
This spot is one of our favorite honky tonks in the country. The music venue/dive bar is always teaming with locals looking to let loose, listen to some great tunes, and drink all the tequila and beer. Roll up with an open mind and some cowboy boots and you’re sure to have a legendary time.
Where to Eat: The Salt Lick BBQ
You can’t go to Austin and not eat barbecue. While Franklin Barbecue gets a lot of media attention (and super long lines), we’re a little more into The Salt Lick. The massive central grill is piled high with smoked meats in every form. The outdoor barbecue garden area is always full of locals and tourists alike, all having a great time around eating and drinking.
Where to Sleep: Airbnb an Airstream
There are plenty of boutique hotels to stay in while you’re taking a deep dive into Austin’s various scenes. But, for us, a unique Airbnb experience is the play here. A plush Airstream via Airbnb over 4th of July weekend will set you back around $100 per night and drop you right in the middle of the city’s action.
Washington, DC, is a transient city. Between the government transplants and a deeply-rooted and varied university scene, DC is a town for singles and solo travelers. The city thrives in a great bar and restaurant scene with a little bit of everything and every one represented. It’s also the home to some of the greatest treasures (stolen or not) and memorabilia of America and the world via the Smithsonian’s free museums.
What to See: Smithsonian Museums and Galleries
The biggest selling point of the Smithsonian Museums, Galleries, and Zoo is that you’ve already paid for them via your taxes. All entries are free of charge to see T-Rex fossils, the moon-landing vehicle, vast collections of art, and the biggest collection of books in America. And, again… it’s free.
Where to Hang: Adams Morgan
DC is a very neighborhood-based experience. Some neighborhoods are purely residential while others are made for eating and partying well into the wee hours of the morning. Adams Morgan is basically a few block stretch of bars, clubs, and restaurants. It’s easily accessible and walkable for a decent bar crawl through some of DC’s most fun haunts.
Where to Eat: Pike Kitchen
Pike Kitchen is a DC food hall with a point. This is where nine local, Asian food proprietors have joined forces to bring people great East Asian cuisine in one place. This is about highlighting the great points in local East Asian cuisine via the lens of DC’s multicultural streets.
Where to Sleep: Highroad Hostel DC
DC is a lot of things. Cheap isn’t one of them. A boutique hotel in the city will set you back a minimum of $250 per night. However, if you’re into hostel living, you can score a bed for $25 a night via HostelWorld at joints like Highroad Hostel right in Adams Morgan. That’s a great bargain that puts you right in the middle of nightlife action.
NEW ORLEANS, LA
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The Big Easy, or NOLA if you will, is America’s other party capital. This southern city is partially built around people arriving, meeting people, and having a great time. The food scene is a unique mix of western European meets African-infused Creole and Cajun with deep roots in Indigenous ingredients.
Then, of course, there are the copious amounts on drinking spots built around a massive local music scene. You kind of can’t not have fun in New Orleans.
What to See: Frenchmen Street
We already know you’re going to walk down Bourbon Street, eat, and drink. It’s a given. But don’t skip out on spending time on Frenchmen Street. The famed street is a local’s hangout with great bars, more restaurants, and a killer music scene on the streets and in the clubs. This is basically the local’s version of Bourbon and kind of picks up (near) where Bourbon Street ends.
Where to Hang: Jackson Square
Jackson Square is in the heart of the French Quarter. The square is populated with local artists selling their paintings, drawings, and bric-a-brac. Around the square, you’ll find several places to grab a bite or a quick drink. And, the Mississippi River is just across the street. This is a great place to hang, talk to locals, and grab a little hair of the dog.
Where to Eat: Harbor Seafood & Oyster Bar
This great little seafood house is out in the NOLA suburb of Kenner, but it’s not far from the Louis Armstrong airport, so you can hit it when you arrive or when you leave. This is a low-key haunt for all the great Lousiana seafood you can stomach. Start off with some fried pickles and then dive into a shrimp or crawfish boil with a big ol’ andouille sausage (they serve by the pound, so they can easily accommodate a solo meal). I also highly recommend the fried catfish.
Where to Sleep: Ace Hotel New Orleans
Just off Lafayette Square in the heart of the city, Ace Hotel offers plush digs and a chill scene. Staying here puts you about 15 minutes by foot from the bottom of Bourbon Street and about the same distance to Jackson Square, making walking the city easier. Expect to pay around $120 per night.
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In my Extreme Happy Place. Big bushel of crawdads, corn, and a sausage perfectly positioned for chomping. The boiling stock is so so dankadent with that allspice and cloves. Sure, throw those butter packs on my crawdads. I don’t care. Nothing bringing me down right now. • Red Butter Shramp Everything Fried Crawdad Detail Oyster Po Boy • CIRCLE FOODS
Back up in the Great Pacific Northwest, Seattle shines as a great destination for solo travel. The biggest draw here is the local food and drinking scene that relies heavily on the sea and forests for inspiration. Seattle is surrounded by the sea, lakes, and some of the best nature the country has to offer.
You can dwell within the city and seek some nature-loving outdoors time all in the same trip if that’s your jam.
What to See: Black Sun
The Black Sun sculpture by Isamu Noguchi in Volunteer Park is a retconned inspiration and memorial for Chris Cornell, Soundgarden, grunge, and the band’s hit song, Black Hole Sun. The park is also a chill place to hang with an Asian Arts center, amphitheater, and plenty of spots to watch the world go by. Also, if you’re into Bruce Lee, his and his son’s graves are both located in the adjacent cemetery.
Where to Hang: Capitol Hill
Capitol Hill is where the cool kids hang in Seattle. The neighborhood is renowned for its music venues, dive bars, and hip, local restaurant scene. Our best advice is to wander Pike and Pine Streets between Bellevue Ave. and 15th Street for the best options to score a little food, find a good party, and meet a few locals.
Where to Eat: Pike Place Market
Pike Place Market is the oldest continually operating farmer’s market in these United States. The market is the bustling epicenter of local foods from the farms, forests, and seas around the Pacific Northwest. It’s the perfect place to start a seafood journey via local smoked salmon, lush clam chowder, and heaps of locally sourced wild seafood in every form. There are also stalls for local wines, spirits, beers, ciders, cheeses, bread, and all the produce you can imagine. That’s before you get to the dozens of spots to eat full on meals around the market– where they sell everything from oyster platters to huge pizza slices to Polish pastry stuffed with all sorts of sweet or savory goodness.
Where to Sleep: Hotel Max
Located in the heart of downtown Seattle, Hotel Max is the hip boutique hotel that leans into the local beer scene and music scene. They have an entire floor devoted to the music of local music label Sub Pop, complete with turntables in every room and assortment of classic and modern Sub Pop vinyl. They also offer a free craft beer happy hour every night in the lobby, which will give you a chance to sample the local brews before hitting the bars yourself. Rates start at around $100 per night.
Denver is proving to be one of the hippest cities in American right now. They’ve had legal cannabis in Colorado since 2012 and Denver denizens have recently flexed their democratic muscles again by decriminalizing psilocybin, most commonly experienced via magic mushrooms. Well done, Denver. If that’s not your jam, Denver still has a lot to offer any solo travelers looking for something unique in the middle of America — from a great art and cultural scene to a food community steeped in local ideas and ingredients.
What to See: Red Rocks Amphitheater
If there’s a show on at Red Rocks, go. If there isn’t a show on, go anyway. This is such a unique venue with full public access to the amphitheater and surrounding National Park-like beauty. Plus, it’s only 20 minutes outside Denver by car. That’s an easy ride share there and back.
Where to Hang: Larimer Square
Larimer Square is where to hang if you’re looking to meet locals, eat great food, and tie one on. There’s a cool art scene on the streets and in the shops. This is the sort of place that’s rad night and day for an easy stroll, drinking session, and plenty of local eats.
Pro-Tip: Don’t skip Russel’s Smokehouse for smoky meat and small-batch craft cocktails.
Where to Eat: Buckhorn Exchange Restaurant
Wild Game in the Rocky Mountains goes hand-in-hand. Buckhorn Exchange has been serving Denver some of the best steaks — wild and farm-raised — for over a century. Local buffalo, elk, quail, duck, salmon, beef, and lamb dominate the menu here, offering you the chance to sample meats that’d otherwise be hard to source. If you’re feeling intimidated, start with the buffalo as it’s very akin to grass-fed beef. If you’re feeling more adventurous, give the elk and quail a try.
These clean, healthy meats are the perfect first step into a wild food experience.
Where to Sleep: Kimpton Hotel Monaco Denver
Kimpton runs some of the dopest boutique hotels across America. Their Denver installment, Kimpton Hotel Monaco Denver, is luxury hotel living at affordable prices. It also puts you in the center of the city, mere steps from Larimer Square. The plush rooms start at around $150 per night.
NEW YORK, NY
This is probably the easiest sell on the list for solo travel destinations in the U.S. New York is one of the biggest cities in the world and easily traveled through. The city is connected to great public transportation, and it’s cheap. Then there’s an almost endless list of options for dining, drinking, partying, sleeping, sightseeing, arts, and venturing out of the city (think taking a train up the Hudson to an organic farm or vineyard).
New York has it all for the solo traveler.
What to See: Central Park
Central Park is one of those places that can kind of be whatever you need it to be. You can work out there, join in a ball game, stroll around aimlessly, grab a bite or a drink, or just sit and watch the world go by. It’s a great spot for a break or a reset for your day. And it’s vast, meaning you can spend a good amount of time here just chilling and never get bored.
Where to Hang: The East Village
Look, calling out one single place to hang in Manhattan, much less the five boroughs, is a fool’s errand. So, we’re not calling out a single bar or single place to hang. If you’re in Manhattan, hang out in the East Village between 3rd and Avenue A west to east and 14th Street and W Houston north to south. That area is crowded with bars and restaurants, old and new. Stroll around, find something that temps you, and indulge in that.
Where to Eat: 2nd Ave. Deli
A Jewish Deli in New York is uniquely authentic. The piles of brined meats, fried doughs stuffed with cheeses, all the pickles, briny cold-smoked salmon, and a staff that seems like it’s always been there conspire together to create a food experience that feels special. 2nd Ave. Deli is a one-of-a-kind place that pulls you in, fills you up, and gets you ready for a day on the streets of New York. Grab a Classic Pastrami sandwich, try and get through half of it, and take the second half with for a second meal later. Don’t forget to wash it all down with Dr. Brown’s Black Cherry soda.
Where to Sleep: The Lexington Hotel
This art-deco classic on East 48th Street is a jazz-era step back in time. The hotel offers luxe quarters for anyone looking to spend time in New York that feels a tad-bit 1960s Mad Men meets 1920s Batman meets 2010s modernity. The hotel is situated short walks from the Chrysler Building, Grand Central, Time Square, Rockafeller Center, and 5th Ave. Rate start around $150 per night.
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