Traveling doesn’t come easy for everyone, so while I’m the first to encourage international adventures, don’t forget that there’s plenty of fun to be had exploring your own backyard first. So what makes a destination solo travel-friendly? I look at the attractions, the city’s vibe, accessibility, hospitality, and costs.
Whether you’re into the outdoors, or want a cosmopolitan atmosphere, here are the best places to travel alone in the US.
1. San Francisco, California
Easily one of the most photogenic cities to hail from the west coast, San Fran is a local and international favorite for many. Not only is the city and its sights awesome, but the energy you get from the people is pretty special too. The misty mornings, hills, and and bay views from all angles make you feel like you’re in the setting of a movie.
With the affordable BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) getting you around, cable cars, scenic walks, and buses, explore Pier 39, have a picnic in Golden Gate Park, visit the Japanese Tea Garden, have dinner in Chinatown, and take a free walking tour to meet people
Last but not least, head to Marin Headlands for that iconic Golden Gate Bridge shot, the main reason you want to visit I’m sure
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2. New York, New York
The concrete jungle where dreams are made of and pursued by people from every walk of life. The thing about traveling in New York is that doing it solo is unlikely, because it’s such a densely populated city, so you’re going to be surrounded by people everywhere you go. New York can easily break the bank, but not if you plan ahead. Like if you wanted to catch a Broadway show and don’t mind waiting in line a bit, show up to the box office and opt for their standing room only tickets, or even their lottery system and see what you could land!
Because New York is such a diverse city, you can take a trip around the world without leaving the city, because every type of cuisine can be eaten in the Big Apple. Use MeetUp.com to see what events are going on that week, grab some bites at Chelsea Market, and sit at a coffee shop to people-watch like a champ.
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3. Atlanta, Georgia
Atlanta is a city I will never get tired of visiting because you have that perfect blend of urban charm and natural beauty that make it special. There are dozens of local museums to peruse, parks to stroll in, and a diverse range of restaurants to stuff your face in. And no visit to Atlanta is complete without a stop in Mary Mac’s Tea room for a taste of that southern hospitality the area is known for. The soul food will be plentiful, and the nightlife will help you burn off the calories, dancing to jazz, blues, and Atlanta’s massive hip-hop scene. I recommend staying in Midtown as it’s super safe to walk around at night, and central to everything.
4. New Orleans, Louisiana
Continuing with my love for the south, no city is more welcoming and fun to navigate solo than New ‘Ahhlins’. It’s a quirky city, with the French Quarter full of shops, churches, museums, art, and street musicians to add the perfect flair. From the French Quarter, you can walk to the Mississippi River for a surplus of tours in the area. There’s a Swamp and Plantation excursion where you can see old oak trees covered in Spanish moss that makes for some amazing photos.
Jazz clubs are everything and more at night, and you’d be crazy not to try the gumbo or crawfish in town.
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5. Lawrence, Kansas
Though unfairly placed in the “flyover state” region, Lawrence, Kansas is more than just a college town with an insanely loyal University of Kansas basketball fanbase. I lived 10 minutes away from this city for five years, and I truly took its beauty for granted. It’s most gorgeous in the Autumn, as basketball season is approaching, the trees turn golden and orange hues, and the weather is still fairly warm at night.
It feels like a very young city as it draws almost 30,000 college students to KU’s campus every year. While the streets are all conveniently named after U.S. states, Mass street is the one you’ll probably frequent the most. Full of hipster vibes, cafes, boutique and thrift shops, and bars with the sports channels locked in, it’s so inviting, and there is no such warmth such as the Midwestern hospitality.
Hit up the Prairie Park Nature Reserve if Mother Nature is your jam, but also check out the Spencer Museum of Art, and Free State Brewing Company for a fun and inviting pub atmosphere in the heart of Kansas.
6. Boulder, Colorado
With close to 45,000 acres of easily accessible and wide-open landscapes of beauty, it is such a pedestrian and biker-friendly city, with an amazing vibe downtown. Boulder’s iconic Flatirons perfect the postcard-perfect scenery, but it’s the creative scene I love most about this city. There are dozens of galleries, museums, theaters, and dance studios with performances and shows to check out fairly often. The Boulder’s Farmer’s Market is a great way to support local farmers and chefs, and it’s known as one of the biggest foodie towns in North America.
Opt for a stroll through Rocky Mountain National Park or Golden Gate Canyon State Park to take in all of Mother Nature’s glory. Easily one of the safest cities in the states, and one that you could never get tired of.
7. Austin, Texas
There’s a reason Austin consistently ranks as the top city to live in the U.S. amongst locals. Not only is it super accommodating for solo travelers, it has a vibe and spirit about it that makes it desirable for everyone. It’s urban, vibrant, and hip which makes it easy to navigate alone. The hostel culture here is rapidly growing, and there’s never a short of things to do whether you love music, food, or art. For bars and live music, check out Sixth Street, for a young scene, hit up Rainey Street, and to hang with the locals, check out Elephant Room, Eastside Showroom, and Brass House. Austin is most famous for its festivals, especially SXSW (South by Southwest), but there is something for the music and art lover at all times of the year.
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8. Portland, Oregon
I love Portland because it’s a bit of an underrated gem of the west California cities get all the shine. It has such natural beauty and gorgeous landscapes, that your first stop should be the International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park. There are tons of spunky cafes, pubs, and restaurants to keep you fed, and it’s incredibly easy to navigate by car. Probably one of the safest cities in the U.S, it’s a city you can discover as you want and at your own pace. Pioneer Square is a nice contrast if you’re needing electric vibes, and there’s usually food carts to peruse on weekends. If you’re someone who’s laid back and wants to see some of the best of the west, Portland is a great start.
9. Washington, D.C.
This list wouldn’t be complete without a mention of the capital, because I consider it one of the best travel destinations for the independent and savvy traveler. I loved the downtown area and its surplus of galleries, gardens, and museums to peruse. You could ice-skate, hit up the many bars, and museum-hop the galleries and exhibits of the Smithsonian Institution (as they’re all free). It’s the political capital so don’t be surprised to engage in a few mentally-stimulating conversations with strangers. The nightlife is great and the history of the city is just as interesting. And though it’s safe, don’t be surprised to see public demonstrations, security organizations, and authority vehicles regularly. I recommend staying in Upper Georgetown and traveling during non-peak hours to save money on your fare.
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10. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
I’d be lying to say Will Smith’s Fresh Prince of Bel-Air tune isn’t ringing in the back of my head every time I think of this city. It has a character and spunk about it that makes it feel welcoming to the solo traveler. Vibrant markets, colorful street art, and philly sandwiches aside, I think it’s a must for those who might be overwhelmed by a city like New York, but would welcome a less-hectic version of it. The public transportation system is efficient, and I felt pretty comfortable around at night.
Check out Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens for incredible mosaic art, The Reading Terminal Market for a lively eating experience, and ride to the top of City Hall Tower for a nice aerial view. It’s hard to be bored in a city like Philly, and I’m already dying to return.
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Still want more solo travel inspo?