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Posts Tagged ‘Washington, D.C.’

Live the American dream in these US solo travel hot spots!

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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

best places to travel alone in the US - San Francisco

best places to travel alone in the US - San Francisco

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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.

best places to travel alone in the US - New York

best places to travel alone in the US - New York

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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.

best places to travel alone in the US - Atlanta, Georgia

best places to travel alone in the US - Atlanta, Georgia

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.

best places to travel alone in the US - New Orleans

best places to travel alone in the US - New Orleans

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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.

best places to travel alone in the US - Lawrence , Kansas

best places to travel alone in the US - Lawrence , 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.

best places to travel alone in the US - Boulder , Colorado

best places to travel alone in the US - Boulder , Colorado

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.

best places to travel alone in the US - Austin, Texas

best places to travel alone in the US - Austin, Texas

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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.

best places to travel alone in the US - Portland , Oregon

best places to travel alone in the US - Portland , Oregon

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.

best places to travel alone in the US - Washington DC

best places to travel alone in the US - Washington DC

Find a Hostel in Washington DC

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.

best places to travel alone in the US - Philadelphia

best places to travel alone in the US - Philadelphia

Find a Hostel in Philadelphia

Still want more solo travel inspo?

⭐ The 10 most popular solo travel hot spots

 Warning: Solo travel makes you undateable

 Solo female travel in Europe: Your gateway toa life more adventurous

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8 Best U.S. Fall Road Trip Destinations

america

Fall is a great time to head out on a U.S. road trip. The summer crowds have headed home since the kids are in school again. The fall foliage is making its first appearances. Cities and states all over the country are hosting fabulous fall festivals that you won’t want to miss. 

If you’re planning a road trip before the season ends, check out these destinations that are sure to please.

CHEROKEE, NC – MAY 11: One of the main park roads along the Tennessee border is viewed from the top … [+] of a ridge near the Appalachian Trail on May 11, 2018 near Cherokee, North Carolina. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park straddles the Tennessee and North Carolina borders in the heart of the Appalachian Mountain Range. (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)

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1. Shenandoah National Park 

Shenandoah National Park on the East Coast is a lovely spot for some leaf-peeping. Plus, it’s right outside Washington, D.C., making it an easy flight in if you’re coming from elsewhere in the country. If not, you may still enjoy the park’s proximity to the nation’s capital, as you can combine a visit to both in one trip.

Peak leaf-peeping season at Shenandoah is mid-to-late October. You’ll want to take the park’s Skyline Drive for plentiful outlooks and photo ops. 

2. Green Mountain Byway

No one does fall quite like New England, so head to Vermont for all things seasonal. You’ll want to drive the Green Mountain Byway. While this little stretch of road is only 11 miles, make sure to take your time.

However, the short distance means that this road trip is one you can knock out over a weekend visit, perfect if you can’t get away from work for too long this season. Don’t forget to make pit stops for all the amazing New England food and farm activities that pop up this time of year. 

3. Blue Ridge Parkway

It gets a lot of hype, but for good reason. North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Parkway is known as “America’s favorite drive,” and it’s honestly pretty no matter what time of year you visit. But if you love fall foliage, definitely head there now.

The road is long — nearly 500 miles — so you could take your time over several days or a week to see it in full. While in the state, enjoy all the North Carolina hospitality your heart can handle. The locals really make you feel at home.

4. Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

For something in the Midwest, try Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. This is a great spot to go if you want to combine all the great fall foliage with some lovely water features. Michigan is filled with picturesque waterfront along the Great Lakes, inland lakes, waterfalls, streams and more.

Visit the fun-filled state parks and maybe even enjoy a little camping while you’re in this jaw-dropping outdoor wonderland. 

5. San Juan Skyway

Heading further west, you’ll find the San Juan Skyway in Colorado. Whereas the East Coast gives you fall foliage galore and the Midwest combines leaf-peeping with water features, Colorado blends paintbrush strokes of vibrant colors with towering, dramatic mountain peaks.

The scenery along the skyway is gorgeous and not to be missed, but you’ll want to add some stops to your itinerary to get a glimpse of the region’s history. 

6. The Pacific Coast Highway 

The Pacific Coast Highway gets pretty crowded during the summer months, so maybe skip a June or July trek along this famous coastline and instead visit in October or November. The weather isn’t nearly as bad as what you’ll find on the East Coast in late fall, where snow is always a threat, and you’ll get to see some of California’s best cities.

Remember, though, California doesn’t only have its major urban hubs along the coast. The charming small towns right on the water are worth checking out all on their own.

7. The Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway

In New Mexico, the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway takes you across more than 80 files of lush fall foliage, all lit up in vibrant hues of yellow. Aspen trees dominate here, so you might not see your characteristic reds, oranges, and browns that you’ll spot on the East Coast, but the golden leaves are nearly otherworldly in their beauty.

The byway will even take you to views of Wheeler Peak, the tallest mountain in New Mexico. 

8. The Finger Lakes

Coming from New York City? Then you need to see the Finger Lakes, especially if you’ve never been. While Upstate New York itself is lovely during the fall months, the Finger Lakes region specifically shines because of its wine roots.

The Finger Lakes produce wines to rival those you’ll enjoy in California and you can find plenty to go around during a Finger Lakes road trip. Just make sure you practice safety first and either take it slow or get a designated driver to show you around the area’s best sipping spots and scenic sites.

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This Map Shows the Ultimate U.S. Road Trip

Bryce Canyon

The concept of a road trip is as American as apple pie, and yet, devising the “best” U.S. driving route is a bit of a head scratcher. Much depends on time parameters, personal preference, and frankly, how long you want to spend behind the wheel.

Tracy Staedter at Discovery News decided to take on that challenge, enlisting Randy Olson—Michigan State University doctoral student and the man behind the famed (and super helpful) Where’s Waldo algorithm—to devise what you might call the platonic ideal of the United States road trip. The parameters were: It had to hit all of the 48 continental states, every stop had to be a National Natural Landmark, a National Historic Site, a National Park, or a National Monument, and of course, had to be confined to car travel and within U.S. borders.

With a stop in Washington D.C. and two in California, the result is 50 points of all American awesomenesss.

Here are the destinations:

1. Grand Canyon, AZ
2. Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
3. Craters of the Moon, ID
4. Yellowstone National Park, WY
5. Pikes Peak, CO
6. Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM
7. The Alamo, TX
8. The Platt Historic District, OK
9. Toltec Mounds, AR
10. Elvis Presley’s Graceland, TN
11. Vicksburg National Military Park, MS
12. French Quarter, LA
13. USS Alabama, AL
14. Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL
15. Okefenokee Swamp Park, GA
16. Fort Sumter National Monument, SC
17. Lost World Caverns, WV
18. Wright Brothers National Memorial Visitor Center, NC
19. Mount Vernon, VA
20. White House, Washington, D.C.
21. Colonial Annapolis Historic District, MD
22. New Castle Historic District, DE
23. Cape May Historic District, NJ
24. Liberty Bell, PA
25. Statue of Liberty, NY
26. The Mark Twain House & Museum, CT
27. The Breakers, RI
28. USS Constitution, MA
29. Acadia National Park, ME
30. Mount Washington Hotel, NH
31. Shelburne Farms, VT
32. Fox Theater, MI
33. Spring Grove Cemetery, OH
34. Mammoth Cave National Park, KY
35. West Baden Springs Hotel, IN
36. Abraham Lincoln’s Home, IL
37. Gateway Arch, MO
38. C. W. Parker Carousel Museum, KS
39. Terrace Hill Governor’s Mansion, IA
40. Taliesin, WI
41. Fort Snelling, MN
42. Ashfall Fossil Bed, NE
43. Mount Rushmore, SD
44. Fort Union Trading Post, ND
45. Glacier National Park, MT
46. Hanford Site, WA
47. Columbia River Highway, OR
48. San Francisco Cable Cars, CA
49. San Andreas Fault, CA
50. Hoover Dam, NV

That list starts with the Grand Canyon, but you could theoretically begin anywhere as long as you drive in sequence after that. Staedter guesses it would take a little over nine days of driving straight through, but more realistically is a two- or three-month trip.

For the nitty gritty on how he came up with the route, check out Olson’s blog. After determining the stops, the main goal of the algorithm was to find the shortest distance between points.

Olson wrote to Staedter: “Instead of exhaustively looking at every possible solution, genetic algorithms start with a handful of random solutions and continually tinker with these solutions — always trying something slightly different from the current solution and keeping the best one — until they can’t find a better solution any more.”

And whether or not you understand the specifics of how it was created, the map is truly a marvel and the kind of itinerary you’ll probably spend all winter dreaming about. See the full, interactive map here, and for additional #travelgoals, check out Olson’s road trip maps for U.S. cities and Europe.

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