17 Best Cities in America for Solo Travelers
There are plenty of reasons to take a solo trip: not only do you get to know the destination better with no distractions, but traveling alone often leads to personal growth. You’ll learn about what you like, how you see and relate to the world, and the beauty of being on your own.
And though Europe is one of the friendliest continents for solo travel, those who want to remove the language barrier may prefer to stay closer to home. We went coast-to-coast and picked these 17 locales based on accessibility (you won’t have to worry about getting around), friendliness (it’s nice to know you can make new friends along the way), things to do (we don’t want you to get bored), and nearby open spaces (the idea is to disconnect).
Asheville, North Carolina
Asheville has the friendly folks, comfort food, and appreciation for place and family, as well as forward-thinking creatives that give the town its cool factor. Those new to the art of eating, drinking, and traveling alone will feel especially at ease in this mountain hamlet known for its hippie, non-judgmental vibe. Stay downtown, where you can stroll to hundreds of independently owned businesses. Beer lovers, take note. The South Slope district’s breweries prove why Asheville is Dixie’s hoppiest city.
The quickest way to bond with a stranger? Shared musical taste. Austin has plenty of opportunities to bump into fellow music lovers. The sheer amount of fantastic food doesn’t hurt either. Stay on South Congress Avenue, where the year-old South Congress Hotel provides the ideal base for visiting SoCo’s iconic venues. Other ‘hoods you can easily get to include East Austin, booming with hipster bars and food trucks; South Lamar with its great shops; and Rainey Street, where coeds go to mingle. Visit March through November to see the bats flying under the Ann W. Richards bridge.
Not only is this adventure-seeker's playground super walkable, safe, and beautiful, it’s also home to upscale hostels where all types of travelers converge around fire pits and coffee bars to plan the following day’s hike. You’ll find free, pro-led biking and running groups all over town, but even those who are not athletically inclined can enjoy Boulder’s charms. Head to the Rayback Collective food truck park to make friends and check out Fox Theater’s live music schedule for a night on the town.
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston is a small town, but its cultural and food offerings rival that of any big city. Some of the Holy City’s star meals are best enjoyed family-style, so a solo explorer can belly up to a restaurant’s community table and end up with a group of newly acquired friends. Don’t be surprised if your new pals invite you over for Sunday supper at their home. There’s a reason Charleston often ranks among the friendliest cities in the country—it’s simply one of the best places to spend a weekend.
Of all the Florida Keys, Islamorada has the homiest feel. Locals are happy to regale you with tales of family squabbles and fishing legends at any of the seaside watering holes. For an elevated dining experience, snag a barstool at Chef Michael’s and order the whole lionfish (an invasive and tasty species threatening the Keys’ ecosystem). It’s a big plate, but doable for one. Rest your head at one of the cozy cottages at Moorings Village, the dreamy enclave where "Bloodline" was filmed.
Kentucky is known for its hospitality and Louisville for its bourbon, which means you can’t go wrong venturing alone in this burgeoning part of Horse Country. NuLu is the most happening neighborhood, but Old Louisville is where you’ll want to hunker down if you’re a sucker for history and architecture. Downtown has new hotels opening and culinary star Edward Lee’s MilkWood restaurant. Butchertown and Germantown are two neighborhoods where you’ll find what’s next, along with authentic bits of how things used to be.
Artists in search of a solitary life started to move to Marfa in the 1970s. Today, the population hovers at a modest 1,800, but there’s enough art, food, and quirk to entertain. El Cosmico offers glamping at its best and plenty of communal spaces. What draws tourists to drive at least three hours from the closest airport to these West Texas flatlands are the progressive galleries, mystifying desert skies, and artisans that liven up what could otherwise be a ghost town.
New York, New York
New York City might be full of crowds, but it’s also a welcoming hub for parties of one. There are sleek hotels with bars that draw worldly travelers and locals, some of the best art and shopping in the world, and more food and drink options than you can fit into a month-long trip. If you need some help narrowing down the choices, take a look at our three-day weekend guide.
Outer Banks, North Carolina
This string of barrier islands off the North Carolina coast has long drawn authors and artists who are inspired by its tempestuous waters, secluded location, and storied history (the Wright brothers flew the first successful airplane here). The best island for a solo traveler is Hatteras: It has fishing, kayaking, some of the best shell collecting on the coast, and dozens of pretty little beach cottages to rent.
In a town dominated by local businesses, it’s easy to have a 20-minute conversation with your barista (who is also the shop owner) about her passion for sourcing the perfect beans, the art of drinking coffee, and what her friends are doing at their own cafés. You can have the best Portland weekend without ever consulting a map or Yelp review, and simply by asking locals for their recommendations—or using our definitive guide. One more bonus: the town is full of free, fun things to do.
Portsmouth, New Hampshire
New Hampshire is one of the safest states in the country. And Portsmouth is among its most pedestrian-friendly cities, and is fantastic for history buffs. The waterfront town knows its food, and that is perhaps best showcased in the nearly 15 oyster farmers working to put Great Bay’s bivalves back on the map. Sample the best of the Bay at the Franklin Oyster House, run by James Beard-nominated chef Matt Louis.
Red Lodge, Montana
Staying at a dude ranch has become increasingly popular, and going it alone is the best way to get in touch with your inner rancher. In Red Lodge, Lazy E L Ranch has fly fishing, horseback riding, and cattle herding on 12,000 acres near Yellowstone National Park. Back in town, you’ll find a quaint, historic main street, but the real draw in this part of Big Sky Country is the call of the wild: outdoor sports and solitude in nature.
San Diego, California
San Diego combines Mexico’s generous hospitality and colorful culture with So-Cal’s laid-back vibe. From the mild weather and the surf culture to the West Coast sunsets, it’s the perfect place to spend a few days wandering around. Thanks to a new bridge at the airport, now it’s even easier to head further south to Tijuana, where you can see the border town’s renaissance.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe is a solid retreat for spiritual healing. Book a night at Ten Thousand Waves, an upscale lodge inspired by Japanese hot spring resorts and decked out with communal and secluded soaking tubs. Downtown, you’ll find historical landmarks, handmade tchotchkes, and restaurants serving New Mexico’s famous chili. Beyond the adobe architecture and unique attractions, the best thing you can do in Santa Fe is meet its colorful characters.
Starbucks and Amazon were smart about choosing their home base. They headed straight to Seattle for the best of both worlds: chic city dwellings and awe-inspiring nature. Not far from town, you can easily get to Snoqualmie Falls (in the town where Twin Peaks was filmed), and San Juan Islands (known for orca-spotting and forested isles). Back in the city, there are tons of cool music venues, sleek shops, and cozy coffee houses. Best of all, you won’t even need a car to get around.
Museums are best explored alone, and in D.C. you have more than 20 to choose from—most of which are free, so you can spend as much or as little time in each as you wish. The District also has a hot food scene; as a solo traveler, you have a better shot at getting into highly coveted spots. To get far away from D.C.’s political crowds, head to the most exciting neighborhoods, such as Shaw, where you can hop between restaurateur Derek Brown’s themed drinking spots and catch a show at the Howard Theatre.
There is at least one festival every month in this Minnesota river town known for its striking bluffs and mountain views. For those who want adventure, Winona has snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in winter; hiking, kayaking, boating, biking, golfing, and fishing the rest of the year. If you’re more of the dinner-and-a-show type, the town has museums, theaters, and a historic district. If you like both, plan for a longer trip.