Get planning: U.S. destinations for solo travelers

SHERYL NANCE-NASH | 1/14/2021, midnight
While you wait for the day that you feel safe enough to hit the road given the pandemic, start fantasizing ...
There’s big fun to be had in Chicago Photos courtesy of Choose Chicago

You’ve already made up your mind that you’re okay with traveling alone. While you wait for the day that you feel safe enough to hit the road given the pandemic, start fantasizing about where in America you want to go.

For sure, certain cities are particularly ideal for solo adventurers. With that said, any place on the planet you always want to be alert, trust your gut, and use good common sense.

Consider these cities as fodder to fuel your daydreaming.

Chicago, Illinois

Sahara Rose De Vore of Sahara Rose Travels has traveled solo to 84 countries over the last decade. What tops her list? Chicago in the spring or summer. “Not only is the food in Chicago top notch but there are so many types of places to choose from and options to suit all budgets. One of the best reasons why Chicago is ideal for solo travelers is because it is really easy to meet new people. Whether dining on patios, sipping cocktails on a rooftop, or enjoying a night out at a bar or a popular club, there are many ways to expand your company,” she says. There are museums to visit for those who love art, culture or science. There are beaches to soak up the sun at, join a game of volleyball, or grab a bite at the boat-shaped restaurant on the beach. For shopping, she says to hit the Magnificent Mile where you can also grab a smoothie and watch street performers. Do put a visit to the DuSable Museum of African American History. As for accommodations, there are affordable Airbnb options scattered throughout the downtown area and the trendy neighborhoods. If you’re not a big city person, areas of the city such as Uptown or River North are super hip and trendy places speckled with new eateries, shops and places to meet people, she says. Another bonus she says is Chicago is safe and has easy buses and subways.

Virginia Beach, Virginia

You get a two-fer with Virginia Beach—serenity while taking long walks along the beach and safety as the city was recently called the seventh safest large city in America by MoneyGeek. There’s plenty to keep you busy, be it ziplining, taking surfing lessons, paddle boarding, biking, or a walking tour along the ViBe Creative District enjoying the murals painted by local artists. Do be sure you sample the succulent Lynnhaven oysters that can only be found in Virginia Beach.

Portland, Maine

Portland provides picture-perfect panoramic views of the Atlantic, and you can check out several lighthouses (Portland Head is believed to be the most-photographed lighthouse in the U.S.) or kayak with nearby Portland Paddle, which also offers a few multi-day expeditions—i.e., built-in socializing. Foodies take note, the city was named Bon Appetit magazine’s “Restaurant City of the Year” in 2018. Yes, you’ll get the beloved lobster roll, oysters and seafood aplenty, but there’s much more to tickle your palate be it Japanese fried chicken, Jewish deli, Vietnamese, Spanish and beyond. Check out the shops, galleries and the many breweries. The Arts District is where you’ll find the Portland Museum of Art. In winter, the Rink at Thompson Point offers outdoor ice skating along the river. One cool must-visit spot is the Urban Farm Fermentory, which produces and serves its own cider, beer, mead, kombucha and jun.

New Orleans, Louisiana

The Big Easy, is well, easy. From the famous French Quarter to the National World War II Museum, Aquarium, parks, voodoo tours, iconic cemeteries and cuisine that will keep your taste buds satisfied, there’s nothing you can’t find here. If you want to explore New Orleans’ party culture as a solo female traveler there are ways to do so without compromising your safety. Kate McCulley, publisher of AdventurousKate.com, recommends going on a food and cocktail tour with Doctor Gumbo Tours. “I was the only person on the tour who wasn’t part of a couple, but it was only weird for the first few minutes—soon, people were introducing themselves to each other and we all got along terrifically.” She also suggests, “Go to quieter bars where the focus is on enjoying cocktails or listening to music, not crazy bars where the goal is getting drunk.” Southern hospitality is ever present, so there is a wide range of hotel options. Loews New Orleans Hotel is a good option. It’s in the Arts District, within walking distance from Harrah’s Casino, Riverfront, the French Quarter and many of the hottest restaurants and bars.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

With the opening of the American Black Holocaust Museum, the 3rd Street Market Hall featuring 20 local restaurant vendors, a beer hall and table games, and the Bradley Symphony Center set to open this year, put Milwaukee on your radar. For an arts adventure do a self-guided tour of Sculpture Milwaukee, which brings world-class outdoor sculptures to downtown, or check out the architectural design of the Milwaukee Art Museum. You’ll be surprised too by the city’s cuisine. Milwaukee is underrated, but there are world-class restaurants, as well as places to just enjoy a beer, and oh yes, those cheese curds. You can get your outdoors fix with Lake Michigan, three rivers, more than 150 state and county parks and more than 130 miles of bike trails.

Key West, Florida

There’s no place like Key West with its relaxed vibe and mix of history, natural beauty, cultural diversity and architecture. Watersports are big here, as are entertainment and nightlife, beaches, historic sites and its famous pastel, conch-style architecture. You can’t go to Key West without spending time on Duval Street, with its shops, bars and cafes. Pop in Sloppy Joe’s bar, a favorite hangout of novelist Ernest Hemingway, and do visit the Hemingway house for a revealing glimpse into his life. Then there is the lighthouse, museums, parks, art galleries and more. Make it easy on yourself and take a walking, biking or trolley tour. If you’re looking for a place to lie your head after all the revelry of the Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square and 24-hour Duval Street, the buzz is about Kimpton Key West, the newest addition to Old Town. This eclectic collection includes five redesigned individual hotels, villas, bungalows, and historic buildings, each with a story to tell.

San Diego, California

When it comes to California, most of the fuss is about Los Angeles, San Francisco and the wine country. But make a getaway to sunny San Diego. You won’t have to wind through massive crowds. Take advantage of hiking along coastline, Coronado Beach, and opportunities for biking, kayaking, snorkeling, paddle boarding, beach yoga, golf, bird watching, paragliding and blue whale watching. Include on your to-do list exploring Cabrillo National Monument and the quaint Gaslamp Quarter in downtown San Diego.