Traveling alone isn’t just empowering – it’s also, say many, more enriching. Without the buffer of a travel companion, there’s a heightened immediacy to experiencing new lands and cultures.
In the US, take your pick of the solo adventures: you can trek through wilderness, eat your way around the world at gourmet international restaurants, and then ease into the night over jazz – sometimes all in the same 24-hour span.
From cities to national parks to arty enclaves, here are our pick of the best places to travel alone in the USA.
Calling all solo adventurists: Boulder is the perfect spot to park your hiking boots. Sitting in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, this is an outdoor town with plenty of year-round activities that you can take on solo, from skiing to cycling.
After dark, the fun continues, with a buzzing nightlife – check out the brew pubs of Pearl Street – and a diverse array of cheap international restaurants, where you can comfortably (and inexpensively) wine and dine alone.
Key West isn’t just different from Florida – it’s different from the entire country. The southernmost point in the US, Key West is as famous for its sunny shores as for its offbeat, anything-goes, wild and playful side.
Solo travelers are enthusiastically welcome here, with all sorts of inclusive events, from open-air concerts to impromptu parades to dive beach bars where, after a few drinks, everyone knows your name.
The San Francisco spirit can be summed up in two words: be yourself. This is a city that embraces solo travelers, with free summer concerts and festivals – dance on the grass at the lively Stern Grove Festival – to Bay Area Bike Share, which makes it easy and cheap to pedal around the city.
Plus, many of San Francisco’s restaurants have inviting bar seating for one. And, of course, there are the cable cars: hop on, hang on, and see the city with the wind in your hair.
Leave Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon to the hordes of summer family travelers. Instead, trek through America’s lesser-known pockets of wilderness like Hot Springs National Park, which is one of the smallest and oldest national parks in the US.
Make your base in the town of Hot Springs, which forms part of the park, and once you’ve hiked the trails, soak in a traditional bath at Buckstaff Baths.
Looking up at Sedona’s famous red rocks as they glow under the setting sun is a memorable experience – and even more so when you’re alone. The area’s magnificent stillness is best enjoyed without any companion chatter.
When you’re ready to join others, there are plenty of ways to do so, such as the First Friday Art Walk (first Friday of the month), which circulates through the top galleries in town.
Where better to travel solo than in one of the most famous singles’ cities in the country? Atlanta’s thriving nightlife includes many solo-friendly options, from trivia nights at the bars of East Atlanta to singles’ meet-and-greet events at the cocktail lounges of glitzy Buckhead. The city’s sights are also made for solo-exploring, including Piedmont Park and the High Museum of Art.
Cheap, friendly, and festive: America’s student-thronged college towns – from Ann Arbor, Michigan, to Lawrence, Kansas – are a gift for solo travelers. Time your visit with a game day – cheering along with thousands of face-painted fans at a college home football game is the ultimate slice of Americana. As is consuming beer, hot dogs, and more beer.
A perfect American itinerary? Travel from one coast to the other, stopping at college towns along the way – kick off the trip in leafy Cambridge, Massachusetts (Harvard University; Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and end in colorful Berkeley, California (University of California at Berkeley).
Sometimes, the best solo experiences aren’t in America’s big cities, but in its small towns, like Beaufort, South Carolina (population circa 4000). This is a charming microcosm of the South – a vine-draped historic district, moody antebellum mansions, and a breezy seaside perch on Port Royal Island. Amiable and safe, Beaufort is ideal for solo meanderings, followed by a mint julep (or three) on a breezy porch.
In some cities, festivals are a special occasion. In Austin, they’re a way of life. The capital of Texas is a music town, with one of the greatest concert calendars in the country. The city’s tunes are matched by its BBQ – and its great outdoors, with a wide array of solo-friendly activities, from strolling sun-speckled parks to splashing in local swimming holes, like Barton Springs.
If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. That famous quip about New York especially applies to solo travel in the city. Yes, New York is loud and bewildering, but it’s also where you’ll likely have the most memorable solo experiences in the country, whether walking across the Brooklyn Bridge at sunset, or curling up with a book under a tree in Central Park. Enjoy roaming the great halls of the Metropolitan Museum and sipping a cocktails under the stars on a rooftop bar.
The famous naturalist John Muir once said: “in every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” And this is particularly true for solo hikers, where your only companion is nature itself, and any chatter comes from the birds. America is a boon for solo hikers, with well-maintained trails that fan out across the country.
Trek a section of the Appalachian Trail, the longest hiking-only footpath in the world, which extends from Maine to Georgia; embark on the 37-mile Teton Crest Trail in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park; or, follow in the footsteps of John Muir, on the John Muir Trail through the Sierra Nevada mountains in California. For solo-hiking safety tips, check the National Park Service.
When it comes to solo travel, there’s nothing quite like taking the wheel and cruising the open road while singing as loudly (and badly) as you want. The USA is the quintessential road trip nation, with vast highways and freeways crisscrossing every state.
Try the famous Route 1 that traverses the length of California – don’t miss stunning Big Sur – to the mountain-flanked Seward Highway in Alaska to Highway 16 through Texas Hill Country, where you can refuel in towns like Bandera, the self-proclaimed “Cowboy Capital of the World.”
Writer and editor