We pick the best US city breaks to escape to for a long weekend of solo travel
Summer is closer than ever, and with the warmer weather comes the opportunity to spend as much time as possible outdoors — that is, when you’re not due to be at work, stuck at your desk inside an office building that is somehow always too cold. A good compromise to ensure you don’t miss so much work that you lose your job, but also get to enjoy the warm, sunny weather outside? Turn one (or three) of your summer weekends into a three-day weekend, and take a solo getaway out of town to a nearby city you’ve never been.
The US is a giant country with no shortage of destination options. But when it comes to choosing a place to spend a three-day weekend, you’ll want it to be a city small enough that you won’t leave feeling like you only saw a small percentage of it, but large enough that you’ll be able to consistently enjoy yourself and meet others while travelling alone.
Luckily, there are tons of US summer solo travel ideas for weekend trips, no matter where in the country you live. Check out this list of destinations all over the country that are perfect for a quick solo trip:
Nashville may be the darling of Tennessee, but the lesser-spoken about Memphis rivals it in terms of both scenery and history. With a rich musical history similar to Nashville, Memphis offers a lower-key experience without sacrificing sights and attractions. Stay at the Peabody Hotel in central Memphis, which offers a related home base, comfortable beds, and, uniquely, a famous group of ducks that march through the lobby twice a day to hang out in the hotel fountain. For food and drinks, nothing beats wandering Beale Street — spend a few minutes there, and you’ll quickly find yourself at one of its many blues clubs, eating the best barbeque wings you’ve ever had. Also be sure to try and catch a gig at the famous Orpheum Theatre, which regularly hosts massive musical groups, as well as up-and-coming musicians.
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Of course, now that we’ve talked about visiting Memphis, we have to talk about its more bustling cousin: Nashville, TN. Often referred to as the Country Music Capital of the World, Nashville has been home to everyone from Taylor Swift to Dolly Parton to Miley Cyrus. The Grand Ole Opry is, of course, the most famous of the music venues in the city, but it’s far from the only one worth visiting — “Honky Tonk Highway” on Broadway is lined up and down with, as the name suggests, honky tonk establishments that offer musical acts, drinks, and a good time. Once you’ve gotten your fill of Nashville’s music scene, visit one of the two Warner Parks in the city for a breath of fresh air and some quality time with nature.
Just a three-hour drive from NYC is Newport, Rhode Island: A picturesque New England beach town with a lively restaurant scene, the best taffy you’ve ever tasted, and historical sites in pretty much every corner. Stay in the Hotel Viking while you visit, a luxury establishment that’s central enough to the city that you can explore on foot without wearing yourself out too much. Check out the Cliff Walk for a scenic hike (be sure to bring a good pair of sneakers — the terrain can get a little rough), then recuperate with a deck chair and glass of wine on The Lawn at Castle Hill Inn. In the evening, head over to the Stoneacre Brasserie in Washington Square to enjoy locally-sourced, French-inspired cuisine as well as great seafood.
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Fans of the U.S. version of The Office may consider this their version of Mecca, but you can enjoy Scranton without having ever seen an episode of the former NBC series. (Of course, it doesn’t hurt to watch the show — it’s still popular years after it ended its run for a reason). While The Office fans won’t find any landmarks from the series during their visit — the series, like many before and after it, was filmed in Los Angeles, CA — but they will find a town rich with nature scenery and solid pizza.
Check out at least one of the few waterfalls near the city: Choke Creek Falls, Nay Aug Falls, or the Rattlesnake Falls are all gorgeous, and all are either within or just a short drive away from the city. For food, head over to the nearby Old Forge, PA to fill up on pizza: Interestingly, this city calls itself the “Pizza Capital of the World,” which is kind of random because it’s a small town in Pennsylvania and not, you know, a city known for its pizza like Chicago or NYC. But Old Forge isn’t playing when it comes to pizza: you can easily pull off a pizza crawl by visiting one of the town’s many pizzerias, and you won’t be disappointed with any of your picks.
While Philadelphia is generally the go-to destination when it comes to big cities in Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh is quickly becoming a genuine rival to the cheesesteak capital. Stay at the Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel for a luxurious experience (and, if you’re lucky, a view of the nearby Ohio River), and check out the Andy Warhol Museum for an in-depth look at the legendary late artist’s life and work. If you’re into the weirder of attractions, Pittsburgh is also home to Trundle Manor: a house of oddities that features everything from a strange collection of vintage taxidermy to rusty, medieval-looking weapons. Visits are by appointment only, but it’s worth it if you’re the more morbidly curious of people.
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For a truly picturesque New England getaway, head to the Portland of the east — that is, Portland, Maine. People may think of Oregon’s Portland when they hear the name of this city, but one visit and you’ll quickly find out that isn’t fair at all. Portland, ME is home to some truly beautiful sights that offer slices of history, like the Portland Head Lighthouse (which is still an operational lighthouse) and the intricately decorated Victoria Mansion Museum. You’ll have no shortage of hotel choices, but the Portland Harbor Hotel is a truly great establishment that offers a tranquil rooms and a great restaurant. For dining, check out Central Provisions, which offers small plates and a simultaneously laid-back and trendy vibe.
Santa Cruz, CA
If you saw Jordan Peele’s film Us, you’re likely already familiar with Santa Cruz: it was the site of the entire film, and much of the action took place at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Amusement Park. While the environment looked creepy in the film, that’s really just due to Peele’s genius — if you’re never been, I promise, it’s not at all creepy. Not even the amusement park. In fact, it’s pretty much a must-see for anyone who finds themselves in Northern California: Between checking out its lively downtown area filled with artisanal coffee shops (be sure to check out Verve Coffee on Pacific Avenue) and seal-spotting on the Santa Cruz Wharf, you’ll have no shortage of activities during your visit — you probably won’t even think about the possibility of seeing your evil twin on the boardwalk like in the movie. Hotel-wise, check out the Babbling Brook Inn, a casual bed and breakfast that offers nightly wine socials for guests.
Berkeley may be most well-known as the home of UC Berkeley, but it’s a city that’s worth visiting even if you’re not a student at the school. For accommodations far better than any dorms in the city, stay at the Claremont Club and Spa, which looks more like a castle than any hotel you’ve ever seen. As far as attractions go, the benefit of visiting Berkeley is that it’s a pretty compact town: You can easily explore it on foot without walking a hole through your sneakers. Visit the Berkeley Marina for gorgeous views of the Bay Area, then check out the Berkeley Rose Garden to see what 1500 rose bushes in one place looks like. Downtown Berkeley is best explored in the evening, when you can check out Amoeba Music and Rasputin Music for some vintage record shopping, and then stop by Comal on Shattuck Avenue for some authentic Mexican food.
New Orleans, LA
New Orleans is likely the most popular destination for three-day weekends, and with good reason: this city will change you. The oft-repeated expression “laissez les bons temps rouler” (the Cajun French sentence for “let the good times roll”) is well and alive in every corner of the city, from the French Quarter to Tremé. Stay at the Four Seasons on Canal Street, which is just around the corner from the French Quarter, but still central to other attractions in New Orleans.
There’s probably not enough space on the internet to talk about restaurant recommendations in New Orleans, but the Court of Two Sisters is a must-visit for anyone in the city — followed by a visit to the not-overhyped-at-all Café du Monde for an espresso and freshly made beignet. Also be sure to check out one of the city’s three above-ground Saint Louis Cemeteries, which feature row after row of morbidly gorgeous vaults in built in classic gothic architecture style. (Afterwards, stop for a coffee at the zombie-themed coffee shop Sacred Grinds, which features a backyard seating area that overlooks the nearby cemeteries).
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Kansas City, MO
Weird thing about Kansas City: Most of it isn’t actually in Kansas. Though it sits on the border between Missouri and Kansas, a good chunk of Kansas City lays on Missouri’s side of the border — which means you can constantly make the dad-est of dad jokes while you’re there, about being in Kansas and Missouri all at once. Har-har. Anyway, Kansas City doesn’t have the reputation it deserves as a genuinely great weekend destination — so, help change that by visiting the city and checking out its bustling art and food scene.
River Market offers an easily walkable collection of indie designer shops, antique stores, good food options (Pigwich is a great option for meat-lovers, especially if the cheesesteak is on offer), and a weekend Farmer’s Market. For some unique photos, head over to the Kansas City Workhouse, an abandoned prison castle that’s now filled with graffiti art on every wall inside — there’s truly nothing else like it in the city. Stay at the Hotel Phillips for a luxurious experience and Art Deco-inspired architecture.
Charleston is another popular weekend getaway location that is absolutely deserving of the hype: It is truly a gorgeous city. Stay at the highly-rated French Quarter Inn on Church Street, which offers comfortable rooms and a great base for discovering the historic side of the city. For an authentic Southern cuisine experience, head over to Husk Restaurant near the hotel, which is housed in an old mansion that is the epitome of Antebellum architecture. For endless photo opportunities, wander to Rainbow Row and check out the 13 Georgian rowhouses that line the street, each painted a different pastel colour that is sure to make any Instagram pop.
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Just up the coast from Charleston, South Carolina is Wilmington, a North Carolina coastal city that is likely most well-known for featuring the massive public garden Airlie Gardens. However, that slice of nature isn’t the only thing worth seeing in this Southern town: the Causeway Café on Wrightsville Beach often has a line out the door on weekends filled with locals and tourists alike, and the city is home to tons of filming locations of shows and films like One Tree Hill and The Conjuring. Check out the Graystone Inn for a historic bed and breakfast experience, which is in the former “Bridgers Mansion” of the early 1900s.
You might not consider Idaho to be a vacation destination, but trust: One of the US’ best-kept secrets is that Boise, Idaho is actually a city worth visiting. Not only does it offer sweeping, breathtaking views of the valleys that played host to parts of the Oregon Trail in the 1800s, but it’s also got a fast-growing art scene that offers everything from theatre to fine art and even opera. For a unique hotel experience, check out The Anniversary Inn bed and breakfast and its themed rooms, each of which is decorated to the tee depending on its name (The Enchanted Forest is a standout choice, for what it’s worth).
It’s impossible to visit Minneapolis without paying a visit to the Mall of America: This four-story mall is the biggest in the country, and it features square footage so vast that there is a literal amusement park inside. An amusement park! Inside a mall! That said, the Mall of America isn’t all Minneapolis has to offer: the city is also home to the lush Minnehaha Regional Park, which features picturesque waterfalls that will make you forget all about the shopping you wanted to do at the mall that day. Hotel-wise, you have no shortage of options, but The Grand Hotel is a great pick in a solid location.
You probably know Monterey from HBO’s Big Little Lies, but the area has been a getaway destination for years thanks to its breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and rolling hills of the California Central Coast. Rent a car and take a drive along the famous Bixby Creek Bridge just south of the city near Big Sur, and then head over to the Fisherman’s Wharf for some quality, fresh seafood and more views of the ocean. After, Cannery Row is just a hop, skip, and jump away, and features tons of shops in old sardine canning factories along the coast.