Given how many examples there are of women casting off their tired surroundings for the ready change of travel—ahem, Wild and Eat, Pray, Love most notably—it may seem like you need to experience catastrophic pain before you can sightsee alone. But that's not the case. If you think about the different annoyances that can go into group excursions, then taking off on your own doesn't seem like such a bad idea.
You can book the place you want to stay, and sleep as long as you'd like. You can make your own schedule as packed or as leisurely as you please. You can eat what you want when you want. Basically, when you have the opportunity to set the tone of your adventure, then the experience is more likely to carry meaning. We asked three women with extensive globetrotting pasts—Helen Schuckers, Juliana Broste, and Breanna Wilson—to give their recommendations for the best places to travel alone in the U.S. Maybe this is the only sign you need to get away.
Helen Schuckers, Founder of Anchor and Pine Collective
"Austin offers an abundance of different activities ideal for any solo traveler looking for a mix of adventure, good eats, and a night on the town," Helen notes. To start your trip off in an adventurous spirit, she recommends a stop at NLand Surf Park, which is a few minutes from the airport or a self-guided kayak tour on Town Lake. When you get hungry, Helen says South Congress has the best food options. At night, make the most of the city's live music. "There is a music venue that will suit your tastes and help you dance the night away with the locals," she says.
"Kauai is one of the most peaceful places for solo travelers looking for solitude," Helen says. "Take an overnight backpacking trip on the Nā Pali Coastline, an 11-mile stretch of rugged hiking that has some of the most beautiful sunsets and stargazing in the world." Helen also recommends some secluded downtime at Polihale State Park, Secret Beach, and Keālia Beach when you want to relax.
"Portland's accessibility to nature makes it an easy choice for outdoor enthusiasts," Helen says. "However, Portland's abundance of local businesses makes it a top choice for many solo wanderers looking for a good time without a lot of planning too. Portland is a mecca of public transportation that can lead you to coffee shops, breweries, and donut shops with friendly locals always willing to have a chat." Helen's picks include Stumptown, Ecliptic Brewing, and the famous Voodoo Donuts.
Juliana Broste, Travel Writer, Traveling Jules
New York City
"Among all the interesting things to see and do in New York, you'll never be lonely in NYC," Juliana says. "Solo travelers will find countless organized tours to meet fellow travelers, and of course, Times Square is a famous place to put yourself in the middle of the action. But even something as simple as riding the subway can be an experience for people watching."
"At the foot of the Rocky Mountains, Denver is great for solo travelers, with world-class skiing and mountain excursions in its backyard," Juliana notes. "Whether you catch a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater or you grab a bike to explore the Mile High City, there are plenty of ways to take in the atmosphere." She says to stop by the different brewpubs, breweries, and taprooms in the area, and to "bring your camera to explore the street art in the RiNo neighborhood" as well.
"If you love the idea of doing what you want when you want, there's no place like San Francisco to really be the commander of your own adventure," Juliana says. "You can have tacos in the Mission District, dim sum in Chinatown, or pizza and pasta in Little Italy. Or you can grab a bike and pedal over the Golden Gate Bridge and treat yourself to an ice cream cone before a return via ferry. Whatever you feel, San Francisco can dish it up!"
Breanna Wilson, Travel and Adventure Writer, Forbes
"Sisters, just outside of Bend, is where it's at," Breanna says. "Not only is downtown Sisters so quaint—I can't even do it justice with words—but Suttle Lodge is one of my all-time favorite places to head for a few days by myself. Everyone who stays there is friendly, and since it sits right on Suttle Lake, you can head out on canoes, kayaks, or stand-up paddleboards whenever you need some adventure. The lodge is also known for the musicians and bands that pop in here, so you never know who might be playing a few songs while the sun sets across the lake."
"Scottsdale is one of those places that continues to amaze me, no matter how many times I visit," Breanna says. "I always discover a new adventure — like this last time, when I found myself skydiving from 17,500 feet over the Grand Canyon. Or the time before that, when I floated down Salt River in an inflatable kayak. The locals here are extremely friendly, and it's an easy place to navigate on your own, which is exactly why I find myself heading here often."
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
"With two National Parks just outside of Jackson Hole, Grand Teton National Park, and Yellowstone National Park, there's plenty to explore during the day and places like Million Dollar Cowboy Bar (you'll die when you see the horse saddle barstools) for adventures of a different kind at night," Breanna says.
"I might be a little biassed on this one because I'm from here, but local yinzers (what we call someone from Pittsburgh) are some of the most welcoming people in the world," Breanna says. "Seriously, you can find yourself bonding over your love of sandwiches with French fries on them one second, and then find yourself being invited over to your new friend's grandma's house for homemade pierogies the next."
Joshua Tree, California
"Joshua Tree will forever be the place that I escape to when I need some quality 'me' time," Breanna says. "There's just something about the energy there: You look out and see nothing but Joshua Trees for miles and feel this overwhelming sense of calm. Plus, La Copine is one of my absolute favorite restaurants in the world and Pappy + Harriet's in Pioneertown is one of those venues that has never, ever disappointed."