10 Cities To Visit To Ignite Your Independent Spirit

10 Cities To Visit

To Ignite Your Independent Spirit

July 4th weekend is about more than cookouts and days at the beach. It’s also about declaring your independence, and traveling can be an amazing way to do that. Here are some great ways to be independent this holiday.

Nashville, TN

Music city offers a whole lot more than the sounds that made it famous.

Where to Stay: Hutton Hotel is located in the heart of music row. Check out Writers Studios, designed by country star Dierks Bentley and Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic. With the interior design firm Studio 11 executing their vision, the space features custom guitars, piano and a vocal booth so that guests get creative and lay down a demo.

Where to Play: Experience one of the most alluring music venues in Nashville, Analog at Hutton Hotel. You’ll get the best of both worlds with signature libations from their creative cocktail menu, followed by a spontaneous night of live entertainment as you’ll never know who might grace the stage. Also visit Nashville Underground that boasts to have the highest, largest and only double deck rooftop on Broadway. The 40,000-square foot, live music venue, restaurant, bar and event space, owned by brothers Joey & Gavin DeGraw, showcases Nashville’s world-famous music, cuisine and spirits. In 2016 the brother’s began a 13 million dollar renovation to evolve the space from 1,600 square feet to the expansive venue it is now. 

Where to Eat: Indulge in delicious dishes at WestEnd Kitchen & Bar, which offers inventive takes on traditional Southern Cuisine as well as sweet treats from Executive Pastry Chef Vincent Griffith. Visit Husk, located just a few blocks south of Historic Broadway, for some shrimp and  grits; and make sure to try out some hot Nashville style chicken at  spots like Hattie B’s.

Lexington, Kentucky

You know Lexington for derbys and bourbon, but they have so much more.

Where to Stay:
21c Museum Hotel Lexington is an 88-room boutique hotel and contemporary art museum, opened this year with modern art exhibitions, cultural programming and a farm-to-table restaurant. Another hot spot, opening only last year, is The Summit at Fritz Farm. This finely curated destination blends 300,000 square feet of street-level retail, a 120+ room boutique hotel, 306 luxury apartments and the region’s first food hall– a new destination attracting discerning, trendsetting customers. Retailers include Pottery Barn, BONOBOS and Reese Witherspoon’s fashion and home décor line, Draper.

Where to play: Horses spend the majority of their lives – birth, training, racing, retirement and breeding – in the region (including the American Pharoah), which explains why it’s often called the “Horse Capital of the World”. Lexington boasts housing 400 horse farms, including the 1,200 acre Kentucky and number one thoroughbred racetrack in North America, the Keeneland Race Course. Betting travelers can get insider tips from Kentucky’s wagering experts, called “BETologists,” on the ins and outs of horse racing and how to properly bet like a pro.

Where to Eat: There are more than 120 locally-owned, non-chain restaurants serving Kentucky’s famous grits, hot brown and spoon bread. Across the region there are famed food trucks, restaurant tours, the state’s first indoor Aquaponics Farm (Food Chain) and the Donut Trail. And don’t worry we haven’t forgotten about bourbon, as Kentucky produced 90% of the world’s bourbon. Tour nine historic Kentucky Bourbon distilleries including Woodford, Buffalo, and Wildor book an overnight. Travelers can check out the spring and summer 2018 reopening of two historic distilleries– Castle & Key and the James E. Pepper.

Aurora, Illinois

Chicago may have the famous hot dogs and pizza, but just west there’s a city with a lot of its own.

Where to Stay: Located on the Fox River just an hour west of Chicago Aurora, Illinois is a destination full of shopping, dining nightlife and outdoor adventure. A favorite place to stay is The Homestead 1854, located just west of Aurora. This historic home offers yoga & wellness outings, wine tasting and creative retreats for individuals and groups. It’s located near Farnsworth House, an iconic modernist home designed by Mies van der Rohe for Dr. Edna Farnsworth. The story of the home’s design & construction, plus the affair between the two parties, is itself slated for production as a major motion picture.

Where to Eat: Hardware Sustainable Gastropub & B.B.G.B. Brewery is a veggie and vegan-friendly upscale-casual eatery where greens and veggies—plus the hops that fuel the beer production—are grown on-site in greenhouses, gardens and on a “living wall”. This spot is also known for its classic cocktails and a whiskey list of over 400 bottles long.

Where to Play: Rocktown Adventures is a specialty outdoor retailer and adventure club located on the Fox River. Enjoy stand-up paddle boarding classes, kayak rentals and Rockton’s “Women on Water” series of group outings. Looking for a less adventurous outing? Make sure to stop by Emerson Creek, a century old farmhouse with a tea room filled with handmade pottery. Walk around the rustic-chic grounds, a destination for signature weddings, enjoy brunch, lunch or shop the seasonal vintage market. In the evening make sure to check out The Law Office Pub & Music Hall which brings the best artists from Nashville and beyond to the Aurora Area for intimate shows in its gorgeous venue. Recent headliners include Carsie Blanton, Shannon McNally, Adriel Denae & Robert Ellis, Katy Guillen & the Girls, Shawn James, Frances and the Foundation and Angela Perley.

Minneapolis, Minnesota

This city is home to the most famous mall in America, and so much more.

Where to Stay
: Our top choices are either the Hewing Hotel in the North Loop or the Hotel Alma. Both are newer hotels with independent streaks – Hewing is the first boutique hotel in an historic property in the hot North Loop neighborhood, while  Alma is a 7 room boutique hotel above an award-winning restaurant.

Where to Play: Make sure to go to the Walker Art Center, where you can see contemporary art and then head up to the rooftop to play artist-designed mini golf. Then head for drinks on a Ferris Wheel at Betty Danger's Country Club in Northeast Minneapolis where you can watch the fireworks over the riverfront or get on a kayak and watch them overhead while floating on the Mississippi.

Where to Eat: There are almost too many spots to mention. Jamie Malone's Grand Café and Christina Nguyen’s Hai Hai, are both run by two amazing female chefs who are just a couple of women doing interesting culinary things all over Minneapolis.

Baltimore, MD

Sure you can stay in DC, but just an hour out is an amazing city – far from the politics.

Where to Stay:
Hotel Revival, a Joie de Vivre property, just opened in Mount Vernon and is rooted in Baltimore’s history with an eye to the future. Highlights include a ground-floor signature restaurant and bar, three private karaoke rooms and an enclosed rooftop bar and restaurant with prime views of the Washington Monument. The hotel also partnered with local Peabody Heights Brewery to create a specialty beer named Thirstay.

Where to Play: See Baltimore while in motion with Light Street Cycles. The company offers five guided bike tours, with something for everyone: The Gwynn’s Falls Trail, The Waterfront Tour, Jones Falls Trail, The B&O and Historic Sites Tour and The Waterfront Smoothie Tour. City Brew Tours, the oldest brewery tours on the East Coast, offer multiple all-inclusive, guided tours of Baltimore’s extensive beer scene. Also for  July 4th you can go to the Jewish Museum of Maryland’s exhibit on Houdini, entitled Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini. On the evening of Saturday, June 30, catch Lake and then plan ahead for the Lexington on July 4th in Gilbert, SC where you can enjoy live entertainment, fresh peach treats, the peach parade, and of course, fireworks.

Where to Dine: Encantada, housed at the American Visionary Museum, aims to reveal the symbiosis of art, food, dreams and reality with sustainable, international food & cocktails. The Bluebird Cocktail Room is a literary-themed bar in Hampden, where guests can page through leather-bound books while sipping on specialty cocktails named after the likes of Ernest Hemingway and Virginia Woolf. The space features large communal tables and a long bar, so whether you want to familiarize yourself with a book or new friends, you will always be sitting with a cool crowd.

Philadelphia, PA

Come for the cheesesteak, stay for the amazing history.

Where to Stay:  Philadelphia has some amazing spots, but we’re loving the brand-new Cambria Hotel Philadelphia-Downtown Center City, Choice Hotels’ upscale brand.

Where to Eat: Maison 208 is an American French restaurant spearheaded by Chef Sylva Senat, contestant of Season 14 of Top Chef. Opened less than a year ago in the Washington Square West neighborhood of Philadelphia, Maison 208 is Philly’s first open-air restaurant with a retractable glass roof and serves some amazing craft cocktails like the “Gin Terrarium” and New American French dishes (such as the Whole Frenched Dorade) curated by Sylva Senat himself. Maison 208 also features an entire mural curated by James Burns that spans down the entire side of the building. Looking for a classic? You must try Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse of Philadelphia, which is located  inside a historic landmark that was once the first Pennsylvania Bank. Frequently referred to as the number one steakhouse in Philadelphia, the restaurant has  a breathtaking three-story wine tower as its centerpiece.

Where to Play: Raising the bar on Philadelphia’s tourism experience, One Liberty Observation Deck is not only a top tourist attraction for visitors to experience when traveling to the Philadelphia region, but also a destination for local Philadelphians to take in the city through a new lens. The Deck is 57 floors above street level and offers breathtaking, panoramic views of the Philadelphia skyline, morning, noon and night. As the tallest standing attraction within Philadelphia, the location presents a new and exciting view of Philly and hosts the best views of the Welcome America festival 4th of July Fireworks.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Known for green chilies, deserts, and a whole lot of amazing silver jewelry.

Where to Stay:
Four Seasons Rancho Encantado offers solo travelers easy access to the thrills of New Mexico with the on-site Adventure Center. The center opened in late 2014 and is an accessible option for solo guests to learn about the many adventures—both cultural and adrenaline-driven—that northern New Mexico has to offer while meeting new friends along the way.

Where to Play: Santa Fe is very much a family-oriented community and yet has long been about artists and individualists too. The city has 19 museums and over 250 galleries, include the world famous and walkable Canyon Road's 80 galleries. Single travelers will have weeks, if not months, of some of the world’s best and most unique art to enjoy at their own contemplative pace. Gallery openings are a super occasion to check out beauty and engage in some small talk. You’d be very surprised by the lives of many of the people you meet. There are also art tours, history tours, outdoor tours, food tours and more in which solo travelers can take part in group activities.

Where to Eat: Solo visitors are invited to pull up a chair at the communal tables of Café Pasqual’s and share a meal with friendly local and travelers from all walks of life. For thirty-seven years Cafe Pasqual's has been serving emphatically flavored cuisine inspired by the culinary traditions of New Mexico, Old Mexico, the Mediterranean and Asia. They are dedicated to using fresh, seasonal, organic and naturally raised foods. Lines are long to get into this classic, but single travelers can rock right up to the community table and begin the festivities. The awesome community table at Sweetwater Harvest Kitchen is an ideal place to meet like-minded, healthy and community-focused people with a beautiful ambience and delicious comfort foods and drinks. Community inspires Sweetwater. They invest in the businesses and organizations that keep Santa Fe progressive, thriving, and dedicated to serving each other and our environment. They are committed to composting, recycling, knowing where their products come from and making choices that are responsible to their business, their customers, and our world.

Puerto Rico

Silky beaches, rich culture and rain forests that will make you want to stay a while.

Where to Stay: Currently, over 130 hotels are open and ready to welcome visitors. Visitors can stay at the new chic Serafina Beach Hotel, located in the heart of the Condado neighborhood in San Juan with spectacular ocean views and stylish lounges. Other hotels to consider that are right near all the action include Hotel El Convento, a boutique hotel in the heart of Old San Juan.

Where to Play: Take a ride or walk through the colorful cobblestone streets of Old San Juan. Take a food tour and get a taste for the flavor and culture of Puerto Rico. The tours provide a unique way to explore and learn about the Island’s capital. Puerto Rico is also home to Casa Bacardi which produces more than 100,000 liters of rum every day, crafting more than 80 percent of the Bacardí rum consumed in the world so don’t be afraid to explore their rum tasting tour and mixology tour. For visitors looking for some adventure, WOW Surfing School & Jet Ski provides surfing and paddle board lessons. Jet skis are available for rent. Lastly, visitors can also head to Cueva Ventana or go zip lining at Toro Verde.

Where to Eat: If you’re in the mood for refreshing cocktails while strolling through Old San Juan, head,toLa Factoria, one of the world’s. There is no La Factoria sign, but visiting tourists have found their way into the mix! For those looking for a casual setting with a modern Puerto Rican cuisine, Lote 23 is for you. The chic outdoor food park and event space in San Juan's hip Santurce neighborhood boasts 14 kiosks and two trailers serving pernil, tacos, pizza, donuts, burgers, popsicles, noodles, cocktails, coffee and more. Lastly, Calle Loiza has recently been booming with new restaurants and bars like Funky Buddha, La Coctelera, Piso Viejo and Tap.

Columbia, South Carolina

Eat some shrimp and grits, and stay for some history of centuries  past.

Where to Stay:
Stay at the brand new Hotel TrundleColumbia's first true downtown, independent boutique hotel, which opened in April 2018. This locally owned and operated hotel features 41-rooms (~36K-total sq.) across three historic buildings (100+ years), formerly housing Western Auto, Rose-Talbert Paints buildings, and the Powell Furniture building. The owners wanted to tell the stories of “local Columbia” through Hotel Trundle, so they commissioned and collaborated with local vendors, craftsmen and artists. You’ll see the hotel provides its visitors with an authentic Columbia experience with its local products and touches.

Where to Play: Kick the weekend off at Soda City Market, which is open rain or shine every Saturday from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. Here, you’re as likely to find waffles and avocado toast as you are arepas and island noodles. Fresh-cut flowers, jewelry, handbags and more are some of the handmade (or homegrown) options you can take back home with you.   Make your way down to the Shoppes on Main. This space houses 20 – 30 vendors in an open floor format. In need of a sugar rush? Nab one of Ally & Eloise’s signature macarons while inside or pop across the street for a scoop of small batch, handmade ice cream at Sweet Cream Co.

Where to Eat: Grab dinner at Motor Supply Company Bistro for a made-from scratch culinary experience with everything either provided from local farms or house-made, or head to Bourbon for Cajun-Creole food like gumbo, jambalaya and etouffee and a whiskey cocktail, or two. After dinner, slip into Lula and stay awhile. Cheers to the carefully-curated wine menu, the small plates perfect for sharing and complementing the vino and to Lula Drake herself. She operated a hat shop out of the space in the 1900’s and was known for her wild hair and feisty nature. If you’re in the mood for a craft beer, stop by Hunter’s second location that opened this year and is located in Columbia’s historic Curtiss-Wright Hangar — a 13,000-square-foot airplane hangar that dates to 1929. It features a taproom, a 527-gallon brew house, a bottling and kegging line, and an observation deck that can seat 40-plus and overlooks a commuter airport.

Buffalo, NY

Don’t forget to get some buffalo wings while in their birthplace.

Where to Stay:  The Roycroft Inn is a National Historic Landmark. Or if you’re an architectural buff you’ll definitely enjoy the Hotel @ Lafayette.  

Where to Play: Take a Silo City: Vertical Tour: The remnants of Buffalo’s industrial prowess are now yours to summit on this adventurous tour. At night catch a Live Jazz Show at the Colored Musicians Club: A jazz club unlike any other, the CMC has been making music for over 100 years.  Hop on the Water Bikes of Buffalo: Pedal your way down the Buffalo River (yeah, you read that right) on these floating bikes.

Where to Eat: Visit Anchor Bar, where the famous buffalo wing was created or indulge in Buffalo’s Very Own Sponge Candy. Bite into a Chargrilled Hot Dog at Ted’s: A charred dog topped with the works is a Buffalo specialty tough to top – and perfect for the 4th of July.



Aly Walansky

Aly Walansky is a freelance lifestyles writer based in New York City, who contributes regularly to iVillage, SheKnows.com, xoJane, Huffington Post, and The Fashion Spot as well as many other print and web outlets.

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