Charleston, South Carolina
Enchanting is a word that’s synonymous with Charleston. The Holy City is renowned for its grand estates along The Battery; Rainbow Row’s pastel-tinted, Georgian-style townhouses; and more than 400 church steeples decorating the variegated cityscape. But Charleston is also beloved for its friendly demeanor, making it an ideal destination for a woman traveling alone.
“Charleston is a major foodie city, but what stands out more than the food is the service,” said Tennessee-based writer and frequent traveler Kellie Walton. “I’ve loved taking myself out to dinner, sitting at the bar and getting to know the bartenders, servers and other diners around me. Charleston embodies the definition of Southern hospitality.”
Stretching from the harbor to uptown, King Street is arguably one of the best shopping streets in the country, whether you’re a design enthusiast or a fashionista. But this bustling retail district is also studded with restaurants and bars, so you could spend a day eating and sipping at places like The Darling Oyster Bar (entrees $23 and up, 513 King St., 843-641-0821, thedarling.com), a frontrunner for bivalves and fried seafood baskets pairing well with brews and whiskey cocktails.
For a fabulous overnight stay, consider Hotel Bennett ($389 and up, 404 King St., 833-313-1798, hotelbennett.com). The five-star retreat overlooking Madison Square has a French vibe but with a Charleston sensibility — there’s even a Champagne bar. Camellias, bedecked in pink, pours refreshing bubbly by the glass and Champagne cocktails.
A recent addition to Charleston’s cultural attractions, the International African American Museum ($19.95, 14 Wharfside St., 843-872-5352, iaamuseum.org) opened in June. Sitting on what was once one of the world’s most significant slave trading ports, the museum takes an in-depth look at the African diaspora while telling untold stories through exhibits and artifacts.
A 15-minute walk from the museum is the French Quarter, a small neighborhood in Charleston’s original walled city. Spoil yourself at The Spectator Hotel ($299 and up, 67 State St., 866-476-4212, thespectatorhotel.com). Channeling the Jazz Age in vibe, this luxury property offers spa-inspired baths and a Continental breakfast delivered each morning. Plus, the hotel is within a skip of Charleston City Market (188 Meeting St.), one of the oldest public markets in the U.S.
Not far from Rainbow Row, the Italy-inspired Mercato ($3-$16, 90 Broad St., 843-974-1550, sorellecharleston.com/mercato) is on the first floor of Sorelle and perfect for a daytime bite. Choose from panini, biscotti and Sicilian-style slices. For a Southern meal to remember, Magnolias ($28 and up, 185 E. Bay St., 843-577-7771, magnoliascharleston.com) has been a French Quarter mainstay for 30 years. The restaurant honors Southern cuisine, serving upscale interpretations of pimento cheese, shellfish over grits and buttermilk fried chicken.
Music City pulses with energy, as its name implies, and the food is also superb. A solo trip could be one of eating, drinking and soaking in the music scene, but booking a hotel at the right address is key since Nashville is spread out.
“I would highly recommend staying in a hotel that’s centrally located near what you want to do to cut down on the need for transportation or navigating the city solo,” Walton advised.
One property within a walk of major sites but away from the rowdy streets of Broadway’s honky tonk bars is Thompson Nashville ($272 and up, 401 11th Ave., 615-262-6000, hyatt.com). This sophisticated property in The Gulch — a revitalized and now trendy downtown district — houses 224 accommodations and L.A. Jackson, a stylish rooftop bar serving drinks and nibbles alongside city views.
Also within a stroll of The Gulch and downtown attractions is The Joseph, a Luxury Collection Hotel ($334 and up, 401 Korean Veterans Blvd., 615-248-1990, thejosephnashville.com). The property features a world-class art collection and Rose, a luxury spa and salon for pampering.
Nashville’s diverse culinary offerings have turned the city into a hotspot for food and drink. The Chef & I ($38 and up, 1922 Adelicia St., 615-730-8496, thechefandinashville.com) serves roasted beets with burrata and braised pork shank and also offers daily happy hour. The lauded Rolf & Daughters in Germantown ($23 and up, 700 Taylor St., 615-866-9897, rolfanddaughters.com) is well worth a quick taxi or rideshare jaunt from the city center. Chef Philip Krajeck crafts dishes like dry-aged beef tartare and agnolotti with sweet corn, jalapeño and pecorino.
The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum ($27.95, 222 Rep. John Lewis Way S., 615-416-2001, countrymusichalloffame.org) is a treat for music and history lovers. Housing more than 2.5 million artifacts, the museum shows permanent and rotating exhibitions displayed on two levels of gallery space. Afterwards, work up a sweat while chowing down on Nashville’s most famous dish at Hattie B’s Hot Chicken ($9.50 and up, 5069 Broadway Suite A-103, 615-576-8700, hattieb.com.) If you can handle the spice, go with “Damn Hot!!” Otherwise, stick to “Southern Mild.”
No trip to Nashville is complete without live music. Walton recommends catching a show at a famed venue like the Ryman Auditorium (prices vary, 116 Rep. John Lewis Way N., 515-889-3060, ryman.com) or the Grand Ole Opry (prices vary, 600 Opry Mills Drive, 1-800-733-6779, opry.com). Or experience a songwriter’s round at spots like the Listening Room Café ($10 and up, 618 4th Ave. S., 615-259-3600, listeningroomcafe.com). But melodies ring through the air in Music City and often come at a low or no cost. “Nashville often has free or affordable music-focused events (nashvilleguru.com/nashville-events) happening that are great (and safe) options for solo travelers,” Walton added.
A favorite for women on their own, Savannah is a cinematic port town where it’s easy to get lost in the moment. The fabled city is best known for its historic district, where cobbled streets, alluring architecture and grand oak trees draped in Spanish moss transport travelers.
“Savannah is an ideal place for women to travel alone because it has a small-town community feel, so it is warm and welcoming,” said Alissa Musto, a Florida-based musician and performer who frequently travels to Savannah. “But it’s enough of a destination that there is plenty to do.”
Musto said Forsyth Park — in the heart of the old town — is a must-visit. Connecting many of the town’s main streets, the 30-acre green space houses Savannah’s famed fountain modeled after those at the Place de la Concorde in Paris. For a room on the park, The Forsyth Park Inn (from $139, 102 W. Hall St., 912-233-6800, forsythparkinn.com) is a refined bed-and-breakfast in an 1893 Queen Anne mansion with a well-preserved interior and elegant furnishings.
Traversing through some of Savannah’s prettiest squares, Bull Street is dotted with indie boutiques and eateries. Cozy up with a book, cup of tea and three store cats at E. Shaver Booksellers (236 Bull, 912-234-7257, eshaverbooks.com) alongside Madison Park. Musto recommends Art’s ($6.50 and up, 345 Bull St., 912-525-4480, scadartscafe.com) for smoothies, bowls and sandwiches. The fun Savannah College of Art & Design café showcases a double-decker bus inside.
A skip off Bull, The Olde Pink House ($18.95 and up, 23 Abercorn St., 912-232-4286, theoldepinkhouserestaurant.com) is set in an elegant Colonial mansion dating to 1771. Choose from classic dishes like cornbread fried oysters, she crab soup and fried pork chop with pan gravy. Also nearby, Common Thread (entrees $34 and up, 122 E. 37th St., 912-944-7482, commonthreadsavannah.com) is one of Savannah’s top choices for locally sourced fare, inventive cocktails and an impressive wine list, also staged in what was once a historic home.
Adjacent to Lafayette Square, a peaceful shady spot in the historic district, the Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist (22 E. Harris St., 912-233-4709, savannahcathedral.org) is worth a visit for its dramatic Neo-Gothic architecture. Also along the square, Hamilton-Turner Inn ($249 and up, 330 Abercorn St., 912-233-1833, hamilton-turnerinn.com) was built in the French Empire style in 1873. Once a private home, the boutique hotel presents elaborate interiors reflecting the history and culture of Savannah.
Stretching beside the Savannah River is bustling River Street offering a myriad of shops, restaurants and bars along with scenic vistas. For a sugar fix, pop into River Street Sweets (13 E. River St., 912-234-4608, riverstreetsweets.com) and purchase saltwater taffy, pralines and other confections. Before or after shopping, coast along the water on Savannah River Boat Cruises ($34.95 and up, E. River St., 912-232-6494, savannahriverboat.com). “The ships are designed to look like historic Southern steamboats,” Musto said. “It’s a fun way to spend a few hours and see the city from a different view.”