Great things are happening in some relatively unknown neighborhoods across the U.S. — a prolific chef is opening a restaurant with lines out the door, a hip hotel is lending to gentrification, a bar scene is taking shape, and all the cool kids are moving in for bigger and cheaper loft spaces. Welcome to the new Williamsburg (or SoFi Miami or East Austin or Downtown L.A.). From California to Washington D.C., we rounded up emerging neighborhoods (and some cities) that are destined to become America’s hottest new destinations.
West Loop, Chicago, Ill.
West Loop in Chicago. (Photo: West Loop Community Org.)
In just two years, Chicago’s recent travel boom welcomed notable hotel openings like Richard Branson’s first Virgin hotel, Thompson Chicago in Gold Coast, and Langham Chicago. But Soho House Chicago had its finger on the pulse, opening last year in the emerging West Loop neighborhood, which has become the ultimate hot spot for hipsters, bohemians, and professionals alike. Top Chef’s Stephanie Izard first brought the cool with the opening of Girl & The Goat and spots like the famous cocktail bar The Aviary have opened since. Add buzzing eatery Formento’s and new watering holes like retro-inspired The BettyNow, and discerning locals are ditching Wicker Park to move into this burgeoning ‘hood to form a creative community.
The beautiful Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. (Photo: Charvex/Wikimedia Commons)
It seems the fate of unassuming, small-town Bentonville was to be a hub for art and culture. After the opening Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in 2011, the stylish hotel-cum-museum 21C Museum Hotel opened in 2013, which helped fuel the art flame, and this year Bentonville inaugurates its first major film festival. It’s promising enough for hip locals to move into cheap pads and embrace the alternative, laid-back lifestyle. A major food revolution is on its way, too. Chef Matthew McClure of the Hive was a James Beard award semi-finalist last year and a new hospitality group Ropeswing is going to change the way locals eat with stylish new spots. Up first is Belfry, a contemporary restaurant opening this summer in a 111-year-old historic church.
Benson, Omaha, Neb.
Benson is a hip artsy 'hood with plenty to do on a Friday night. (Photo: Benson, Nebraska/Facebook)
Not only is Benson Omaha’s coolest, hippest, leftist neighborhood (sneakers and vintage tees are the uniform), it’s a 'hood that truly fosters a creative community. Benson First Friday, which debuted last year, has grown to be a neighborhood-wide celebration of visual arts and music where locals and visitors alike check out art spaces, galleries, coffee shops, and more. In fact, Benson is all about festivals (from Benson Beer Fest to Summerfest to the quirky new Ramen Noodle Fest), and cool restaurants like Lot 2 (coincidentally there’s one in Brooklyn) have been popping up. Diners can even sushi in stylish quarters (in mid-America, no less) at Taita restaurant. Most visitors generally shack up at one of the lovely boutiques like The Magnolia Hotel, an upscale, historic hotel since 1974.
The beautiful city of Bend, surrounded by lush mountain scenery. (Photo: iStock)
For years, the rural city of Bend (three-hours drive from Portland) has been a hot spot for nature- and beer-loving hipsters thanks to a craft brewery scene surrounded by lush landscape that’s threaded with bike trails. But Bend is going fully on-the-radar as it has even more to offer. Pronghorn, an Auberge Resort, is opening the multi-million-dollar Huntington Lodge with 66 rooms in 2017 (38 more rooms will eventually be added) to accommodate the throng of overnight guests; two new homegrown distilleries, Cascade Alchemy and Backdrop, have opened; and a handful of new bike trails recently debuted. It’s no coincidence real estate in Bend is rising and still among the 10 fastest growing in the country.
The Bywater District, New Orleans, La.
Play, swim, and relax at the Country Club in the Bywater District. (Photo: The Country Club)
Five years ago, this neighborhood just two miles east of the French Quarter was considered unsafe, but now the biggest complaint from locals is that it’s too cool. While still rough around the edges, rent is cheap, dive bars are exciting and unique (and free of throngs of tourists), and there’s a sense of weird eclecticism that makes it tres hip (a voodoo priestess runs a psychic shop-slash-botanical store, Island of the Salvation Botanica, just a stone’s throw from a fancy clubhouse, Country Club, that’s popular with the gay community). While most residents are non-locally raised (as New Orleanians will point out), Bywater is still very NOLA with street-side parades, charming B&Bs, barbecue and jambalaya joints, and funky boutiques.
Shaw, Washington D.C.
Row houses along 9th street in the Shaw neighborhood of D.C. (Photo: AlbertHerring/Wikimedia Commons)
Remember when Logan Circle underwent massive development two years ago? That development continues to spread east where the dust is still in the air in the formerly barren Shaw neighborhood, with the heart of it all on 9th street. One could point their finger at Marriott Marquis, opened last year and now the largest hotel in D.C. with more than 1,000 rooms. The area has become one of the glitziest neighborhoods for well-heeled residents moving into refurbished row houses and new condos with enticing amenities (rooftop dog parks and on-premise dry cleaning to name two). Their neighbors? Jose Garcas, Jose Andres, and Cedric Maupillier and their elevated, chef-driven restaurants, with about 16 more slated to open very soon.
Design District, West Hollywood, California
West Hollywood Design District is becoming a popular destination for shopping, dining, and art. (Photo: West Hollywood Design District/Facebook)
While Downtown L.A. has become the “it” spot due to massive redevelopment over the past two years, West Hollywood is hot on its heels for becoming the most relevant neighborhood in Los Angeles, particularly the fairly new Design District. It’s the place to be seen or, better yet, just be. Hipster vegan Cafe Gratitude restaurant opened sister vegan Mexican restaurant Gracias Madre, which has a packed outdoor patio any night of the week; Moschino is bringing the Beverly Hills crowd with its new flagship store; and famed Sunset Tower hotelier Jeff Klein recently flipped San Vicente Bungalows (not to mention James Hotel is opening up the street in 2017). Kimpton recently broke ground and at least two-dozen businesses opened in the past year alone (along with flashy new condos and residences). La Cienega Boulevard has become the unofficial restaurant row with hot new openings like Barton G, Hutchinson, and the new EP&LP.
Old Fourth Ward, Atlanta, Ga.
Shop local artisan goods and nosh on good food at Krog Street Market. (Photo: Krog Street Market)
Atlanta neighborhoods gentrify fast (locals are still shocked to see the formerly gritty Little Five Points a tourist destination and no-mans-land East Atlanta a thriving hipster spot). The next big thing is Old Fourth Ward, unusually and exceptionally pedestrian friendly for a traditional car city. A planned, anticipated streetcar prompted erected condos and smart businesses moving in. Already open is Krog Street Market, a dining and retail multi-use concept with two dozen businesses, and elevated Southern dining restaurants like The Cockentrice and Ladybird are putting Old Fourth Ward on the map as the next foodie destination. No hotels are planned yet, but nearby Midtown is chockfull of great accommodations like the new Hyatt Atlanta Midtown.
Lowertown, St. Paul, Minn.
Twin Cities JazzFest is just one of the many events and festivals drawing people to Lowertown. (Photo: Chris McDuffie/VisitSaintPaul.com)
St. Paul has been cited as having the most hipster zip code in the U.S. based on walkability, rental stock, young demographic, and cost of living. But hipster or not, everyone seems to be migrating to the Lowertown neighborhood, an area that’s home to Union Depot (the bus and train station). The area is experiencing a major renaissance: Lofts have been gutted out from restored 19th-century buildings and the 'hood has become the designated spot for music festivals, like the Lowertown Arts & Music Festival and Concrete and Grass music festival. Lowertown is also becoming St. Paul’s most buzzing foodie destination with creative new restaurants like Public and Barrio. With a popular farmer’s market, a sprawling park, and seamless bike-share program, we wonder why it took this long to get noticed!
LoDo and Riverfront, Denver, Colo.
The iconic Union Station in LoDo. (Photo: LoDo/Facebook)
Ever since Real World Denver put LoDo (Lower Downtown) on the map back in 2006, everyone wanted a piece of the oldest neighborhood in Denver. Revitalization of the historic district has been almost a decade long but it’s not until recently that LoDo became home to discerning locals buying cushy loft spaces and condos. A true testament to the 'hood is the new Crawford Hotel that opened last August inside Union Station, and the new Art Hotel is slated to open this June… not to mention some serious nightlife to boot (there are at least 40 places to party now). While LoDo is hot now, Riverfront, literally on the other side of the tracks, is slated to be the new new for locals, determined by all the construction of mixed-use buildings and tony residences in progress and, naturally a tell-tale sign, a new Whole Foods that’s already open.
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