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Noma, Washington DC, union market
Photograph: Shutterstock/TJ Brown

The 15 coolest neighborhoods in the United States

These cool 'hoods across the United States are full of fun, food, culture and community

By Sarah Medina, Time Out editors and Time Out contributors
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Every year, Time Out polls 38,000-plus city-dwellers from around the globe through the annual Time Out Index survey to find out the top-rated neighborhood in each city. We mash that with our global network of Time Out editors and experts to bring you our list of the coolest neighborhoods in the world. But this year, when international travel is basically off the table, and we’re all staying a little closer to home, small neighborhoods in cities across the United States have become more important than ever.

So this list is for Americans. We bring you the coolest neighborhoods in some of the best cities to visit in the USA. These are the must-visit places to be for food and fun, art and culture, atmosphere and personality, but they’re also the spots who have rallied in the face of pandemic and even natural disaster to serve their community in the face of unprecedented challenges. So without further ado, here are the coolest (and kindest) neighborhoods in the United States in 2020. 

Share your favorite neighborhoods and local spots with us via the #LoveLocal hashtag – and follow Time Out’s Love Local campaign as we celebrate and support the independent food, drink and culture venues that make our cities great.

The coolest neighborhoods in the U.S.

Arts District Las Vegas
Arts District Las Vegas
Photograph: Shutterstock/James Mattil

1. Arts District, Las Vegas

From a distance, Las Vegas Boulevard looked like a string of unlit Christmas lights during the Covid-19 shutdown. A few miles north in the Arts District, the scene was—and still is—colorful by contrast. Murals brighten buildings, trees sprout on sidewalks, and residents ride bikes to galleries. In a year where empty casinos have highlighted how lonely it can be in a city built for tourists, the Arts District offers something necessary: community.

At the height of Covid-19 closures, businesses in the Arts District called upon local artists to paint their boarded-up doors, resulting in a makeshift pop-up gallery. Since reopening with restrictions in place, the neighborhood continues to be defined by coronavirus-inspired creativity; Our favorite example is the Majestic Repertory Theatre, the immersive theatre company’s drive-in performances have been essential viewing during the pandemic. —Krista Diamond 

If you do one thing: Browse antique shops on Main Street, where you’ll find ashtrays from imploded casinos, mid-century furniture, and locals with stories of the city’s history. 

If you eat one thing: Enjoy homemade pasta and sidewalk dining at Esther’s Kitchen and then walk to CraftHaus Brewery for a beer slushie in a portable pouch. 

Discover the best things to do in Las Vegas

Kobe Bryant memorial date Staples Center Los Angeles LA
Kobe Bryant memorial date Staples Center Los Angeles LA
Photograph: Michael Juliano

2. Downtown, Los Angeles

In a city with no single, central gathering place, Downtown became L.A.’s supportive soul during one of its hardest years. Following the shocking death of Kobe Bryant, wreaths, candles and a quiet togetherness swallowed the L.A. Live plaza. When the pandemic kept us doomscrolling at home, the Broad museum brought us a bit of virtual Infinity Room calm, while the now-shuttered Broken Spanish restaurant vacuum-sealed tamales and fed undocumented restaurant workers. And when the killing of George Floyd made injustice too loud to ignore, Downtown was the place for Angelenos to speak up. It wasn’t without strife, but there was a palpable pivot toward unity the day that thousands streamed through Downtown’s streets. In a year of isolation, DTLA – like no other neighbourhood – has consistently brought us closer to our community. Michael Juliano, Time Out Los Angeles

If you do one thing: See the twisted architecture of the Walt Disney Concert Hall (though, for now, you’ll be limited to gawking from the outside). Designed by Frank Gehry, the hall is the home of the LA Philharmonic and the LA Master Chorale.

If you eat one thing: Gorge on tacos and egg sandwiches at Grand Central Market. People from all corners of L.A. mix and mingle among rows of spices, produce and vintage neon signage. Our favorites? Cheap pupusas from Sarita’s Pupuseria, carnitas from Tacos Tumbras a Tomas and chow mein from China Cafe. 

Discover the best things to do in Los Angeles

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Art District on Santa Fe, Denver, First Friday
Art District on Santa Fe, Denver, First Friday
Photograph: Courtesy Visit Denver/Nikki A. Rae Photography

3. Art District on Santa Fe, Denver

In a city where RiNo, LoDo, SoBo, LoHi and other two-syllable nicknames demarcate trendy neighborhoods, Santa Fe Drive on Denver’s west side stands out as an authentic multi-cultural area where artists find their collective jam. By the late ‘70s, Latino families and businesses became a majority along Santa Fe, which morphed into a hub for social activists during the national Chicano movement. Fast forward and that same symbol of freedom paved the way for avant-garde artists who arrived in droves after being priced out of the city’s newer digs.

Now branded as at the Art District on Santa Fe, hundreds of artists, galleries, studios, theaters and creative business have sprouted along a dozen city blocks, with nearby affordable housing at Mariposa, an energy-efficient housing community, allowing starving artists and original multi-generational families to remain in the neighborhood. For over a decade, Santa Fe’s signature First Friday Art Walks have been high-octane events where a cast of thousands spilled into the streets. Yes, the pandemic buzz kill has curbed the crowds, but Santa Fe perseveres, albeit at a slower tempo. —Ted Alan Stedman 

If you do one thing: See some art! Fixtures like Habitat Gallery, with artist Georgia Amar’s sweeping geometric abstracts, and the international art at the Center for Visual Arts, are open under standard Covid-19 restrictions. And Museo de las Americas is rockin’ it as one of the country’s premier repositories for ancient-through-contemporary Latino art. 

If you eat one thing: If you want no-frills dining that locals swear by, pop into El Taco de Mexico for its green chili-slathered creations honored by the haughty James Beard Foundation.

Discover the best things to do in Denver

Bedford-Stuyvesant, New York
Bedford-Stuyvesant, New York
Photograph: Time Out/Ali Garber

4. Bedford-Stuyvesant, New York

Bed-Stuy is a neighbourhood cloaked in history, with leafy residential streets that pulse with a sense of community and tradition: lively conversations between neighbours on stoops, blocks that feel like extended families and rows of ancient Victorian brownstones. However, this year, the area became New York’s greatest incubator of the future. Long a cultural centre of the city’s Black population, Bed-Stuy served as a main hub for Black Lives Matter protests. In the face of devastation brought on by Covid-19, it gave birth to mutual aid networks like Bed-Stuy Strong to protect its most vulnerable members. Meanwhile, local businesses have opened their doors to the streets, melding private and public space and building bonds of togetherness in a new urban social compact. The brownstones of Bed-Stuy may be from the past, but their doors all open to tomorrow. —Will Gleason, Time Out New York

If you do one thing: The Billie Holiday Theatre stages brilliant, socially-distanced theatrical productions for masked crowds, keeping art alive during a pandemic.

If you eat one thing: Peaches HotHouse serves hot fried chicken in an outdoor dining area on Tompkins. 

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Mid-City, New Orleans, red streetcar
Mid-City, New Orleans, red streetcar
Photograph: Shutterstock/Scott Colesby

5. Mid-City, New Orleans

While buzzy neighborhoods like Bywater and Marigny seem to get all the attention (and all the tourists), to get a true sense of how New Orleanians chill, head to Mid-City. The official neighborhood is small but mighty, and can claim notable destinations like City Park and the New Orleans Museum of Art (along with its impressive sculpture garden). The neighborhood is also no stranger to struggle. In a normal year, Mid-City pulses with activity, from petite street festivals to the world-renowned Jazz Fest. But when Katrina hit the neighborhood, or when Covid cancelled all events, neighbors rallied to keep the spirit alive by cranking up WWOZ (the local jazz and heritage station) and festing on their porches. —Gerrish Lopez 

If you do one thing: Hop on the red streetcar and take it all in, from the historic cemeteries to Parkway Bakery, where you can grab a po-boy and sit on the banks of Bayou St. John.

If you eat one thing: Don't leave without trying the red beans at Liuzza’s or the boiled crawfish at Bevi

Discover the best things to do in New Orleans

Coneheads Nashville
Coneheads Nashville
Photograph: Courtesy Coneheads

6. Dickerson Pike, Nashville

With its car dealerships and industrial businesses, Dickerson Pike is perhaps Nashville’s grittiest strip, but in 2020 this east-side enclave morphed into its coolest. DRKMTTR, an all-ages, DIY performance space emerged as a center of mutual aid after the tornadoes and during the pandemic, opening both a 24-7 free community fridge and a free store where those in need can get essentials. Affordable real estate welcomed artists, furniture makers, coffee shops, bakers, and revived old motels. And when the summer sun had the whole 'hood sweating, Dickerson Pike is also home to the best paletas in town—check them at Taqueria Andrea and La Mini Michoacana. —Margaret Littman 

If you do one thing: Hang out at The Dive Motel and Swim Club, a retro motel that has become the local fave for music, dancing, drinking, lounging by the pool, and taking Instagram-worthy photos.

If you eat one thing: Former Vanderbilt University linebacker Marcus Buggs opened Coneheads as a way to feed chicken-and-waffles cravings on the go. Chicken is served inside a waffle cone, with sides like pineapple coleslaw or mac ‘n’ cheese as a cap on top.

Discover the best things to do in Nashville

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Wynwood
Wynwood
Photograph: Felix Mizioznikov / Shutterstock.com

7. Wynwood, Miami

Talk about whiplash. Wynwood closed out 2019 celebrating the tenth anniversary of its globally regarded Wynwood Walls outdoor museum, and began this year hosting the city’s coolest Super Bowl LIV parties and concerts. And then lockdown happened. The bustling neighborhood went silent as its galleries closed, the Walls shut its gates and the tourists stopped coming. For a while, the only exciting thing happening in Miami’s arts district was protesters marching down NW Second Avenue in support of the Black Lives Matters movement.

Without an influx of out-of-towners and a strong residential community to sustain it, Wynwood’s business owners stepped up to keep the ’hood’s cultural mission alive. SWARM, the event producers behind Wynwood’s major block parties and annual festivals, launched a radio station in June as a way to keep the public engaged and their roster of DJs employed. Custom playlists by the same folks we were used to grooving with IRL now provided the soundtrack to countless at-home dance parties.

Around the same time, the Wynwood Business Improvement District helped restaurants turn street parking into outdoor seating, pioneering the program with critically acclaimed (and longtime EAT List member) KYU. And art flourished everywhere. From fun diversions like the Tiger King mural on NW Fifth Avenue to serious, thought-provoking graffiti in honor of BLM to topical exhibitions highlighting the effects of climate change at the Museum of Graffiti, creativity and innovation proved to be the local antidote to a global crisis. —Virginia Gil, Time Out Miami

If you do one thing: Head inside to the Museum of Graffiti, where you’ll get to experience more street art (and air-conditioning) and learn the history of tagging dating back decades.

If you eat one thing: The first breweries in Miami sprouted in Wynwood, including Latin-inspired Veza Sur.

Discover the best things to do in Miami

Blk Girls Green House in Oakland
Blk Girls Green House in Oakland
Photograph: Samantha Tyler

8. Ghosttown, Oakland

Once part of the stomping grounds of the original Black Panthers, this tiny neighborhood within walking distance of MacArthur BART station still exemplifies the punkish charm that Oakland was once known for (and is now hard to find in the expensive lands to the east). Ghosttown's residential streets are dotted with art galleries and urban farms and neighbors are likely to include punks riding skateboards to the dog park under the freeway overpass and long-time Black residents who wave at you from their front porch and invite you to their birthday party in the backyard (true story). While the g-word has definitely reared its ugly head—renovated Victorians and newly built condos are popping up on MLK Boulevard—the vibe remains friendly. 

And while no one can quite agree on how Ghosttown got its name, the neighborhood is as fresh as its newest resident, Blk Girls Green House, a sweet little plant nursery and outlet for Black-made home goods. —Sarah Medina

If you do one thing: Pick up new titles at Marcus BookStores, the oldest independent Black bookstore in the country. 

If you eat one thing: Locals mingle over a cheap beer and a game of pool on the smoky patio at Eli's Mile High Club and chow down on house-smoked brisket at Stay Gold Deli

Discover the best things to do in Oakland

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Uptown, Chicago
Uptown, Chicago
Photograph: Shutterstock / Pamela Brick

9. Uptown, Chicago

Walk to the intersection of Broadway and Lawrence Avenue in Chicago’s Uptown neighbourhood, and you’ll spot the weathered façades of 1920s theatres and the neon sign of a jazz club once frequented by Al Capone. Nearby, on Clifton Avenue, a Black Lives Matter mural created by 18 local artists covers the pavement. That pretty much sums up the chronological juxtaposition that this neighbourhood embodies. Perseverance has been a defining theme in Uptown’s history, and now the neighbourhood is slowly roaring back to life after lockdown. The vibrant Argyle Street restaurant scene and breathtaking lakefront scenery will draw you in, but it’s the mélange of cultures and tangible remnants of the area’s history that makes Uptown feel simultaneously like a slice of Chicago’s past and a vital part of the city’s future.—Morgan Olsen, Time Out Chicago

If you do one thing: Consider your Friday and Saturday nigh booked with honky-tonk bar Carol’s Pub and drag club the Baton Show Lounge putting on live performances once again. 

If you eat one thing: Ethiopian restaurant Demera and Chinese barbecue spot Sun Wah continue to feed both their local community and hungry city-dwellers.

Discover the best things to do in Chicago

Alki Beach, Seattle
Alki Beach, Seattle
Photograph: Shutterstock

10. Alki Beach, Seattle

Considered the birthplace of Seattle, this primarily residential neighborhood is easily missed by tourists, though its's just a four-minute water taxi ride from downtown. Those that do visit Alki Beach will find funky sidewalk eateries lining the seawall, populated by seagulls and friendly locals who reside in this coveted slice of real estate, and accompanied by mountainous views and the occasional sea lion barking offshore. As sunset nears, grab an espresso from Ampersand Cafe on Alki and do as the locals do: find a perfect stretch of sand to sit and watch the sun set over the Olympic Mountains. It’s one of the best natural views in all of Seattle.  

If you do one thing: From sunrise to sunset, residents stroll, jog and roller-skate (not blade) along the beach walk, though visitors often rent sea kayaks or standup paddleboards available from beachside vendors. When beach volleyball courts aren’t used for local team practices, locals take up a game in between picnic bites and roasting smores in beachfront fire pits.   

If you eat one thing: From the moment you set foot on Alki Beach, the gentle waft of salty air may inspire a visit to Spud Fish and Chips, around since 1935 and considered Seattle’s first fast food restaurant. 

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Noma, Washington DC, union market
Noma, Washington DC, union market
Photograph: Shutterstock/TJ Brown

11. Noma, Washington DC

Now experiencing its proverbial 15 minutes of fame on Netflix’s new series “Deaf U,” Washingtonians have been watching this bustling neighborhood bloom for about a decade. Known for its brightly hued row houses, expansive warehouses, neverending construction and its proximity to trendy Union Market and H Street, NoMa is like the center of DC’s Venn diagram—where all types of city dwellers and businesses meet in the middle: newcomers and old-timers, industry and residences, and a diverse crowd spanning young and old. And what do they meet over? A socially distanced, outdoor drink at one of the many rooftop bars that span the area. —Rina Rapuano

If you do only one thing: Whether Union Market is in or next to NoMa is continuously up for debate—but this modern food hall is undeniably one of the coolest places in the city for bespoke shopping, an amazing variety of global cuisines both in and around the market, and a retro-chic rooftop bar.

If you eat only one thing: Short answer: St. Anselm’s ridiculously buttery, flaky biscuits.

 Discover the best things to do in Washington DC

Little Five Points, Atlanta
Little Five Points, Atlanta
Photograph: ESB Professional / Shutterstock.com

12. Little Five Points, Atlanta

An artsy neighborhood where creatives and free spirits live next to eccentric tattoo parlors and lively dive bars, Little Five Points is beloved for its vibrant and intimate community. It boasts all the benefits of city life—access to MARTA and the ability to explore the area on foot—without the insane parking prices, head-throbbing traffic, and other horrors that come with living downtown.

L5P is where unique music venues and diverse outfitters coexist, so that a walk down Euclid Avenue is as likely to reveal a burgeoning band smoking outside of Aisle 5 before their first public performance as a hippie couple grabbing a smoothie at Arden’s Garden after a successful evening of thrifting. Although individual expression pumps through the veins of every Little 5 Points resident, it’s also a rich, tight-knit community that regularly holds bar crawls, art sales, and impromptu sidewalk jam sessions at its epicenter, the corner of Euclid and Moreland. —Joshua Robinson

If you do one thing: Shop. You’ll find edgy streetwear at local boutique Wish ATL and gems for your record collection at Wax-n-Facts

If you eat one thing: Comic-book themed eatery Savage Pizza offers eccentric pies like the 

Southern Que, which comes topped with Fox Bros. barbecue sauce, pulled pork, bacon, and Monterey Jack cheese.

Discover the best things to do in Atlanta

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South Philly, Philadelphia, geno's
South Philly, Philadelphia, geno's
Photograph: Shutterstock/Conchi Martinez

13. South Philly, Philadelphia

In a city full of awesome neighborhoods, South Philly has done better than any other to earn its hotspot status without getting too big for its britches. The trendy yet workaday ’hood beckons young families and burgeoning professionals with affordable rent, easy access to public transportation, and charming, walkable streets and parks. The aroma of fresh baked goods wafting from a handful of classic Italian bakeries in the area is just the icing in the cannoli. —Josh Middleton

If you do one thing: The enormous BOK is a hub for the local creative set. Housed in a former vocational school, the building’s old classrooms have been transformed into boutiques and maker spaces for jewelers, tattoo artists, fashion designers and more. During the pandemic, many of the retailers, like Remark Glass and Rider Ceramics, can be shopped online, but some spots are still open and welcoming visitors IRL, such as Two Persons Coffee, a hip cafe located in a former tool workshop, and rooftop Mediterranean restaurant Irwin’s is teaming up with the BOK Bar to host a series of outdoor pop-ups with local chefs throughout fall.

If you eat one thing: South Philly is most famous for its dueling cheesesteak joints Pat’s and Geno’s, but local foodies know that nearby East Passyunk Avenue is the best place in Philadelphia to score delicious bites and drinks. The bustling strip is home to dozens of top-tier bars and eateries, such as Top Chef winner Nicholas Elmi’s upscale cocktails-and-small-bites haunt ITV, and the brand new River Twice, which serves a menu of inventive, locally sourced dishes in view of The Singing Fountain.  

Discover the best things to do in Philadelphia

Allston, Boston
Allston, Boston
Photograph: Ken Wolter / Shutterstock.com

14. Allston, Boston

Given that international travel from the US has all but ceased, Bostonians are fortunate they need only travel to buzzy Allston to see the world. While the neighbourhood has always hummed with youthful energy thanks to a heavy student and post-grad population, recent waves of out-of-towners have infused the area with new spirit, as evidenced by the immigrant-owned eateries that continue to pop up year after year. —Eric Grossman, Time Out Boston

If you only do one thing: Stop by one of the longstanding haunts like the Silhouette LoungeModel Café or Carlo’s Cucina Italiana to people watch an eclectic assortment of only-in-Allston characters. 

If you eat one thing: Nosh alongside the hipsters at Lone Star Taco Bar, or party with foreign students over cold beers and hot pot at Shabu-Zen.

Discover the best things to do in Boston

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Oakwood Cemetery, Austin, central east austin
Oakwood Cemetery, Austin, central east austin
Photograph: Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

15. Central East Austin, Austin

Massive population growth and bright-and-shiny new businesses have made formerly-sleepy East Central Austin virtually unrecognizable from five years ago. Strolling East Austin is a highly Instagrammable experience; Street art abounds, with everything from storefronts to private fences making Austin more colorful. And before you start complaining about the g-word, this large and undefined area of Austin is still very much a neighborhood, with a blend of multi-generational Austinites in original bungalows next to newcomers in more modern stunners. —Kelly Stocker 

If you do one thing: Get cozy with Austinites of the past at Oakwood Cemetery. You'll find notable Texans including several past governors and the sole survivor of the Alamo. 

If you eat one thing: Blink and you’ll miss Nixta Taqueria, a low-key taco shop with a master chef. Look for the Aztec god mural emblazoned on the side of the cinderblock building and then chow down on tacos (crafted with housemade masa) like the duck carnitas and the tomato tostada.  

Discover the best things to do in Austin

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