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Hot ‘hoods in the US: 10 neighborhoods you need to visit

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America is a dynamic country, and its most oft-visited cities are always different every time you stop by. It can be hard to keep your finger on the pulse of a city, especially when whole neighborhoods go and reinvent themselves while you aren’t looking.

Inspired by Lonely Planet’s list of the coolest neighborhoods around the world, we asked our US-based travel experts and Lonely Planet Locals to report back about the neighborhoods in their favorite cities that should be on any traveler’s must-visit list.

The self-driving cars zipping around Pittsburgh remind visitors that it's a city thinking well beyond its industrial roots © Brandon Presser / Lonely Planet.The self-driving cars zipping around Pittsburgh remind visitors that it’s a city thinking well beyond its industrial roots © Brandon Presser / Lonely Planet.

East Liberty & Lawrenceville, Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh won’t be the first American city to beep on your cool-o-meter, but its eastern neighborhoods might just be the sleeper hit your hipster sensibilities have been craving.

Around ten years ago, young artists and entrepreneurs started taking over the vacated warehouses of Lawrenceville – vestiges of the Industrial Revolution – and using the deeply discounted spaces to try their hand at everything from start-up ateliers to microbreweries. Today, nearby East Liberty is helping fly the banner, with its newer source of gravity: the old Nabisco factory, home to the city’s Google offices. Uber is in the neighborhood too, officially making the area a legitimate regional tech hub and the country’s leading test site for self-driving cars. As a result, the influx of moneyed millennials has willed a new food and beverage scene into existence, led by the Ace Hotel, which opened in a once-derelict YMCA in 2015—all of which is making the Steel City’s reputation considerably less rusty.

Brandon Presser is an East Coast-based travel writer and TV host. Follow him @bpnomad

Come to Avondale for dinner, stay for some avant-garde theater at Prop Thtr @ Karla Zimmerman / Lonely PlanetCome to Avondale for dinner, stay for some avant-garde theater at Prop Thtr @ Karla Zimmerman / Lonely Planet

Avondale, Chicago

A neighborhood where you can hit up a pierogi buffet (Red Apple Buffet), a theater giving equal time to kitty cats and Ionesco plays (Prop Thtr), and a streetwise Michelin-starred restaurant (Parachute) in one fell swoop? Yes, please.

Avondale offers no hotels or tourist sights. It’s mostly humble two-flat homes and the occasional smokestack or steeple popping up. But throughout this working-class beat on Chicago’s northwest side, groovy things are brewing. That’s literal in the case of Revolution Brewery, whose sprawling tap room makes hop fiends swoon. Within a few blocks, Kuma’s Corner grills hulking burgers with a side of heavy metal and Honey Butter Fried Chicken cooks a sweet-and-salty bird. Meanwhile, kielbasas waft from Milwaukee Ave, a hub for Chicago’s Polish community.

Get here soon though, because Avondale teeters on the edge. Hipster ‘hoods nibble at its borders, poised to spill over. And that may change its scruffy, artsy, lived-in magic.

Karla Zimmerman is a travel writer and Chicago resident. Read more@karlazimmerman

Point Loma offers good food, historic monuments and views of San Diego Bay @ Jade Bremner / Lonely PlanetPoint Loma offers good food, historic monuments and views of San Diego Bay @ Jade Bremner / Lonely Planet

Point Loma, San Diego

Point Loma is the conservative neighbor of hippy Ocean Beach, with its sports fishing centers, yacht clubs, and naval base. The elephant’s trunk shaped peninsula is separated from Downtown by San Diego Bay and Coronado Island and is home to a mishmash of New England-style clapboard houses, tropical- themed hotels, and exquisite modern hilltop homes with panoramic views of the city and harbor below.

It’s common to see members of the armed forces in uniform around the sleepy town, but foodies also gravitate to Point Loma for the outstanding seafood brought to shore daily by boats, and served in local restaurants. The young and hip hang out at Liberty Market, a 22,000sq ft former military barracks turned artisan food hub – San Diego’s answer to Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. Here, local vendors serve everything from freshly baked cakes and organic roast beef to homemade empanadas and craft beer.

At Point Loma’s southernmost tip stands the famous Cabrillo National Monument, where in 1542 Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo became the first European explorer to discover San Diego. The 144-acre national park surrounding the monument has hikes, tide-pools, a lighthouse and a history museum to explore. It’s also one of the best places in the city to spot whales during their Pacific migration.

Jade Bremner is a writer and Lonely Planet Local for San Diego. Follow her tweets @jadebremner

Between two neighbourhoods, a whole new hangout has emerged © Geoffrey SmithBetween two neighbourhoods, a whole new hangout has emerged © Geoffrey Smith

Frelard, Seattle

A highlight from Lonely Planet’s global list, this new community has slowly taken shape in the space between two of Seattle’s most popular neighborhoods. First coined by Seattle restaurateur Ethan Stowell, owner of Frelard Pizza Company, the name Frelard reflects those of its neighbors: Fre(mont) and (Bal)lard.

Visitors wandering from the Fremont Troll to the Chittenden Locks can now stop to sample one of the area’s growing restaurant, bar and brewery options. The Leary Traveler welcomes travelers for a craft cocktail and sliders, or you can relax over a traditional brown ale or IPA from one of the oldest breweries in Seattle, Hale’s Ales. There are plenty of options for food too, from the aforementioned Frelard Pizza Company to the protein-rich menu at Giddy Up Burgers. It’s the perfect place to refuel on a day spent exploring beyond Seattle’s main tourist sights.

Valerie Stimac is a Seattle-based travel writer and editor. Follow her tweets @Valerie_Valise

East Nashville pops with color during the Tomato Art Fest © Evan Godt / Lonely PlanetEast Nashville pops with color during the Tomato Art Fest © Evan Godt / Lonely Planet

East Nashville, Nashville

Music City is known for its country crooners and the honky tonks on Lower Broadway, but just across the Cumberland River in East Nashville, residents march to the beat of a different drum. You’ll still see a George Jones sticker on the register at Dino’s (which claims itself as the oldest dive bar in the city), but there’s more tattoos, street murals and alternative music venues on this side of town.

There’s also plenty of delicious places to eat, whether you want a quick bite at Mas Tacos Por Favor (well, quick aside from the inevitable long line of fans at the counter), or want to sit down for steak or wood-fired pizza at neighborhood-favorite Lockeland Table. No matter where you go, you’ll walk past charming craftsman style homes and maybe even see some leftover decorations from the quirky Tomato Art Festival that takes over the streets every summer.

And if you came to Nashville for hot chicken, the East side has you covered as well, with Pepperfire, Bolton’s and the place that started it all, Prince’s, all waiting to singe your tastebuds.

Evan Godt is Managing Destination Editor, the Americas, for Lonely Planet and an East Nashville resident. He leaves the tweeting to the pros@lonelyplanet

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