4 -min. read

As you know, we’re big fans of independent hotels: properties and brands with a rebellious and creative spirit. And that’s not always confined to global cities; we’ve been cheering on new hotel projects in smaller spots including Detroit, Leeds, Adelaide and Pittsburgh, just to name a few.

Some of these cities are natural spots for cool little hotel projects, and already home to some exciting properties like the 21c Hotels. Other cities have all the ingredients—a thriving arts community, music scene and culinary landscape—but don’t have the hotels to match just yet.

So, rebellious hoteliers, take note: here are five little U.S. cities where we’d love to see you work your magic and bring us some hip new hotels.



The buzz about this beautiful Blue Ridge city is getting deafening. It’s become the favored escape for creatives who live in bigger, less nurturing cities (for example, South Beach residents fleeing the Florida summer), and Lonely Planet named it the No. 1 U.S. Travel Destination for 2017. Asheville is full of art galleries, bookstores, bars and breweries, and there is a fair bit of hotel development happening, although so far it’s mostly coming from the big brands like Hilton and Hyatt. We’d love to see some indie hospitality action pay tribute to the city’s amazing Art Deco, Beaux Arts and Neoclassical architectural gems—and to the area’s epic natural beauty.


The tech scene often defines new creative hubs, so as Kimbal Musk (brother of Elon) establishes his Next Door/The Kitchen business—nutritious food at a healthy price point—in Memphis, it makes sense that others will follow suit. There’s lots to love in this Southern city, too—Graceland has been expanded with a new Memphis-centric entertainment complex, and Shelby Farms Park, a beautiful urban park five times the size of Central Park, is also being revamped (in part thanks to Musk). The Memphis music scene is, of course, legendary, and the National Civil Rights Museum is a must-visit. There’s no denying that Memphis has a vaunted position in America’s history; smart hoteliers with soul would be wise to become part of its future.


One thing is obvious: Our city really likes beer.

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Have you explored the @americansignmuseum? #Repost @davidgifreda

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Cincinnati is just beautiful right now. #Repost @cincygram

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Cincy is fortunate to have a 21c Museum Hotel, but there’s so much energy in the city that we’d love to see even more independent hotels spring up here. An area to keep an eye on is the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, a once-dangerous area that has been transforming into a hub of arts and innovation, thanks to help from the Source Cincinnati economic and tourism development program and the Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. Over recent years, abandoned Italian Revival buildings have been renovated into condos, office buildings, restaurants and craft breweries. Another sign that this is a creative hub on the rise? 2016 was the busiest year for film production in Cincinnati, with 10 movies shot in the city, including The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Mercy and Inconceivable.


[Photos: Think Iowa City Facebook]
They call it a collection of communities—Iowa City, Coralville and North Liberty—and each has its own distinct vibe that contributes to a thriving college town. As home to the University of Iowa, Iowa City has welcomed the world’s best writers, who attend the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. There are other academics here, too, of course, but let’s face it: a literary town is one that will always attract likeminded creatives, thinkers and dreamers. Iowa City has a downtown that blends history and new urban development, while Coralville is known as a retail hub and the home of arts venues. North Liberty is full of parks, trails and lakes. What this trio of communities is missing most? Non-chain hotels with unexpected details that will delight the writers, artists and renegades of the world.


Thanks for capturing this nightscape of the riverfront, @natebowery. Want to be featured? Tag your pics with #ChattanoogaFun!

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Yes, there’s a second Tennessee city on this list—because Nashville has been hogging the state limelight for too long now. (For all the right reasons, of course.) Chattanooga, a former industrial center, is now attracting waves of artists and art-lovers, with affordable studio spaces, excellent galleries (especially in the Bluff View, NorthShore and Southside districts), the Hunter Museum of American Art, and the Sculpture Fields at Montague Park. Street art is also on the rise. The area’s rolling green hills make it a great place for outdoorsy types, and music fans will dig the new Songbirds Guitars Museum and its collection of more than 400 rare vintage instruments. Art, music and a picturesque setting? Sounds like the making of the perfect boutique hotel location to us.


Rebecca Wallwork
Rebecca Wallwork is a writer based in Miami Beach, although you’ll also find her checking out the newest hotels in New York City. She is a former contributing editor to HotelChatter, and loves dogs and books as much as she does hotels.

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