As travelers, one great way to continue to support the Black Live Matters movement is to make conscious and meaningful vacation choices, from working with racially diverse travel companies to seeking out Black-owned restaurants, shops, and cultural institutions. We asked Virtuoso travel advisors to take us on staycations through their hometowns that highlight their favorite Black-owned businesses. They – or your own Virtuoso advisor – can help you craft an itinerary that includes some or all of these picks.
New York City
“What’s not to love about New York City?” says Virtuoso travel advisor Kamala Cummings. “And where on earth can you brunch at a different restaurant every day for at least six months? In NYC, you can go grocery shopping in a sequined dress, and nobody will give you a second glance. The city is an amazing melting pot, and that’s not just a cliché.”
Cummings’ favorite Black-owned businesses include Harlem’s Seasoned Vegan, Southern-style soul food at Blvd Bistro, and Brooklyn’s cozy, all-day Café on Ralph. And about those aforementioned brunches: Don’t miss Brooklyn’s Brown Butter Craft Bar + Kitchen for coffee and fresh pastries, BK9 for Caribbean-style eggs Benedict, and DaleView Biscuit & Beer for some buttermilk, gluten-free goodness. Work it all off during a class at the Spiked Spin cycling studio, or opt for (more) bubbly from Brooklyn label Stuyvesant Champagne.
Cummings also recommends a visit to the Brooklyn Academy of Music during its annual DanceAfrica cultural celebration from May to July (it’s gone virtual this year). And every February, Harlem Fashion Week showcases some of the city’s best emerging designers – you can shop for many of their goods online now. (If you need them tailored while in NYC, head to Brooklyn’s Chappell Styling & Tailoring.)
“What I love most about New Orleans is that there’s truly something for everyone – art, food, music, cocktails, architecture, sports,” says Virtuoso travel advisor Amina Dearmon. “Plus, you can travel to France, Spain, the Caribbean, and Africa all within the parish limits. There’s an acceptance and friendliness that goes way beyond southern hospitality.”
Diversity on the plate begins at Café Sbisa, a French-Creole restaurant that’s been open in the French Quarter since 1899. “It’s everything you’d expect from a fine-dining restaurant with none of the stuffiness,” Dearmon says. Dearmon’s other favorite Black-owned restaurants in the city include The Munch Factory and its homemade Creole cuisine, The Cupcake Collection (“the sweet potato cupcake is my go-to”), and Victory New Orleans. “It’s one of the best bars in the city for craft cocktails,” Dearmon, a self-appointed cocktail snob says. “The truffle popcorn is the perfect pairing for any drink on the menu.”
Don’t leave New Orleans without visiting the West London Boutique, a womenswear shop on popular Magazine Street. “Their dress selection is perfect for warm New Orleans summers,” Dearmon says. She also suggests supporting Wicks Nola Candle Company – you can find their products on Etsy or at letterpress shop Lionheart Prints – and the Terrance Osborn Gallery. “Osborne’s gallery is filled with brightly painted scenes of New Orleans life,” she says. “His wife, Stephanie, also uses the space for meditation classes, so I like to work on my mindfulness and then check out his new work.”
Before relocating to New York City, Cummings moved to Atlanta from Michigan for a travel advisor opportunity at a Virtuoso agency, and she quickly fell in love with the city’s restaurants, outdoor concerts, nature, and rich culture. “I’ve never met people prouder of their city,” says Cummings. “The term southern hospitality rings true here.”
Cumming’s favorite Black-owned restaurants in Atlanta range from a bespoke tea house (Just Add Honey) to an artisanal popsicle shop (Popbar) and a cute, family-owned breakfast and lunch café (Le Petit Marché). At Local Green Atlanta, owner Zachary Wallace’s mission is to create wholesome, easily accessible fare for families in the city’s Westside community.
Atlanta was the epicenter of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, and many sites commemorating that fight are essential stops. At the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park, visitors can tour the home where the civil rights leader was born. The National Center for Civil and Human Rights showcases how the Civil Rights Movement remains relevant in today’s push for human rights worldwide.
Virtuoso travel advisor Monique Thompson loves Washington, D.C. for its eclectic diversity, and the fact that there’s truly something for everyone. “Of course, there are the monuments and museums,” she says, “but there’s also Embassy visits, political events on Capitol Hill, cultural and music festivals, waterfront strolls, and Kennedy Center shows. If you’re looking for green space and nature, D.C. has some of the best parks and gardens around.”
Thompson’s go-tos: the Smith Commons outpost of Milk & Honey, an all-day café with three D.C.-area locations and one in Atlanta; and Cane D.C., a modern spin on popular Caribbean street food from brother-and-sister chefs Peter and Jeanine Prime, who grew up in Trinidad and Tobago. For a hidden gem (and some great souvenirs to bring back to your kitchen), Thompson loves The Spice Suite, a shop in D.C.’s Takoma neighborhood that’s stocked with spices, herbs, olive oils, and other cooking essentials.
While in D.C., stroll through the new Black Lives Matter plaza abutting Lafayette Square and the White House, to check out the yellow, blocks-long street mural that inspired multiple others across the U.S.
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