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Things to Do Alone in NYC

Updated: April 16, 2024

This post is for those traveling solo to New York City with recommendations for what to do on your solo trip to the Big Apple.

We include safety tips, suggestions on finding the best hotel for you, where to dine alone, and how to meet people if you want to.

As a local NYC tour guide, I spend time doing things alone, often before or after my tours.

To help write this post, I've used some of my and my fellow guides' experiences doing things alone in NYC.

I've also used some of the ideas from people like you, who are members of our popular NYC Travel Tips Facebook group.

Our group consists of roughly 200k locals, like our tour guides, veteran travelers to NYC, as well as newbies.

You don't need to become a member to read the posts, comments, and recommendations.

So, check out our group once you've finished reading this post.


THINGS TO DO IN NYC ALONE

Below are just 9 of the hundreds of fun things to do in NYC!

For more ideas, check out our ultimate list of things to do in NYC!


Explore Central Park

What’s nice about visiting Central Park on one’s own is that it’s not just a large open field.

There are lots of sites to see and you can use our self-guided tour for some structured exploration. 

If you want to enjoy this gorgeous park with others, join one of our pay-what-you-wish Central Park walking tours

Central Park Gapstow Bridge

If you love the outdoors, other gorgeous green spaces in NYC are the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx and the Brooklyn Botanical Garden.


See a Broadway Show

Seeing a performance of some sort is perfect for solo travelers since there’s no need for a companion to talk to - you’ll be too busy enjoying the show!

Plenty of people in NYC go to the theater alone.

What's even better is that there are lots of ways to get cheap tickets to Broadway shows, even for the best shows like Hamilton or The Lion King.


Hang Out in Greenwich Village

Known as The Village, this neighborhood is awesome for solo travelers.

It’s got a very relaxed vibe and there are lots of inexpensive delicious places to eat.

washington square park

Head over to Washington Square Park where you’ll always find someone playing the guitar with dozens of strangers gathered around singing along! 

Join in. It’s a New York thing to do!

Read about all the great things to do in Greenwich Village including taking our pay-what-you-wish Greenwich Village tour.

We also have a pay-what-you-wish Greenwich Village tour.


Enjoy Free Activities in Bryant Park

Bryant Park in Midtown Manhattan has free activities year-round.

From outdoor movie nights and concerts in the summer to ice skating in the winter.

Lots of locals come to eat their lunch here, so you won't feel overwhelmed by big groups of people. Plus there's free wifi.

bryant park and the library

Bryant Park is a perfect spot to sit and read a book - they even have a "Reading Room" where you can borrow a book.

Speaking of books, the stunning New York Public Library, just next to the park, offers free tours.


Go to a Museum

NYC has 145 museums across the five boroughs, so whatever your interests are, there's a museum just for you!

Like Ice Cream? There's a museum for that! Like Jazz? There's a museum for that!

If you love art, NYC is heaven. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is a stand-out.

Two other fantastic museums are The Guggenheim ($1 admission on Saturdays from 6 pm - 8 pm) and the Whitney (free on Fridays from 7 pm -10 pm).

See our list of best museums in NYC as well as our list of free or nearly free museums.


Stroll the High Line

The High Line is an amazing urban park built on repurposed elevated railroad tracks.

You'll get great views of Manhattan and the Hudson River while you walk past blocks and blocks of stunning architecture.

You might want to take a free tour so you can learn about the history of the park which has some really surprising stories. Read here about free High Line tours.

The latest unique park in New York City is Little Island, just south of the High Line, at Pier 55.


Take the Free Staten Island Ferry

The Staten Island Ferry is one of the very best free things to do in NYC.

It's a quick round trip from downtown and you'll get amazing views of Lower Manhattan and all of NY Harbor.

The ferry passes right by the Statue of Liberty so you will have an up-close look. Read more about taking this great free ride.

If you are planning on going to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, see our post explaining the ticket options and where to get the boat there.


Hunt for a Good Book to Read

Strand Books, near Union Square, opened in 1927 on what was then "Book Row", six city blocks with 48 bookstores.

It is the only store remaining, but the sheer number of books inside Stran Books is more than enough!

The Strand carries over 2.5 million used, new, and rare books, covering any topic imaginable.

The used books are very cheap and the books on the $1 cart outside the shop are even cheaper!

The store also hosts events like readings and lectures by today's most interesting provocative personalities.


Walk Across the Brooklyn Bridge

Locals and tourists alike love walking across this majestic bridge. The views of the harbor are breathtaking.

On the Brooklyn side, you have two neighborhoods worth checking out: Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO.

(Yes, it's a funny name for a neighborhood, but the origin of the name DUMBO is quite interesting!)

We visit both on our pay-what-you-wish Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO tour.

Find out more about how to make the most of your walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.


BEST NEW YORK HOTELS FOR SOLO TRAVELERS

We don't think you should limit your hotel search simply because you are traveling alone.

You probably have a budget and a particular taste in the hotel atmosphere. 

By all means, look into any hotels that interest you. Still, there are some considerations when choosing a hotel.

Narrow down your choices by finding a neighborhood that is safe and lively.

The more people around, the better you will feel coming back to your hotel late at night.

Also, you’ll want a neighborhood that has lots of cafes and restaurants that are good for dining alone. 

Some hotels have a built-in social scene, with scheduled activities, game rooms, and lounges that are welcoming to solo travelers.

We like these hotels for those traveling alone in New York City:

  • The Pod hotels are reasonably priced and lean toward social atmospheres. Some have playrooms and very welcoming lobbies and lounges. They have several locations: Pod 51, Pod Times Square, Pod 39 and Pod Brooklyn.

    Pod 39 in particular is a great solo traveler hotel. They pride themselves on being “all about connectivity – be it to the city, our staff, or your fellow urban nomads.” Plus, there is a fantastic rooftop bar!
  • Ace Hotel is in NoMad, a safe and central location near Midtown Manhattan. There’s a subway on the corner and it’s within walking distance of many popular attractions. Better still, the hotel holds social events every night in the lobby. This is a perfect opportunity to meet other travelers.
  • Leo House is a Catholic guesthouse but there is no requirement that you have certain religious beliefs. Many solo women travelers report that it feels very safe and homey and that it is a good atmosphere overall.

    The Leo House is located in Chelsea, a lively neighborhood that has many peaceful spots as well. You are within walking distance of the High Line, a must-see urban park.
where to stay in nyc

See our article on Where to Stay in New York City organized by neighborhood. 

Lastly, look for hotels that are near subway stations.

Not only will your legs thank you for not adding additional walking time to your NYC exploration.

But, you will also have a quicker, safer walk to your hotel at night.

If you want to meet fellow solo travelers, consider staying at a hostel.

While there are not many hostels in NYC compared to other international cities there are a few and some are fairly good. Read about the best ones here.

If you want some personalized assistance finding the right hotel, join our NYC Travel Tips Facebook Group and create a post asking for recommendations for solo travelers.


DINING ALONE IN NEW YORK

When you dine alone in New York City, you will not be eating alone! Lots of people enjoy their meals without companions. 

Bring a book, play on your phone, or just people-watch, something that New Yorkers love to do!

Restaurants will not be reluctant to seat you alone.

The waitstaff is often friendlier to solo diners, especially if they know you are visiting the city. 

If you want to enjoy your food with others and even make a friend or two, take a food tour like our pay-what-you-wish food tours!

Your best bet for meals is small cafes and restaurants. Of course, you must get a slice of New York pizza!

A lot of New Yorkers have a bagel and coffee for breakfast. Try it and you will see why so many do this!

ess a bagel

You also have standbys like Starbucks where most people are alone.

NYC has some great diners where you can sit at the counter.

In nice weather, enjoy your food in a park!

You can also opt for restaurants that have communal tables, food courts, and even restaurants that cater specifically to solo travelers!


Food Halls

Chelsea Market has lots of different kinds of foods to enjoy there or to take out. Since it is next to the High Line, grab some food to bring with you and eat.

Essex Market on the Lower East Side has lots of space to sit and is light and spacious inside.

If you are thinking of going to Essex Market, why not join us for our pay-what-you-wish food tour of the Lower East Side instead?

Time Out Market is located in DUMBO where you will find excellent views from the rooftop of the Manhattan Skyline and Brooklyn Bridge.

top of the timeout food market

Citizens at Manhattan West is a 40,000-square-foot space with nine separate food hall kiosks.

It’s located in Chelsea in Hudson Yards within walking distance to the High Line as well as the observation deck Edge.

DeKalb Market Hall is a very lively dining hall located in downtown Brooklyn within walking distance of Brooklyn Heights

Gansevoort Market is inside the Oculus in the World Trade Center.


Communal Tables

Le Pain Quotidien is a very good chain restaurant and quite affordable.

Roberta's serves some of the absolute best pizza in town. It’s in Bushwick, home to the Bushwick Collective.

Here you can see some of the best street art and murals from world-famous street artists.

Clinton Hall has communal tables and serves great food in a friendly atmosphere.

They have several locations. The location in Lower Manhattan is perfect if you plan on visiting the 9/11 memorial or taking the free Staten Island Ferry

Mimi Cheng's has locations in the East Village and the Upper West Side.


Want To Be Alone While Dining Out?

If you want to be alone while in a restaurant, try Ichiran.

They have brought their Japanese solo-dining booth concept to New York City along with fabulous ramen! 

There are three locations, Midtown Manhattan, Times Square, and Bushwick, in Brooklyn.

Ichiran is so popular that there can be a wait, but it is worth it!


HOW TO MEET PEOPLE IN NEW YORK

New York City is an excellent destination for solo travelers, for both men and women.

There are so many people living here who spend time on their own that you won't feel alone!

Many locals are happy to talk to solo travelers and will offer advice and suggestions and may even chat with you for a while. 

If you do want to meet other travelers, there are a few ways to do so.


Join A Walking Tour

Taking walking tours and food tours is a great way to learn about the city and meet new people.

Our pay-what-you-wish walking tours and food tours attract travelers from all over the world and quite a lot of solo travelers. 

New York Tours

Our guides are very friendly and they always make sure that no one feels left out of the tour experience!

At Your Hotel

Most hotels have common spaces, like the lobby, or a hotel bar or restaurant.

You’ll be surrounded by other travelers, some of whom are also looking to connect with other people.

NYC Meetups 

If you are familiar with Meetup.com, use it as a resource for spending time with other people.

Many New York City groups arrange all sorts of activities. 

Often, the people who turn up don't know each other so they are in the same boat as you!


IS NEW YORK SAFE FOR SOLO TRAVELERS? 

It’s normal to be concerned with safety when traveling alone, even more so in such a huge city like New York.

But rest assured, you will be fine if you follow some safety tips. 

how safe is central park

The tips below are for both men and women of all ages. 

However, women solo travelers face challenges that men solo travelers typically do not.

Here are two in-depth articles for women traveling alone: Solo Travel Safety Tips for Solo Female Travelers and Safety Tips for Solo Female Travelers.


Always Pay Attention To Your Surroundings

You probably do this already, but take it up a notch in NYC.

If you find yourself in a densely crowded area, be aware of who is in your immediate surroundings. 

Pay extra attention on the subway during rush hours when the trains can be packed.

Speaking of the subway, save yourself time and confusion by reading our article on using the subway before you arrive in New York City.

busy subway car

The same holds true when you are on quiet unpopulated streets at night.

Many neighborhoods will be lively on their main streets, but side streets can be very quiet and you may not see a single person! 

As best you can, stay on streets that are well-lit and fairly populated.

Do not listen to music on the streets at night. Take those earbuds out and listen to who and what is around you! 


Try To Blend In With The Locals

There is no shame in being a solo traveler in NYC! 

But if you have your head buried in a map, you will stand out like a sore thumb and be a target for pickpockets. 

Carry yourself with confidence. Act like you own the city!

Read up on the areas you are going to so you will know in advance what to expect.


Never Leave Your Bag Unattended

This is a given in most cities. Be sure at all times to have your bag and other belongings with you.

Don’t leave your purse or phone on a table while you go off to use the restaurant restroom. 

Keep your bags closed and any valuables out of sight. Don’t have your phone sticking out of your back pocket.


More Safety Tips

Read up on even more safety tips from our article, Is New York Safe to Visit for Tourists? as well as 15 Mistakes to Avoid in New York City.


TIPS FROM LOCALS AND TRAVELERS

This post is based primarily on my and my fellow tour guides' experiences doing things alone in NYC.

But because we live here, our perspective differs from that of solo travelers to the city.

That’s why we’ve included some insights from members of our  New York Travel Tips Facebook group.

A question that comes up quite frequently in our group is from someone who wants to visit New York City but is reluctant to do so alone.

Hundreds of reassuring comments poured in!

Many solo travelers post in our group seeking suggestions of where to stay. 

Hotels of all kinds were recommended, but the Pod hotels stood out. Read more about them above.

The Edison was mentioned several times. It is one of the most liked hotels by members of our Facebook group.

As we mentioned, hostels are a good option for solo travelers as they provide opportunities to meet people.

Hosteling International came highly recommended by many solo travelers as did the YMCA, one of the affordable places to stay in the city for those traveling alone or with others.

As for what to do here when you are alone? There isn't anything you can't do!

We were proud to see our tours listed as a great activity for those traveling alone. Our guests are always friendly to each other, whether solo or not. 

Plus, our guides keep an eye out for solo travelers to make sure you don't feel left out.

Don’t rule Broadway out. It can be easier to get a single ticket than two!

Over and over, group members suggested the free Staten Island Ferry ride. It’s a highlight for anyone coming to NYC.

So is walking over the Brooklyn Bridge. Bost tourists and locals love it!

Parks are also popular. They can make for great people-watching!

One big concern that solo travelers have is about dining options. It’s not fun to have every meal in your room alone.

Nearly every group member who commented on this concern said this is simply not something to worry about in NYC!

It’s quite normal to see solo diners in NYC. There won't be any discomfort about it.

 Nor will any restaurant turn you away. So choose any restaurant your heart desires!

Not only can you dine anywhere, but you may have better luck getting a spot at restaurants where tables are completely booked.

Plus, bartenders and other guests dining at the bar are usually friendly!

Women traveling alone to New York City can take comfort in the dozens and dozens of comments about safety.

Both locals and travelers say it’s safe, but did encourage using the common sense safety precautions we list in this post above.

Quite a few soon-to-be solo travelers wanted to know if they would be able to get others to take photos of them rather than bringing a selfie stick.

Not a single group member said not to bother others. To the contrary. It was encouraged as New Yorkers really do like helping tourists!

If you have any more questions about traveling alone to NYC  (or anything else about NYC) that we haven't covered here, check out our New York Travel Tips Facebook group!


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About The Author

Katherine Weatherford

I'm Katherine Weatherford and I'm a tour guide for Free Tours by Foot in NYC, but I have also been working professionally in theater for nearly two decades. I have worked onstage as an actor, both in New York as well as on the road, and have also worked behind the scenes as a choreographer, costumer, stage manager, and director. I am now the Co-Artistic Director of Greenwood Lake Theater , a professional theater company in the Hudson Valley. I love going to see shows of all kinds. Read More...
Updated: April 16th, 2024
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