Being alone in the big city sounds a little intimidating, right? Well, it doesn’t have to be. With a fine-tuned itinerary, you can conquer all that the streets of New York City can throw at you.
For over 30 years, my father worked as an electrical engineer for the New York City subway system. I could stand on any block, in any of the five boroughs, and say, “Dad, I’m on 59th and 5th. How do I get down to Soho?” and he’d have me there in a flash.
Growing up here, I started to develop a deep love for this city that offers something for everyone. In New York City, you can be who you are and find your own community of people. Although I live in Savannah now and have visited some European meccas, I still come back to New York every time I want to envision a world where people are free to be themselves in a (relatively) judgment-free zone.
With that sentiment in mind, I’ve created a list of things to do when you’re alone in New York City. It’ll carry you through one of your happiest solo adventures yet.
Let’s get started, shall we?
Tips & Recommendations for New York
If ever there’s a place where it’s comfortable and appropriate to travel alone, it’s the Library Hotel. Sitting down at a table for one as you enjoy your complimentary breakfast has never been more natural. Everywhere you turn, especially in your gorgeous room or suite, you’ll have a plethora of books to choose from.
It doesn’t hurt a thing, either, that the decor is every book lover’s dream. Each room has its own library theme that will carry you into the chapters of your wildest imaginings. Feel free to pluck any book off those stacked shelves before settling in for the night.
The Library Hotel is luxury at its finest and their beds are sumptuous! But before you settle in one night, make sure you enjoy a nightcap at their sparkling rooftop bar.
Located right on Madison Avenue, you’ll be perfectly situated in the heart of midtown Manhattan. Bring your Amex and get ready to shop!
Address: 299 Madison Avenue, Murray Hill, New York, NY 10017 (see map)
Price: from 512 USD
Star Rating: * * * *
Travelers Review: Superb 9.3(from 429 reviews)
I know some people might consider this a cheesy, touristy thing to do. Let me assure you that the crux of this article is all about low-key and interesting places that people often overlook. But before we get into our list of things to do alone in NYC, consider this:
A hop-on, hop-off bus will do a number of things for you. First, it’ll allow you to be comfortably seated while you learn the lay of the land. Once you have gotten a better feel of your immediate surroundings, this massive city will feel less like terra incognita, and more like something explorable.
Second, hop-on, hop-off buses share interesting and historical facts about your new surroundings. Later on, as you’re walking through town, you’ll be able to appreciate some of the secrets behind your temporary home away from home.
New York City All Around Town Hop-on Hop-off Tour
Address: New York City, New York
You should definitely dedicate one morning to exploring the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It’s one of New York’s finest gems. Because of its splendor, you can expect it to be packed to the gills with fellow curious minds. But, if you’re anything like me, an elbow to the rib cage is not your favorite thing. So, here’s the trick.
Take advantage of Viator’s “EmptyMet Tour” for a mere 175 USD and get to see the whole thing in the quiet hours of the morning, before the rush settles in. I say a “mere” 175 USD because, for a private tour in a famous NYC museum, you’ve just scored a major win. (Viator is seriously awesome. Their prices are always fair and they run a smooth operation.)
This is an hour and a half tour that’ll take you to all the hotspots. During the tour, your personal guide will impart enough insight to leave you feeling refreshed, educated, and ready to take on that bustling city for the rest of the day.
Viator VIP: EmptyMet Tour at The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Address: 1000 5th Ave, New York, NY 10028
4. Eat at Raoul's!
While the Library Hotel makes eating alone seem like a dream, eating dinner alone in a packed restaurant can be slightly more intimidating.
But, that’s why God made bars! If you can manage to eat dinner a little on the early side, hop in a cab and head to Raoul’s. When you reach, make sure you score a seat at their bar. This will make you feel right at home for all the normal reasons, but there’s one big perk here.
Raoul’s only serves its renowned burgers to those seated at the bar. And this is why you have to come early: they only make 30 of these savory delights each night. That’s right! These burgers are so delectable, they’re only offered in limited quantities.
By now, you’ve enjoyed a private tour through a world-famous museum in the quiet hours of the morning and scored some steak-frites for the books. Secret missions like these make solo travel so much fun! Prepare your taste buds, my friends. Take it from me—Raoul’s is going to knock your socks off.
Address: 180 Prince St New York, NY
5. Visit the Schwarzman Building (New York Public Library)
Visiting the New York Public Library is another one of those delightful early morning activities. After your stay at the Library Hotel, just walk a couple of steps and you’ll find yourself in front of the Schwarzman Building. You’ll want to embark upon this adventure with a guide, because a lot of the space is off-limits to passersby. A guide, however, will provide you with that VIP treatment once again.
The New York Public Library offers docent-led tours. Once again, since a lot of this space is restricted, your best bet is to take advantage of one of their staffer’s knowledge and expertise to truly experience all that this grand building has to offer. During this daydream, you’ll meander through archives of old periodicals and enter into the stunning Rose Main Reading Room. When you envision your local library, do you see painted ceilings and hues of golden light?
Stephen A. Schwarzman Building Tours
Address: 476 5th Ave, New York, NY 10018
Website: Stephen A. Schwarzman Building Tours
6. Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge
Some city attractions are iconic—London Bridge, the Eiffel Tower, The Brooklyn Bridge. In all those NYC prints and paintings, the Brooklyn Bridge is often featured as a beacon that connects NYC with its beloved sibling: Brooklyn.
Why not experience being a part of one of those paintings when you stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge? If you can, try to read up on it a little bit before you go. Walking across a bridge built in 1883 that took 14 years to build makes it feel that much more special.
Once you’re at the bridge, you’ll be able to catch a view of New York’s South Street Seaport. Appreciate all its character, and look forward to visiting the exciting streets of artistic Brooklyn as you take in the grand view.
Everything here is free. You just have to make your way to Lower Manhattan and search for the entrance. If you put Pace University (a nearby campus full of scholars) into your GPS, that’ll get you very close to where you want to be.
7. Enjoy an afternoon coffee at Toby's Estate Cafe and Brew School
Once you make landfall in Brooklyn, you’ll want to head over to Williamsburg. This will require a short cab ride, so make sure you hail one of those little yellow cabs. You can chat with the driver as you make your way over. He’s bound to have an interesting story to share.
Toby’s Estate makes some of the finest coffee. Out of all the beaneries I can order online, I still get my daily fix from Toby. They have this Brooklyn blend that smells like Heaven—a chocolatey, toffee-filled, mouth-watering heaven in every cup.
Once you fall in love with the scents of their Brooklyn blend, it might be nice to learn how to brew it like a master. Toby’s offers brew school classes led by their Coffee Educators. They help teach anyone and everyone, from novices to experts, how to brew the perfect cup of joe.
While most of us learn how to brew coffee long before the days of college, this is just a fun little activity that’ll help you glean some knowledge from these coffee masters. Somehow, they manage to turn our rote morning routine into an artistic endeavor.
Toby's Estate Brew School
Address: 125 North 6th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11249
Website: Toby’s Estate Brew School
8. Watch a film at the Metrograph
The Metrograph is not your average theatre. Their film library is other-worldly, turning an indie lover’s fantasy into concrete reality.
You’ll want to hop on their website, see what’s playing when you’re in town, and then make your plans accordingy. Typically, you can catch either an afternoon or evening showing.
When you’ve plucked offbeat novels off the shelves of the Library Hotel, and screened an unknown indie film, know that you’ve officially become the boss of solo travel.
Address: No.7 Ludlow Street, New York, NY 10002
9. Take a yoga class
Why not start off your day by invigorating both your mind and body? As we all know, if you’re going to do something, you might as well do it right. New York City’s Dharma Yoga Center is the worldwide headquarters for Dharma Yoga.
When you visit this place, you’ll get the chance to study under a legendary Yoga Master called Sri Dharma Mittra. It’ll be so much fun to take away some new techniques and leave with your body humming with good and peaceful vibes.
You can drop in for only 22 USD. Give them a call and set this up. You’ll love the entire experience from start to finish.
Address: 61 West 23rd St., 6th Floor, New York, NY 10010
Phone Number: 212.889.8160
Website: Dharma Yoga
10. Walk the High Line
Once you’re fully rejuvenated, why not stroll through luscious gardens that sit atop an old, elevated train line? The High Line begins in New York’s famed Chelsea District. Initially, it was built so freight trains could move meat and produce down to the meatpacking district without disrupting traffic.
After its heyday, it laid there abandoned for many years. There were plans to demolish the entire line but, instead, a local community group banded together and turned it into a beautiful green space right in the heart of Downtown Manhattan.
Oh, and while you’re in the Chelsea District, be sure to head over to the Chelsea Market and pick up from fresh fruit, cheese, and bread. (It’s located in the old Nabisco factory, so you know sumptuous delights await!)
The High Line
Address: Gansevoort Street, New York, NY
Website: The High Line
11. Scour the shelves of Three Lives
Before your evening meal, why not pick up a new novel for some company? This next stop is also found on the West Side, so it’s a really nice treat after your High Line tour.
Three Lives is no standard Barnes & Noble (not that there’s anything wrong with a glistening Barnes & Noble). Three Lives has a life of its own. Their shelves are filled with curated books that aren’t exactly touted on the The New York Times Best Seller list.
That’s what makes these books so magical. Each shelf contains a pirate’s chest full of gold coins. Truly, Three Lives is an experience unto itself.
Three Lives & Company
Address: 154 West 10th Street, New York, NY 10014
Website: Three Lives & Company
12. Head to Broadway
You knew this was coming! How can you visit NYC without attending a Broadway show? It doesn’t matter which show you patronise—off-broadway, on broadway, a matinee or an evening show. Just make sure that you step into one of these majestic theaters during your stay.
Since we’ve already splurged in other areas (i.e. our hotel stay), let’s head over to TKTS Time Square. This is an affordable way to catch a Broadway play. You can’t miss their massive booth in Times Square.
Swing by when you’d like to attend a show. They’ll offer you discounted tickets, sometimes up to 50% off. If you want to enjoy a matinee, visit their booth at 10 am. If you want to do a classic evening performance, try to get there right at 3pm for the best pickings.
TKTS Times Square
Address: W 47th Street & 7th Avenue, new York, NY 10036
Website: TKTS Time Square
Do you love to dream about the stars? Do you wonder about all those hidden, undiscovered galaxies up there in the sky? Then head on over to the Hayden Planetarium, found inside the American Museum of Natural History. They offer a lovely show narrated by renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson which showcases a theoretical space-themed journey.
You’re bound to feel comfortable in their superior seating arrangements. Here, you can also truly understand what it means to be “a world away”. You might as well tour the rest of the museum while you’re there, but the Hayden Planetarium is a particularly sweet treat you should try to enjoy when you’re in NYC.
American Museum of Natural History
Address: Central Park West at 79th Street, New York, NY 10024-5192
When I look back on my life, it’s a timeline of Brooklyn roses. My father used to take me to the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens as a child and I promise it’ll hold every bit of wonder for you, too.
Truth be told, New York City and all her surrounding boroughs are spectacular every season of the year. But, if you happen to be visiting in June, run—don’t walk—to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Cranford Rose Garden. Very few gardens in the world offer such vivid and beautiful waves of color, all while the Brooklyn hustle and bustle carries on in this busy city.
Likewise, their Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden also holds enough magic to transport you to a splendid and verdant other realm. When you return home, every time you sip on a cup of green tea, you’ll remember this transcendental location.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Address: 990 Washington Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11225
Garden tours in New York are spectacular because you can’t get over the fact that you’re in a quiet oasis. All this, while the busiest city in the world explodes with activity around you.
Like the Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park is photographed a lot. So much so that the park is worth a walk through while you’re visiting NYC. I prefer entering by The Plaza Hotel on Fifth Avenue. You’ll see some horse-drawn carriages and interesting street art while you’re there.
The Shakespeare Garden is a hidden gem within this world-famous jewel. Here, you’ll find rosemaries and pansies swaying in the breeze with a nod to the Shakespearean character Ophelia. You can admire how some thistles spring to life as they did in Much Ado About Nothing. Best of all, you’ll be able to gaze upon a white mulberry tree that’s said to be grafted from a tree that Shakespeare planted in 1602!
Central Park Walking Tour
Address: 5th Avenue, New York, NY
16. Stroll along Fifth Avenue
After you’ve found your zen in Central Park, stay right where you are. If you exit the way you came in (near The Plaza Hotel), you’ll be perfectly positioned to tackle some serious window shopping.
Fifth Avenue proudly showcases all the big names—Tiffany & Co., Cartier, Saks Fifth Avenue and Barney’s. Many of the flagship stores for all our favorite brands are found here, too.
I love dipping into Banana Republic’s two-story flagship found on the edge of Rockefeller Center. (While you’re in Rockefeller, you might as well also pick up a cupcake at Dean & DeLuca’s for a quick bite.)
This was one of my favorite things to do when travelling alone in NYC. If, just for a moment in time, you want to live a high-gloss lifestyle, be sure to dedicate an afternoon to some classy window shopping.
17. Shop at SoHo
I was usually less reluctant to pull out my wallet in SoHo. While Fifth Avenue is too rich for my blood, SoHo features some of the loveliest little boutiques full of beautiful trinkets. This area is also an art lover’s dream. Spanning from South Houston Street (pronounced HOW-stən Street) to Canal Street, SoHo won’t disappoint. All you have to do is select a coffee shop for a caffé breve and start strolling.
As you peacefully wander in and out of these sparkling shops and galleries, my prediction is this will become one of your favorite things to do when you’re alone in NYC. Don’t be surprised if you start wondering what it would take to make New York your permanent residence.
18. Soak up a savory treat at Serendipity 3
Serendipity 3, hands down, serves the most decadent and delicious desserts in all of Manhattan. They’re known for their frozen hot chocolate and it’s every bit as drool-worthy as it sounds.
If you’re a fan of classic rom-com films, watch John Cusack highlight this very spot in his film “Serendipity”. It’ll up the ante on the sweetness of this whole experience and enhance your enjoyment of other NYC attractions as well, like the Central Park ice skating rink.
Address: 225 E 60th St, New York, NY 10022
Website: Serendipity 3
19. Take in live music at Pete's Candy Store
Ready for one last jaunt to Brooklyn? Pete’s Candy Store embodies that “hole in the wall” vibe in the best way possible. It’s definitely not a candy store, though. Save a couple bucks for a pint of your favorite cold beer.
Pete’s features live music in a setting where you’ll be close to the artists that their music will seemingly take root in your soul. Visit this venue and sip on a craft beer while your left foot taps to the catchy beat. This is the perfect way to top your serendipitous stay in New York City.
Pete's Candy Store
Address: 709 Lorimer St, Brooklyn, NY 11211
Website: Pete’s Candy Store
20. Kayak on the Hudson River
To say that you kayaked during a mountain retreat is pretty spectacular, right? What if you were able to say that you kayaked through lower Manhattan? Interested to find out more? Then check out Pier 26 in Tribeca on a sunny afternoon. You’ll be able to paddle through the harbor and can even enroll in an evening class.
This activity will provide another vantage point for you to soak up the wonders of NYC. If your yoga pants are waterproof, you’ll be able to tuck this special trip into your pocket and never let it go.
Address: Second pier north of Battery Park
Website: Pier 26
A city you won't soon forget!
Sometimes, traveling through a series of bustling streets with a quiet mind provides the perfect paradox to this gift called life. NYC will offer you a silver platter absolutely brimming with activity. That’s why it’s important to pinpoint your goals before hitting the streets.
With a game plan in hand, you can master this concrete oasis and enjoy a little bit of everything on offer. Here at Trip101, we hope this list of things to do alone in NYC will be your guide to help you gain some of your sweetest memories yet. Let us know how it goes in the comments below when you visit New York City!