A solo travel guide to New York City
Cities are often known as lonely places. Therefore, when I decided to go to New York spontaneously after my travels in Central America, I was worried about how I would find the city on my own. I’d been to New York with my family before which meant that it didn’t feel as daunting. However, after the low-key pace of life that I’d got used to in Costa Rica, I guessed it was going to be a bit of a culture shock.
I arrived in the city by overnight bus from Atlanta where I had been staying with my aunt. Sleepy but excited the bus pulled in at eight in the morning into a chaotic, distinctly New York part of downtown Manhattan. I grabbed my backpack and started walking.
The city won me over straight away. As I was on my own I noticed everything; smoke coming out of potholes, commuters running for subways, cafes opening, lost tourists and I realised I shouldn’t have worried about being in the city on my own: everyone in New York is busy writing their own story.
Here’s my guide of my favourite things to do on your own in New York City:
Scout Film Locations
There’s nothing better to do by yourself in New York than scout all the famous film locations. Whether you fancy taking a selfie outside the Friends building or posing for a snap outside Carrie’s House, there is an endless list of filming locations all over the city.
New York Cheesecake
I’m not ashamed to say that the idea of sitting down and tucking into a slice of real New York Cheesecake was a huge driving force behind my decision to go to NYC. Being solo in NYC means that you’re entitled to eat as much cheesecake as humanly possible and what’s more, you don’t have to share it with anyone.
I went on a bit of a cheesecake pilgrimage and my tried and tested favourite was the original one at Juniors on Broadway. (I did reach that point where I felt like I couldn’t go on when I was about two-thirds through it but I’d left the best bit for last so I just had to push through).
Spend some time reading in the New York Public Library
I have always wanted to bring a book and my journal and spend a couple of hours in the beautiful and iconic New York Public Library. (Speaking of film locations earlier, anyone who’s watched Sex and the City will know this from Carrie’s wedding scene). The library is free to enter and it’s just the ideal place to escape from the chaos of the city. As a book lover I could have probably spent my entire trip in here reading and writing. (Make sure to stop by Bryant Park after, just over the road, for a coffee).
Relax in Central Park
Central Park is the centre of the city and regardless of whether you’re visiting New York in summer or winter, it’s the ideal place to take yourself off to for a few hours. If you’re lucky enough to be visiting in the warmer months then you don’t need to do much else than bring a picnic or grab a pretzel and enjoy the sun. If it’s a little cooler then just spend some time walking or rent a city bike around the park. If you’re looking for a break then there are lots of museums on fifth avenue (east side of Central Park) such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art (make sure to check out its roof garden) and the Guggenheim museum.
Grab a coffee
Going for coffee is the ultimate solo activity and New York has no shortage of quirky independent cafes to spend your cash in. There are plenty in midtown Manhattan such as Culture espresso (where these fantastic cookies pictured above are made) however my favourite area is Greenwich village. It’s quieter and more residential then midtown and going for coffee feels like you’re living your own version of a Friends episode. I’m in my element cafe hopping and blogging, plus its the best way to actually mix with the real New Yorkers.
Walk the Brooklyn Bridge
For the best views of Manhattan’s skyline, you have to walk the Brooklyn bridge. Personally, I love a walk (because it means you can eat more) and the Brooklyn Bridge is one of the best. It’s free to walk across and be sure to explore Brooklyn once you reach the other side. Just be sure to pack a camera and good walking shoes!
Late night shopping: Broadway and Times Square
I wish shops at home in Brighton were open as late as they are in cities like New York as you don’t have to waste your days in the shops and particularly for solo travellers, you don’t have to spend your evenings sat in a bar by yourself. Most shops in Broadway and Times Square are open until late so explore the city by day and then get your shopping done after dinner. Be sure to stop by Macy’s!
Walk along the High Line
Walking along one of New Yorks newest attractions, the High Line park is one of the best ways to spend a few hours. This elevated park is located on an abandoned railway, running from Hudson Yards to Chelsea and is decorated with greenery and modern art, all with fantastic views of the city below. It’s also completely free to visit.
Grab food in the deli buffets
I sometimes find the idea of eating in proper restaurants a little daunting when I travel solo but that’s not something I had to worry about in New York thanks to the delis. New York delicatessens are mini markets offering buffets of hot and cold foods and I literally lived off these in the city. They work by filling up a box with whatever you want and then paying by weight (So watch the heavy veg). Not only are the deli’s cheaper than a sit-down meal but you can choose your portion size and they generally have loads of healthy vegan and vegetarian options. Most deli’s that have buffets also offer seating meaning that there the best option for eating if you’re on your own.
I hope this post has given you some ideas of things to do on your own in New York. It may not be the kind of place that springs to mind when you think ‘solo travel‘ but I had a fantastic few days exploring the city before I headed home and as much as I can’t wait to go back with my friends and family, it was nice not to have to share the city (or my cheesecake) with anyone else.