A Local’s Guide to NYC Solo Travel
I get it:
Some NYC solo travel ideas kind of suck. I mean, no one wants to watch a bunch of couples slobbering all over each other when they’re traveling alone in NYC. Am I right?
Okay, maybe it’s just me. And maybe I’m super Bitter But Still:
Some activities are just better for solo travelers than others. So if you are biting the bullet and going it solo in New York City, then I’ve got the guide for you.
I actually know what I’m talking about. I have lived here for well over twenty years and honestly prefer exploring the city alone, cuz I’m a weird, anti-social introvert like that.
Sorry, not Sorry:
Chatting with people and attempting to be, “on” all the time is just too draining for this chick right here.
But Let’s Move Away from My Social Anxiety Issues, Shal We?
Instead, let’s focus on some of the best attractions in New York for solo travelers (shout out to all my fellow NYC solo female travelers! Way to rep!)
1. Strand Bookstore
My life motto for the New York solo female traveler?
Why talk to people when you can read a book? Alright, that is a HORRIBLE life motto. Some people are without a doubt, absolutely awesome. I just love walking into Strand and practically frolicking through the endless stacks of used books.
Three Floors of Total Bookish Wonder!
So add this store to your itinerary when planning a solo trip to NYC. Plus, they have killer souvenirs like t-shirts that proclaim, “A well-read woman is a dangerous thing”. I mean really, do shirts get much better than this? The only answer to this question is no, they do not.
I could literally spend an entire day in Strand Bookstore!
Just don’t forget to hop on the elevator and make your way to the third floor, where all the super cool and super vintage, rare, first edition books lie.
Truly an amazing place to stand in awe of the enduring power of the written word.
***Strand is right near West Tenth street, Union Fare, the Flat Iron Building, and Washington Square Park. So these are just some of the other sites that you can check out while exploring this part of the city. Just entitle this voyage, “Female traveling alone, New York edition”.
.2. Morgan Library and Museum
Can You Tell I have a Thing for Books?
I know, but this place is even more amazing than Strand.
Hard to Believe But True!
Just picture the library in Beauty and the Beast and you’ll have an idea of just how magical this vastly underrated library really is.
How can you not love a place that publicly displays a Guttenberg Bible and an original composition by Mozart? Throw in some stunning, historic architecture and you’ll have an amazing place to visit when going to New York by yourself.
Here you’ll never feel alone because you’re not really supposed to talk in libraries anyway.
Oh and I almost forgot!
Admission to the Morgan Library and Museum can be a bit pricey, like $20 pricey. So since you’re alone and don’t have anyone to split the cost of a hotel with, why not visit between 7 pm and 9 pm on a Friday?
Not only is admission free, but you’ll be able to experience a live jazz performance too!
3. The Met (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)
The proverbial holy grail of Museums in New York City!
Between the MET on 5th Avenue and the Cloisters, you could literally spend several days here, taking in all the magnificent artifacts that call the MET home (can I call the MET home? Pretty Please!)
But even if you LOATHE museums, the MET is epic!
Sure, the MET is a traditional museum, but it is also so much more, in a totally non-cliched way.
In addition to the Museum:
They have a rooftop bar that provides you with gorgeous views of Central Park and well, the entire city. You can also sit and enjoy some live piano music at the cafe that overlooks the main entrance (basically where the photo below was taken).
Before you leave:
Do not miss the Temple of Dendur! This Egyptian period temple (literally a whole temple that was just plopped, boop, into the City) is one of the most photogenic places in New York City, so you definitely do NOT want to miss it. Just try and beat the crowds by going on a weekday or as early as possible on a weekday or weekend.
***Since the MET is located on the East side of Central Park, definitely visit Central Park, the Frick Collection, the Guggenheim, and Albertine French bookstore while you’re here.
***Also a friendly reminder that the MET is no longer a pay what you wish museum (womp, womp, womp). Only residents of New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut, who present a valid id, can use the pay what you wish option. I feel your sadness and totally understand. I felt the same way when I found out that bagels aren’t actually good for you, sob.
4. The Seaglass Carousel
Feel like being a kid again without schlepping all the way to Coney Island?
Then why not catch a ride on the sea glass carousel a magical place that truly stands out amidst the natural flora of Battery Park.
For just $5:
You can hop aboard an internally, LED illuminated fish, that swirls and twirls its way around the Nautilus shaped building, creating a sense of awe and wonder in visitors of all ages.
Why the fish theme?
Park designers wanted to add something light, bright, and totally fun to the rather drab park interior. They chose fish because the park was the first home of the New York Aquarium (Boom! You can use that nugget of knowledge to win the final round of Who Wants to be a Millionaire).
Feeling a little blue because the ride is over?
Well, never fear because this carousel is located in the one and only Battery Park.
There are all sorts of things that you can do here. Hop on the Staten Ferry and catch a glimpse of Lady Liberty, visit Ellis Island, walk over to Wall Street, or explore the nearby Irish Hunger Memorial (a truly moving monument that is well worth a visit).
5. Get Lost on West 10th Street (A great neighborhood if you’re going to New York City alone for the first time)
Tucked away amongst the hustle and bustle of the Lower West Side, there lies a quaint neighborhood with a charm and character that is almost completely absent from New York City.
A place that you probably won’t find in any guidebook.
A place where charmingly historic and insanely exquisite townhouses dominate the urban landscape; buildings that are adorned with a diverse assortment of botanical life; plants that help remind you that New York City really can expertly intertwine the beauty of manmade and natural structures.
You will be transported into a bizarre world where the dirt, grime and total chaos of New York City are almost completely absent.
A true gem of a street:
That you can use to walk Uptown, towards the Flat Iron building and the Em[ire State Building, in case you need a little more proverbial spice in your life.
6. Grab a Birthday Cake croissant at Union Fare
Okay, probably one of my fave food items in all of NYC:
But be forewarned that while this place does have a small bakery area, with a few chairs, Union Fare is definitely a sit-down restaurant with a stunning, Insta-worthy, urban chic design (if you come here for brunch in NYC, get the Benedict board. Soo good).
However, back to the food porn!
As you walk in, to your right, you will see a counter lined with decadent pastries and an enormous espresso machine that churns out all the caffeinated beverages that you could ever want.
And while the coffee is lovely:
The real star here are the croissants. For $4 (credit cards only) you can obtain one of these little nuggets of delight that come in amazing varieties like birthday cake, fruity pebbles, matcha, red velvet cake, and so much more (feel free to ooh and ahh).
Just one bite into these flaky, buttery pastries and this magical, and totally addictive, cream filling starts oozing out; it will leave you wondering, “Should I get another?”
7. Check out some great views and street art in DUMBO
Dumbo was once a heinous beast of a neighborhood!
But times they are a changing”! Now, formerly gross, centers of industry have been transformed into trendy, hipsters hotspots, I’m actually not quite sure I’m hip enough to hang out here but whatevs.
Sad but True!
Between the gorgeous street art that decorates the walls of these cobblestone streets, the stunning views of the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges, and the unique retail stores, you may never want to leave!
Before you leave this neighborhood, here is the best to-do list ever:
Make sure you grab an ice cream at the fireboat house, listen to some music on the historic barge, walk through Brooklyn Bridge Park, ride the carousel, read a book at Powerhouse Arena, grab a slice of pizza at Juliana’s, and take in some theater at St. Ann’s Warehouse.
I know it’s a lot but let’s be real, you’re in the city that never sleeps.
So did you actually expect to sleep? Exactly!
***Since you’re here anyway, I suggest taking the 6 to the last stop, City Hall. From here, you can easily access and walk along the Brooklyn Bridge, taking in some of the most enchanting views in the entire city; one of those free and totally amazing things to do in New York City (There’s so much to see and do that you won’t have time to even remember that you’re alone).
8. Visit the Old City Hall Station
Okay, so technically speaking:
This activity isn’t entirely, 100% legal so if anyone asks, I never told you to do this.
But as you’ve probably heard:
The former City Hall station is insanely gorgeous (so basically totally different from the nasty one we use now. Double yuck for sure).
The real question is, how can you sneak a peek at this marvelous, architectural wonder? Well, you could nab some rather expensive tickets from the Transit Museum, or you can do as the local’s do and basically duck down, hide, and stay on the train past the final stop at City Hall.
Why Does this work?
The train actually has to turn around and pass the old City Hall station, before making it’s way to Uptown.
Why not take advantage of this fact and see this historic station for yourself? Glad we agree on this.
Being a total badass lawbreaker will put a little spice back into your life.
9. Check out some Cheesy Goodness at Murray’s
If you don’t like cheese, I don’t think we can be friends.
No really, unless you’re lactose intolerant, I just cannot fathom how any human CANNOT appreciate the salty, rich, and creamy goodness that is cheese.
Okay, I’ll still be your friend but only because I can eat all of your cheese.
Trust me, this is a sacrifice that I am willing to make.
But on a mildly serious note:
This artisanal cheese shop and specialty food retailer is quite literally the holy grail of cheese shops for any and all cheese lovers in New York City.
Not only is their cheese some of the best in the world, but they have more types of cheese than I ever thought possible.
I thought a store that sold Muenster, Swiss, and Cheddar had a great cheese selection. But this store sells so many cheese varieties that you feel like you’ve died and gone to cheese eutopia.
But I promise it’s real and Not some New York City induced mirage!
So put on your comfy pants and try some fan faves like the truffle brie, Murray’s Cavemaster Reserve Hollander Special Edition, Cypress Grove Truffle Tremor, the Fourmage Gouda, the Bleu Mont dairy bandaged cheddar, and like ten thousand more.
***With locations in Grand Central Terminal and Greenwich Village, it’s pretty easy to make any and all of your cheese fantasies come true.
10. Stand under the stars in Grand Central Terminal (Technically it is terminal, not station. Learned that during National Treasure. See what you can learn from this Travel Blog New York City?)
I always forget that Grand Central Terminal is actually one of the better NYC attractions!
I say this because I have taken the train into and out of Grand Central so many times, that I completely forget about the architectural beauty of this building.
Truly an enchanting attraction in NYC.
Between the historic architecture, the gorgeous blue ceiling, studded with twinkling constellations, and a stunning array of delicious and relatively cheap food options, Grand Central station is probably one of the best attractions in NYC.
Did I mention that tours are offered too?
Yup, just nab an audio guide, between 9:00 am and 6:00 pm, seven days a week, from the Tours office in Graybar Passage, They cost a mere $9 for adults and $7 for kids and are a fantastic way to better understand both the history and architectural nuances of this iconic New York City edifice.
***Now to the important stuff, FOOD! Magnolia Bakery, Shake Shack, the Oyster Bar, Zaro’s, Jacques ice cream and chocolate, and Murray’s Cheese are only some of the amazing food options available in Grand Central. So get your grub on. But you already know that since this is NYC.
11. Grab a Bagel at Ess-A-Bagel
Almost nothing is as New York as a bagel!
That’s why failing to eat one here is basically like a crime against humanity.
To stay in the good graces of the entire city, and probably the world, it’s best that you ingest one of these carborific creations while you’re in town.
But the question remains, where should I go?
I mean, there is a bagel place on almost every street corner. And they all seem pretty reasonably priced, so it can be challenging to find a good bagel shop.
Well, let me tell you:
I have been eating New York bagels since birth, and the one and only bagel place that I will EVER wait online at is Ess-a-bagel. Not only are their bagels amazing but their specialty sandwiches and cream cheeses are out of this world (I didn’t know chocolate chip cream cheese was a thing until I came here).
So put on a pair of sweatpants, grab $5, and hop in line for a bagel that carb lover dreams are made of (Go at like 2 pm and there won’t be a line). When I go, I always get a toasted cinnamon raisin bagel with chocolate chip cream cheese (I tried it with strawberry cream cheese but chocolate chip is better). I know it sounds weird but it is honestly one of the best bagels that I have ever had.
***Don’t think you can muster up the energy to eat a whole bagel alone? Or want to try more than one bagel flavor without feeling like a bloated whale? Then head over to Bantum Bagels in Greenwich Village. This bagel place offers an assortment of bite-sized, bagel flavors that are filled with a variety of different cream cheese options. Just grab a Bantum Bagel 6 pack so that you can try a bunch of flavors while you’re on the go. This way, you can expertly avoid awkwardly eating alone.
12. Visit the New York City Public Library (One of the great free attractions in NYC)
I call this home!
Okay, not really since I’m not homeless but you get the idea. This place is practically the book mecca of the WORLD.
Because with a copy of the Gutenberg Bible, and a set of the iconic stuffed animals that inspired the author of Winnie the Pooh, it’s easy to understand why the New York Public Library is one of the great things to do in NYC today.
But it gets better:
Between the gorgeous reading rooms (that are a great place for an Instagram photo op) and the exciting rotating exhibits in the Library Museum, you could definitely spend an entire day here.
Depending on what kind of pop culture maven you are, you might remember this building as the place where Big and Carrie were going to get married in the first, less awful, Sex and the City movie.
Yes Grasshopper, so much to see and so little time. Sorry, I just had to get all Karate Kid up in here.
Why not do some retail therapy to help soothe the aching pangs of solo travel loneliness?
You can shop til you drop or until no one will extend your credit line. Okay maybe not that much, but Century 21 (at first I thought people were talking about the real estate agency) does have amazing deals!
This store typically discounts designer items by as much as 70% (on everything from shoes to handbags to workout gear).
And the best part?
This store has seven different floors. Therefore, you can shop without wrestling a woman next to you for the last Juicy Couture, v-neck top.
But it Gets Better!
Century 21 has multiple locations in the Financial District, on the Upper West Side, and in Brooklyn, so you’ll be sure to find a store location near you (OMG, I sound like a commercial. Make it stop).
***Also check out Housing Works Thrift Store (and bookstore)! All the proceeds go to helping the homeless and those afflicted with AIDS. Therefore, you can buy more since you’re shopping for the good of humanity and not yourself, wink wink.
***Woodbury Commons is another great option! The only downside is that this outlet mall is about an hour North of the city (but they have regular buses to and from NYC so it’s no big deal) and you do have to walk outside to get from store to store. But if you dress for the elements and wear comfy sneakers then you should be totally fine. Just make sure you grab a map before you start shopping (otherwise they’ll need a GPS to find you)!
14. Grab the Cutest Latte Ever at Sweet Moment
CUTEST COFEE EVER!
Not only is there a super Instagramable, neon sign that reads, “sweet moment”, but this Chinatown coffee, tea, and dessert Mecca (think Bingsoo, waffles, cake, ice cream, etc.) are well decorated and spacious too. So no worries, you won’t have to sit on anyone’s lap just to get a seat.
If I’m honest, you’re not here for the coffee but for the most adorable tea art that I’ve ever seen!
Okay, the beverage art aka “cream art” is served as a cold brew, coffee or black tea that comes in such funky flavors as chocolate, matcha, taro, and red velvet; all served with milk and some whipped cream on top.
The drinks are yummy but super sweet. So honestly, the real draw here is that you can take a picture of a latte that looks like the cutest little bear that you ever did see.
But you Know What they Say?
I did it all for the gram. Oh God, I’m turning into a social media obsessed, self-involved Millennial! Ahh, the horror! W-T-F? Wait, Brb, I’m totes upset.
15. Go on a Burroughs of the Dead Tour
We all know I’m weird and have some morbid fascination with all things that go bump in the night.
You know you’re onto something good when locals make up about 80 – 85% of your clientele. And Boroughs of the Dead is epically good.
Led by expert storytellers:
These badass tour guides have thoroughly researched the darkly unusual history of New York City. And the result is amazing. Tours give you a true sense of dread as they reveal a chilling reality that is scarier than fiction.
Depending on the time of year:
Boroughs of the Dead offers an exciting assortment of tours in each of the five boroughs, each with a different meeting point and ending location, depending on the borough you are in.
For the borough of Manhattan:
Tour options include the Ultimate Greenwich Village Ghost Tour, Weird Tales of the West Village, and The Forgotten Dark Histories of Lower Manhattan (Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door, with tours running for about two hours).
So go now! Now go! Whatever, just get your ass there because it’s super fun. No really! Okay, I’ll cease and desist.
16. Grab some coffee at Porto Rico Importing Co.
This insanely amazing coffee company has been around since 1907!
And it really looks like the store hasn’t changed much since then, besides the use of electricity obviously.
The entire store has this historic feel since they use open old school potato sacks that are filled to the brim with whole coffee beans. Each bag also comes fully equipped with an enormous metal coffee scoop that you use to stock up on the coffee beans of your choice.
The staff are insanely helpful and know exactly what they’re talking about when helping you choose the perfect coffee roast.
But what if you want a coffee to go?
No problem! In between the shelves of coffee beans, and other coffee-related paraphernalia lies a small espresso bar in the back of the store. Here you can procure the perfect cappuccino or other, expresso related beverage of your choice. They don’t offer seating though so make sure that coffee is to go.
And did I mention?
They also sell super cool, super quirky bags that I almost bought impulsively. You know, bags that I don’t actually need but that say super inspirational things like, “I’m a delicate f@!cking flower!”.
Now you understand why my financial struggle is real!
I mean who doesn’t need a tiny change purse that has such inspiring words written on it? Good, glad we agree on the important things in life,
17. Read a Book in Bryant Park
No one in the world is shocked to see this iconic, New York City park on this list of things to do in NYC, but whatever. Just because this place is one of the most well known and best attractions in NYC, doesn’t make it any less awesome.
This fantastic park is centrally located, right near Times Square, the New York Public Library, the Morgan Library, and Grand Central Terminal. So clearly there are a lot of cool things to do in New York, in a rather tiny area.
Before you leave Midtown, make sure to check out this delightful green space. Between the ping pong table, the public lending library, and a kiosk that sells Chocolate Babka from Breads Bakery (one of the most amazing places to eat in New York), Bryant Park should be at the top of your list of places to explore in NYC.
Oh, I almost forgot!
Bryant Park has a quaint little carousel that truly makes you feel like a kid again. Just do yourself a favor and don’t hoover a delicious waffle from Waffle and Dinges, right before you ride on this piece of childhood nostalgia. Nobody needs nausea in their life. No bueno indeed.
***If you visit during the winter, Bryant Park is transformed into a lovely Christmas Market that has a fantastic ice skating rink that is less crowded and more reasonably priced than Rockefeller Center.
18. Grab a cup of coffee at Pietro Nolita
Not only is the coffee at Pietro coffee delicious, but…
it is served in a to-go cup that says, “Pink as F@$k.” Yup, it’s as amazing as it sounds. Plus, there is bright pink splattered across every inch of the restaurant.
Between the kickass to go cup and the insanely beautiful decor, this place really is an Instagrammer’s paradise. Just be forewarned that they open at around 11 am on Saturdays. So don’t get there super early and skulk around like me.
One More Thing:
Don’t feel weird walking in and asking for a cool ass, “to go” cup of coffee. Trust me, the staff are nice and know exactly what you want and why.
19. Read under the stars in Albertine
You’re probably wondering what Albertine is. right?
Is it some ritualistic, tourist sacrifice that is held in NYC? Thankfully no (New Yorkers are nuts but not THAT nuts). It’s actually a French American bookstore on 5th Avenue ( right across the street from the MET). Super exciting right?
Okay you might be thinking, “Lame, I don’t even speak French! What the hell?”
Well, believe it or not, you’re not actually here for the books, even though they have a great selection \ to choose from. Nope, you’re here because this store is unlike any other bookstore you have ever seen.
Hard to Believe But True!
I mean, you have to pass through a metal detector just to get into the store, which has an impressive, white marble atrium with gorgeous statues and exquisite column work that all welcome you into this historic space.
It honestly feels more like a royal residence than a bookstore.
Once inside, walk upstairs and look up[! On the ceiling of the second floor, you’ll find a stunning kaleidoscope of stars and constellations that are set against a vibrant blue ceiling; a scene that is beautifully reminiscent of Van Gogh’s Starry Night.
Plus it’s free so you have literally nothing to lose, except maybe the calorie you burned walking upstairs
20. Walk Along the Highline
Chances are, you’ve heard of the Highline, a former railway track that was turned into a super fab, elevated park that basically everyone descends upon during the weekends in the summer.
To avoid feeling like you’re in a herd of cattle, I highly suggest visiting during the week. This way, you can check out the amazing views and beautiful street art of the Highline, without people practically smelling your armpits.
Okay, that was totally gross but you know what I mean. Anyway:
Besides walking the Highline, you can also play some games at Chelsea Piers, eat your face off at Chelsea Market, enjoy a show at the Highline Ballroom, hang out on the roof of the Whitney Art Museum, or get your laugh on at Upright Citizens Brigade Theater.
Talk about a lot of tourist attractions in NYC huh?
I feel ya. Before I went, I really just thought that all you could do was walk along a former railway track, amidst a herd of mildly annoying people. Glad I was super wrong, per usual.
***The High Line runs from Hudson Yards to Chelsea, so just take the 1 or C train to the 23rd street station and walk up to Tenth Avenue.
21. Visit the Oculus and World Trade Center
As a New Yorker who lived through the turmoil of 9/11, this one is a tough subject for me.
Visiting the memorial is always emotional, and I haven’t even seen the museum yet. Somehow, I just don’t feel ready.
While I do think visitors should experience both of this places, for me, it’s better for my emotional well-being if I head straight to the Oculus, a subterranean mall that is a true marvel of modern architecture.
This building is also a transportation hub for trains going into and out of the World Trade Center.
Probably one of my favorite buildings to visit and photograph.
I mean, even an incompetent photographer like me can somehow manage to take decent pictures of the Occulus. So head on over and visit this gorgeous building first hand; a poignant combination of beautiful architecture with the sorrow of 9/11.
***As you can imagine, this area can get rather crowded, so the earlier you visit, the better. But this building is huge so even when it’s crowded, you don’t actually start feeling claustrophobic.
22. Go to a Meow Parlour Cat Cafe
So unless you’re living in some sort of alternate universe where you are exposed to absolutely no pop culture trends, then you know that cat cafes are totally a “thing”.
As a Result:
I hopped aboard the pop culture bandwagon sinceI’m a wannabe “social media influencer”.
Actually, as much as I loathe conforming to the masses:
It was a pretty fun experience. I got to pet a ton of kitties and act like I was some sort of wannabe Dr. Dolittle in the process.
All the kitties are up for adoption so this cafe actually helps these kitties find some loving homes (Insert coos of approval here).
But How Does it Work:
Just go online and make a reservation for a 30-minute time slot.
When You Arrive:
Just check in at the front desk, sign a waiver, take your shoes/coat off, go over the rules, and sanitize your hands.
Say hello to kitty paradise. Chill out, order some food, pet some cats, and live the dream for about a half hour. Just keep track of the time because they won’t remind you when your half an hour is up. And if you go over your time limit, you’ll be charged another $10.
It’s for a good cause and a unique way to enjoy the eclectic cafe culture of NYC.
This Concludes My Not So Brief Guide to New York City Solo Travel
I know, this one was long, but there is so much to see and do during your New York solo travel itinerary!
I just got overexcited and word vomited all over the page. Don’t judge me!
I just want you to love New York City as much as I do as a New York solo traveler Because, in my not so unbiased opinion, New York City is one of the best cities for solo female travelers.
But I’ll Stop Now:
This is my awkward attempt at succinctly wrapping this post up like a damn present. But per usual, I am rambling on while providing you with no additional, useful information.
So go off, make good decisions and be the best tourist in NYC that you can be! And always stay classy!
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