Searching for things to do alone in NYC? Even if you are a natural-born socializer, New York will put your skills to the test. Home to more than 8.5 million people, the “Big Apple” is a collection of interesting personas to meet, cool things to do, and overrated restaurants to splurge in. In this volatile -but charming- mix, everything seems like it was made to be enjoyed by a group. Therefore, if you are traveling in NYC solo or going through a lonely phase, you might find yourself tempted just to stay inside.
The truth is, it can be hard to find a place to spend some quality alone time in New York. After all, it famously is “the city that never sleeps.” Thankfully, however, Ol’ Blue Eyes was wrong. As a matter of fact, there are plenty of not-so-touristy things to do alone in NYC. Let’s see some of the best ones, in no particular order.
Ιs New York Safe For Solo Travelers?
Safety in New York was a common question among many of our fellow travelers. Although things have certainly improved significantly, New York didn’t have the best reputation 20-30 years ago. Therefore, it’s only natural to feel unsure – especially in a city that can be vastly overwhelming to solo visitors.
Nowadays, New York has one of the lowest crime rates across major US cities. In fact, this dramatic drop in crime coincided with a dizzying increase in property prices. Don’t be fooled by TV shows and movies: it takes A LOT of money to stay in central NYC. As a result, the area is about as safe as Disneyland. Be that as it may, you should always employ basic common sense when you are wandering about. Keep your wits about you, and you’ll have no problems in most parts of central NYC.
Things To Do Alone In NYC Solo
Whether you are a native New Yorker or traveling solo, there are lots of fun things to do by yourself in NYC. As a solo traveler, you have the freedom to craft an itinerary that resonates with your personal interests, whether it’s delving into the city’s rich cultural tapestry, finding tranquility amidst the urban hustle, or uncovering hidden gems that even some locals haven’t stumbled upon.
Catch a Broadway show
As long as you are not expecting to find tickets for Hamilton (believe us, it’s easier to find a $1 million on the street these days), you can probably catch a good deal at the TKTS booths. They sell discounted last-minute tickets for Broadway shows, and you’ll never know what you might find!
Go to Comedy Cellar
There are actually two locations for this iconic comedy joint: the original one at MacDougal Str, and a larger venue called Village Underground. If at all possible, go for the shows on the first one for the authentic experience.
If you are a fan of stand up comedy, expect to recognize several names on the show schedule. After all, this is the place that first gave the spotlight to the likes of Jon Stewart, Aziz Ansar, and Sarah Silverman. Other notable comedians who have famously performed there include Amy Schumer, Robin Williams, Patton Oswalt, Kevin Hart, and Chris Rock. Just remember to book your tickets well ahead of time. Also, there is a 2-item minimum per person (whether that’s drinks or food), so keep that in mind.
Make human and dog friends at Washington Square Park
There is something inexplicably soothing about visiting Washington Square Park. After all, it is city’s prime spot for people and dog-watching is a great place to visit if you are alone in NYC. What you do once there, is your choice. Read a book, watch the world hurry past you or pet every dog that wants to sniff you (just remember to ask for permission).
Also, Washington Square Park is an amazing place if you are a chess enthusiast. Whether you are a newbie or Gary Kasparov’s more talented cousin, you’ll find hordes of eager opponents waiting for you in the park’s chess tables. All you have to do is take them up on their challenge!
Walk from Brooklyn Bridge to Williamsburg Bridge
If you’re feeling up for it, take the long walk from Brooklyn Bridge to Williamsburg Bridge (or vice versa). During this 3km stretch along the East River, you’ll walk along the edges of Chinatown, Financial District, and Lower East Side. If you want to check out any of these neighborhoods, feel free to take a detour! This little adventure will take you about an hour to complete.
If you can’t be bothered to walk, you can also take the NYC Ferry from Wall Street ($2.75 for one way) to North Williamsburg. This option is great if you want to enjoy the unique views of Downtown from the ferry.
Stop and smell the roses at Brooklyn Botanic Garden
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is a perfect choice for a quiet stroll on a spring or autumn afternoon. Inside, you can find all sorts of mini-gardens featuring plants and herbs from all over the world.
You can combine your outing there with a visit to the Brooklyn Museum right next door or continue your floral adventures in the Bronx Botanic Garden nearby. Entrance costs $15, while Friday mornings are admission-free!
Walk Along The High Line
The High Line was originally an old railroad line that was eventually transformed into a walking path and an elevated park. The High Line begins at Hudson Yards and goes all the way to Chelsea Market.
Your walk is lined with beautiful little murals and gardens. Although as stated before NYC is very safe, we recommend you schedule this before dark. Besides, the footpath offers fantastic views of the streets of New York that are best enjoyed in the day.
If you bring your camera, you can take some good pictures of the city. You can avoid the crowds by walking early in the morning. If you begin at Hudson Yards, you can enjoy a nice breakfast or a cup of hot tea at a nice cafe prior to reaching Chelsea. Walking the High Line is a classic solo New York City adventure. Absolute do not miss!
Tend to your inner film buff
Watching a movie is one of the most classic methods of spending time alone. But did you know you can watch films outside the house? If you can’t find anything good on Netflix, you can always visit the cinema! NYC has its fair share of independent theaters that will certainly screen movies you’ve never seen.
So, if you want a break from mainstream culture, make sure you give them a chance. Here are some of the best indie cinemas in NYC:
- Nitehawk or The Alamo Cinema: best for amenities
- Metrograph and Film Forum: best for variety
- French Institute; best for French cinema
- Anthology: best for solo cinephiles
Become a NYC farmer
Let’s be honest: if you’ve never had a green thumb, New York is likely the worst place in the world to get started. Or is it?
You’ll be surprised to know that many rooftops in the city are full of greenhouses, urban farms and secret gardens! Even better, these collectives are often looking for volunteers. So, if gardening was something you always wanted to try but never got a chance, check out the warehouse in Navy Yard or projects like the Eagle Street Rooftop Farm. Worst-case scenario, you’ll walk back home with a bag of fresh produce.
Stuff your face at the Chelsea Market
Chelsea Market is a block-long and near the Hudson River. For fifteen years, the market has offered some of the best indoor food on the globe. There are 35 vendors offering soup, coffee, cheese, meats, cheesecake, sandwiches and so much more. Six million people travel internationally and nationally every year to enjoy this amazing global market. The focus of the city has always been on food. This began with the Algonquin Indians who traded crops and game in the exact same spot.
Butchers once sold meats packed in ice along the Hudson River. This history of the market combined with the classic brick architecture provides the building with a unique character. You can lose yourself in the Chelsea Market, have breakfast when you enter and be ready for lunch by the time you near the end of food stalls, events, shops and entertainment.
Brood in Shakespeare Garden
Shakespeare Garden was named after the English playwright. The design is similar to the native English Countryside of the Bard. You will see columbine, wormwood, lark’s heel, eglantine, cowslip, primrose, quince, rue and flax. The flowers of the garden are referenced in the small plaques around the garden with Shakesperian quotes. The garden was created in 1913 by Dr. Edmond Bronk Southwick.
The Shakespeare Garden was not officially named until 1913. This was when the garden was officially dedicated to William Shakespeare. During the 1970s, the garden became overgrown and started to decline. In 1987 the garden was completely restored. This included an expansion, new plant life, rustic wooden fences and benches and lovely bronze plaques. This is an excellent place to enjoy the beauty of nature as well as New York.
Socialize at the Central Park Mall
This walkway will take you to Bethesda Terrace, through Central Park and to 72nd Street. The mall was originally designed so carriages could pass through. The inhabitants were dropped off to enjoy the beautiful scenery and mingle. Today, the mall attracts street performers, rollerbladers and skateboarders. This is where you will find one of the biggest gatherings of American elm trees.
You will see statues of great literary figures such as William Shakespeare, Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott. This is an excellent area to take photographs, spend time alone, talk with the tourists or watch the creations of the painters. Once you have reached the end, you will see Bethesda Fountain, the lake and the Bow Bridge. There are always a lot of people by the fountain if you are interested in talking with the locals.
Hail at Lady Liberty from Governors Island
Governors Island spreads into 172 acres in the center of New York Harbor. Take the time to explore it, enjoy the food at the indoor cafe and see the artists, workshops, open studios, exhibitions and performances.
There are hammocks for relaxation, an excellent walking tour and a lovely park. It is difficult to believe all of this is just 800 yards from Manhattan. Governors Island is a delightful getaway in the middle of a crowded city and one of the classic things to do alone in NYC.
Take a class at the Frick Collection
The Henry Clay Frick Mansion on Fifth Avenue houses the Frick collection. The mansion was built during 1913 and 1914. You will see period sculptures, furniture and pieces by Rembrandt and Renoir. The visit will give you a good perspective on the wealthy residents of the city. The collection is arranged throughout the mansion including decorative arts, Western paintings and works by Pierre-August Renoir, Edgar Degas and Edouard Manet. During the summer, you can enjoy the garden.
You will see the rooms where the family lived, although they are now galleries. The original mansion had a garden court, a music room and two galleries that all remain. The portico was added later. The museum regularly hosts salon evenings, concerts, talks and lectures. You can even take sketching and drawing classes. An audio tour is included with your admission. You will learn a lot about the furniture, sculptures and paintings in the mansion. You will need to set aside around two hours.
Get cultured at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
More than 7.35 million people come to this museum every year. The art collection includes Rembrandt paintings, Tiffany stained glass, Roman statues and ancient Egyptian vases. The pieces range from 300,000 B.C. to fourth century A.D.
The Cloisters, modern art and musical instruments are all part of the permanent collection. Choose the areas that interest you the most because there is no way to see everything in just one day. The collection includes more than two million pieces of art.
Unleash your inner child at the Seaglass Carousel
Yearning for a return to a simpler time? Riding on the sea glass carousel will magically transport you back to your childhood. This is an amazing destination among Battery Park’s natural flora. Take a ride on the LED-illuminated fish. You will be twirled and swirled all around the building. The fish theme was created to add something fun, bright and light to the drab interior of the park.
Since the New York Aquarium is housed in the park, fish were the ideal theme. There is a lot to grab your attention in Battery Park. You can explore the Irish Hunger Memorial, take a walk to Wall Street, spend some time on Ellis Island, or take a ride on the Staten Ferry to see Lady Liberty.
Explore Museum Mile
For the ultimate experience of NYC’s top cultural institution, you have to wander down Museum Mile. You could spend a whole day or two stopping at all the museums, including the Guggenheim Museum, Museum of the City of New York, Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met).
The Met especially is a great place to visit solo. It features 2.2 million square feet of art and artifacts that span 5,000 years of culture. Avoid large tour groups by visiting during the Met’s late-night weekend hours on Fridays and Saturdays.
Visit Central Park
Your trip to NYC isn’t complete without visiting the iconic Central Park. You can catch an event in the park or visit the Belvedere Castle, the American Museum of Natural History, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. There’s also the Central Park Zoo and an option to hike in the Ravine, which features three waterfalls.
While it can get a little crowded in certain areas, the Shakespeare Garden is a nice peaceful location and a must-visit. It’s a great place to soak in the atmosphere or sit and read a book.
Attend a Social Event
Going solo in NYC doesn’t mean you can’t attend a social event. Companies like Amiccio host various events where almost everyone else shows up alone and are open to mingling and meeting new people. You can attend socials, networking events, themed parties, speed dating events, and dance classes. Check out their upcoming events where you can go solo and meet new people.
Go on An Urban Hike
Hiking in the boroughs of NYC is more of a thing than you might initially assume! There are some great parks and trails that let you take in the beauty of nature. Here are just a few to check out:
- Manhattan: trek through Inwood Hill Park’s wild forest to see beautiful woodland, water, and marsh views
- Bronx: hike the 1,146 acres of NYC’s largest park – Van Cortlandt Park
- Staten Island: the 3.3-mile loop of the Greenbelt Trail is popular among solo hikers
- Queens: hike Alley Pond Park, especially the 2.3-mile scenic White Trail with pine trees and a pond
Ride The the Staten Island Ferry
Even if you aren’t planning a trip to Staten Island, taking the ferry ride is still a worthwhile attraction. You’ll get to see incredible views of Governor’s Island, Ellis Island, Lady Liberty, and the Manhattan skyline. The ferry runs 24 hours a day, every 30 minutes or every 20 minutes during rush hour. And, it’s completely free! You’ll be glad you added it to your list of solo activities in NYC.
Attend a Live Show Taping
Have you ever been part of a live studio audience? While you’re in NYC, you’ll have the chance for this unique experience. With so many shows taped in the city, there are plenty of options to choose from. However, you need to plan ahead and request your tickets in advance. The most popular shows to attend are:
- Late Night with Seth Meyers
- The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon
- The Daily Show with Trevor Noah
Catch a Show on Broadway
If you’re a theatre fanatic, Broadway is the place to be to catch an exciting show. Shows are typically between 10 am and 8:30 pm and tickets can range between $20 and $175, depending on your seat selection. One great thing is that for the price of one ticket, you might be able to catch multiple shows as your solo activities in NYC.
For a different perspective of Broadway’s famous theatres, consider taking a Broadway Theatre District Tour. The guide will share the area’s history, backstage stories, insider secrets, and more!
Bike Around the City
Explore the city on two wheels by renting a bike for the day. The Citi Bike share program makes it easy to get a ride for a day or a few hours. You can get the bikes from docking stations throughout Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Jersey, and Hoboken. Prices are:
- $3.99 for the first 30minutes and $0.23 per additional minute
- $15 for a 24-hour period
- $15 per month for an annual membership
There are biking tours you can book online where a guide takes you through the various neighborhoods of NYC. Or you can bike the:
- Central Park Southern Loop
- Hudson River Greenway
- Brooklyn-Queens Greenway
- George Washington Bridge
Go On a Pizza Tasting Tour
New York’s signature thin-crust pizza is famous for a reason. Since it’s a must to try a slice, why not go on a pizza tour at some popular spots? Before you leave the city, make sure to grab a slice (or whole pie) at one of these locations:
- Di Fara
- Patsy’s Pizza
- Joe’s Pizza
Have a Feast at Smorgasburg
Food connoisseurs will love this weekend activity! Smorgasburg is the largest open-air food market in the U.S., featuring over 100 local vendors. There’s something for everyone, from BBQ and dumplings to cake and vegan options. It takes place every Friday to Sunday at the World Trade Center, Williamsburg, Jersey City, or Prospect Park. Make sure to bring some cash since not all the vendors take cards.
Go on a Shopping Spree
NYC is one of the world’s shopping meccas with numerous options ranging from brand-name department stores and vintage stores to on-a-budget thrift shops. Even only window shopping is worth the trip and is one of the best solo activities in NYC. Here are just a few examples of what to check out:
- 260 Sample Sale with discounted designer items
- The Shops at Columbus Circle
- The Harry Potter store
- Dylan’s Candy Bar
- 5th Avenue shops
- The Oculus
Find other things to do alone in NYC
Born and raised amidst the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple, I’ve witnessed the city’s many exciting phases. When I’m not exploring the city or penning down my thoughts, you can find me sipping on a cup of coffee at my favorite local café, playing chess or planning my next trip. For the last twelve years, I’ve been living in South Williamsburg with my partner Berenike.