18 Best Things to Do as a Solo Traveler in NYC

Bryant Park in New York City, NY

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Think you have to travel to New York City with a group to have fun? Think again. Whether you're planning a completely solo trip to New York City or you have a few hours or a day away from your group, there are plenty of fantastic ways to spend time on your own in The Big Apple, no matter what your interests are. While the idea of being alone in the big city may seem daunting, you'll find that striking out solo gives you more opportunities to take in New York City's world-class museums, dine out at the trendiest restaurants (which are almost impossible to get into with a large group!), and merely meander through landmarked neighborhoods, all at your own pace. 

01 of 18

Enjoy Live Theater on or off Broadway

Broadway lights of New York City

Fresh photos from all over the world / Getty Images

1681 Broadway, New York, NY 10019-5827, USA
Phone +1 212-239-6200

There's nothing like a show on Broadway, so why miss out on one of NYC's greatest experiences just because you're there by yourself? You're actually more likely to snag a better seat at the TKTS booth in Times Square or score a discounted seat in a theater lottery line by being alone instead of with a group, so take your pick and enjoy the show. Don't limit yourself to Broadway shows either, as there is plenty of talent to be found in smaller off-Broadway theaters across NYC's five boroughs (Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and the Bronx).

02 of 18

Eat Your Way Around Town on a Food Tour

Eat Your World Food Tours in Queens, NYC

Eat Your World

76th St, Queens, NY 11372, USA
Phone +1 917-657-7821

Work up an appetite and try some of the best food in the world on a guided walking tour. Nosh Walks offers tours in each borough, focusing on specific foodie-friendly neighborhoods like Astoria and Flushing in Queens, known for their Greek and Asian specialties, respectively. There are plenty of Manhattan tours to choose from, though Secret Food Tours, Sidewalk Food Tours, and Foods of NY offer some of the best.

If time allows you to explore NYC beyond Manhattan, head up to the Bronx for a delicious walk along Arthur Avenue, where you'll hear more about the history of the area and sample fresh bread, cannoli, mozzarella, Roman-style pizza, and rainbow cookies with Arthur Avenue Food Tours. Enjoy a pizza-filled adventure with A Slice of Brooklyn, a bus tour with stops at several famous pizzerias, Coney Island, the Brooklyn waterfront, and a few other places you'll recognize from the big screen. In Queens, check out Eat Your World's walking tours through Jackson Heights and Elmhurst, which let you sample food from India, Colombia, Tibet, Nepal, Myanmar, Thailand, and Ecuador in just a few hours—Queens is one of the most ethnically diverse counties in the world, after all.

03 of 18

Visit the Outer Boroughs by Ferry

Staten Island Ferry in NYC

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4 Whitehall St, New York, NY 10004, USA
Phone +1 212-639-9675

Take a free ride on the Staten Island Ferry for incredible views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and Jersey City as you sail from Lower Manhattan to the borough of Staten Island (either stick around to check out local shops and restaurants or take the ferry right back to Manhattan, it's up to you).

Otherwise, for the same price as a subway ride, you can travel between Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx on the NYC Ferry, which offers routes from Midtown West and Battery Park City in Manhattan to Staten Island, up to Throgs Neck and Soundview in the Bronx, and to points as far east as Sunset Park in Brooklyn and Rockaway in Queens. Other connections link Manhattan with Queens neighborhoods like Astoria, Roosevelt Island, Long Island City, and Hunters Point South as well as Brooklyn neighborhoods like Greenpoint, North Williamsburg, South Williamsburg, Brooklyn Navy Yard, DUMBO, Atlantic Avenue, Red Hook, and Bay Ridge. There's also seasonal weekend service between Wall Street in Manhattan and Governor's Island, a lovely NYC green space that's open to the public in the summer.

04 of 18

Explore the Frick Collection

The Frick Collection courtyard garden.
Dan Herrick / Getty Images
1 E 70th St, New York, NY 10021, USA
Phone +1 212-288-0700

New York City is home to some fantastic art museums, which are lovely to visit alone. At the Frick Collection on the Upper East Side, you can see paintings, sculptures, and decorative art pieces inside Henry Clay Frick's mansion, the current home of the museum. Docent talks and an audio tour are included with the price of admission.

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05 of 18

Eat Solo at a Bar

Balthazar Restaurant in Little Italy, NYC
Angus Oborn / Getty Images
80 Spring St, New York, NY 10012, USA
Phone +1 212-965-1414

Want to enjoy a great meal without the hassle of securing a difficult reservation? Solo diners can dine at the bar (sometimes with minimal wait) at restaurants where reservations are notoriously hard to get. If you're in SoHo, try Balthazar, an always-bustling brasserie. If you like people-watching while you eat, you can't beat the delicious French bistro food and fun atmosphere. Seats at both tables and the bar of another NYC favorite, Gramercy Tavern, are taken on a first-come, first-served basis and while the tavern menu is a bit simpler than the dining room one, you'll still be able to enjoy classic American cuisine inspired by the season.

06 of 18

Circumnavigate Manhattan on a Scenic Cruise

Harbor Line Cruise in New York City, NY

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62 Chelsea Piers, Pier 62, New York, NY 10011, USA
Phone +1 212-627-1825

Want to see New York City from the water? A sightseeing cruise will give you a wonderful sense of the city's landscape and layout. If you're not in a rush, try Classic Harbor Line's three-hour cruise that circumnavigates Manhattan, crossing under all 18 of the island's bridges.

07 of 18

Take Yourself to a Movie

Movie night at the East River State Park
Andria Patino / Getty Images
209 W Houston St, New York, NY 10014-4837, USA
Phone +1 212-727-8110

Going to see a movie by yourself might not be the first idea that comes to mind, but in New York City, you'll be in good company if you're at the movie theater on your own. And lucky for you, you can see whichever one you want, whether it's the latest blockbuster on a big screen, a foreign film, or a new indie movie that hasn't gotten broad release yet. In the summertime, you might even be able to catch a movie on the big screen in Bryant Park, Brooklyn Bridge Park, and other parks throughout the five boroughs.

While traditional megaplexes are concentrated in busier parts of the city (think Times Square, Union Square, and Columbus Circle), NYC has no shortage of smaller theaters that are always showing exciting films. Among the most popular are the West Village's Film Forum—New York City's only independent nonprofit movie theater—and Alamo Drafthouse, a Texas transplant with outposts in Lower Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn that lets moviegoers dine on special themed menus while they watch the latest blockbusters.

08 of 18

Get Lost on the Streets of New York City

The Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, NYC
Getty Images / Jemal Countess
Greenwich Village, New York, NY, USA

Pick a neighborhood, any neighborhood, and get lost wandering and following your instincts on which way to turn. You're sure to see parts of the city that you never would on a tour or even with a friend. Maybe you'll find a spectacular bookstore. Or the perfect café. Or enjoy a beautiful sunset. Some favorites for this activity are ​Greenwich Village and Brooklyn Heights, both of which have beautiful buildings, cobblestone streets, and wonderful places to explore and discover.

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09 of 18

People Watch in the Park

Bryant Park in NYC

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New York, NY 10018, USA
Phone +1 212-768-4242

New York City has no shortage of people-watching opportunities. If the weather is nice, stake out a spot in Bryant Park, Central Park, or Washington Square Park. There are also some great pedestrian areas with seating in Herald Square and Times Square. If you're looking for something indoors, many of the city's best coffee shops, like Stumptown Coffee Roasters on West 8th Street, have window seating where you can sip your latte and watch the world wander by.

10 of 18

See the City on Two Wheels

Citi Bike NYC

Toshi Sasaki / Getty Images

56 W 56th St, New York, NY 10019, USA
Phone +1 212-749-4444

Thanks to NYC's bike share program, Citi Bike, it's easy to grab a bike for the day (or just a few hours) and explore the city at your own pace. Bicycles are situated at docking stations throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, Hoboken, and Jersey City, and you can check one out with just a swipe of your credit card. If you want a guided cycling experience, Bike the Big Apple by Unlimited Biking offers small group tours with friendly guides, an excellent choice if you're going to dig a little deeper into New York City's neighborhoods.

11 of 18

Take a Double-Decker Bus Tour

Gray Line Bus Tours NYC

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49 W 45th St, New York, NY 10036-4603, USA
Phone +1 800-472-9546

If you're looking for a great way to get an overview of New York City but don't want to brave the streets all by yourself, a bus tour is an easy and flexible option. Gray Line's double-decker bus tours are a classic way to experience The Big Apple, plus, the tours allow you to "hop on, hop off" so they function not only as a guided tour but also as your transportation around the city. You may be surprised at how friendly the other people on tours are and how easy it is to interact with other visitors, so it's great whether you're looking to meet people or keep to yourself.

12 of 18

See One of the World's Best Collections of Modern Art

Museum of Modern Art in New York City

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11 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019, USA
Phone +1 212-708-9400

Modern art lovers will enjoy visiting the MoMA (Museum of Modern Art), which is home to many iconic examples of modern art, as well as a number of exciting temporary exhibitions. Museum admission includes guided and audio tours, as well as film screenings and access to PS1, MoMA's contemporary collection in Queens, within 30 days of entry, giving you even more art to explore.

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13 of 18

Browse the Met's Galleries After Dark

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, NY

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1000 5th Ave, New York, NY 10028, USA
Phone +1 212-535-7710

There's never a bad time to visit New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art, but there are certainly better times for a solo traveler to view its extensive collection without fighting against large tour groups for a glance at Van Gogh's Self-Portrait in a Straw Hat. For a more tranquil look at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (also called "The Met"), visit during the museum's late weekend hours—on Fridays and Saturdays, the galleries are open until 9 p.m.

14 of 18

Browse an Independent Bookstore

Inside the strand bookstore

 TripSavvy / Kelsea Watkins 

828 Broadway, New York, NY 10003, USA
Phone +1 212-473-1452

For a bibliophile, it's easy to lose yourself in a good book—or bookstore—for a few hours. And while New York City has lost its fair share of local stores to online behemoths and chains, there are still plenty of charming local shops worth your time. Books Are Magic, in Brooklyn's quaint Cobble Hill neighborhood, replaced a long-time favorite, Bookcourt, and regularly hosts authors for talks and Q&A sessions. Other favorites include SoHo's McNally Jackson, the quirky Three Lives in the West Village, and Strand, a haven for used book lovers near Union Square. 

15 of 18

Take a Fitness Class at a Hip Studio

A treadmill at Mile High Run Club

Mile High Run Club

24 W 25th St, New York, NY 10010, USA
Phone +1 212-466-6472

If pumping iron at a cramped, crowded gym doesn't appeal to your fitness goals, you'll delight in the fact that New York City is home to tons of unique exercise studios, each offering one-of-a-kind classes. Test your treadmill mettle at Mile High Run Club or try an upbeat boxing class at the punk-inspired Overthrow Boxing. Yoga lovers, meanwhile, can embrace cool vibes and great instructors at Sky Ting Yoga.

16 of 18

Spend a Relaxing Day at the Spa

Russian and Turkish Baths in New York City

Mario Tama / Getty Images

268 E 10th St, New York, NY 10009-4812, USA
Phone +1 212-674-9250

New York City is home to tons of high-quality day spas offering flat rates for admission. While there are some ​luxurious hotel spas where you can enjoy a pricey massage or facial followed by a flute of Champagne, the city also has plenty of "casual" options, like the authentic Russian bathhouse Brooklyn Banya and the Russian and Turkish Baths in the East Village. Further afield, Spa Castle, located in the Flushing neighborhood of Queens, has giant warm outdoor pools where you can luxuriate for a whole day if you like. 

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17 of 18

Hit the Beach

Coney Island Boardwalk in Brooklyn NYC

Alan Schein / Getty Images

Coney Island Beach, Brooklyn, NY, USA

New York City's beaches and beachside amusement parks aren't open year-round, of course, but if you're visiting during the summer months, you'll find them to be bustling gathering places for families, groups of friends, and singles alike. In Brooklyn, Coney Island is known for its kitschy boardwalk, amusement park rides—take an unforgettable ride on The Cyclone Roller Coaster at Luna Park or try out the swinging Ferris wheel seats on Deno's Wonder Wheel—and delicious Nathan's Famous hot dogs. It's also a nice stretch of sand to relax on for a day. In Queens, the Rockaways have beautiful stretches of sand, a selection of restaurants and food vendors, and an affordable ferry that will take you from lower Manhattan directly to the beach.

18 of 18

Gallery Hop in Chelsea

David Zwirner Gallery in Chelsea, NYC

David Zwirner Gallery

Chelsea, New York, NY, USA

New York City is home to a considerable number of art galleries, most of which are concentrated in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood between 10th and 11th Avenues. Best of all, admission to most galleries is always free, making it a great and affordable way to see artwork by some of the city's best up-and-coming artists. Time your visit for Thursday evening, when all of the galleries open their new exhibitions, often serving complimentary wine and cheese for noshing. 

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18 Best Things to Do as a Solo Traveler in NYC