In a city of over 8 million people, a bit of company is always just around the corner. And if you are traveling alone, be it for business or pleasure, there is no better place to feel like you are part of the bigger experience than in NYC.
Whether you’re at a gallery, a local bar or even a drop-in exercise class, you’re bound to instantly become part of a group: and if you're not feeling social, that's OK, too. Either way, there are plenty of places in the city for the solo traveler to explore.
Here is just a smattering of activities and eateries that are great options to choose.
It’s easy enough to eat breakfast or lunch by yourself—just duck into a café and set up shop next to everyone else on their laptops or deep in a book—but eating dinner solo might be a little more challenging. Luckily, there are many Manhattan restaurants that serve full menus at the bar, upping the chances of engaging in some social interaction even if you walked in alone.
The polished ambience, friendly bartenders, and bustling post-work crowd contribute to this East Village restaurant’s welcoming vibe. Classed-up American dishes like the pan-seared halibut with chardonnay sauce, grilled asparagus and celery root mash, and the tuscan kale salad with toasted hazelnuts, apple slices and pecorino are available at the bar, and on Wednesdays, you can get a free beer with your burger order.
Don’t let the name scare you. This meat-eater’s paradise has communal seating and a butcher counter for solo patrons to mingle while drinking one of the 450 beers available and eating anything from their extensive—and, obviously meat-heavy—menu.
No matter what type of eater you are—vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, or carnivorous—you’ll find something delicious at this healthy and ethically-sound restaurant. Order up a unique cocktail, beer or wine at the bar and chow down on your choice of veggie or meat dishes. Make sure to glance over the daily specials before deciding on your order.
Located in the Martha Washington hotel by Madison Square Park, the rustic pizzeria serves up both red and white pizzas such as the classic margherita with mozzarella and basil, and the funghi, a tomato sauce-less pie topped with cheeses, mushrooms, onions and thyme. Other meat and fish entrees come hot from the wood fire stove. Finish that off with a glass of fine wine and a bowl of gelato and you’re bound to have something to talk about with the person sitting next to you at the dining counter.
Perfect for a pre or post-theater nosh, the Theater District staple serves appetizers like chipotle hummus on pita bread, buffalo wings, soups and salads, as well as hearty entrees like the pan-roasted aurora salmon, house-made fusilli, and the calf’s liver. They also have a full brunch menu in case you’re in the mood for a nosh before catching a matinee.
Unlike a traditional sit down restaurant, the marketplaces at food halls such as Eataly, Le District and UrbanSpace Vanderbilt and the Plaza Food Hall serve upscale cuisine at multiple stations and have separate seating areas to enjoy your to-go dishes surrounded by other contented eaters. While Eataly is famous for its authentic Italian flavors, Le District caters to those with a taste for French food. If you’re undecided about what you’re craving, visit UrbanSpace Vanderbilt in Grand Central Terminal to select from more than 20 different food stalls each with their own unique offerings.
Getting last minute tickets to a popular show is always easier when you’re not trying to sit next to anyone—there’s a good chance that even a show that’s nearly sold out will have a stray seat or two somewhere in the theater. Buy discounted tickets for a same day performance at Times Square or South Street Seaport TKTS Discount Booths for Broadway and Off-Broadway shows. Check the Theatre Development Fund’s TKTS Live feed beforehand to see what’s available.
Blend in among the crowds at one of New York’s many museums. If you have a full day, take a stroll down Fifth Avenue from 82nd to 105th streets and visit any of the 10 museums that make up Museum Mile including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim and the Museum of the City of New York. Or, you could hop on over to the West Side and check out the Picasso Sculpture exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art or "The Secret World Inside You," an exhibit on bacteria inside the human body at the American Museum of Natural History.
If you’re further downtown, the Whitney Museum’s new location in the West Village is a must-see, not to mention a pleasant walk to the many art galleries in Chelsea and Soho.
Lectures and Readings
Lectures and readings are great ways to become enthralled in the moment without needing a partner to share the experience. The Morgan Library and Museum often hosts fascinating gallery talks in conjunction with the exhibits on view, as well as other public programming like concerts, films, readings and discussions. But regardless, it is worth the visit to the museum just to see the late Pierpoint Morgan’s personal library. Tickets are available online.
NPR fans can see a living legend on Feb. 3 when, the Strand bookstore welcomes acclaimed host Diane Rehm and WNYC's Anne Sale for a conversation about Rehm’s new book, On My Own. In lieu of tickets, attendees must buy a copy of the book or a $15 Strand gift card before the event. Available online or in person.
For more than 40 years, the Film Forum in the West Village has provided audiences with the chance to see art-house films, the best of independent American and foreign cinema, limited releases and other important works in theater history. On Dec. 21, Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times Critic at Large, Wesley Morris will be there to introduce the 1965 hit, In the Heat of the Night.
Gyms and Exercise
Being away from home doesn’t mean you have to put your workout on hold, and for those that prefer a workout without a workout buddy, a number of gyms in Manhattan offer single day passes for non-members or allow out-of-towners to use the free trial offers available on the gyms’ websites—always check the fine print. Some trials require a local ID.
Blink Fitness has a one day free trial and locations all over the city, making it ideal for those staying for just a night or two. If you’re staying here a bit longer, try out New York Sports Club’s $5 for five days promotion. And even if you don’t use the full five days, it’s still much cheaper than many gyms’ single day fee.
If exercise classes are more your style or you want to try out a new fangled fitness trend that hasn’t made it to your hometown, the city is packed with studios that offer everything from the traditional—spinning, dance, yoga and pilates—to the unique—trampoline workouts, crossfit, or even dance parties.
Exercise can also be a full day’s activity with Chelsea Piers' $50 day pass. The West Side sports center has a 6 lane, 25-yard indoor swimming pool, quarter-mile indoor track, a rock climbing wall and boulder cave, all the weight training and cardio equipment you could desire, indoor basketball courts, fitness classes, an indoor sand volleyball court and even a café and hair salon and spa in the facilities. Check the website for class schedules and other information regarding additional fees.
You can skip the gym altogether and take a rental bike out for a spin. Manhattan has no shortage of bike rental shops that provide quality rental bikes at varying rates. Echelon Cycles, Waterfront Bicycle Shop and Zen Bikes have rates for hour long rentals, making any of them a good fit for a shorter adventure, while shops like Master Bike and bicycle habitat offer reasonable day rates.
You can also join the thousands of Citi Bike riders who are making use of the 24/7 bike rental initiative. A day pass is $9.95 and requires you to repark your bike at a station every 30 minutes. Best for riders looking to get from point A to point B rather than those going for a joy ride.
Whether you’re here for business, pleasure or something in between, you’re bound to have a crowded itinerary, giving you all the more reason to take some time to pause and watch the city swirl around you. Sit on the steps of the New York Public Library’s main branch by Bryant Park to observe the hustle of businessmen and women, or grab a chair on the Highline and soak in the fresh air as tourists and natives stroll above the busy streets.
If a quiet escape is what you seek, visit the Egyptian Temple of Dendur housed in the expansive Sackler Wing at the MET. With a still pool around its periphery and floor to ceiling windows overlooking Central Park, the ancient temple may be one of the best spots in Manhattan to clear your head and reflect on your trip before heading home.