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You'll Never Be Alone in New York

by Michelle Carol

In New York City, are you ever alone?--by Magic Robot via Flickr

In New York City, you can never be truly alone. To some Americans, this is the reason why they choose to live elsewhere. To New Yorkers, it is one of the things that makes the city unique --- you can go out alone yet never feel lonely.

My cube mates laugh and often say, “Going straight home does not make you a failure, Michelle.”

For me, the thought of heading directly home after work sometimes feels worse than getting out of bed for work in the morning. So, you ask, what do I end up doing on those nights when I'm just dying to be out? Do I resist and go home and watch The West Wing on Netflix? Sit in bed all evening with my iPad and plan vacations on Pinterest that I can’t afford? No to all of the above.

I frequently step out of my comfort zone and go out alone since living with two roommates can sometimes be too much to handle. Flying solo in New York may sound scary, but it's always worth it because I learn something each time I do it. I refuse to sit home just because I don't have a date on my arm (my boyfriend lives an hour away), or because my friends aren't available to get together with our conflicting schedules.

I've pulled together a few of my favorite things to do in New York while going it alone and loving it. You'd be amazed at what I've discovered unexpectedly along the way.

Le Churro is the perfect spot to have a cup of coffee and write.--courtesy of Le Churro

Head to a coffee shop
Just last weekend, I told myself I should be out doing something, so I went to Le Churro, down the block from my apartment on the Upper East Side. I started to write this article as I sipped my iced coffee. To my right was a trio of three twenty-something girls discussing restaurants. I laughed to myself because it seems like New Yorkers, regardless of the setting, will always end up talking about restaurants and neighborhoods. 
Food is our pastime.

One girl said, “I usually feel bad eating at the same restaurant twice, but I’ve been to Flex Mussels like four times.” (Note to self: try Flex Mussels). I can definitely relate. The inevitable eavesdropping in the tiny coffee shop helped to validate my choice to forgo my morning coffee in my pajamas and venture outside.

Go out after work
If I am going to get a drink by myself it's gotta be tasty. The Grey Dog serves warm spiced wine in a heaping 12 oz. mug full of raisins and almond slivers. The vibe inside is chill, yet vibrant and eclectic. I've learned the key to going to a bar without a buddy is to remain confident and relaxed. Putting your phone away isn't a bad idea either. Be open to socializing with the bartender or other drinkers. You never know -- it could end up being a fun way to unwind after work, network, or make a new friend.

Downtown choice
I like to walk through Union Square GreenMarket. I pick up some veggies for the week, grab dinner at Dig Inn, where there are just as many solo diners as groups or couples, then maybe browse through the dollar books outside of The Strand. That is my idea of the perfect solo date. 

The trendy hipster crowd and savory farm-to-table menu may look intimidating to conquer alone, but indulging in a meal at Back Forty in the East Village is totally worth it, even alone, and it's much better than eating Seamless delivery on my couch.

Delicious sides at Back Forty--courtesy of Back Forty

Uptown choice

If I am in my Upper East Side neighborhood without plans, I may get a few mini cupcakes at Two Little Red Hens, and after indulging, see a movie at 83rd and 3rd near my apartment. 

Checking out the latest exhibition at the Park Avenue Armory never gets old for me personally. I love strolling through the American Museum of National History to see the dinosaurs, or see what’s new at the Met. Note: The AMNH and The Met have a suggested donation admission fee—I usually just give a dollar, but you are encouraged to give whatever you can afford.

The front of the Museum of Natural History--
After leaving the Met, I'm often tempted to get a hot waffle form the Wafels and Dinges truck with their famous speculoos spread, which basically tastes like crushed gingerbread cookie spread.


I recommend solo dining virgins start small with breakfast. They can easily see that eating this morning meal alone shines light on the reality that everyone is on their way somewhere, and no one cares about anyone but themselves. Plus if you care to eat a double order of blueberry or pumpkin pancakes, you can do so without anyone knowing it, except your skinny pants. 

If I know I will have a busy day at work and will likely be unable to take a lunch break, I’ll stop for a quick sit down breakfast at Cafe Habana
 (Price & Elizabeth Street in NoLIta). This fun cuban has a weekday Early Bird Breakfast Special for 2 eggs any style, homefries and toast for $3.25. Bonus points: they serve La Colombe coffee.

You can't beat the Early Bird Breakfast Special at Café Habana--courtesy of Café Habana

Lunch during the workweek

Going out for lunch during a "lunch" break at work is much more civilized and healthy than eating at your desk. It's also a limited time commitment, which makes it feel less serious for some reason. Most lunch hours are an hour max, and with travel time they're usually 45 minutes. You can be alone for that amount of time, can't you? Sometimes when I'm really craving Mexican, I'll get a burrito from the Calexico cart and eat in one of the small parks near NYU.

Take photos
I enjoy taking lots of photos for my blog and exploring the city that many of my friends feel they have already seen, as they have lived in New York a year longer than I have. This is the perfect activity to venture out, take in parts of town you've never been to before, and do so without anyone by your side. 

Central Park, Bryant Park and The Highline are key outdoor spots for me. When it rains or snows in SoHo, I like to photograph the cobblestone streets. The Village, which reminds me of parts of Europe, offers some timeless photo ops as well.

Central Park is an ideal photo op

These and many more fly-solo options exist in NYC. These are merely a few of my personal favorites. It's a matter of finding out what you like to do without a friend, beau, or family member on your arm. 

Rest assured, you’ll be sitting in your first solo movie fidgeting with a bag of popcorn and worrying that everyone is judging you for being alone. Or, you'll be wandering around Lower Manhattan with a digital camera in hand while couples and families mill about. For a moment, you might even forget you're alone at all. Because you're not. You're in New York.

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